Professional Portfolio

Emmie Alderson is a performance maker and writer who is interested in investigating place to unearth the human histories that reside there. Her practice is rooted in the approaches of walking, writing and archaeology, examining human experience to reveal the complex relationship between who we have been and how we are remembered.

Emmie’s work is interested in unpicking social histories and her own autobiographical history. She plays with female histories and the idea of pursuit is explored extensively within her recent performance trilogy ‘A Pilgrimage for Sylvia’ that follows her pursuit  of poet Sylvia Plath. Pursuit is an idea that she has dealt with in earlier work The Other Woman (2017)  records her obsessive pursuit to become a femme fatale figure from the film noir genre.

Photograph Hannah Soar

Walking this year has become a fundamental approach in her making process. She uses it to physically investigate place as a process of self-examination and an act that  stimulates writing. Writing is central to her practice, as a means of creating poetical texts, capturing her feelings and experiences of encountering places and taking her audience on the journeys she has made.

Previously Emmie has performed in Beaches production ‘PARTY’ at Flare International Festival of New Theatre 2017. She performed in Sheffield based artistic collective Vanitas Arts performance installation (2016).

A Pilgrimage for Sylvia is a performance trilogy I developed on my masters degree, created from a series of pilgrimages that focused on finding the remaining traces of Sylvia Plath’s presence. The process of making has been an exploration into what it means to make a pilgrimage and how to commemorate an absent person’s presence within a place. The decision to conceptually shape this trilogy around the act of making a pilgrimage was greatly influenced by Michael Pinchbeck’s ‘The Long and Winding Road’, a journey he made in a graffiti covered car from Nottingham to Liverpool in memory of his late brother, which is an exquisite act of remembrance and commemoration that I felt connected to.  The three performances I subsequently created have all explored this connection between journeying and remembrance, which Pinchbeck’s work addresses.

The first part of the trilogy involves a ten minute one to one performance encounter where an individual participant is invited to retrace the walk  I made to Sylvia’s grave . The key inquiry of this performance was to explore what it means to make a pilgrimage and to take a participant on an intimate journey.

Captured in the images below are the actions which I invited the participant to perform as we physically made the journey walking together across the map. We unfolded the two OS maps of the landscapes I travelled through, the participant placed a gold pin at each site as I recalled my experience of being there. I invited the participant to mark the landscape with their presence, to walk across the maps with their bare feet and take a Polaroid image of their shoes. At the end of the performance they inscribe the polaroid with their name to mark their presence on the journey.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The new discoveries and approaches made whilst developing this one to one performance, included utilising the method of walking as new performance material and working with a new form of performance one to one developing skills in how to involve a participant in the making of a live performance.

The second performance took the form of a performance lecture that documented my experience of re-enacting Sylvia’s last walk between her final address and a local telephone box. The performance’s key concerns were with examining how you can perform documentation and re-enact somebody else’s history. I explored what it means to follow Sylvia’s footsteps, this concept of following was influenced by French artist Sophie Calle’s Suite Venitienne. The second part, was shown at DYP Festival in May 2018 alongside other artists from my masters course.

During the performance I assembled an archive of objects relating to my walk, a miniature red telephone box, newspaper clippings and Polaroids taken. As shown in the images below, the assembling of this archive live on stage was a preservation of the traces gathered during the walk, and an alternative representation of the events and documents that recorded Sylvia’s last walk.

Photograph Gill Alderson

32944426_1760148714022113_3218299100327837696_n

The use of the light boxes in this piece marked the start of my interest in creating visual art installations on stage. The light boxes highlight the process of an archive being constructed on stage with the intention that it would also intensify both the events leading up to her death and the subsequence absence and presence of the poet, revealed in the images below.

Photograph Claire Wood

Photograph Claire Wood

Throughout the performance I followed a deliberate rule of hiding my face from the audience, playing with my own absence and presence, an reoccurring interest in my practice. I found that in this piece I was able clarify my own motivations for searching for Sylvia which can be found in a written text here that I address to the audience.

Photograph Claire Wood

The third part of my pilgrimage trilogy ‘A Pilgrimage for Sylvia & Anne’ was recently performed as a work in progress at ARRIVAL, a festival which featured performances from artists on the Contemporary Performance Practice masters programme.

A Pilgrimage for Sylvia & Anne was a performance lecture, primarily concerned with the act of remembrance. The performance reflects on how the landscape remembers two absent women I have never met and considers how my project will be remembered in the future.

The audience in the piece are taken on the walk I made around Yarm to find the remaining traces of my late grandmother Anne’s life. The audience both textually and visually experience this walk via a projection of images of the sites encountered with a series of spoken texts that recall my experiences and accompanying thoughts of being in the landscape.

Photograph Fraser Oxlee

Photograph Fraser Oxlee

During the process of making this third performance art I created a large archive installation, a deep map of the sites visited in Yarm as a way of visually recording and representing my experience of searching for Anne. This is shown in the image below. In the process I discovered I could visually work on a larger scale installation. I was able to intertwine the two previous performances with this one through textual, visual references, echoed through the images of the brown books and yellow flowers. The three threads of Sylvia, Anne and myself are drawn together in this final piece of the trilogy into a conversation about the complex nature of remembrance and how landscape and place can perform as a site of remembrance.

40998520_248474125810524_5825082569527394304_n

 

 

Word Count 1,093

 

Lecture about Remembrance, Early Draft Text

This is a lecture about remembrance. Remembering people who have only ever been present in photographs, who have always been absent. How do you remember them? How will I be remembered? I am the mourner. I am here in my black coat and brown boots, the clothes I wore when I went to look for Sylvia’s final footsteps, her final few hours.

