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Emerging from lockdowns with Emilie Newman

I came to writing this article about Émilie without really wanting to do an introduction first as I’d seen some of her work prior to this and I became so enthusiastic about it that I just thought I don’t really want to do an intro thing, I just want to get on with talking about Émilie and her work and her lockdown stuff but then I thought no you should do an introduction thing first like usual as even though you know her maybe other people don’t and you’ve done introductions for other people in your previous articles so at least try and stick to a standard. I think introductions are necessary really anyway for accurate beginnings.

I’ve met her briefly previous to this and seen her briefly without meeting too, at concerts and performances and we’ve had brief natterings on the Facebook interactions and from that I had cause to look more at some of her art stuff she’s done and then the thoughts started to present themselves in my head of yes send her a message so you can talk and gain more knowledge and learning and also pass a few nice hours in a probable outside area which you like to do anyway don’t you?

Turns out she don’t live too far from me and a short bike ride away and all the meeting pieces slotted in to place easy. Before we did the meeting I did messages about any stuff she’d been up to recently art and soundwise. I’d already looked at a bit but I’m maybe not that dextrous for finding things and could have missed some importance. Some links came back which I watched with eyes and ears and they made me look forward to meeting her even more. All of them. I wrote down a load of thoughts and questions and stuff as well, I need to do that or I forget. I forget things anyway, even when I do write them down, just not so much.  

Some of the things she’s been working on recently with this lockdown business encroaching into our lives at the same time left me hugely impressed with the positive thought spaces that they sent me off to. As well as practically, using simple techniques with equipment in confined lockdown spaces. I feel like I’m flailing around like an imposter trying to find adequate words to do them justice. I can go off into dictionary land and find other words that mean the same as good to describe what I felt when I took her projects into my brain, but rather than that I think it’d just be a better thing to enthuse about them so other people can feel similar to how I felt, which was very emotionally positive.

I feel that it now makes more sense to talk to people about how they’re emerging from lockdown and how it was for them, rather than how it is. As we’re all sort of coming out of it, supposedly. Though we might have to go back into it as well but we don’t really know do we? So we met up and started talking and sat outside at reasonable distances apart with no masks as you can do that at the moment without masks and it’s ok. Her partner Danica joined along too which made the talking like a triangle and not a seesaw balance two-way thing which I enjoyed like a new part of these talking articles I been doing. The talking went round in the triangle and back and forth like a clockwise then anticlockwise. It was still balance as I think a triangle can act like a balance too under a seesaw.

I’m mentioning balance a fair bit and I figure that’s Émilie’s influence, as there’s balance in much of what she does with her viola noise project luxul. As well as having an appealing sound I am also attracted to the way the word looks, perfectly balanced and palindromic and I didn’t write it with a capital L as the balance would then have been destroyed and it wouldn’t have been right any more. And looking around for luxul things on the internet that seems the way it is so I like that visual aesthetic as well as the way it sounds. The word and the music.  From talking I got more explanations for balance, and the way you can break the luxul word down into two, to reference light, and then the absence of light. It’s not just flung together, it’s thoughtful and considered. It’s only five letters but they’ve made me think about all sorts of stuff. Actually it’s only three letters as two are reflected. I’ve just realized that as I was writing all this down. A recent luxul piece made newly available during the lockdown when it was happening first made me start talking about the luxul angle. A 17 minute improvised viola noise piece just made by the one Émilie person as one track from a stack of pedals with individual abilities to loop, distort, delay and reverberate. I was also made aware of initial lockdown experiments into phone feedback, with laptop microphone and viola. Émilie doesn’t yet know where these experiments will lead to but it is good to see the creativity there doing just what it does, creating. What it will ultimately create we will have to wait and see, but in the meantime the sense of fun and play in her work makes the new things happen.

So from the dark and light balances of luxul we took balance over to another recent work. The Beach is Calling and We Must Go. That’s what it’s called, that’s why I used the capital letters. I watched this on my own the night before we met. A ten minute film piece for her partner Danica and starring the both of them having a beach holiday in their flat. An alternative to the beach holiday that her partner craved since she came out as trans late last year. The beach holiday while transitioning was then denied by the corona and so Émilie made this for them both. As a piece of art I felt what? I don’t know, I can only keep saying something’s good so many times. I felt amazed by it. I was thinking oh yeah nice, I like that bit and I like this other bit too and reference point this and reference point that. Sometimes when I see artist video works in galleries I can engage with them for a minute or so and then think yeah ok thanks and move on except probably for Bill Viola, but this film kept me fully engaged throughout and my engagement built to more engagement as it went on. Then I had this thought about why I was liking it so much and I recognized that it is because it is kind and it is a gift and it has empathy and it is a nice thing to do for someone. As a piece of art I was fully loving it but then when I took the art context thing away in my head and watched it plainly as an act of kindness it just made me go all funny with joy and stuff. So yeah, I can go on about it all day but ultimately I can just say to other people just go watch it, it’s a nice thing. There’s plenty of negative morose stuff about if you just want to keep feeding yourself with that but this shone out to me as a heartwarming antidote.

We three spent about two hours talking and then left as the dusk started to come in as we’re a month past the solstice now. Loads more stuff that I had to filter out and some things that I had in my mind to ask but just forgot because that’s how minds work. I forgot to take a photo as documentation too so she sent me some images after and then the article all started to take shape and now it’s finished.



Andy Rowe is a sound artist who lives and works in London. He has worked with sound in a professional and creative context since 1996 and gained a degree in Sonic Art from Middlesex University in 2009. He has displayed work in Coventry's Herbert gallery, London's Hundred Years, Raven Row, Chalton, Art and Escape, Horse Hospital, ToandFor, and Doomed galleries. His sound, music and performance project is known as the Slate Pipe Banjo Draggers. He has performed live at festivals and events in England, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Italy both alone and collaboratively

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