RC: Hi Barbara, how are you?
BK: Feeling mostly good, and grateful that I’m able to sit this situation out safely at home, I’m conscious that option isn’t available to everyone. I’ve found that keeping a bit of a routine, exercising and spending time with my family has been really positive and helped me put shape on the days. Of course, like most, I’ve had a few wobbles and moments where I’ve felt afraid and powerless and worried. I’m just trying to allow for that, and return to things that can reset or stabilise things for me.
RC: I feel like this pandemic has made us all pause and consider certain things. Is this pause beneficial to your practice and what does it mean in practical terms?
BK: In many ways, I haven’t paused with my artistic practice, it is continuing, in an abbreviated and adapted form. My teaching work has also continued apace, to try and facilitate students making art and developing their practice in new ways and to support them in any way I can. I think it’s hard for me to know at the moment whether this pause has been beneficial to my practice or not. It has certainly made me consider the role of sculptures, materials, matter, humans, bodies, affect, touch and sense in the context of this newly anxious and bodily restricted time. I’ve also had the opportunity to explore some video work that speaks to our newly distant bodies, the sensory and sensitivities of the body and how this is navigated through the portal of the screen, in a short work that I produced for The Complex that will be disseminated soon. I see a greater scope for those ideas to be explored for me while access to my studio is not possible. In practical terms, I can’t access my studio at Firestation at the moment, so I’ve adapted some small areas in my home to work on some clay pieces, and macramé pieces. Mostly this is about keeping haptically connected to the work, but it has also generated some new approaches.
RC: Describe a typical morning for you?
BK: We are up quite early with Magnus, my son, and typically we all do some yoga together before going out for our daily exercise, consisting of running and cycling trying to keep up with a very speedy and daring and funny Magnus on his scooter. I am usually at my laptop or in my makeshift studio ‘space’ from 10am onwards, doing studio based work, video work, and teaching work depending on the day.
RC: What are you reading at the moment?
BK: I’m reading a number of books simultaneously, so I’m making extremely slow progress with all of them. I’m trying to commit to reading some works of fiction, alongside art and critical theory texts. So at the moment I’m reading Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, which is my ‘night-time’ fiction reading. I’ve just finished Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, a really vital and urgent revision of the history and of Indiginous Australian Agriculture and Architecture, and I’m in the process of reading ‘Writings and Conversations by Barbara Hepworth’, Michel Serres ‘The Five Senses’, Karen Barad ‘Meeting the Universe Halfway’ and ‘If they Come in the Morning…Voices of Resistance’ edited by Angela Y. Davis, alongside journal and magazine articles. As I say, I’m making slow progress, but it’s nice to read texts in parallel sometimes, finding positions and contradictions and relationships in the writings and also in my choices in what I’m choosing to read.
RC: What do you miss?
BK: People – I miss my family, friends, colleagues, students, acquaintances. Everyone really. I miss strangers too. I do also feel that this time has given me time with my immediate family that we would not have had, so that’s positive. I miss the sense of freedom and physicality in the world, where life didn’t consist of judging distances and geometries and safety. I know that will pass, eventually, but at the moment it feels very present and I miss the times when those things weren’t a consideration.
RC: Give me a Netflix recommendation
BK: Well, I really enjoyed Next in Fashion for some light relief – and it’s always fun to see some insights into creative processes. I really liked seeing how designers work up ideas, even though it’s completely dramatised for camera. It’s a really fun watch. Other than that, some quite dark and difficult but excellent series on Netflix are Unbelievable, and Top of the Lake.
BK: I’m sad that all the intensity of focus and creative momentum that I have gathered for the exhibition at the RHA has been postponed, and I do worry slightly that the extended period to work on the show will somehow dilute or weaken that energy. But I’m really happy that I’ll still be able to do the exhibition in 2021. The additional preparation time is welcome, in some ways, because there are alot of ideas and processes to resolve for the work – and of course a lack of access to resources and studio space is problematic and gets in the way of that.
RC: What can we do on a practical level to support artists and creatives through these times?
BK: Ideally, there should be comprehensive and sustained support from the government for the visual arts, not short term initiatives aimed at generating content in short spaces of time, that further puts pressure on practitioners who may be dealing with a number of things (paid work, homeschooling, childcaring, illness, caring) that make working difficult. I think now more than ever it’s important that the visual arts are recognized by the government in having a key role in how we heal, shape and imagine our society and ourselves after this is over. The responsibility for this really lies with them to recognise this.
BK: I have no real advice, I’ve been just trying to find my way in all of this. What has worked for me has been maintaining a routine of some kind. Keeping connected with nature and the outdoors, even in small ways. And staying with the sensory self – making or constructing or cooking, whatever, that helps to feel trust and agency in our bodies when all of our bodily integrity and trust in our bodies is being so tested.
Barbara Knezevic is an artist living and working in Dublin. Her solo exhibition will open in the RHA in March 2021.
Ruth Carroll is the Curator at the RHA and has been working from home since March 12th, 2020.