International Orange

10–20 November
Factory 49

See images on my website.

International orange is the name of several reddish-orange or orangish-red colours used primarily in aerospace engineering, shipping, and in other industrial applications. It is the name given to the colour of the paint on the Golden Gate Bridge, the colour of Advanced Crew Escape Suits designed by NASA for use in early astronautics, and the colour of the Australian Antarctic icebreaking ships Aurora Australis (retired) and NuyinaInternational Orange is the title of an ongoing project through which I explore the political, social and aesthetic associations and resonances of the colour international orange.

I was born in the inner south west of Sydney, where I continues to live and work. My practice emerged from and remains largely embedded within the underground zine community, and the anarchist and punk communities with which zines are strongly associated. I discovered zines as a suburban teenager in the 1990s, around the same time that I also discovered, in my school library, books on Dada, German Expressionist printmaking, and Russian Futurism. These formative influences continue to inform my practice, which includes experimental writing, printmaking, installation, zine-making, and community and collaborative projects.

Since 2018 I have experimented with making large-scale relief prints on paper rolls and Torinoko paper, using hand-carved letterform stamps. To date I have made five sets of stamps, individually carved with a scalpel from rubber, of Activ Grotesk, Helvetica and Baskerville typefaces. Initially, I was interested in exploring how the aesthetics of zines – the graphic quality of photocopied, typewritten text, for example – could be simulated or evoked on a large scale in various media, such as with stamps, or with solvent transfers (a process by which the toner from a photocopy is transferred to another surface via a solvent, with the aid of a burnishing tool). Through this experimentation I have become drawn to certain letters in the alphabet over others, (in particular the letter X, but also I, O and U), and interested in exploring their rich emotional, cultural, linguistic, and artistic associations, as well as their graphic potency and potential. The colour international orange provides a concept to meditate upon, to respond to (or not), while I explore different media and materials.

Typing pool at Kogarah library

Artist statement

In the mid-20th century, many women were employed as secretaries in ‘typing pools.’ Typing pools were large, open rooms located within offices, where rows of mainly young women used typewriters to transcribe dictated or handwritten letters and notes for professional (i.e., male) employees of a company.

‘Typing Pool’ is the name I have given to an interactive art project in which I thread a long loop of paper through multiple typewriters and invite people to type with me. For this version of the project, I have cut fragments of text out of copies of National Geographic magazine from the 1970s and 1980s. The aim is to transcribe this text onto the paper loop. Multiple people can type at once, and you can transcribe as many pieces of the text as you like. The loop will gradually fill with randomly juxtaposed text to create a found poem. Typing Pool uses obsolete materials from the mid-20th century to explore their hidden uses and potentials, and reimagines the typing pool as a space of experimentation and play.

Open the window; open the door

Artist statement

This work was made while I was artist in residence at Carss Park Artist Cottage in November–December 2019, using a variety of experimental printmaking techniques.

My work is influenced by the early Modernist avant garde (Russian Futurism, Dada); visual poetry and mail art movements (Fluxus); the Situationist International; zines and their associated subcultures; and the history of printmaking and typography.

The basis for most of my work is found text. I appropriate text from sources such as outdated books for children (early-learning encyclopedias, ‘look and learn’ books, obsolete textbooks), mid-20th century National Geographic magazines, and, occasionally, popular novels and works of non-fiction.

The writing in the source material I use is often characterised by a sense of adventure, exploration, and wide-eyed wonder about the world and humanity’s place in it. This style of writing is awe-inspiring, but also often the product of an unexamined settler-colonial viewpoint. Such source material also often contains outdated ideas about sex, gender, race, and class. By appropriating text from these sources, I can edit out the problematic elements and reclaim words and phrases that resonate with me – ones that carry a sense that the world, the future, and human relations are open to endless possibilities. I use chance as a technique to combine this appropriated text with graphic elements in order to make compositions on paper, forming randomised juxtapositions which suggest new meanings, and new ways of finding meaning in familiar, everyday materials.

Typing Pool and Open the window; open the door at Kogarah library

Typing Pool

I will be installing a version of my Typing Pool project at the Kogarah Library Exhibition Space for Uncontained Festival.

The festival runs at the following times:

Friday, 4 June: 4:30pm – 10:30pm
Saturday, 5 June: 2pm – 10:30pm
Sunday, 6 June: 2pm – 10:30pm

Typing Pool is an interactive artwork. For this version, I invite festival-goers to help transcribe found text onto a long piece of paper looped through three typewriters. I will be in attendance for an hour of each day of the festival, at these times:

Friday, 4 June: 6:30pm
Saturday, 5 June: 3:30pm
Sunday, 6 June: 3:30pm

Open the window; open the door

I also have work installed on the walls of the Kogarah Library exhibition space, an impromptu exhibition of work I made while artist in residence at Carss Park Artist Cottage in November – December 2019. This work can be viewed during regular Kogarah Library opening hours, and for the duration of the Uncontained festival.

Writing about work: 3. Three poems

Emma Davidson_Three poems_detail 2Emma Davidson_Three poems_detailEmma Davidson_Three poems

‘Three poems’ is a triptych of visual poems. Each poem consists of a couplet of found text that has been applied to the paper by solvent transfer (the technique of applying a solvent – xylene in this case – to the reverse side of a photocopy then burnishing it to transfer the toner onto another surface).

I limited myself to using as few materials as possible to complete this work. Each couplet of text is appropriated from an obsolete encyclopedia (or similarly out of date mid-20th century reference book).

The lines of text in the first poem (Stop and wonder/Into the distance) are linked by a graphic mark made by rotating a small, hand-carved, elbow-shaped rubber stamp back and forth across the page.

The second poem (tight-rope/walker) is bi-sected by a line created by tracing the nib of a fountain pen along a length of electronic typewriter ribbon, which was laid diagonally across the page.

The third couplet (Within/Worlds) is enclosed by a pattern created by stamping the paper with a small triangular piece of rubber. While making this work I imagined that the piece of rubber, pinched between my fingers, was a piece of lead type, and my arm was the typebar of a typewriter. 

“What still surprises and inspires me today: to turn blank paper into a printed page”.

– Wolfgang Weingart