Emma Haugh

17th Jan 2019

Hi Emma, thanks so much for participating, we hope you’re enjoying the coffee!

Hey – thanks for the coffee – very tasty.

The work I do tends to be a bit tentaculos so can be tricky to encapsulate in words. I hope I can articulate something tangible.


1. Can you give us an introduction to your practice, interests and experiences?

I’m a visual artist though it took me a while to get there, previous work was with queer, dyke oriented – club organising, dj-ing & community based theatre practice, I also did drag performance that transitioned me into a visual arts practice – that as with an Irish drag king troupe called ‘the Shamcocks’ around 2005 or so. All of these practices inform what I do now.

I’m interested in the politics of space from queer - feminist – de-colonial practice + research + in ephemeral, temporary + performative ways of generating + occupying space – as a very realisable way of having spatial agency. So in my work I develop performance, installation, workshops, publications/zines & collaboration, each form transmogrifies into other forms & the work stays in continual movement, with moments of formation, but staying open to movement + re-cycling.


2. Talk us through your working processes, what are you working on at the moment? Do you have a studio in Berlin?

I don’t have a studio, it’s just too expensive, I work from home & apply for studio based residencies when I need more space. I’ll be in IMMA next year for six months for example & probably the work will become more object orientated for a while. I’m interested in re-imagining our domestic lives at the moment – how our homes shape us & how we shape them, I’ll be researching – critically – the modernist architectural project & looking into the work of Irish self-taught architect & designer Eileen Gray, as a queer design icon.


3. Can you tell us about your background working with Augusto Boals’ Theatre of the Oppressed?

I was trained in Theatre of the Oppressed as part of a programme called ACT I Arts & Disability in the now crumbling City Arts Centre on the Quays, would have been circa 1998 or so. The group was brought to London to work with Crae Eye Theatre Co. who gave us an intensive work shop on the different techniques. After the training program I initiated, together with a group of women, a lesbian theatre company called ‘The Other Stage’ & we worked with techniques from Boal but moving from traditional ‘Forum Theatre’ to our own format which was kind of a live, interactive, dyke soap opera. There was very little media representation of lesbian lives at the time so people were very invested in what we were doing. Now I use those tools in different forms as part of The Reading Troupe workshop series, where I engage groups in performative ‘readings’ of texts + other materials, a kind of disruptive pedagogy.


4. In your interview with Daniel Bermingham in the VAI newsletter, ‘How Do We Get Off?’, you say that you find it interesting that ‘an audience so easily ascribes the spoken experience to the speaking body’ and alluded to channelling appropriated material, with your own desires being ‘loosely woven between the reappropriated words’. Could you speak more about this and about the process of channelling material?

I’ve come to think of this ‘channeling of material’ as very close to drag performance, quite recently. In the referenced performance ‘Sex in Public’, I was inspired by the late Kathy Acker + how she used plagiarised materials in her work as a means of increasing her own pleasure in her work – I’m interested in collage & improvisation & also in DIY & amateur methodologies, so in channeling I’m not doing the expected ‘feminist/queer autobiographical –confessional’ form – it’s kind of refracted + it plays with the audiences desires for ‘clear lives of judgement/reading’ of the performing body. In the Poverty of Vision Performance I used similar strategies – but I did write that script.


5. How different is it for you to practice in a city as large and diverse as Berlin, compared to what might be deemed a more intimate art scene in Dublin?

I really miss the intimacy of Dublin, I spend a lot of time working at home, but I really miss the everyday smell of the sea. In Berlin audiences & peers are openly critical – there’s a lot of discussion + critique – initially I found this hard, but it helps the work to develop & for me to push myself in understanding why I do what I do, I can’t take anything for granted. There’s also a broad & diverse queer – feminist – de-colonial discourse – it’s challenging & there’s lots to engage with & think\reflect on. I think that a cross pollination between Dublin – Berlin has been + continues to be – very healthy for my work.


6. I was fortunate enough to experience your performance Poverty of Vision, at IMMA last year; can you reflect upon the development of that work?

Poverty of Vision was a kind of breakthrough work for me in relation to performance – I was able to realise several elements that I hadn’t yet put into practice. I was interested in ‘writing in’ to an archive that wasn’t of particular interest to me except for a consideration of what it was missing. I worked through a process of writing in an imagined younger me as a means of queering childhood + complicating the audiences expectation & gaze. I also wanted to have a go at a feminist critique of minimalism & research & share the work of Ana Mendieta. All of these three things intersected through an art-historical research mixed with collage & speculative fabulation. The ROSC history is overtly male dominated, white & heteronormative, the archive is like a gaping blind spot.


7. Can you tell us about how The Many Headed Hydra started and its journey to date? Can you talk about the use of the publication as a performative device?

The Many Headed Hydra is a collaborative project that is interested in storytelling & mythmaking that engage with bodies of water (seas, rivers, rains, sweat & tears) from queer – feminist- decolonial readings of history & contemporary ecological\cultural phenomena – speculative fabulation & collective imaginaries. The ‘creatures’ body is me & Suza Husse & the many heads are collaborators… it’s always a difficult creature to pin down. We’ll be travelling to Colombo in Sri Lanka in Jan-Feb 2019 to work with local activists, artists, designers on a contribution to the interdisciplinary arts festival ‘Colomboscope’ curated by Natasha Giuwala – we’re very excited about this. The publication as performative devise is a way of bringing together texts, materials from workshops, artworks etc. in a publishing format (printed matter, zines, radio magazines) but that live outside of their published state as live events, performance, installation etc. The Hydra is a love project – myself & Suza are lovers & we often work with friends + with artists whose work we are enamoured with.


8. We really appreciate that so many of your publications are available to download online! Thank you! Are there any particular books or authors that you find yourself coming back to again and again, if so who are they and why?

Samuel R.Delaney ‘Times Square Red – Times Square Blue’ – Gloria Anzaldúa ‘Borderlands – La Frontera’ – Octavia Butler ‘Xenogenesis Trilogy’ – All really brilliant, highly recommended, important references in exploring queer potentiality – and José Esteban Muñoz ‘Cruising Utopia – The Then and There of Queer Futurity’.


9. Can you reflect upon a pivotal work or project, one that has played a part in shaping your practice?

Working with RGKSKSRG on ‘The Re-appropriation of Sensuality’ was incredibly important – I still feel that RGKSKSRG were very timely & generous in their curation, facilitation of my practice at that time. They made space for me to occupy & expand on & supported my work when it was still quite difficult to find platforms for showing my work in Ireland. An important part of that extended process was working with students in NCAD & several of those connections have continued in different ways & I love that.


10. If you had unlimited access to resources and funding, is there a piece or project that you would like to realise?

I’d make a book with all the archive materials within ‘The Re-appropriation’. I’d make a project about the history of disco in Dublin. I’d invite lots of the brilliant artists I’ve worked with, gotten to know in Berlin & other places to come & work with artists in Ireland on a significant interdisciplinary exhibition engaging radical\feminist practices – and then make an online archive & book as project reference.


Thanks for the exchange.

Lots of love,

Emma


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Emma Haugh is a visual artist, writer and educator based in Dublin and Berlin. You can find them at emmahaugh.com.