A Portrait of People Caring About Things
Solo exhibition at RAFT artspace, Mparntwe/Alice Springs
13 August – 4 September 2021
Install photography: Martina Capurso
A community engagement project, not just an exhibition
Accompanying the exhibition was a small zine that included details about the project and its process.
The book's contents are detailed below.
The Evolution of A Project
In 2017 I sat on a bus in Sri Lanka and shared an idea to my then-partner about a project I'd been thinking about. I wanted to talk to women about their experiences of being a woman and make drawings based on those conversations. "Nothing crazy innovative, more just about the process of connecting and conversations".
I continued to think about the project for two years, questioning it, thinking about inclusivity, about intersectional feminism. In 2019 I thought I'd do it speaking to people (not just women) specifically about climate change. I got anxious and continued thinking. In 2020, Tasmanian artist, Sofie Burgoyne, contacted me to be part of her project, Field Notes for Care Workers. I told her I had a project I'd been too scared to create but that it could work well with her proposal. She gave me an artist fee – I felt valued and validated. I trialled my project in combination with hers and spoke to Diana Newham for her work with the Central Australian Frack Free Alliance (CAFFA).
The positive outcome of this project gave me the confidence to move forward. At the end of 2020, Dallas Gold offered me a show at Raft and the stars aligned.
Thinking about mine and Di's conversation, I decided I wouldn't ask people about a specific topic. I realised asking people about women or climate was pushing my own agenda. I'd also had a difficult year – socially – in town and I decided this was a good opportunity to re-connect with the community I felt I'd become disconnected from.
And so it was, I asked people in and around my life to tell me about what they cared about.
This is not about making innovative art. This is about connection. Connection through process and art being a vehicle to cultivate connection.
In preparation for our chats, I asked:
“can you please think of your top 5-10 things that you care about / are interested in / concerned about / passionate about / sparks you. And send them to me before we meet.”
Permission has been granted to share these lists (my own was shared with participants and is included amongst the lists). Not all lists have been publicised, as requested.
Some Things People Care About
Intimacy and deep care in friendship
Music and dancing
Sexuality and sexual expression
- Social justice / equity
- Gardening – growing food
- Having fun
- Connecting with different diverse humans
- Psychology and neuralplasticity.
- The feeling of flying.
- Psychedelic substances and mind expansion.
- Philosophy and questioning ones reality.
- Undermining traditional social systems.
- Visceral mortality.
- Growing human connection.
- Travelling to strange places
- Holding space for the passing and grieving of the dead.
people looking after their wellbeing through healthy eating and exercise
medical people working as a team to best assist patients
the close cohort of friends made when I was at university and still friends
- growing central australian native plants
- participatory art/ art that engages communities/ political art
- urbanism and ecology in the non-western world
- marxian ecological analyses
- language/ what the world looks like from another language/culture/ political history or tradition
- connection/ relationships/ mental health sounds good too
- collaborative learning/ pedagogy/ making things up collectively as you go along/ experimental learning
- travelling on trains or on bicycles
- food and festivity
intersectional feminism / social justice
connection / relationships / mental health
climate / being environmentally conscious
sewing / fashion
place / places / travel
food (mainly eating it)
cats (though this is controversial in Alice so I try not to vocalise it too often... hehe)
I'm passionate about food, eating and cooking - that would be an easy one for me to get excited/ passionate about.
Also parenting - I'm passionate about the parenting journey.
I'm quite passionate about alternative relationship structures - such as open relationships and polyamory.
- education and its impact
- the arts and its contribution/challenge to the social fabric
- social justice
- civil rights/free speech/individual rights
- preservation of the environment/climate change
- the ongoing experience of compassion
- bush walking
destruction of natural wildlife / environment / habitat
climate change and sustainability (pointing at reforms to building codes and attitudes re economic growth)
lack of govt. support for various groups/organisations supporting social justice (and cut backs to the ABC!)
