Louise Ashcroft

What’s your background?

I studied at Ruskin School of Art (Oxford University) before co-founding a free, open, non-accredited postgrad called AltMFA and went to night school at Birkbeck College London to do an MA in Cultural and Critical Studies. I’m from Bradford in the North of England, and my approach to gleaning and intervening is connected to my family’s history of being resourceful and getting by, practicing freedom within the constraints of their lives as ordinary working people in the mills and foundries that kickstarted the industrial revolution, leading to global capitalism as we know it.

What influences you artistically?

I find sites that interest me and become curious, often through walking, photographing, note-taking and collecting. My findings are linked together to create narratives, and sometimes I respond through playful acts of resistance that change the status quo of the places I encounter. I’m influenced by situationism, fluxus, political theatre, jugaad (indian life-hacks), psycho-geography and critical comedy.

How do you start a new work?

I tend to embed myself in a place and spend time there, researching through noticing, writing and responding. A site can be a location or an archive, existing artwork, or virtual space. It’s quite a forensic process; often constructing fictions from the evidence I find. Performative (live) writing and writing through live participatory experiences is something I find generative. I like going to trade fairs, and finding situations which have power dynamics of systems of control, then I figure out how to break the rules and change the hierarchies without getting in trouble. I use systems against themselves.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve got a 1 woman 1 hour solo performance on at Camden People’s Theatre, it’s about my ambivalence around not having kids, and the barriers to reproduction that many people face (queer reproduction rights etc), plus how genetics has been outsourced to capitalism in many ways. I’m very interested in biohacking and the future of experimental biology. In the show I talk about trips to fertility trade fairs and building a DIY sperm bank outside my house; it’s a very serious comedy. I’ll be doing a talk with other childless people in Bremen (Germany) in October to extend this research. The work will lead to experiments in how to be a parent without having kids – how to reinvent the nuclear family by teaming up with friends who struggle to juggle work and childcare, and exploring histories of mutual aid. I am also renting a telephone box in the City of London financial district and writing a new video/performance about trying to take on authority through small acts and gestures in the birthplace of banking as we know it.