Memory and Reality, a Daughter and an Artist: Interview with Natalie Lauchlan
Vol. 1 Issue 01 Summer 2019
Interview held by Anj Fermor on 2 May 2019 on Treaty 7 Territory in Mohkintstis (Calgary)
Natalie Lauchlan is a daughter. She is an emerging artist and educator from Alberta, where her mind still goes to wander the forests and mountains, no matter where her body is. She collects fragments of text that come to arrange themselves in her memory. She reads the tenderness of objects and transcribes the poetics of space. Exploring the ephemeral, she is the ghost haunting all her memories.
"...the first thing I wrote down when I tried to write to her was, “I haven’t seen you in so long.” And I instantly started crying because I realized what a bizarre statement that is to say to someone who you see so often."
Photo of Lauchlan by Shawna Aylard.
1. Calle, Sophie. “For the Last and First Time”. 02 May 2015-05 Oct. 2015. Museé de Contemporaine, Montreal.
2. Clintberg, Mark. “Frottage: Love Affairs in Photography”. Backflash. 27.2-4.
"I think it becomes ingrained in you: all these experiences that you lived as a woman. But I think there is a radical act in having someone feel something intensely in a shared space."
For some of the performances, as well as the installation or fibre work that I’ve seen of yours, there almost always seems to be a storytelling at play. Not necessarily confessional - I wouldn’t describe your work as confessional. But I have gotten the impression that there was a back story to every work that you do that’s highly personal. I’ve never been able to point and say, “this is what’s going on, this is the story that happened, this is what Natalie’s about”. But really I just want to know if you’ve developed techniques for storytelling. In art and performance, but without divulging personal details, you still seem to be able to get across the structure of a feeling in your performance without ever detailing an exact history. So have you ever developed a technique for that - be it performance or material?
That seems like a very… It’s strange but hearing you say this makes me feel a strange sense of— like I’ve accomplished what I was trying to do. [laughs]
Oh good! [Laughs]
That’s very affirming to me. Yeah, that was my goal. [Laughs]
I feel like a lot of what I spend time doing is trying to distill things. I feel I have an experience, or something that I’m motivated to make work about, or on, or draw from. But I think what I try to do is I try to distill it down so that it becomes a facsimile of the thing. I’m not talking about this specific event that happened to me at this time, with these people, but sort of at the root of that is, I dunno, guilt or mourning or some sort of feeling and lived experience that I think can be shared by many people. Rather than divulging just my personal experience. It becomes harder to relate yourself to it.
So are you interested in accessibility? Is that what that is?
I wouldn’t use that word to describe it. Even as you were talking there one thing that was coming to mind: at MAC, which is the Museé D’arte de Contemporain in Montreal, I saw Sophie Calle speak there on her exhibition in 20151. And she was talking, and people were saying, “Do you ever feel like your work is too personal?” She had been making a lot of work about her mother dying, for example. And she responded to them in this very eloquent way that was also a fuck-you kind of way. The way that she speaks is very much like that. But she said she doesn’t think it’s personal at all. Because though she’s drawing from her own experience, everyone will experience the death of a parent. Or everyone will experience being dumped. Or everyone will experience all of these things that she was living, that she felt were universal experiences that everyone could relate their story to. And so when she was talking about that I saw some parallels in what I was doing. And Mark Clintberg has this beautiful piece of writing, “Frottage: Love Affairs in Photography”2. He talks about how, in terms of art work, it’s like a rubbing. The longer you spend time with it then the more clearly the image presents itself to you, or the meaning, or its connection to you presents itself. But also that frottage isn’t the thing. It’s an impression of what the original was. So it’s the way that you choose to trace the lines with the rubbing.
It’s dependent on your hand or your experience of it.
Exactly. That’s something that I think about a lot in what I’m trying to do. I don’t want the viewer to be like, “Oh Natalie’s telling us about her experience with this thing”. With the actions or motions I’m presenting, I want it to be something where you can feel it or relate to it and then you end up projecting yourself onto it or what’s happening or what you’re seeing. I think of it as an introspection and then a projection. Inward feeling, and then you have to outwardly projection.