- puppy dog
- food / garden
Curly hair / natural hair texture
Video games and the mental health and mindful benefits to switching on to switch off
Endometriosis awareness and chronic illness management
Volunteering and joining boards
Learning to say no
Being comfortable with being a loner
Neurobiology of trauma/therapeutic practices/human condition
Mental and Physical Health
Dancing and being silly
Going on adventures
People I Love
Art (that’s an all-encompassing bundle of the visual, music & sound, writing, film, design, architecture etc.).
Walking (bushwalking mainly, but walking as a type of act)
Rocks & deep time & geology-humanrelationships
Food (cooking it and yes, eating it!)
I’ll include a (possibly?) negative care:
- Humanitarian issues
- Growing food
- Innovative design, sustainable design and use of materials
- The natural world for all the billions of reasons
- Aesthetics of built environments
- Caring for our planet
-futurism / imagining all of our potential futures. esp thinking about how probably if history anything to go by we're gona keep going down this winding line between utopia and dystopia // every apocalypse brings about another genesis, however unrecognizable. (tech, evolution, geopolitical/geocorporate change)
-oztralian history/the lifespan of the colony, the nature of it, the rapid shifts in national and community consciousness -maybe how this relates to concepts of indigeneity/migration all around the place but esp here, for me, for my family, for people in centralia. how it shapes our dreams.
- guess as a follow on/parallel to that - all the experience i've inherited from my ancestors, and how these experiences find expression in myself and others in my generation, wavelike patterns through time that push/pull me around, how its possible, sometimes, to identify how different levels of shared experience exert influence on groups of people otherwise unrelated (like with how religious ideals send shox thru a family forever)
-lately, lots of country music.
- water, rain, the weather, probably my favourite elemental, how it travels, changes earth over time, the life it supports.
--chi, energy. the flow/way it arises, circulates, operates - practice, spontaneous or scaffolded, that cultivates it. (chi gung, yogic stuff, basketball, etc)
-boats, little wooden ones mostly
-systems of divination, especially the ching systems of prediction and understanding /interpretation
-images, icons, symbols.
My family. My children are at an age which is completely all consuming/exhausting but I’m trying to be present and enjoy them each step of the way. Watching them grow and learn brings me heart bursting joy and immense pride
Art. Making and engaging with personal and/or community projects. All my arts practise has gone on hold but I think as soon as I have the capacity to get creative again it’ll come bursting out of me like lava
Moving my body outdoors. Bushwalking, beach-walking, alpine hiking, swimming in the ocean. I feel deep gratitude and contentment when I’m in nature.
Social justice. I feel very passionate about a diverse range of issues; racism, misogyny, sexism, classism, ableism etc. Almost all rooted in patriarchy/colonialism. I enjoy unpacking my own biases even though it can be uncomfortable. Grateful for conversation, reflection and personal growth
Homemaking. One of my greatest joys! Making a beautiful space for my family, collecting art and furniture and rugs and objects. Curating it all. I have the magazine subscriptions and I watch the daggy shows. So many ideas for my “one day” house which I’ve designed already, of course
Quality time with loved ones, the best times are with good food and wine and an open fire.
Fashion. I care about how I present to the world. I love creative expression in any form
Travel. Such a huge privilege but so valuable. Seeing how other people live, exploring new cities/forests/oceans/deserts. Eating new foods, learning new languages and observing different cultures and traditions
Some Things I've Been Thinking About
Maintaining care; being caring in ones art practice; what it takes to care for something or someone.
How much deeper everyone's lists are than you think.
The issues/themes/interests people are concerned or passionate about and where these conversations lead.
How to make the process of art-making more transparent.
How to care for and acknowledge participants' contributions in other ways than financial exchange.
The colour pink: what it represents politically and socially, its history, its symbolism, how it feels, whether I like it and what it means if I do/don't; what happens to its meaning when it's changed. (I've been thinking about these things since 2013).
Fluro paint and how it changes over time.
A different kind of Artist Statement.
Data – how it can and can't tell us things.
