Emily Mulenga – ‘Ambition’ – Artist Q&A



On Saturday 9th July 2016, 6-9pm, Instigate Arts take over the main gallery space at HOME in Manchester to host our ‘Ambition’ pop-up exhibition. In this series of Q&A’s we get a little more insight into what makes some some of the participating artists tick. Here we speak with digital and video artist Emily Mulenga:

Can you tell us about your practice?
Currently, through video and the digital I use my own image as a tool to explore ideas of the body, the self and sexuality. My works so far take place in multi-layered landscapes, with groundless, floating visuals splashed throughout the work, positioning various iterations of my body within virtual space. I explore ideas based around the Black femme experience in the internet age, with a view to utilising the supposedly democratic nature of online space as a platform for the gendered body of colour. Previous works of mine contain the portrayal of familiar characters and imagery from internet culture to the point of parody. Whilst blurring the distinctions between real and constructed space, trash and glamour, celebrities and civilians, the works also highlight the dissolving partition between bedroom fame and pop iconography.

How does your work relate to the themes of Ambition?
The work I’m showing in Ambition deals with the manner in which we consume the contemporary platforms of the Internet and MTV, raising issues of how these media result in a magnification of stereotypical personalities. I consider to what extent the lines are blurred between what we call reality and artificiality, and how much these new media influence the construction of these public personas. Right now it is possible for everyone to become simultaneously producers and distributors- as in Mark Leckey’s long tail theory, where digital material appears to acquire an agency of its own.
There is an irreversible and ever-blurring line between social media and reality, where we are now unsure where we end and our constructed online persona begins. I amalgamate popular traits or ‘traces’, which I have combined into one whole ‘Frankenstein’ of an internet persona, grossly parodied. In the way that Jean Baudrillard viewed the advent of reality television, we have all become “readymades”, with everyone in the world having the potential to be a ‘star’.

Do you think the themes of Ambition relate to the current political and social climate?

Very much so. We only have to look at the events surrounding the recent EU referendum to see that a large portion of politicians are careerists who view making a political point and scoring one over others as far more urgent than doing the job they were appointed. Socially, I think we are firmly in an era where we are urged to ‘chase our dreams’ and if we are not living our ambitions we have failed in some way. Social media has added to the anything-is-possible mentality and gives us even fewer excuses as to why we haven’t ‘made it’ yet. Having a few goals is healthy but at times when many people find it difficult to separate productivity and success from self-worth it can become problematic.

How important is the role of artists’, and the art world, in shaping both people’s lives, and the social and political landscape?

Throughout the ages artists have been at the forefront of culture, forging new ways of perceiving the world. In this way art behaves as a mirror and functions to raise the questions of our time. I also think art and activism are often intertwined and artists frequently engage in activism that forms or runs alongside their art practice. The artist as activist seeks to create a direct impact on society and change the social landscape as well as critiquing it.

For more information about Emily Mulenga visit her webpage and follow her on twitter.

See Emily’s work alongside other participating artists at our Ambition pop-up exhibition:
Saturday 9th July 2016, 6-9pm
HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, M15 4FN
This is a free event and everyone is welcome.


Gym Class2 Mulenga final 72

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