By Virginia Villari
Emma and Emily are very East London: smart, stylish, creative and funny. Their brilliant minds gave birth to the artist collective Beast and Burden, a multimedia enterprise that ranges from innovative and cutting-edge set designs to videos, illustrations and a lot of other creations. We met in London at the Boundary Rooftop, in the neighborhood of Shoreditch, on a beautiful and incredibly hot September day. And this is what these two eclectic young ladies have to say:
Virginia: You guys are fresh out of school, just graduated at prestigious Central Saint Martins in London. How does it feel like now that you can really focus on your own projects? What is the most important thing you’ve learned at the end of those college years?
Emily: At art school you sometimes felt that you had to work through a forced linear process that wouldn’t be how you would naturally work. It can also be hard to communicate in a formal presentation in front of 30 other students. It’s nice to explore our own methods more freely now.
Emma: Yeah it’s quite liberating not to have to cross check your work with a set marking criteria – but at the same time we don’t want to lose the way we worked at college, experimenting and self-reflecting as opposed to just ‘getting the job done’. We still want to take the time to contextualise our work.
Emily: I would say the most important thing I learned was to be open to other peoples’ ideas. You can’t be too stubborn or precious over your own. A good collaboration produces the best outcome.
Emma: It’s important to experiment and make mistakes, and find people you bounce off of creatively. Also to just DO – rather than talk about doing.
Virginia: You guys describe your artistic practices as Concept Art and Performance Design. What do you do exactly?
Emily: I have always found it hard to explain what we do to people, as it’s a mixture of set design, prop making, styling and illustration.
Emma: It’s difficult to find a fitting title because we have taken a variety of roles in theatre, commercials, window display, events, art installations, editorials…etc. ‘Sceneography’ is maybe the right phrase. But we are interested in mediums outside of that too and are always open to trying new disciplines.
Virginia: Beast and Burden is the name of your collective: who’s the beast and who’s the burden?
Emma: Nobody knows.
Emily: I know.
Virginia: You guys are based in the super cool neighborhood of Shoreditch in East London. How is the artist’s life over there?
Emily: I love living in Shoreditch- there’s always a lot going on. There’s a big artists community. The place is growing and growing which means it has become increasingly expensive! We struggle but it would take a lot to move us out.
Emma: Our artist’s life is not as cool as we’d like to make out. There’s a lot of work happening from our bedrooms! The area is really vibrant and fun with lots of cool places to eat, so our “office” is ever changing. My grandparents were proper east Londoners – so I do feel attached to the place. I like picturing my granddad in the Old Blue Last in the 70’s having a pint and smoking his Golden Virginia roll ups.
Virginia: What are you currently working on?
Emily: We’re working towards a couple of exhibitions; a solo and a group one with some other friends from CSM. I am also very excited about a play we have started to write. We had been itching to start this for over a year now!
Emma: We’ve also got a place on the Princes Trust Enterprise Programme, so we’re working with them at the moment putting our business plan together.
Virginia: What do you reckon the “musts” in order to make a career as an artist nowadays?
Emily: It’s hard to say really as we are still learning ourselves, but it’s important to pursue what you love. Working should be fun and if you don’t enjoy it, it will affect the work.
Emma: I think you have to think a bit differently and you have to have different priorities. It’s important not to get bogged down with all the problems that people tend to moan about, like lack of funding, or unpaid internships. It can be hard but banging on about it doesn’t help. Create work for yourself. Remember why you went to art school in the first place, and let yourself get fascinated and obsessed with things.
Beast and Burden. A London based company that creates concept art and performance design, primarily inspired by food and dining. Emma and Emily met whilst studying Performance Design & Practice at Central Saint Martins, both graduating with First Class Honours in 2012. After collaborating on their final piece, ‘FEAST’, they continued their creative partnership across a variety of media, including installation, photography and live performance.
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