Namesake: a collection : Emma Mettrick. 26 FEBRUARY - 16 MARCH, 2003

Interviewing a range of Emma’s, Mettrick has compiled a composite image, or open sourcebook, profiling their various guises and backgrounds. Pushing these against, name theories, in which Emma’s are pronounced “restless, creative…impatient” (Kabalarian reading) Mettrick’s collection confounds any such stereotyped analysis. When one in every 412 females are called Emma, one would expect a wider profile than some of the “naming” theories locate. And yet, people continue to resort to these profiles, as though they unlock a hidden meaning? However there is always a fair amount of desire loaded into the naming ritual, and regardless of assumptions or precedent, people are usually labelled for very precise reasons.

Beautifully presented in a large wooden cube, Mettrick’s has made cameos of some her subjects, which are accompanied by little cubbyholes that offer samples from her interviewing. As Mettrick herself claims ‘I want there to be an element of fact that leaves room for the viewer to create a fiction about each Emma”. It’s this element which is quite appealing, asking the viewer to fictionalise their cameo walk ins, building up composite images from the layered facts of representation and “profile”.

A Catalogue of this show is avaible from the gallery. It was also reveiwed by Sally Blundel in The Listener .
apparently quite a lot

It depends who you go to. There’s a host of opportunities, an industry ready and eager to treat you like a client. There’s the Kabalarians, a weird cult like industry, which professes to reveal your inner profile through mathematical processes all for the price of 39 US dollars. Apparently they’re quite big in Hollywood taking down the likes of Madonna –god knows what her name means. Then there’s Ren Lexlander and his book “The Secret Meanings of Names” which takes a more etymological road jumbling that with parental desire. Mettrick used alot of these processes as starting points.


As a name Emma sweeps through the popularity stakes. Peaking in 1975, a whole host of reasons lie dormant behind these choices. Some insight can be gained through guesswork. Jane Austen’s book springs to mind. Perhaps a movie adaptation boosted its sales, or perhaps Emma was considered a safe name. Other options include famous Emma’s wielding influence, and then again it could just be a fault at the source of the statistics. Do we really believe that one in every 412 females is called Emma? Does that even seem like a lot?

regal tastes

Seemingly precious, cameos hit the jackpot with retro regalia. Standing out as kitsch objects they phased back in when buttons seeped back into street fashion via the punk aesthetic. Call it the hip-hop backlash, the couture diamante set versus the sneaker wear and sweats, whatever you’re calling it, you will have registered that we’ve been wallowing in it for awhile now. As far as the code might go, it would seem that the more antique the better. The more scratches, the more desirable – and yet it’s not really that straight forward. It is precisely because the scratch, the mark of wear has been aestheticised that such desire holds sway. Aestheticising a taste like this sits at odds with the notion of refinement, of high quality goods, but that’s the point. It is a refined taste. Everybody knows the success with which Tsubi jeans reached such familiarity. The cameo aesthetic then is the undercurrent of such a mood. It belongs to the old saying in which a broach brightens the dullest of cloth. One can’t escape one or the other, I’d doubt if we wanted to.

making an appearance

Mettrick said she wanted to make something beautiful from her assembled “profiles”. Where better to start than the smooth illustrious surface of white enamel. The cameo is the epicentre of nostalgia. Echoing colonial longing for whiteness, the profile offers the arrogance of disdain, the vileness of the prostrate. In each of her boxes, lie the shattered remnants of such a creation. The competed identities contest each other, reworking the satisfactory veil of conceit. For, to make an appearance is often a cameo of such. You know, “guest starring”, “cameos by”. It’s a Hollywood line, borrowed from theatre; a resounding bit-part token with a twist.

One is thrown a cameo as an appeasing gesture. The guest star however comes in to bolster the show, to fortify the shows flailing credentials. Everyone knows how long Heather Locklear stayed guest-star on Melrose Place. Which is a kind of inverted cameo I suppose. One that sustains long-time merit, much the way cameo jewellery is supposed to.

the official line

The official word is that ‘cameo jewellery is not only an investment for the purchaser but a gift for the next generation’. Go see and they’ll give you a run down of the cameo history. Pitched to re-coup the ‘endless profiles of pretty females, badly carved to satisfy consumer tastes’ this website is trying to restate the cameo as noble craft, with millennium long history and suitable pride of place. But all this doesn’t interest me as much as Cameo cigarettes might.

I don’t ever see anyone smoking them, but they’re always been there – they are though increasingly difficult to find. I imagine they’re part of the blue-rinse gin set, but that’s just another stereotype. Which is why we’re hawking them with the catalogue. Consider it an add-on to Mettrick’s profiling. Would Emma smoke? Would Emma smoke a cameo? Of course this is very entertaining for me, I don’t know what Emma would think.

which emma?

There is a resounding commonality between Mettrick’s profiling and that of the cameo. Of course data profiles and portrait profiles fit together - but also the contested name and the identifiable portrait is aptly vilified in the cameo’s shattering. Consider for a moment, the police line up, the artist sketch, the provenance of drawing and the expectation of verisimilitude. These all register within the domain of an expected exact representation as though it’s quantifiable somehow. Equally dubious is the given instance of the white block-out colour of the cameo. This echoes the generic form and register of officialdom in which we’re drafted in as commodity ingredients, part of the populace.

Of course forms are never simply white. There are always different registers, pink slips for ownership, and yellow remnants for receipts. But white operates as a terra-nullius. It drafts identity into a convenient coral. Nobody really delights in demographics and yet they continue to pique our curiosity. This pigeon holing is always lamentable and yet we’re so prone to do it - oh they smoke cameos (you see there’s a purpose after all). So the big question after all this is which Emma, where did she come from, and where did she go. Its not so much the answer, just the myriad of possibility that’s pleasing. It asks us to make up our own cameos, our own fictional Emma’s from a varied and composite layer of public imagination and residual fact.