Emma Bennett

1950s vitrine cabinet on four legs, bought from Totnes market.

Legwork: A Cabinet

Outside the cabinet:

Item 1: Several bits of branches off different trees taped together. In the pictures Emma found of the old cabinets of curiosities, many have coral in them, which is like a miniature underwater tree. She has been interested in making colourful and artificial interventions into nature – coverings, disguises, additions. Bright nylon tights stretched over a camera lens and then the camera shoved inside a bush;
“This is I suppose a stab at a museum version of that. A lot of bits of shit branch proudly becoming one fancy branch.”

Shelf 1:

Item 2: Wooden ball. Currently, circles and spherical objects recur in Emma’s work. She is interested in the way they behave. Recently she threw a lot of volleyballs down a staircase and has been drilling circular holes in wood, originally to project video through but more recently just for the sake of it. A wooden ball is an alternative way of conceiving of the ‘opposite’ of a piece of wood with a hole in it.
It’s also an odd thing in itself.

Item 3: Jolen crème bleach box. This was originally a stand-in Emma used to prop up the ball but she ended up liking the colour. The slogan ‘lightening excess dark hair’ possibly resonates against all the fake fur used in her work at the moment. She often has lots of these boxes piled up as there are two parts to the bleaching process – the crème and the developer. The developer always runs out before the crème so you have to buy another box to top it up, and then you’re inevitably left with a lot of boxes with a little pot of crème left in them. The way the box is here also reminds her of a golf tee.

Item 4 – 8: Glass eyes of various sizes, colours and styles. For making cuddly toys. Emma made a video of herself constructing some toys – squirrel, otter and owl;
“I liked that the eyes were part of the moment where the bits
of fluff and fur made that shift into being an actual thing. Bits
stuck together and then given eyes – suddenly it’s got a face.”

Item 9: Cartoon plant. A picture of some leaves cut from a magazine. The photograph is interestingly lit. Fixed up with blu-tac and wears a squirrel’s ear on its leaf.

Shelf 2:

Item 10: Branch with two bits coming off it. The long bit is painted yellow and the short bit has a smear of blue. The end of the branch is wearing the outside of a toy’s leg or arm. Possibly an otter’s leg or arm. Attached to the yellow branch is another smaller twig, with purple arms. This attachment came about from the interest mentioned above in taking something natural and giving it a faked personality – like purple arms. Or, this bit of branch has one completely yellow offshoot, as if it’s wearing make-up or has dyed its hair. Or like the branch is somehow denying all responsibility for its own arm. These are little approaches on developing a previous work in which a large fir branch lay under a blanket. Here, the branch is perhaps less passive – the purple-armed piece seems to be standing up in protest, or just wanting to be looked at.

Item 11: Pencil drawing. Found at someone’s house in their Pictionary box from a previous game. It’s always interesting to see the strange and desperate pictures people were forced to make in the very strained circumstances of Pictionary.
“…this one is so perfect and complete, as well as being shit. When I saw it I had such an extreme reaction of laughter it was actually bad. I suppose as well it’s a woodpecker, which is somehow important.”

Item 12: Ball of fluff with wood shavings. The fluff is toy stuffing. When Emma began making toys, she bought a big bag of wadding for six pounds, which seemed expensive for what is essentially fluff. She once de-stuffed an otter and a squirrel to see what size of ball each would make;
“This is about squirrel size. It’s been on the floor while I worked. There’s something about sawdust caught in fluff that reminds me of hamsters in their cages. When you look into a hamster cage, you’ve got a window on its whole life. But they way they get all that shit caught in the stuff you give them to make their bed, that catches you out. Animals can seem lovely, but they will always have their dirty private world.”

Shelf 3:

Item 13: Wooden wedge of cheese. Holy cheese. Emma had been drilling holes in pieces of wood and liked them and wanted to make an object out of them and thought this was the obvious object to make. It’s pleasingly simple, almost like a drawing. It looks like it’s from a cartoon which she really liked.

Item 14 - 16: Toy fox’s tail, fox’s face with one eye and nose, two ears of fox. Cabinets of curiosity often contain relics, bits of animals like wings or feet which come after the animal, which was once a whole thing. Making cuddly toys, it’s the other way around – the parts come before the animal is a thing. When you finish the animal you want to take it up and hug it, take it around with you. When it’s in parts like this it is more delicate and museum like. It suits beings in a cupboard because any minute its eye could fall off. However, even in four parts, without most of it, it seems to have a personality. Like, we find ourselves asking a question like does the fox own the cheese, is that the fox’s cheese, do foxes even like cheese?

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