Do you think that’s a feminist choice in art making? Because one of the I guess criticisms of a lot of macho work— especially modernist macho work— is that it would insert itself into a space, the artist would insert himself into a space, and just tell people what to think and what this work was about. And I’ve seen so much fantastic feminist work which actually opens it up, that understands the feminized experience of having an idea projected upon you. But then used it to their advantage. Ana Mendietta is certainly an example of that. Work like yours almost presents an emotional platform for both the artist and viewer to exist on together - it’s something that I see - if you identify this way - women artists doing. And mastering as well. Do you make feminist choices in your work? Is there a feminist choice being made behind the process that you’ve just been explaining to me?
I think that there is an element of that in all of my actions. Even just being a femme individual. I think it becomes ingrained in you: all these experiences that you lived as a woman. But I think there is a radical act in having someone feel something intensely in a shared space like that. For example if I make work around mourning, that is something that can be intensely individual to people. Everyone experiences that in a different way. And there’s somehow some sort of shame around that. People don’t openly express, “I’m feeling this way right now and I’m struggling,” or “I’m having a hard time or I’m emoting intensely,” you know what I mean? People hide that a lot. And people don’t really talk about these things. And then to be in a space where you are witnessing something and you are reacting so strongly- I’m not telling you what to think, you are feeling the thing. I think there is something kind of radical in that. I wouldn’t say necessarily that I am a radical person [laughs] but I just think that there’s something very outside of the norm or outside of what’s accepted in having people feel things and that’s where I think a lot of feminist artists are. They’re reaching outside of that pre-determined idea of what’s acceptable.
I think that’s true for both public discourse and arts discourse. And, as someone who is just starting to write critical discourse on the arts - that’s something that needs to happen in writing. It’s one of the reasons that I’m starting Studio. Because there’s no personalism in art writing or if there is it’s hard to find or it’s not happening in Calgary.
This is interesting that you are talking about it in this way because I feel that I have been seeing a lot of dialogue which - upon reflection is only written by men - which is saying we need a return to art criticism. And how it is becoming too poetic. And how they see prose at an exhibition instead of seeing a review of the work. And so its interesting to me to hear these two voices saying we need a call to something different.
I guess I wouldn’t say the kind of writing I’m looking for is poetic. But it does need to have an intimacy. One of the main reasons that I wanted to be an artist when I was a kid was because I thought it was so cool and so romantic to have your job be- It was your work life but it was your love life. It was your intellectual life. It was your emotional life. I thought it was just so cool and romantic to have all of those things eclipsing one another. That style of... I guess intersectional living? [laughs] I don’t know if that's a term in the arts [laughs]. But that should be happening in writing and art making. And I think your work definitely needs to have writing that honours its style. That honours the emotional nuances. Whereas if there was someone writing journalistically about your work, a reader wouldn’t understand what the hell is going on. Like: “Natalie Lauchlan laid on a bed of ice outside Arts Commons.” [laughs] That’s not-- that’s literal to the point of obfuscation.
I agree. I feel like a lot of the time language and words become so disconnected from the meaning that they’re portraying.
Natalie Lauchlan, "I haven't seen you in so long", 2017. From the exhibition "Badlight"at Left Contemporary in Windsor. Photographic documentation by Luke Maddaford.
You’ve done some text work as well. Were those mostly with fibre?
Yeah. I feel like text work is something that comes in and out of what I’m thinking about or doing. There was a while where I was really interested in making banners and these proclamation type things. And it’s funny I look back on those and I feel like I have grown and become a different person than I was at that time. Looking back I feel this strange… I can’t think of another word other than “mothering”. It’s so endearing to look back and be like, “Wow those have grown into something so much better” [laughs].
But recently, actually currently exhibiting still, I have a text work as part of a larger exhibition called Badlight. And pieces of it are in a group show called My Mother’s Keepers at Mueller Gallery in Caldwell University in New Jersey. The university is for social work and psychology and psychiatry. The whole exhibition is about mental illnesses and relationships with mothers and caregivers. But for the piece of text work that’s down there I had made an embroidery. It said, “I haven’t seen you in so long.” I embroidered the words into some cloth and I put it through a printing press onto paper and made embossings. And I made hundreds and hundreds of embossings so they stacked up really, really, really tall. And so now the gallery attendant just restocks them and people have them as a takeaway.
This piece came about when I was on residency at Mass MOCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. The tiniest little place. So cute. I liked it there a lot. And I had been making transcription weavings, which are text as well. I was working with a letter that my mother had written to me. It was this very intense letter for me, it was very emotional. My mother had really, really hurt me. And she couldn’t remember exactly what she had done or said but she knew she had done something wrong so she was trying to apologize for what she had done. So it became emotionally charged. The letter itself was emotionally charged. It wasn’t an apology really, it didn’t feel comforting. It felt confusing. So what I wanted to do was weave that letter into a shawl that I could wrap around myself. And the object of its transcription would be very comforting. And it would be that thing that I could be comforted by. So the words themselves weren’t but I knew what her intention was.
