So far so good.
I am sitting in the lounge room of a cottage in Geelong, where I’ve taken myself on a self-directed retreat/writing weekend. I hear the hum of the heater, and wind outside the house. Yes, it is one of those mega windy Victorian days.
On my instagram account, this year has been mostly categorised by #nomad #lifeofanartist
When Ben decided to take the 9-month Europe stint with Company 2 touring Scotch and Soda, we decided to give up the lease on the house. We packed everything into storage at his mom’s, and a few other things scattered across friends’ homes, arts spaces, and garages. With me, I had a suitcase, a plastic tub of clothes, some paperwork and stationery, a little basket of personal trinkets and photos and cards, and our trusty station wagon – and moved between house sits, interstate work, and Berlin show-wife adventures. On the way, I got to visit the family back in Singapore. And at a most needed juncture, found myself a houseguest with a friend’s mom – a wonderful 80-year-old woman who is now a dear friend and companion, whose place is now a temporary, but warm and nurturing base.
Half time is a good time to check in with where you are…
Taking stock, The Long Lunch at the Arts House was a very affirming experience. Gentle meandering conversations over three hours of place and displacement, of spaces known and unknown – over congee and tea – it was a much needed winter bookmark. Being programmed at the Arts House was also in itself a flagpole for me – a timely nudge to confirm my place as an artist in Melbourne and Australia – an encouraging reminder that my practice is relevant and that it resonates.
Come, Eat II: The Art of Homemade Sambal at the Darebin Homemade Food and Wine Festival was fun and fulfilling, whilst broadening the scope of where my practice can sit within. It was always planned as a straightforward project with minimal complications – the inquiries extensions of work previously made. The best part of the project was the deepened relationship with Project Manager, Yuhui as colleague, peer, and friend.
And re-orientate yourself in where you are headed…
Earlier this year, the mentoring I initiated with Nicole at Theatre Network Australia begun, and extended into a paid role as Communications Coordinator for the organisation. Nicole has been a great mentor and a fantastic boss, and I am growing so much as a person in this space. Being inside the organisation has also been immensely fruitful in my reflections since the thinking in and around The Artist as Driver seeded – and I’ve never felt more strongly about our leadership in the arts sector as independent artists, women, people of colour, the disabled, queer folk, youth…not merely for representation, but that these are the people who traverse the spaces between – and for that, provide insight through multiple perspectives – insight that spans breadth and depth, is sensitive and nuanced, gentle but fierce. In a time where creative thinking around the models that we work within is much needed – the rulebook needs updating, and these are the people who are changing the rules on a daily basis. I am starting to make plans and work out the How – how do I begin to advocate for this shift in the leadership across the arts sector – starting with the boards? What are some tangible ways and structure and plan towards this?
[If this is something you feel strongly about, and want to work with me – get in touch!]
In another headspace, I continue to unravel the Art/Life intertwining – formulating projects that are grounded in my practice, and have life spans that flow and extend into daily life.
Tropical Kitchen with Britt Guy and ACCOMPLICE Arts Space in Darwin sees a first iteration this Darwin Festival, but this partnership is driven by our shared questions of sustainability, and both our needs based on our current sense of place and time. The North increasingly draws me closer, and I am looking forward to spending more time there.
Open Plan sits at the back of my mind – a lunch bar art space – a place for hearty food and conversation supported by the ideas of minimal waste; fresh ingredients sourced from sustainable producers; balanced alternative employment for artists who can align their practices to these ideas; rigorous conversations that can meander through hours and days and months; a space to gather. The beginnings of a business plan sits half filled as I am stuck as to how to proceed. Ideas to finance the project bubbling in my head, but I am unable to translate that to paper and the actual math.
[If this is something you are curious about – get in touch!]
Housing security continues to be out of reach for us as artists, (and for people who aren’t artists.) But if we asked ourselves, where do I want to live? What do I need to live? How do I want to live? What sort of answers would we have? What sort of picture would we paint? The base that I want for myself is a retreat – in the midst of travelling, timelines and schedules, and changing plans as is the nature of our work – home is increasingly looking like a retreat space, nestled in green with a body of water in sight. But more so, a retreat that welcomes others who need time out – to rest, to dream, to rejuvenate their artistic practices. The picture painted is very clear for me – but once again, like a foreign language, the next steps of this process is a blur. Which do I do first?
[If this picture looks the same as the one you’ve painted for yourself – get in touch!]
I must admit – the first half of 2017 has been hard on the emotional front. Being apart from my partner has its challenges, and there is three more months of this to go. The travelling, whilst adventurous, has been hard on the body and mentally exhausting. Spending a lot of time alone in transient spaces can make things feel a lot lonelier that it actually is. And whilst I have been generously welcome in a comfortable home, I am beginning to crave my own space – my retreat.
But you do what you need. You do what is best. You get enough sleep. You fix the knots in your shoulders as soon as you notice them. You moderate your drinking. You get as much vegetables in. You pay for gym sessions to enforce one level of structure to your non-structured life. You are selective with your social life, but you are generous when you are there. You take baths. You drink more water. You choose to eat lunch away from your desk. You say no to things. You take time out…
Many of my artist friends do not do what they need. They do not always do what is best, for them. Many do not even think of what they need, nor think of what is best for them.
Of all the privileges I have been afforded to build a life here as an artist, I must admit that the Australian idea of the Artist – is of the one who is always working, always making, and showing, and validated by the idea that one is able to make a living from their work as a working artist – is not for me. Don’t get me wrong – I take a lot of pride in my work, and I could not imagine never being an artist and working on the exciting ideas and projects that I come up with and with the ones that come my way – but my work alone does not define me. Whilst being an artist is so intrinsic to who I am, grounded alongside that is also a real person with values and beliefs and desires and autonomy over determining who I am and who I want to be. This is something I started addressing with The Artist as Entrepreneur, and something I am really noticing around me, and feel like it urgently needs to be talked about.
But maybe for now, I’ll end here today, and pick up from here when I write next.
Because so far so good.