Elaine McCague is a professional aerial performer, creative producer and director of modern circus art at Loosysmokes. In 2019 she was awarded a Circus Bursary award from the Arts Council of Ireland. As an artist her ambition is to construct unique and powerful site responsive works through collaboration and experimentation with the physical, visual and audio scape that are not bound by the traditional trappings of art, circus or performance. Loosysmokes’ two major productions to date, Behind the Dark and Raven Eyed have both received raving five star reviews from the Irish Times and toured nationally and internationally. In 2020, Loosysmokes will be Artists in Residence at the Gate Theatre, Dublin. You can find more about the artists work via Loosysmokes website at www.loosysmokes.com.
What did you do with your Bursary award?
The bursary award allowed me the time to focus on my practice as a performing and visual artist in the realm of circus art. To undertake physical exploration in collaboration with artistic professionals outside of the circus artform and to find alternative movement with circus apparatus. Creating two short performances with these collaborators allowed me to hone directorial, movement and design skills. I additionally took on a one month intensive physical training course in Barcelona under four internationally renowned mentors in rope technique and engaged with a choreographer, dancer and circus artist to consult on techniques in movement investigation. The bursary most importantly afforded me space to reflect on my work, learn from my experiences and plan for the future of my art.
What has receiving a Bursary award meant to you as an artist/for your career?
The bursary award has allowed me to progress and focus on my artistic practice in circus arts. It afforded me the space to delve deep into several artistic ideas that I have long wanted to bring to fruition and build exciting working relationships with several artistic collaborators. I have gained specific insights into movement investigation and design principles in working with aerial apparatus that will fuel my future work.
How would you describe your creative process?
Having always worked to create in a trans-disciplinary and collaborative manner it has lead to an eclectic and ever evolving creative process. Initial performance concepts come to me as images, stills or short stop motions. These glimpses are then brought into an extended phase of writing, rewiring, and writing again. As the creative team assembles we work to allow all the disciplines, both technical and artistic, to influence one another. We put lights in performers hands, encourage riggers to input on site and set, set different dancers to choreograph alternating pieces, and overall allow space for input from everyone involved. This is as much about democratising workplaces as it is about creating the conditions for great art to emerge. This trans-disciplinary, collaborative approach both requires a good deal of time, planning, effort and patience, and is the reason for my success as co-artistic director of Loosysmokes.
What is the best piece of advice you received as an emerging artist?
While I couldn’t count the number of artists who have offered words of support to me throughout my career, I guess the best support I ever received was early on from an established mentor who told me I could do ‘this’ for a living. At that time I didn’t even know what ‘this’ was but it gave me confidence early on to pursue a challenging and unknown path.
What or who has influenced your practice the most?
Drawing from a background in film my artistic influences originate from a very visual aesthetic rather than that of the pure physical feat. I find myself drawn to and inspired by the artistic styles of German expressionism, surrealism, the absurd, and the abstract. Influenced particularly by surrealist stop motion works that involve real life elements such as films by Jan Swankmajer (Czech) and more contemporary artists such as Leon and Cocina (Chile).