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Writing (MA)

Elspeth Walker

Elspeth Walker is a writer and visual/language artist, whose work centres around the themes of memory, class, feminism and exploring how we read/interact with art forms.

A lot of her work comes from a personal introspection about her relationship with the outer world, which is then shared with others as a means to probe it further.

Most of her own work lies between creative non-fiction and poetic prose. She has a keen interest in psychogeography and exploring how things are interconnected, from object to emotions. Playing with how we read, and the physical element of writing is also key to her work, and can be seen across both her indie press publications and visual art work. She has published many indie press pamphlets, zines and poetry collections that are stocked at TACO, Good Press, Books Peckham, Burley Fisher's Books, the Photographers Gallery, Common Thread Press, and are archived at Glasgow Zine Library, National Poetry Library, and Bienechke Library at Yale.

Elspeth regularly writes for various publications such as SICK Magazine, Culturala Art Journal, and Agora Digital Art, and is part of a Zine collective Silken Reference with fellow MA Writing students.

During 2022 she worked on her “Everyday” series including You Do So Much, I want to be a Seahorse I said, and Aphrodisiac plates 1&2. These often related to issues of class and ableism, and trying to the reality of lower income life with the image it projects, using humour as a means of translating and poking holes in social structures.

Now in 2023 she is working on a body of work entitled “Alternative Archives” which explore what the archive is, who it is for, and how we can play with it to push the boundaries of whose history is allowed to be recorded, and how we translate this honestly. Works include The Body is an Archive and Persephone’s Bedroom.

She currently works at the National Poetry Library, and Lavender Leonardos art school whilst working on her practice. During 2022 she was runner up for the Whitechapel Gallery Writer in Residence and in 2023 completed her MA in Writing at the Royal College of Art, London.

Image of Elspeth Walker in a studio, working to create a zine, laying out the publishing format.

Lobsters, the colour Yellow, Class, Sex, Death, the News, Straw Hats talking, Dyslexic Utopias and the fight on Salmon. These have all been themes that I have lingered or ran from. Testing how my writing can create different ways of reading, and speaking on certain topics, the broad subjects we have all encountered have helped to fine tune what writing is to us.

From criticism, outlets, observations, to research, my writing relationship has become a more active process, something physical. Exploring how research can start with the body and its memories, how performance can unlock these spaces, and then finally how I can subvert the natural understanding of reading through playing with materiality of the text. During this MA I've developed the desire for unpicking one object, and then redistributing the frayed edges to show connections that we don't always acknowledge or want to understand.

Then end result was My Life as a Lobster. A collection of essays that wove together the new skills of close looking, bodily research, and combining the critical with the personal.

My Life as a Lobster

My Life as a Lobster is a three part essay collection for my final major project at the RCA. This body of work explored the social mythologies surrounding the lobster, and what happens when we question and remove the narratives that surround them. Exploring notions of all giving love, the hierarchies of pleasure through sex, food and class relationships, and finally the dehumanisation of the disabled body after death.

Using my own encounters with the emotional lobster through out my life, I've tried to uncover the what reality lies beneath these projected myths - do they teach us toxic forms of love? Do they uphold class structures? Do they keep sex as a dirty desire? Do they allow us to let some die without consequence or thought?

'How do you start to tell people things they already know and convince them they’ve actually been seeing it wrong all this time? The answer - arrogance, or basic confidence. Life is often compared to performance. Beyond the basic animal instincts, we deem behaviour, there is something we shroud ourselves in to occupy many spaces, to create a reality we feel comfortable in, to manipulate our surroundings to give a desired effect.  To assume you are like something else, or that something else is so you, is the beginning of inaccurate description. Relying heavily on metaphors, self-proclaimed or ancient, is the marker of not having the words to describe it yourself. Not having the right experience to match what you are trying to convey. 

Enter the lobster.' 

This collection of work combines performative research and bodily encounters with places, foods and objects that have held a lobsterish hold over me, using a shell in each situation to provoke and reinforce the idea I am not in fact a lobster, but rather have succumbed to its narratives.