That’s interesting. Was it also the conflicting emotions around the letter that were important to have wrapped around you?
Natalie Lauchlan, "a letter from my mother", 2017. From the exhibition "Badlight" at Left Contemporary in Windsor. Photographic documentation by Luke Maddaford.
I think it was part of this action of… Everything seemed to be getting set farther and farther away in this action. She had tried to talk through it or fix or change it but she couldn’t so she tried to write about it— and so it just kept getting changed or escalated. So I made this object that is comforting in the action of its weaving. Reading those words over and over again to create this weaving with the pattern of the treading. There are times where I am just whipping the shuttle through the loom because I am feeling so many things. So the tension of the cloth itself really reflects my own emotional journey through the process of being with [the letter] and reading it again and again. The cloth itself is not a very strong or even pattern because it’s made from the words that she had written. So it’s very uneven and the tension is very weird. And the selvedges on the side are so warped, they come in and out. But I think it’s a really honest reflection of the process. I guess back to what you were saying before where there’s this very personal thing I will never share. And most people don’t even know what the original letter was or came about. But the cloth itself reflects that in its surface and its structure.
This embroidery piece came about when I was working on a show. But I was trying to think to myself, “What else can I do around these ideas?” and tried to build more work. And in studio process of exploring all these different potential ways of working, I decided that, “Maybe if I try to write back to her something will come out of that”.
And often I feel like a lot of my works comes to me in the fragments of text. I’ll be writing something and there’s a chunk of what I said that I’m like, “That- that is an art piece.” [laughs] I don’t know how it happened. But I was thinking maybe if I try and write something and I sat down and the first thing I wrote down when I tried to write to her was, “I haven’t seen you in so long.” And I instantly started crying because I realized what a bizarre statement that is to say to someone who you see so often, and whose still a part of your life. So I made the little takeaways and these embossings. My mother is mostly blind and so [for] a lot of her time she’s sayings like, “This is bad light for me”, “I can’t see very well right now”. My brother and I often walk with one arm out so she can grab our elbow if she can’t see where she’s going. So making these as embossings for her: it’s very difficult to to see the actual text unless you’re holding it and manipulating it in the light or you’re kind of feeling it [gestures with hand] and you can really see what it says. All the little threads emboss really nicely in the paper. You can see all the stitches. There’s something about harkening to my mother’s blindness but also to this idea of if you do have a connection to someone and you’re trying to remember them or you haven’t seen someone in a long time. Recalling those memories sometimes doesn’t take that time of, you know, not necessarily manipulating this piece of paper in the light but that action of really thinking back and remember the immediate object. It provokes your memory.
It’s acknowledging that memory has a tactile form. Or tactile experience.
That’s another great technique, as I was saying before, as a way to access these memories that you’re having. Because everyone will have had a tactile experience. You’ll have a letter perhaps that is given to you and there are the words, there is the text, but there is also the kind of paper that it’s written on. The ink: is it smudged? Is the paper really dry? Is it glossy? You project an image of that tactile experience just as much as you project a meaning into the words. Do you think making a tactile experience for your receiving of the letter was a way for you to create a new memory for it? Or to just create a memory for a new relationship you’re having with the words?
Because sometimes when you do receive a text you kind of just absorb it. But one of the reasons you don’t absorb it deeply is that you don’t have a “human” experience with the text. But now, I’m sure, that you’ve actually woven a fibre out of these words now you will deeply remember it. And that’s not necessarily only about the repetition. But that you’ve actually created a tactile experience for it.
It’s transference of action. It’s creating a new way of extending that memory. Or even transforming that memory into something else. And I think in some way objects or that material connection that you’re talking about, is something that I think about in my work a lot. Especially in my undergrad. I would think about it almost obsessively. I think it’s very common in craft practices to be thinking that way. And understanding things like object ontology and materiality in different ways. Especially as a weaver, a ceramicist, a glass artist. There’s the co-creation that the material and the artist have. It becomes very evident that there’s so many different actions involved in the creation process. And what you’re thinking about at that time, the breath that you’re having, how you’re feeling that day, the weather - all of these different things in the space come together.
