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Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

For the duration of the Peter Hujar retrospective in the Lower Gallery – from December 5, 2007 to January 27, 2008 – the ICA’s Upper Galleries will feature a continuous screening of a new short film by the British artist Emily Wardill, Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck (2007).

Projected on 16mm, this film combines images of English stained glass windows with an intricate narrative staged by the artist. The narrative proceeds through a series of vignettes, staged and lit to echo the imagery within the stained glass and featuring characters and sets which mix medieval iconography and modern references, outmoded superstitions and slapstick comedy.

The film is intentionally melodramatic in tone and creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia and heat through its stylised imagery.

Like much of Wardill’s work, Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck is an analysis of social symbolism and ritual, with this film paying special attention to notions of allegory and theatre. The visual allegories of stained glass were an important tool of communication within medieval society, and the artist is interested in how such forms of communication have continued into our own day, especially within contemporary politics.

Another inspiration for the film was a text by the French thinker Jacques Ranciére, in which he describes the unusual status of the stage as a space which combines public activity and personal fantasy. Wardill’s work explores both how social meanings are projected onto things but also throws such processes into reverse. Her deconstructed filmic exercises are at once formal and hallucinatory, emphasising the irreducible qualities of objects and images as well as their emancipatory potential.

Wardill was born in 1977, and lives in London. She studied at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London, where she is now a Senior Lecturer. Her previous films include Born Winged Animals and Honey Gatherers of the Soul (2005), Basking in what feels like an ‘ocean of grace’ I soon realise that I am not looking at it, but rather that I AM it, recognising myself (2006) and Ben (2007).

As well as film, Wardill has worked in other areas, notably performance, and she is co-organiser of an annual series of performances and screenings under the title Itchy Park.

Wardill’s solo projects include exhibitions at Fortescue Avenue/Jonathan Viner, London (2005, 2006), and the performance event The Feast Against Nature, staged at Grizedale in the Lake District and at PS1 Contemporary Art Centre, New York (2004).

In 2006, she featured in the Art Now Lightbox programme at Tate Britain and, in 2007, her work was screened at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, Witte de With, Rotterdam, the London Film Festival and Picture This, Bristol.

Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck is a Film London Artist’s Moving Image Network and Picture This co-production, produced as part of a Bristol Mean Time Residency, supported by The Elephant Trust out of the George Melhuish Bequest, and distributed by LUX.

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH.

Admission (covers entry to exhibitions, café and bar): Monday to Friday – £2, £1.50 concessions; Saturday and Sunday – £3, £2 concessions.

For more information call 020 7930 3647 or visit the website.