Artist Takeover- Emma Brennan

By The Black Box
Due to the venue being temporarily closed, not only can we not have amazing shows & events but we are also unable to have our regular exhibitions in The Green Room. In response, we have moved our exhibitions online and will feature each monthly artist on our website and social media including an Instagram takeover on our account (@theblackboxbelfast)

Exhibition details here-


Emma Brennan (She/Her) is an interdisciplinary artist who works predominantly in performative practices to include multi-media installation, moving image and collaborative processes. Originally from Dublin, she is now based In Belfast. She is a former Co-Director and Chairperson of Catalyst Arts and a current studio member of Flax Art Studios Belfast. She has recently been chosen as one of the BBeyond performance collective’s new commissioned artists of 2021 to present a new work to be shown as part of the Cathedral Arts Festival, Belfast. She has performed as one of the invited artists at the Belfast International Festival of Performance Art, March 2021. Alongside these performances she is working towards exhibiting work in the Glór gallery, Ennis, Co. Clare in an upcoming show curated by Moran Been-Noon.


Thank you, Emma, for being one of our online exhibiting artists and sharing your beautiful work with us. And here is a mini-interview/blog from them!


Promotional Image courtesy of the artist.


What’s your background?


I’m an interdisciplinary artist who works predominantly in performative practices to include multi-media installation, moving image and collaborative processes. I’m originally from Dublin and have a BA honours in Fine Art from the National College of Art and Design. I moved to Belfast in 2018 to fulfill a Directorship with Catalyst Arts Gallery, where I was on their marketing sub committee and the Chairperson of the board. I currently have my studio in Flax Art Studios.

My day job is that I work in marketing for arts organisations, I’m currently in marketing at Theatre and Dance NI and at Household Belfast,  having formerly been a marketing assistant at the Lyric Theatre Belfast.



Are there key themes in your work?


Absolutely, although sometimes It takes others to identify them before me! Some are ever changing  and some unwavering. The current ones would center around: the maternal body, land, magic, ritual, alchemy, breath, creation, food, capitalism, care and death.


What are they, how do you explore them?


My process for making is what I would define as a sort of constant collage; persistent research in terms of reading,writing, conversations, cooking, drawing and whatever other elements take hold of me at any given time. I explore these themes when I’m in my studio in a collection of solitary activities. Entering into a childlike state of play, I spend hours upon hours dedicated to this space for play, allowing boredom to come and roll forth into productivity.I like to push the materials, ideas and myself to the point of collapse. Testing all the elements and engaging with every possibility. Paying close attention to the things that are happening in those in between moments, the transient occurrences and subtle alchemies.


How has your practice developed or changed over time?


I would say the biggest change from college is that I have moved from performance to camera in my work (which were quite constructed narratives to include script, costume and greenscreen) to working in the live moment into performance art. This change has been a result of a number of influences but I would say mostly from a greater sense of understanding in myself and what is important to me on a personal level and within my practice. Growing confidence in my process over the years has helped me respect the way, opposed to the destination.

What work or processes do you most enjoy doing?


It may seem obvious, but I really enjoy the act of cooking, especially when it’s for others. There’s no better way for me to explore all of my instinctual and intrinsic senses in displays of care, sharing, creating, alchemic processes and my understanding of the body than with food.


Baking bread performance, NCAD Live, NCAD Dublin, 2016, photograph:Aron Cahill


Who or what are your biggest influences?


My rural influences are the dominant inspiration for my work and specific to my use of the material of dough. It stems from my ancestral connections and has been informed by the matriarchal presences in my life in addition to my relationship with the land. In terms of people who influence and inspire me, I will always be most inspired by those closest to me and who I have emotional ties to, my peers especially and those who have paved the way in performance practices. In addition, in keeping with my process  I am very heavily influenced by the world around me, absorbing not only from the conversations and moments with these special people but also from books, what I’m watching or listening to and so on, that constant collage again!


Shoutouts: My Ma, My Granny, My partner Emer, Cara Farnan, Jennifer Moore (dream cycles), Siobhan kelly, Thomas Wells, Leah Corbett, Liam McCartan (Son Zept), Peter Glasgow, Niamh McCann, Kyoto Love Hotel, Siobhan Mullen Wolfe, Amanda Coogan, Bbeyond collective, Dominic Thorpe, Livestock, Julianna Barwick, Pina Bausch, Rebecca Solnit’s Field Guide to getting Lost, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts… I could go on forever.


In the Land We Lament, By a Better Deed Exhibition, Pearse Museum, Dublin, 2018, photograph: Jonathan Stokes


Have you had any responses to your work that were particularly memorable, or not what you expected?

During my Fringe show,Heed, to the Mound, we had a few very emotional and visibly moved responses in the space, particularly from older women, which was incredibly powerful and touching. For a silent, durational and simple action to have such a profound effect on people really displayed the level of empathetic and compassionate tension present in the space. One woman had to leave to have a small cry because she found it difficult to watch without emoting!


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?  


Don’t be a dick


Landscaping, Re-vision festival, Catalyst Arts, Belfast, 2020, photograph:Ben Malcolmson


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