You can see the results of degrees in fine arts, sociology and graphic design in the works of Emily Floyd – but even more evident than these, perhaps, is her upbringing in a family whose business was toymaking. Her sculpture installations mix toy-like forms and text to run commentary on contemporary social situations and issues.
For the National Biennial of New Australian Art, she created an impressive installation for the foyer of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, inspired by the writings of science fiction novelist and amateur anthropologist Ursula K. Le Guin. “I’m not an expert [on her work] but I like how she creates a world, and her interest in gender and ambiguity of gender.”
Specifically, Floyd’s ‘Kesh Alphabet’ is inspired a imaginary civilisation of people called the Kesh, who appeared in Le Guin’s novel Always Coming Home (among other works).
“Her parents were anthropologists who worked in the California area with Native Americans, and Le Guin was very influenced by this,” Floyd explains. “She designed an anthropological text for the ‘Kesh’, featuring their songs, their stories, what they ate, and their language.” Floyd made a ‘type’ for the Kesh language, and applied it to an edited version of her glossary – for example, you can see how the Kesh wrote the word for “female orgasm”.
“I wanted to put this text in this space because of its masculine nature,” says Floyd. “Despite the fact that it’s populated by women and run by women, they’ve had problems with their collection being exclusively male artists. Now they’re trying to balance that out, especially in their contemporary galleries.”