Natalie Lauchlan, "a letter from my mother" detail, 2017. From the exhibition "Badlight" at Left Contemporary in Windsor. Photographic documentation by Luke Maddaford.
3. Formerly Alberta College of Art and Design, now Alberta University of the Arts.
"I was told quite explicitly that I should stop making performance art. Or any art that I am visible in the art work. Because I was, quote, 'Relatively good-looking and thin'."
I was working earlier this year with an Indigenous Knowledge Keeper, Kori Czuy, who is a visual artist from Peace River in Treaty 8, who is Cree Metish Polish. We were working around the ideas of craft theory and All My Relations. We did a workshop for some teachers in Calgary around these two different ways of knowing having so many overlapping belief systems. Not that craft theory is a belief system, but the way that it’s understood. We were talking to teachers a lot about how having children understand all their relations in an immediate way, with something like clay. I think of the power of an object or of a material and its recollective power - you can really remember something. Especially with cloth, I think. You have such an intense relationship in a tactile way with cloth. What other objects are we constantly touching all the time? And the relationship with how it can be concealing, comforting and protective but also revealing and vulnerable and a safe space. But also smothering. All of these things come into play in this relationship with cloth. Especially in my undergrad I thought of that all the time. I was alway thinking about, you know, if I’m using curtains and bedsheets what are the connotations of both these objects? And why have I picked those specifically? Because of the associations with those two things. That’s something that I think has been really important in my development. If I’m trying to get people to access their personal headspace. Using an object that might be personal to me but is so universally acceptable.
So a lot of the textiles that you just described (curtains, bedsheets, or blankets)… they could be described as domestic. But I don’t think that’s what it is. It’s not domestic - it’s familiarity. These are the objects you are familiar with.
Sometimes when I do hear talk of the domestic in the critique of an artwork it often happens with women artists. It kinda makes me roll my eyes-- like I did just now while using those terms together. [laughs] It's because I always felt that was such a flat argument about the domestic - it’s obvious that it’s about sensations, about something sensual.
Well for me I was thinking about what are curtains for and what do they do. They are something that is obscuring. They are for privacy. You use a curtain to close off from the outside, the inside, whatever. And bedsheets are this thing that is a very private and vulnerable space. You don’t share that cloth. Or that experience or those dreams, or those memories, or-- whatever you’re experiencing in that space is very much for you.
I’m trying to think about even just those connections about what the cloth is, rather than saying, “Yes and I am a woman and these are cloths associated with the home where I belong.” I think that’s something that is besides the point. I mean... Yeah. Great.
Okay, next step.
Yeah. Can you please just turn the page and dig a little deeper?
When I was in second year at ACAD3, I was going through the second-year undergrad phase that you go through and you try out pretty much every medium. You just make things in order to get the experience of making them. As a young student, you haven’t necessarily delved too far into researching history, but I at the time I had briefly researched Mark Rothko. So I painted a square in a square. And I put it up on the wall. I did make choices about the colours of those squares, which were almost a pink-peach in a cream. And it was also very textural, unlike Rothko’s, which I’ve now seen in-person. His are extremely flat and have turpentine burn outs so colours can just fade into each other, there’s no hard lines. Whereas mine had a lot of acrylic medium in it so it was tactile. You kind of wanted to scratch it. But the instructor that I had would not stop talking about how awful abstract expressionist— male abstract expressionist artists were. And insisted it was something I really needed to think about. And I was like, “Yeah, totally” [shrugs]. But, at that time, I identified as a young woman, and was making this thing in the present. So it was already different in and of itself. The instructor didn't want to discuss that. That's something that happens especially (that I’ve witnessed) to young female artists. Where you’re put into the canon of feminist art and so conclusions are drawn.
Like for you, who is a young female artist making something out of cloth, they’re like, “Oh, Natalie’s talking about the domestic.” Or is talking about personal relationships that she had. And it pisses me off so much when I see it happening.
I had a very, very real example of someone being like, “You are dumb young woman”. Actually so many times in my life— but once was while I was at ACAD I was told quite explicitly that I should stop making performance art. Or any art that I am visible in the art work. Because I was, quote, “Relatively good-looking and thin”. And so I would never be taken seriously as an artist. And that I should just stop making performative work.
That was really challenging to hear as a young person in university in my BFA. I really was trying to explore performance while I was there because it’s a pretty safe space. You get feedback from people and there’s basically endless opportunities to perform. Whereas, and I didn’t realize while I was still in university, finding space to do performance outside of art school is hard.