What Has Gone Into Caring For This Project
Total hours chatting = 50.5
with 18 participants
Shortest chat = 1 hour
Longest = 4.5 hours
Average = 2 hours, 48 minutes
Total hours preparing for chats= 27.5
including food shopping, cooking and preparing questions. Not including emailing, etc.
Chats took place at
Their place 7x
My place 5x
My studio 4x
Pip's studio while housesitting 2x
261 Email exchanges
109+ text message exchanges
There's a lotttttt more admin but I didn't record it all.
315 reference images
3 bottles of fluro pink ink
2 bottles of fluro red ink
Food I cooked or bought for chats as thanks to participants:
- Date muffins
- Dates in jars
- Roast tomato and zucchini pasta
- Asian savoury pancakes
- Bought Bakery pies
- Roasted grape cheesecake
- Pumpkin, eggplant, ricotta pie
- Blue cheese and pear baguette
- Bought muffin, grapes, tea
- Leek and potato soup with
- Molten baked brie, blue cheese,
dark honey and Bakery fruit loaf
- Tomato and egg rice noodles
- Galettes made with my uncle's special pastry recipe filled with: apple and raisons; apple date and lemon; apple and sour cream.
2019, watered down fluro ink on paper, 56 x 76 cm each
I made these works during a residency in Mildura where I had the time and space to think about things deeply. My first week there I was struggling to make any work that felt relevant or "good", and the second week brought on a downfall of tears and depression. Eventually I sat at my desk, staring at the fluro pink ink, thinking about the current climate – literally, politically, emotionally.
It had just been 47 degrees, it was one year before the Black Summer would hit and the beginning of the year that Greta Thunberg would see a wave of young people and adults follow her lead. Scomo and other global leaders were denying climate change. Weeks earlier I'd sat in Fed Square for the Invasion Day rallies, listening to Seed Mob speak passionately. I was in an unfamiliar town and missed friends overseas, some who'd lived through wars and told me of their experiences.
I thought about the intensity of it all, similar to the electric fluro ink sitting in front of me. I thought about how few people(at least people in power) cared about it; how much history, governments, the patriarchy, had watered it all down to make it seem irrelevant or less severe.
And so I filled my brush with the fluro ink and I began to draw, thinking about climate, genocide, massacres of all sorts, my own depression, power.
As I drew, scenes unfolded in front of my eyes – human and non-human beings; acts of violence; chaos; acts of love, helping each other up, caring for one another; carrying/dragging others away; beings charging; beings falling; pushing; wailing; the details; the gaps.
I saw battlefields.
*And who participated and shared in this project. Their names have been published as they prefer with permission.
I am so grateful to all the people I chatted with, who so generously shared their thoughts and feelings about the things they care about. It was very special to reflect on these conversations during the drawing phase and I regularly come back to them in daily life. I have begun to think about certain things more and other things in different ways thanks to you. It has been so special, thank you.
During the making of this project, participant and friend, Suzi Lyon, passed away. I am so incredibly grateful to have hadt his conversation with her. She was, in fact, the first person to respond when I began asking people if they wanted to chat with me – an example of Suzi's caring nature, always keen to support others – and the first person in this long process who I chatted with. Thank you to everyone who cared for her in her final weeks. Thank you, Em and Karin, for speaking with me about her inclusion in the project and to Bonnie, Suzi's dear sister, who gave me permission to share and publicise her participation.
Thank you, Di, for that very first chat that was so beautiful and vulnerable, which gave me the strength to move forward with this project.
Thank you, Dallas and Raft, for offering me an exhibition and believing in my abilities as an artist, and for your generosity in the presentation of the show.
Jamie and Franny, thank you for letting me take over the kitchen and communal areas for these chats, for your love and ongoing support.
Thanks to the spaces where these drawings were created: Elliat and James for trusting me with your beautiful workshop during your camel trek; my Bathhouse studio mates who have nurtured a creative environment; Pip for your lovely studio space and delicious date tree whose fruits featured in many of the meals; the Art Vault in Mildura back in 2019.
This project has been supported by the Alice Springs Town Council.