Emily Bates
The Nurturing Island, 2010

Installation of silver gelatin prints on aluminium with audio track
Print sizes: 150X120cm, 120X150cm and 80X100cm

Emily Bates’ photographic practice explores the sense of vulnerability, isolation and sometimes desire inherent in the human condition. An interest in cultural traditions particularly human relations, spirituality and mythology, pervades her work. Attending to people and their actions as much as to the landscapes they are surrounded by, she subtly highlights the human relationship to the land.

The Nurturing Island is a newly developed installation and part of an ongoing research-based project into a sub-tropical island in the south of Japan. The island inhabitants have embraced and evolved a system of nurturing its community through the employment of tannoy announcements at set times throughout the day which act as reminders and signifiers (or possibly orders). For instance early morning tunes are played to wake you up, local dental checks are announced, and at noon announcements and songs remind the elderly to eat lunch. The chosen schedules of tunes or chimes in each district have in many ways become an integral part of the villages and the identity of the villagers.

Through black and white landscape photographs Bates captures the essence of the power and beauty that dominates the island and preserves the rich mythology and belief system. Layered here with the audio track it is almost as if the sacred mountains of the island, protected by the presence of Habu poisonous snakes, breathe their command over the inhabitants. The material juxtaposition creates a disquieting interplay that touches on our human fragility, explores unexpected structures, tensions and histories, and perhaps ultimately becomes a form of fiction.