Emmie McLuskey | Interview

Emmie image
Courtesy Emmie McLuskey
  • In what ways will access to the University of Edinburgh, and its resources and community, through the TRG Residents programme shape your practice?

I hope my time on residency will give me the opportunity to foreground my practice. I’ve taken a break from it the past year or so for many reasons. I think most artists struggle with the multiple pressures on them to find the time to make and think about their work. My main focus is to invest in long term and meaningful connections with my work, the people I work with and those who engage with the work I make. The time we find ourselves in is obviously incredibly complex, my hope is that I can be a support to my peers as we navigate this complexity. Ordinarily I work slowly in close consultation with others, the support of the programme over a two year period will allow me to reassess how I work and I hope give me the space to fail and work through difficulty.

More specifically, I’ve begun conversations with archivist Sarah Deters from the University’s old musical instrument collection and museum in the hope that I might make some recordings over the next year. For the last few year’s I’ve been recording organs and bells with friend and musician Sarah Fastré which we have configured into various arrangements for performance, I hope the sounds I collect from the museum will feature in a piece of new moving image work I am currently working on titled Organs. I have also been attending a seminar led by Alysa Ghose and Laurie Denyer-Willis which focusses on anthropological fieldwork, this has been invaluable in seeing how another discipline approaches working with communities as well as approaches to questions of care, documentation and observation.


  • A lot of your practice involves working or interacting with other people. What place does collectivity, community, and collaboration hold in your practice?

I believe everything we do is collaborative, as people we are constantly in dialogue with others and are made up of each others’ ideas and thoughts. In this respect I don’t believe anything I do is solely authored by me. I see my work as a series of conversations, those conversations are always ongoing and often take place outside of verbal language. My work mainly focusses on movement and sound, I’m interested in embodied knowledges, how influence moves and how people communicate. This means my whole process is collaborative although I don’t believe collaboration means consensus. When working with others I am interested in where we depart as much as where we meet, for me work is about growing and better understanding something and for this to happen properly you have to be completely honest, this honesty is confronting and really important. Trying to share that honesty feels valuable in some way.


  •  Your interest in language focusses on non-verbal or unspoken means of communication. Can you elaborate on your interest in this area?

A few years ago I began working with Edinburgh based choreographer Janice Parker. Watching Janice work is fascinating to me. She can read bodies in a way I never could, someone’s history, their pain, how they feel, different potentials. I became really interested in the intelligence of movement, what it could say and do that words couldn’t. Last year I began to learn the martial art Aikido whilst in residence in Japan, although I couldn’t communicate with my teacher and the class in verbal language I felt like I knew a lot about them through negotiating our movements together, how to receive them, the energy they brought, how to support them. In terms of sound, my fascination stems from a similar place. Sound holds a complexity within its form, multiple layers can exist on top of each other at the same time and they can be contradictory. As I said earlier, I’ve been making recordings of the organ, the lowest tones are the most interesting for me, some are barely audible on the microphone but in person the vibration is overwhelming. The problem of how to record this is exciting to me, how you can embody this feeling in a medium and where and when you hit its limits. Whilst recording church bells, some of the bells produced sound so loud it was unrecordable and would shatter the microphone, obviously this made me want to figure out how to record this somehow.


  • You have a previous and ongoing interest in publishing and print – can you explain more about the role and function of this within your broader practice ?

Quite simply, I’ve always loved books. The time held in them and the engagement they require is so different to the time and engagement of an exhibition or a performance. I like the way they circulate and move with people and that you can revisit them whenever you want. I used to work with a friend to produce artists’ books and he energised me to make my own. The last book I published was called A Strange American Funeral which co-edited with writer Freya-Field Donovan. The process of commissioning new writing from Freya and poets Kadish Morris and Millicent A A Graham was incredibly invigorating and without a doubt fed my artwork. The other project I’d like to concentrate on as part of the residency is a children’s book which will be an A-Z of motion. This project leads on from the research in A Strange American Funeral and I see it as speaking to my interest in how we learn and communicate. I feel like I’ll always be involved in making books and print in some form, it’s analogue nature really speaks to me.


  • TRG’s current exhibition The Normal deals with vital current issues such as climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, gendered violence, as well as several other pertinent concerns. How would you capture the main issue(s) you engage with (or would want to engage with) as an artist?

‘How a community of people listen is what creates their culture’ 
Pauline Oliveros





Questions devised and set by Talbot Rice Art History placement students Siman Meng & Margaux Zandona, with support from TRG. 

Emmie McLuskey is part of cohort 3 of the Talbot Rice Residents programme, alongside Renèe Helèna Browne, Ross Fleming, Sekai Machache and Matt Zurowski.