Image of final print copy of My Life as a Lobster
Image of open book showing a close up of hands pulling lobster meat from a claw.





The Red House: Conversations on how successful public art is created.

The Red House :Conversations on how successful public art is created, is a project exploring the Red House public art sculpture by Colin Wilbourn, as part of the St Peter's Riverside Sculpture Project trail, in Sunderland, North-East England.

This artwork was the first that I ever felt able to touch. It is an artwork which brought together three generations of my family. It was a living dollhouse, and a time capsule of our local working-class history.

The Red House has always been a marker for a successful form of public art for me, and started conversations with locals, the artist himself and academics into what has enabled this work to thrive and others to fall flat.

'In the past few years public art has been playing on my mind a lot. From global conversations of monument culture and how it holds onto prejudicial and traumatic history, mostly surrounding the statues of slave traders across Western cultures, to how art is being placed externally as a marketing technique for galleries, the Hayward’s display facing Waterloo Bridge being a great example as it has morphed from commissions to exhibition posters. The art world has been reacting to this idea. Kara Walker’s Fons Amereicanus highlighted how monuments often portray the history of the oppressors, and the reality of a statue that reflected true historical events, displayed in theTate Modern in 2020. The same year the Black Live Matter movement awoken many to the systemic racism still in our society, including the statues to slave traders, the same year the statue of Edward Colston was knocked down in Bristol. Two years later the CCA at Goldsmiths has an exhibition entitled Testament, exhibiting ideas for public art work that challenges how we see it now. Its purpose, how interactive it is, and the idea of how public art can create questions (however, it should be noted, this experience was confined to a gallery space, questioning the ability for the works to succeed in their aims).
During this time, I, personally, have moved to London, lived in various places, and stepped into a city steeped in art in the public sphere. Yet, one work I always come back to is the Red House. As I have gotten older I have become amazed at how we were able to interact with it, and the history it holds, one of the working class, and one that doesn’t seek to re-traumatise its viewers, yet recognises the local area.'
Image of the Red House
The Red HouseImage of the Red House sculpture, courtesy of artist.


Archeologies Project


Image of various Ruderal pamphlets with a range of found object covers.
Image of Ruderal pamphlet.
Image of Ruderal pamphlet open.


Ruderal is an experimental piece of work that gives voice to various parts of the marble arch mound to explore the impact of the space, and relationship of the materials in the area. It was written as part of the CHS RCA module, but later adapted into a small press object after, with each having a different cover from found materials to tie into the content of the work.





The Egg of Whitechapel

The Egg of Whitechapel plays on my first encounter with Thuy-Han Nguyen-Chi’s artwork. Focusing on the eggshell, originally sent to me in a video by a guy I met on a dating app, I used it as a focal point to negotiate my feelings of being with another person again. When I visited the gallery, I ended up projecting my vulnerabilities onto each artwork, questioning who I was in London, using the creative essay form to replicate my thoughts.

This work was created in response to a call out by the Whitechapel Gallery, London, for their Young Writers in Residence, which I was runner up for.

Image of essay on the Whitechapel Gallery website.




Image of the three print publications that came from the Zine residency in 2022.

Cornwall Zine Library & Fish Factory Residency

During my Zine residency at Cornwall Zine Library & Fish Factory, Penryn, Cornwall, I explored the local area, and drew inspiration from the rock forms that line it's coast. This resulted in the production of two zines and one photobook.


This zine looks at more experimental modes of publishing, using collage that form new landscapes using images of local rock formations, and automatic writing in response.

The Rocks Have Been Talking:

An A3 Riso print zine, it is the first in a wider series of zines that explores climate change, and human impact on local space, through giving voice to local landforms.

Dear Family:

This photo book, printed with a Riso printer, is a catalogue of a performance piece that arose after finding a porthole/key on the coast line. Feeling connected to the rusting rocky structure, it became a mode of communication with my wider family history, who have worked in quarries and on ships.

These projects are thanks to the support of those at the residency and will be archived as part of their zine library collection.


Various publications