Emily Speed: Flatland – a new film installation at Tate Liverpool

Emily was chosen as the first Art North West commission, an open call by the gallery to support artists in the region.

A new film installation by artist Emily Speed is now on display at Tate Liverpool.

Flatland uses set design, choreography and costume to depict close-knit community structures. It follows a community of women for the duration of one day, conceived of as 12 short scenes.

Sign up to our LiverpoolWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The centrepiece of the film is a portable stage set, inspired by Speed’s local village pantomime and manually operated Japanese kabuki theatre sets. These function at times like the pages of a book, folding and changing in different directions.

Emily was chosen as the first Art North West commission, an open call by the gallery to support artists in the region.

Collaboration is key

For Flatland, Speed has worked closely with the director of photography, Emma Dalesman, while a short text written by novelist and short story writer Eley Williams is threaded throughout the film.

Four performers, Lisa Birtles, Hannah Bitowski, Priya Mistry and Kirsty Tewnion, dressed in utilitarian housework garments including an apron, tabard, dressing gown and housecoat, made with Spoon Studio, are at the heart of the film.

Echoing Edwin Abbott’s novella Flatland, the women begin line-like and rigid before working together, unfolding, to create more colourful, layered and complex shapes through increasingly vibrant movement.

What can I expect to see?

Speed’s Flatland caters for different perspectives and ways of experiencing the world. The work can be understood via a mixture of audio and visual components, including text and on-screen visuals alongside closed captions and British Sign Language interpretation.

A painting from the Tate Collection, The Corridor (1950) by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, is shown alongside Speed’s work.

Vieira da Silva’s depictions of symbolic space, expressing the psychological experience of architecture, have influenced Speed’s practice.

The painting depicts a claustrophobic grey interior of a room or corridor with a low ceiling, close walls and a sharp vanishing point. The eye is led by multiple conflicting perspectival lines.