artist interviews

emmett aster

@emmettaster, twenty, they/he

what is your art form?

i write things, and then i perform them! poetry, music, plays (sometimes i let other people perform in the plays). i also produce for theatre, and i take photos sometimes.

what do you do and why do you do it?

i think the biggest thing i try to do is blend art mediums together through theatre. i just really love seeing all the cool ways different art forms can be used to tell stories.

when it comes to production, i really enjoy organisation and there is something so incredibly cool about about giving people opportunities by bringing big ideas to life on the practical/administrative side. especially because so many people want to write/direct/perform but not as many have the means to put those shows on, especially regionally.

who/what has inspired you in your artistic practice and why?

when i was younger, i was really enamoured by the musicians and poets i loved and how... connected they made me feel, both to them and to the world at large. i really wanted to make people feel as heard as they did.

there are so many people that have inspire me but i adore andrea gibson and i talk about them just so much. they write poetry that is so full of light and love whilst being so accessible in a genre that can be quite elitist, and just encompass so much who i want to be.

i also recently rewatched my favourite musicals, fun home and falsettos, and realised quite how much i have subconsciously let them influence my writing style. they meant a lot to me as a teenager, so there is something really cool about that!

now i think the artists around me inspire me the most. nothing gets me excited about the arts as much as talking to other artists does, and i am super lucky to get to live with a bunch of other regional artists so i am inspired all of the time.

what do you think your role is as an artist? has anything stopped you from fulfilling this role?

a bit of a basic answer, but storytelling and connection.

when i first started writing and sharing in 'proper' arts circles when i was about fifteen the overwhelming response i got from people was that the stuff i wrote was 'raw' and 'vulnerable'. because of this i have definitely clung onto creating connection through sharing real experiences in the most authentic way possible as my 'role'. the thing that has interfered with this the most is my desire to perfect things before i share them. not very authentic of me.

when i really think about it, though, the idea of having a 'role' as an artist is pretty huge and pretty scary, so maybe i don't quite believe that i do have one, other than to just... make art. i also find it difficult to reconcile the fact that on some level i think my role is to improve other people via art with the fact that this is a toxic outlook.

what have been the biggest challenges in your artistic journey? and burnout. it is so exhausting trying to get your arts practice to a point that is financially sustainable whilst also working to live, and it can get really deflating. it feels impossible a lot of the time, and then an unhelpful part of my brain (and perhaps also the message we receive from society) tells me it would be achievable if i just worked harder. hence the burnout.

when i was younger, though, it was definitely perfectionism! i could not show anything to anyone, ever. i'd like to think i've really grown in this area and it is one of the things i am proudest of.

do you believe that good art comes from turmoil and suffering, or is that a romantic notion?

romantic notion! but i do believe that a lot of good art comes from intensity of feeling. i feel joy incredibly intensely, but that i think comes alongside also feeling sadness and other 'negative' emotions intensely. the 'best' art comes with the joy though.

that said, i am super passionate about art's potential for catharsis. done right i think it has a lot of therapeutic power, but done wrong it can definitely contribute to the 'good art comes from suffering' idea.

how do you feel your age impacts your experience as an artist?

i am very young, and i think that means a lot! especially when i first started entering arts spaces, my age was a very notable thing - this made it harder to grow up and still feel accomplished.

that aside, i generally just feel like i am at the beginning of my artistic experience. there are so many experiences i have not had yet. i don't think that means that my art is not as good as it would be had i had them, but i guess i more feel like it means that my art is different, i suppose? fresher? i would like to say more hopeful, but my play did receive a fringe feed react last year about how it was full of young people angst, so maybe the opposite. maybe my goal is to become more hopeful as i age.

what about your gender/race/sexuality/disability etc.?

my queerness has probably had the biggest impact, mostly positively which i am really lucky to be able to say. i found so much solace in other people's art when i was young and closeted and i think it is because of this that i value art's power so highly.

my gender is a really specific experience for me, as a trans masculine person who currently occupies the same political space as women (i am perceived as female, in most cases). i think as people's perception of my gender shifts my artistic experience does too.

a lot of people in arts spaces are neurodivergent, so although my autism and adhd makes some things harder, they are well accomodated in a lot of arts spaces. i also have ehlers danlos syndrome and dysautonomia which i often find are often not considered, even when i do bring it up explicitly. i feel like a burden quite a lot in rehearsal spaces, or that other people think i am lazy. all of this likely adds to my burnout: i fear that other people have the same expectations of me as they have of a neurotypical able-bodied person. admittedly though, i probably put that pressure on myself more than anyone else does or ever would.

but!! i am also super privileged in a so many ways. i am white, come from a middle class background, i pass as neurotypical and able bodied. this privilege has had a huge impact because has allowed me to get to where i am now. i want to use that privilege for good but i all too often find myself focusing on lifting up and providing accessibility for people like me while neglecting those who are not - something i think a lot of white queers tend to do, and something i need to be so much more aware of.

when it comes to art, what would you tell your younger self?

put less pressure on yourself - perfect is sometimes worse. the things you feel and the stories you have to tell are important, and can change the world, even if it is not quite in the way you envision.

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