This is a performance is a piece of archaeology, about the remains of two women’s lives, the remains of my past .It is also about finding my future, which has been lost within a search for a past.

‘We are here in Yarm’ – Early Draft Text

Emmie : We are here in Yarm

Yarm is a small town in North Yorkshire.

Yarm’s name – originally means ‘pool for catching fish’

Yarm is first mentioned in the doomsday book in ‘1086’

Yarm situated on the south bank of the river Tees.

Yarm is bordered by two Rivers, River Tees, River Leven

Yarm has three churches, one roman catholic, one Anglican, one Methodist

Yarm is the birthplace of the founder of Methodism

Yarm has a viaduct which runs through the landscape of the town

Yarm has a fair, every third week of October, with funfairs and where traveller communities come to buy and sell horses

Yarm has been called a tiny island town

Yarm was the birthplace of the first public railway

Yarms river froze over once and became an ice skating ring

Yarm has a population roughly of 8,384 people

Yarm has a high street.

Yarm’s high street has a war memorial.

Yarm’s high street now has a costa.

Yarm’s high street had a town hall which are now a public toilet

Yarm had twelve pubs at one time, it has less now .

Yarm used to be a port for the busy shipping industry in the North East.

Yarm is the place where my grandmother lived and now is buried.

 

 

Sylvia & Anne Similarities & Differences First Draft

Sylvia & Anne

 In the ‘Bell Jar’ Sylvia you describe your life being like a tree.

You describe yourself being caught between these branches of

domesticity and career.You want to climb both of those branches,

To be all of those things, writer, mother, poet, wife, academic.

You state that you will have to choose, you have reached an acceptance that you will have to make a choice about your future, but you still wanted it all. In your lifetime you would only reached that branch of domesticity. Your death sealed your fame and let you cling finally on to that branch of career success and literary fame.

Anne, your life was spent holding on to that one branch, of husband and children.

That is how you are remembered. This how we have remembered you.

Your choice was that branch of domesticity, family, that defined your life and existence within this world. I wonder if you wanted to climb, to reach those other branches that may have seemed so out of reach. I wonder what you wanted to be what career you would like to have followed. I

 

I am the generation that is standing here today, who is able to climb all those branches, to claim everything in her sight. I can have it all. But can I be all those things.Do I want to be all of those things ? Is that really my reality ? That’s something that I am in the process of discovering for myself ?

 

You were both living the similar existences as wives and mothers’ both with a son and daughter. You both were pregnant at the same time, with your second child. Anne’s daughter was born in December, the ending of the year. Sylvia’s son was born in January, the beginning of a year. Births that marked both a beginning and an ending. Sylvia would be dead a year later after her sons birth.Anne and Sylvia’s deaths both sudden and unexpected. Both lost in the cold beginnings of a new year.Two blue lipped ghosts.Sylvia to suicide.Anne to hepatitis C.
Both left a son and daughter behind.
And a grandaughter Emmie Anne.
That’s me.

But your lives will be remembered differently.Sylvia your life and name will be treated as remarkable the poetic legacy you left behind . Anne your life and name will not be remembered because it is unremarkable, because your life was confined to a domestic existence.

 

Two Blonde girls on the beach, Physical Similarities between Sylvia & Anne. First Draft Text

 

You both are wide eyed, Youth personified.

Same blonde wavy bobs, stolen from the
stars of the silver screen, from Monroe, Kelly.

You both appear joyful, radiating warmth,

From your wide smiles.

Your lipstick red clinging to your lips,
like a fresh kiss, stirrings of first love.

I feel like I could be looking at the same person.

 

The same girl on a beach, on a hot summers day.

 

Not so long ago.

 

 

I am searching for the girls on that beach,

 

But they disappeared long ago into
the sepia, fading colour photographs

Into the vastness of the internet, and the
digital archive on the family desktop computer.

 

Sylvia & Anne

 

I am standing here on stage.

 

Searching for an absent grandmother. Anne.

 

Searching for an absent poet. Sylvia.

 

Searching for the two blonde women on the beach

 

Searching for their presence in my mind
and through the lens of my polaroid camera.

Remembering and imagining them into being

 

 

This is a lecture about remembrance. Remembering people who have only ever been present in photographs, who have always been absent. How do you remember them? How will I be remembered? I am the mourner. I am here in my black coat and brown boots, the clothes I wore when I went to look for Sylvia’s final foosteps, her final few hours.

 

This is a performance is a piece of archaeology, about the remains of two women’s lives, the remains of my past .It is also about finding my future.

 

Yarm Social Club, Early Draft Text

Yarm Social Club

I climb up the steep steps, to reach this former centre of a community

With its ‘Sold’ sign, Overgrown flower beds,

A place of celebrations, birthdays, weddings, wakes, anniversaries

that were held once in this now crumbling building.

I am witnessing the ending of this buildings life,
It is like it is awaiting it its own funeral.

 

I peer through the window, thinking about the years of celebrations
that were held here, communities coming together.

I imagine Anne’s wedding celebrations here.

I can see all your ghosts dancing

Jiving to a ghostly gramophone.

I imagine it all.

 

Walking back down the steep steps,

I turn back, looking at its ending.

Looking at the death of a community,
The death of a generation.

Hanging sold sign is
Like the final nail in its coffin.