It’s so hard. You really miss the resources that you had when you were in school.
Natalie Lauchlan. "2". 2015. Photographic documentation by Natasha Jensen.
4. Anderson, Laurie. Duets on Ice. 1975.
"And I think that mentality of the art star who steps out of university and has this idea of who they are is… We need to move away from that dialogue. And understand that “artist" can mean a lot of different things and look a lot of different ways."
"I am very lucky. I’m working as a primary school teacher. But that has been met with very mixed responses when I tell people that as an artist."
5. Calgary Board of Education
And so to be in university and to have on of my profs who was pretty key to my grading and my development just be like, “Stop doing this”-- that was really hard. Another time I had an experience like that when I was doing a performance at Arts Commons. I partnered with an ice sculptor and they built an ice mattress for me. And I was lying on it until my body heat was enough that I melted through the ice and fell to the ground. And Arts Commons had tweeted some pictures of it, with a caption saying, you know, “Come by and see our artist in residence who is doing this thing”. And I received this hateful, hateful comment saying that Laurie Anderson had done a performance with ice already and that I was trying to rip off her practice, and that I’m young and don’t know what I’m doing— just a lot of assuming that I didn’t know anything. But also kind of what you were talking about in your painting: assuming what I was trying to do. And not understanding that what I was doing and saying and performing was completely different than what Laurie Anderson had been performing easily twenty years prior. And at the the time I thought, “Can you not see that there is a different story?’
Or just engage you beyond the stereotype of what they identify you as.
Yeah. So I actually ended up contacting that person and was like, “Would you like to have coffee with me? Why don’t you come by, we’ll have a studio visit, I’ll buy you a coffee and we can talk about this. Because I don’t see the connection between these two performances other than the material of ice.
“So let’s have a conversation.”
And is Laurie Anderson a female artist?
So you were both women. That’s it. Therefore you were the same. [laughs]
Laurie Anderson is standing on a piece of ice and playing violin4. I’m pretty sure that’s the piece he was referencing.
But it’s interesting how quick people can dismiss young artists as well. Like, “Oh you don’t know anything.” Well, that’s fine— but when a baby is born you’re not like, “Oh look how stupid that baby is.”
Think about how ridiculous that is. Yeah— people are young and they’re learning! I don’t know what it is that makes people do those kinds of dismissive things. That’s something that I think about a lot: trying to be super open and supportive to people who are newer.
As an emerging artist it makes you scared to experiment. Which is what you’re supposed to be doing when you’re an emerging artist: you’re supposed to be making wildly diverse art.
When you step out of the university you’re like, “I am this artist who makes this kind of media and I need to be that identity”. When really you have a tremendous career in front of you. And there’s been a resurgence of older female artists who have been “discovered” and who have been coming to the forefront. And these are people who have actually been making work their whole life. And I think that mentality of the art star who steps out of university and knows who they are is… We need to move away from that dialogue. And understand that “artist" can mean a lot of different things and look a lot of different ways. And be accepting of that.
Even in artist talks that happened in university it was very rarely that I saw anyone who didn’t fit the artist-who-is-involved-in-arts-administration role and had this successful career, or the artist-who-is-only-an-artist who is represented by a gallery or artist-who-has-their-own-business. Those were the three types of people who really came through and who gave you an idea of, “Okay so these are my options”. So you would think, “If I don’t get an assistant director position at an artist-run centre, I am nothing.”
Or, “If I don’t get representation, I can never be anything.” At no point was there anyone who was like, “I am a single mother who also teaches these classes at three different universities, who also has a practice, who exhibits through out North America on occasion, and who supplements a lot of my practice with time spent on residencies.” You never got to see the diversity of what artists are. That’s what I felt anyway in my experience.
And then you come to reality after undergrad. And you understand that you will have to have a job that is not arts related. You are lucky if you do have it. You understand that you probably wont have a studio space and if you do it’s likely not going to be up to the standard of what you want it to be. Or you’re sharing it with someone you don’t really gel with. It’s really discouraging.
I think I personally have dealt with a lot of shame or guilt around struggling to devote myself to my art practice all the time. Or that I’m not doing it as regularly as I want to. Or figuring out how I find these opportunities when I can’t be doing this all the time. And I think that’s something a lot of artists are experiencing as well. It’s another one of those things you don’t really talk about.
