Emmalyn Hawthorne

Tell us a bit about your practice--what do you explore in your practice and why?


I find it difficult to pin down my practice. I apply collage methods quite broadly: to paper and text, but also to light, space, and ways of thinking. Instances of recontextualizations, particularly in relation to the physical and perceptual editing of experience, are what interest me. As a result, I’m often shifting what I do to facilitate this. 

The literal and figurative positioning — the contextualising and recontextualising — of the self within the world can be a site of fraught action. But, it can also reveal the bravery inherent in continuing to find ways to negotiate existence. This, and the oscillation between belief, disbelief and the wilful suspension of disbelief1 within that negotiation, is something I continue to return to.

Lately, I’ve been exploring how objects can function as tools for the editing of experience. And further, what happens when the psychological work we ask of an object is more than it can perform. When life becomes difficult an object can become something solid to hold on to — a lifeline imbued with thoughts and theories to remedy anxieties and desires. Yet the object that would reify our many nebulous longings may not exist. What happens then? 


What do you hope to achieve by making art? 


I work with the idea that art can alter memory and, consequently, reality.


Matthew Lombard and Theresa Ditton investigate ‘presence’. It’s the feeling you get, for example, when you’re so immersed in a film that you forget there is a screen mediating your experience. 


Their findings suggest that in memory, a mediated experience that has a high degree of presence is difficult to distinguish from a non-mediated experience. Errors in attributing the source of the memory can occur.2 


This means that if I can recontextualise or ‘mediate’ my reality through art, and then, if I can be immersed enough in it, if it has a high enough degree of presence, in memory I could struggle to distinguish between it and reality. It could become factual for me. From this perspective, art can perform post-event alterations of reality. On days when reality is difficult, and on subsequent days, this feels pretty important. 


What are you currently working on at the Outer Space Studio? 


Literally reading the sky. 

I’ve been tracing sky lines and then feeding the traced line through Optical Character Recognition software. The OCR thinks the line is (really messy) handwriting and reads it. Sometimes whole words or phrases come out and other times just jumbles of letters and punctuation. 

It’s kind of incredible. It makes me feel like there are words hidden in lines everywhere. The artificiality of a sky line no longer delineates a landscape, no longer encloses or defines a form, but instead opens into the surrounding negative space to outline the potential for a landscape, or a word. And then that word, loosened from syntactical mundanity, becomes similarly indefinite and full of potential.  

At this stage it’s just a process, not a resolved work, but it’s causing me to conflate etymologic with atmospheric and geological histories — as if you could scrape the present away to read all the layers of past life and use hidden underneath. 

I read in in Peter Gleick’s The Information that Charles Babbage3 understood that the vibration necessitated by speech results in motion that must be reflected in atmospheric movements, however small. He proposed that, with sufficient computer power, ‘…every word ever said, whether heard by a hundred listeners or none, …the complete record of human utterance…’ could theoretically be reconverted.4 I find it comforting to think that, at least theoretically, no impulse is lost to the sky. 

 ‘wilful suspension of disbelief’ is borrowed from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria: The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life & Opinions, ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985): 239.

Matthew Lombard and Theresa Ditton, ‘At the Heart of It All: The Concept of Presence,’ The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 3, no. 2 (1997): 32.

(Babbage is credited with conceiving the first automatic digital computer.)

James Gleick, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood (New York: Random House, 2011), 351.

Photos by Patrick Lester

Outer Space acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land where this project takes place, Meanjin, and pays respect to Elders - past, present and emerging. 

Outer Space  is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Outer Space is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

Outer Space is proudly supported by