“For the past half a year, I’ve been writing a lot about what is going on here, who we are to each other. Friends? Artists? A curator?” photographer Emilie Dalum posits from across her kitchen table to long duration performance artist Michael Richardt. Neither have an answer.
But together, the two are like yin and yang. Michael stands out. In his wigs, bright clothing, and completely fearless personality, he catches the eye of everyone fortunate enough to meet him. Emilie, meanwhile, is quieter, less conspicuous. She refers to herself as someone who documents, which stands in opposition to Michael, who, one infers, is documented. Nonetheless, over the years, the two have become woven together in a way that surpasses language. Their relationship is new territory.
Now, the two will exhibit together at the Nordic House as part of the ‘Nature in Transition – Shifting Identities’ exhibition with a collaborative project that includes ‘Densified Entity’, a video work by Michael, ‘Michael’, a photo series by Emilie, and ‘I Am Calling For Colours’, a driftwood installation by Emilie.
The documentation begins
Emilie and Michael met in 2010 at Performers House in Silkeborg, Denmark. “We didn’t speak that much but I sometimes tell people I was in awe of Michael,” Emilie says. “High heels, big dresses—that’s what he was wearing. And I was very young and innocent, trying to explore myself.”
Over the years they lost touch until they both ended up in Iceland in 2012. Emilie was on an exchange programme from university while Michael was working on a performance photography project called ‘The Glass Dress’.
“And that was when you started taking photos of me!” Michael exclaims. Emilie nods in response, pointing at a photo close to her kitchen table of Michael, which was taken that year. At the time, she hadn’t yet professionally studied photography, but her early work with Michael ignited her passion for the medium, ultimately changing her artistic life forever and becoming the photo series ‘Michael’—a selection of which will be shown at the Nordic House.
“I was always so appreciative of her documenting me. I was also hungry for that space to be mediated. Something really started…” Michael trails off. But like a twin, Emilie quickly jumps in. “Without us really knowing,” she concludes.
Emilie went on to intimately document Michael’s life—not just as a performer but in his daily routines as well—in Michael’s Copenhagen rehearsal studio. There, Michael, who was doing a project based on his mother entitled ‘RULE PINK’, began to dive into a deeper place in his performance art than he’d been before.
“I was feeling that a lot was happening in my space and in a way, you became the only one who really penetrated that intense strange little bubble,” he says to Emilie, a smile brightening his face.
We trust each other
Years later, they both ended up back in Iceland studying at the Arts Academy, which led them to further intertwine artistically. First, there was Michael’s performance ‘Sun to Pearl’, which was a message to five generations into the future that saw Michael walking about the capital area expressing himself at the top of his lungs. Emilie filmed it. Later, they began work on a hybrid project—Michael as artist, Emilie as curator—developed for the Hugarflug Conference, which brought them together in an even stronger way.
“I wanted to do a performance about calling in my Nigerien ancestry,” Michael explains. It featured a range of physical objects made by Michael and placed by Emilie, and a one-take video of Michael’s powerful live performance—which featured dark figures, newspaper articles, and his thundering voice—filmed by Emilie.
In the exhibition ‘Nature in Transition – Shifting Identities’ the Nordic House will pair Emilie and Michael together, bringing them into a closer dialogue than they ever have been before.
“We trust each other,” Emilie concludes strongly smiling at Michael, who returns it instantly. “If you don’t have trust, you cannot do something like this.”
‘Nature in Transition – Shifting Identities’ will open at the Nordic House on April 17th.
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