Tag Archives: Emma Clark

Ghosts of the Near Future

Ghosts of the Near Future


Edinburgh Festival Fringe

GHOSTS OF THE NEAR FUTURE at Edinburgh Festival Fringe



Ghosts of the Near Future


“performance art fans will be intrigued by Ghosts of the Near Future, and won’t be discouraged by the disparate and random elements in this show”


Ghosts of the Near Future promises “a show about extinctions, climatic, cultural, civilizational” in this newest offering by performance artists Emma Clark and PJ Stanley, aka emma + pj.
In sixty minutes, the audience in the Demonstration Room at Summerhall is treated to a rather muddled mashup of what is described as magic realism. Ghosts of the Near Future gives the impression of an incomplete encounter with too much popular American culture. The show is entertaining from moment to moment, but it’s a struggle to connect it with the theme of extinction on quite the scale suggested in its promotional material.

Extinction is a big theme in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and with good reason. As scientific forecasts about species extinction, climate change, famine and plagues grow ever more disheartening, it’s important that artists tackle such big subjects. Art can illuminate data in ways that science cannot. What’s good about this piece by emma + pj is that, in a series of short scenes, Ghosts of the Near Future takes us out of the depressing reality of the near futures we are all facing, and presents us instead, with a dream of theirs. Spoiler alert: emma + pj’s is not any more cheerful, ultimately, but it’s a lot more fun to look at.

Clichés about the American West abound in Ghosts of the Near Future. Those who have been there can confirm that yes, it’s hot, and yes, it’s empty. If the point of all this is to show that the future of our planet may well look like Nevada, then yes, emma + pj are onto something. But how does the magic realism approach work with this? Why conjure up images of Las Vegas? To remind us that the showbiz glamour of this desert city is just a mirage? Is the point of this connection to make us realize that the achievements of our planet might one day been seen as just a magic trick, a dream? For generations of young people growing up amidst the ruins of the American Dream, I guess that’s true.

Ghosts of the Near Future is populated with white rabbits, magicians and showgirls. The imagination is caught, moment to moment, by enlarged images projected onto a screen, of plastic figures jumbled together in a glass tank; by pj’s sparkling magician’s jacket, or by emma dressed up as a showgirl holding a gasoline filled martini glass. The details can be captivating. Magic tricks do get performed, and there are some neat effects with cameras, lighting, sound and dry ice. Nice work by scenographer Georgie Hook and sound designer Patch Middleton.

All these details do not, in themselves, illuminate the theme of the show. Maybe the intent of Ghosts of the Near Future is to do this through playfulness, but the title of the show suggests otherwise. It is diverting to drift along with these likeable performers as they move through magic shows and various mythical encounters in the Nevada desert. As drifters know, however, such encounters are shot through with uncertainty. What did we really see?

Nevertheless, performance art fans will be intrigued by Ghosts of the Near Future, and won’t be discouraged by the disparate and random elements in this show. If that’s the case for you, go and soak up the experience, rather than trying to figure out its contribution to the subject of climate catastrophe.



Reviewed 9th August 2022

by Dominica Plummer



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