Going to openings and shyly being like, “I’m here but I’m not making anything right now please don’t ask me about it.” There is some of that. Where people feel shame about this: “I have an individual life because I have to work in retail”, or “I’m a teacher”, or “I’m selling art supplies”, or “I’m working as a day home mom”. Whatever you’re doing to pay to live. It’s funny: that shame of, “I can’t thrive off just my art. I can’t support myself with just this thing.” I’ve experienced it and a lot of other people have too. And no one tells you that will happen. No one at school was like, “Hey. When you graduate it’s going to be really hard.”
I maybe heard some grumblings from alumni. But it would really nice if we also had another voice saying it will happen and, "It’s okay.” Not just okay, but good. It’s good to have diversity in your work. I’ve had a bunch of strange jobs: if I have a job interview and I have to describe what my skills are it’s a really weird smattering of customer service, little bit of front desk, little bit of administration, little bit of shipping and receiving. I’ve learned so much in all of those jobs. And I met so many people that have different views than just artists do. Why isn’t that being embraced? Why isn’t the diversity of our experiences something that is being encouraged to be looked at critically?
I think about that especially in the age where— we may be moving out of it— the age of relational aesthetic. Especially two years ago I feel like it was at its peak. Every call for submissions asked, “But what is the audience doing to be involved? How are we making this an experiential thing?” This is what the height of the art world was: how is the audience participating in your work? How are you engaging the community? It’s artists parachuting into a community, making this artwork and then, “Okay! Thanks for working on this! Bye!” and their off to another community to drop down and make something. There are artists on the day to day that are working in some way, and can’t do that.
I am very lucky. I’m working as a primary school teacher. But that has been met with very mixed responses when I tell people that as as an artist. At one of my interviews for grad school I actually had the best comment, it felt like a test. I couldn’t believe that someone would say it. I had been working with the CBE5 as a visual arts specialist and I had gone and flown to England to do a master’s interview. And I was so excited about this school. And one of the questions that came up was, “What are you doing now? Because you’re not making work all the time. This isn’t your full time profession so what else are you doing?” I said, “Oh I’m a visual arts specialist as a primary school teacher.” And they said, “Well why would you want to get your masters then if you’re already a teacher? Because most artists leave grad school to be teachers anyway.”
I can’t imagine what my face must have looked like to them. I was so shocked by that question. And then went into trying to defend grad school to them. And why I would want a degree.
It was such an interesting— I just thought, “Is that what end of grad school means?” That you become a teacher or professor in some way? But then, on the flip side, I’ve been at openings where I tell people I’m an elementary school teacher and they say, “Oh that’s cute.”
That’s very patronizing.
"In the classroom, when I talk about a new thing there’s always a sea of hands, flying up, to share: “ I saw that once!” or “My grandma told me about that!”
I’ve just recently been writing a Calgary Public Art proposal. Which I didn’t get. But they talked to me about how they had never seen a proposal like this. What I had written about my grade one class: about was how these are kids who see things in such an honest and beautiful way. And try to interpret things in such a way that I have really been inspired by as an artist. And so I wrote this proposal as an arts collaborative team where it was me and forty eight other artists, my students, applying for this.
And we were going to make this project around the Bow River. About the animals that live in the water, that fly above it, and live on the shore, the people who live near there, the kids who play in the water, the rocks… Because the kids have those conversations. They’re talking about the water: “I threw a stick in the water one time and it floated away! And I followed it and then I found a fish!” They’ll tell you a whole experience. I realized that these are people who would be such a great voice for public art. To explain, “This is what it means to be in this space.” I think it comes back to me trying to make art that people access themselves. That introspection and projection. In the classroom whenever I start introducing a new thing to them— we’re learning about a new community, a new concept— everything that they’re learning and I think everything that all of us learn in life, every new experience, is always connected to something that we’ve already lived. I think we’re constantly perceiving or imagining the future based on what we’ve already experienced. I think that all our new connections are filtered in that way. Everything else is based on something of the self: “I’ve lived this and that’s kind of similar so I can understand what you’re talking about". I think everything we live through is through empathy. In the classroom, when I talk about a new thing there’s always a sea of hands, flying up, to share: “ I saw that once!” or “My grandma told me about that!” This kind of really raw excitement for connection: “Oh, I can relate this to myself - we’re the same! We have a connection!” I think that that is, in a way, a very naive version of what I’m trying to in my art practice.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity, with Bartol's consent.
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