Emily Wardill's work poses fundamental questions about perception, representation, the relationship between politics and linguistics and probes the mysteries and mechanisms of human communication, reconfiguring ideas of and as experience. Sound and music are an integral part of the work. She received the 2010 Jarman Award.
In 2004 Emily contributed to 'Romantic Detachment' with ‘Feast Against Nature’, part re-enactment, part contemporary reinterpretation of the infamous black dinner given by the character Des Essientes in Joris Karl Huymans’ 1884 novel ‘A Rebours’, (or ‘Against Nature’). Emily invited 17 guests to dinner at Lawson Park, instructing them to dress in funeral attire, and to remain silent throughout the meal. Guests would break the silence only to deliver prepared speeches on subjects such as ‘The Anxiety of Influence’ and ‘Esoteric Eclecticism’, chosen by Emily in response to the themes of the novel, speeches were punctuated by a string quartet playing funeral marches while the guests ate. Emily’s own speech followed Des Essientes’ motive for holding his dinner – to mourn the loss of his libido – and was delivered on her behalf by Eleanor Brown.
Two chefs were commissioned to produce a feast of entirely black food, which over eight courses included caviar, black pudding and squid ink accompanied by walnut liqueur and Guiness. Prioe to the opening of 'Romantic Detachment' in New York, Emily held a New York version of the dinner at PS1 with American guest, chefs and musicians. Her documentation of the project for the exhibition sought to compare the two events, the English version of which saw its guests struggling to remain in (silent) character while in New York guests threw themselves into the decadent spirit of the occasion, starting a food fight which ended with red wine running down the white walls of the gallery.