Emilie Collins

Cardiff, Wales

Artist's biography
Originally from France, Emilie decided to come to Cardiff to complete a Ba(Hons) in Contemporary Textile Practice after undertaking a foundation year in applied arts in Paris. During her studies, her interests veered rapidly from applied to fine arts, with a keen interest for sculpture, installation and performance art. She decided to remain in Cardiff for a while after graduating, feeling at ease within the Cardiff artistic community and the city itself.

Her current work encompasses a broad range of themes, principally dealing with issues relating to the body, the self, the environment, space and the notion of 'the other', which are approached from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Journeys and initiations are crucial recuring themes in her work which mainly revolves around the form of site specific or site responsive art.

A concern for connection with people and places lies at the heart of Emilie's practice, along with a need to make and experiment with materials and spaces. Her work has so far taken the form of installations, private rituals or performances involving the public that can be either created and displayed on their own or in combination.

The work
In Their Hands
My latest work was created as part of Echelon, a group project based on the former Mid-Wales Hospital dominating the town of Talgarth in Brecon, which closed in 2000 and is now derelict. My colleagues, Lucy Baker and Jan Williams, and myself explored the site and interviewed people who had worked in the hospital whilst researching for testimonies and stories of patients. We considered the ways in which nature reclaimed the building, the treatment of mental illness, the notions of being overlooked and exiled as well as the provision of sanctuary and care.

I responded most strongly to the humane aspect of the project and took a particular interest in the issues surrounding both institutional and community care, exacerbated by the current economical and sociological climate. The resulting piece, In Their Hands, is a 35 minute long video comprised of selected pieces taken from a series of performances, each lasting an average of 40 minutes, recorded in several community-orientated spaces in Cardiff (in front of Central library, Penylan community centre, Chapter arts centre, Central market, the farmer's market and on Penarth Pier). A sign invited viewers to care for me by feeding me food present on a table tray. Dressed in a machine and hand-made hospital gown, remaining silent and defenseless, I became for those who participated the recipient for their thoughts, memories and feelings. My desire to experience a sense of vulnerability informed the piece, along with that of interacting with others and provoking an emotional response.

The term 'Echelon' can be defined as a level of command, authority or rank, which adds another layer to this work as the partakers willingly took charge of me, thus temporarily becoming my guardians.

I repeated the performance during the opening night of the exhibition in a one-off event titled In Your Hands, which lasted 1 hr 45 minutes. Viewers were this time not only invited to feed me, but also to brush my hair.