About the Artwork

A neon text work highlights the precarious nature of relationship and the easy slippage between states of togetherness and isolation.

The neon work reads WE ARE ALL ONE. The first L in the word ALL is set to flicker as if faulty, meaning the work is in constant flux between the statements WE ARE ALL ONE and WE ARE ALONE.

While offering two seemingly contrasting texts through the same sign the work also offers a paradox: that if we are all ‘one’, one is a multitude, and if ‘we’ are alone, to be alone is a shared experience.

The work is inspired by Jean-Luc Nancy’s suggestion that we come into being through relationship and his counter proposal of ‘we are’ to the assertion ‘I am’. The piece, commissioned by The Fitzwilliam Museum in 2019, was developed following a year-long project working with Cambridge residents to reflect on what it means to be a ‘we’. The poignancy of the work shifts with its social and political context building layers of association and resonance.

Year: 2019

Copyright the artist. Photo: © Nick Turpin




1160 x 80 x 10 cm

Artist Biography

Emma Smith

Emma Smith has a social practice and creates temporary and permanent works. Through installations, performances, objects and actions, her work reveals hidden forms of connectivity: the tacit, the intimate, the transient, the subconscious and the invisible. Smith is based in the UK and works internationally. Previous exhibitions and commissions include for Tate Modern, Barbican, Whitechapel Gallery, Camden Arts Centre, Delfina Foundation, ICA, South London Gallery, Arnolfini, Kettle’s Yard, Bluecoat, Grizedale Arts, Whitworth, HOME Manchester, MAAS Sydney, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Fabrikken for Kunst & Design Copenhagen, and Matadero Madrid among many others. Public realm commissions include for Create London, Art on the Underground, Groundworks, Haringey, Cornwall, Cambridge, Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea Councils. Awards include The Bryan Robertson Trust Award, Andy Warhol Foundation Award, and Wellcome Trust Large Arts Award. Her book ‘Practice of Place’ is published by Bedford Press / Architecture Association.