Emily Speed: Flatland at Tate Liverpool

Sara Jaspan, Exhibitions Editor
Emily Speed: Flatland at Tate Liverpool
Emily Speed, Flatland, 2021

Flatland at Tate Liverpool, Waterfront 25 September 2021 — 2 January 2022 Entrance is free — Book now

Written pseudonymously by ‘a Square’, the English theologian Edwin A. Abbott’s famous 1884 novella, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, envisages a world where all existence is limited to two dimensions and women are restricted to thin, straight lines. The text satirises Victorian society and the role of women within it, and has influenced and inspired generations of artists and scientists alike. Among them is Liverpool-based Emily Speed, whose new film installation (of the same title) at Tate Liverpool departs from the Square’s vision, using set design, choreography and costume to depict flattened hierarchies and close-knit community structures.

Enacted by four performers dressed in utilitarian housework garments, Speed’s Flatland offers a snapshot of one day in the life of a community of women, told across 12 short scenes. Echoing Abbott’s novella, the women begin line-like and rigid before working together, unfolding, to create more colourful, layered and complex shapes through increasingly vibrant movement. The theme of unfolding is also reflected in other ways, such as by the portable stage set in which the film’s action occurs, which is inspired by manually operated Japanese kabuki theatre sets. These functions at times like the pages of a book, folding and changing in different directions. The set is also influenced by Speed’s local village pantomime, whilst the film’s action follows a traditional pantomime structure as a means of providing familiarity and predictability, but with a focus on cooperation, support and joy. The film is threaded by a short text written by novelist and short story writer Eley Williams.

An overarching concern that runs throughout Speed’s playful practice is the relationships between people and architecture, particularly how people are shaped by the buildings they have occupied and how they occupy their own psychological space. The installation will be accompanied by ‘The Corridor’ (1950) – a haunting, claustrophobic painting from the Tate Collection by the artist Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, whose depictions of allegorical space, expressing the psychological experience of architecture, have long influenced Speed’s work.

Promising to be anything but flat, we’re looking forward to experiencing this surreal piece of collaboration between writers, artists and makers from across the years.

Note: This work can be experienced via a mixture of audio and visual components, including text and on-screen visuals alongside closed captions and British Sign Language interpretation.

Flatland at Tate Liverpool, Waterfront 25 September 2021 — 2 January 2022

Book Now

What's on at Tate Liverpool

What's on: Exhibitions

Nothing About Us Without Us at PHM

‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ at PHM explores the history of disabled people’s activism and their ongoing fight for inclusion with a wonderful collection of exhibits brought together for the first time, 

free entry
ExhibitionsNorth East
Chris Killip, retrospective at Baltic

This spring, Baltic welcomes a major retrospective of the work of Chris Killip, one of Britain’s most influential and prolific post-war documentary photographers whose tender gaze captured the lives of communities in the North East of England.

free entry
(Un)Defining Queer at The Whitworth

Through a fantastic collection of classical and contemporary artists’ work, ‘(Un)Defining Queer’ examines the use of language, histories and narratives to explore what ‘queer’ really means today. free entry

Culture Guides


We go all in on festivals, with a round-up of everything from city-spanning giants to grassroots gems you may not know about.


There's no rest for the art lover - this month brings outdoor sculpture, musings on water, political drawings and Liverpool Biennial 2023!

Classical Music

Summer's classical music calendar is filling up nicely! Read our top picks of concerts happening in Manchester and the North.

Winnie the Pooh at Manchester Opera House

The sun has finally got his hat on! Enjoy our top picks of family-friendly events and activities, both indoors and outdoors.

Gerry Potter (credit Lee Baxter)

Books are big this summer, with festival readings, poetry slams, creative writing activities and famous faces all putting in an appearance.

Food and Drink

All signs point toward June being a scorcher of a month, so let’s take a look at all things summery food and drink.

Tours and Activities

From literary activities to brilliant independent shops, keep your minds and homes filled with the good stuff this month.

Theatre in Manchester

Check out our updated guide for lively theatre festivals, rip-roaring rooftop circus and dreamy outdoor shows.