Artist Interview: Liesel Zink

After another tumultuous winter for the arts community, Performing Lines reached out to some of our associated artists to touch base. In this series of interviews, which will be published throughout October, we spoke about lockdown coping strategies, how each artist’s practice and perspective has changed over the past year, and where creative work fits in the middle of a pandemic (if at all).

Today we hear from Liesel Zink, an award-winning Queensland based choreographer interested in the body in shifting environmental and political landscapes.

 

While Covid has significantly disrupted our capacity to work in the arts, this can provide down time to reconnect with other art forms. What are some of the things you’ve been reading, watching, or listening to?

I love craft, so often my home is overrun by the mess of my latest craft project – whether that is sewing, knitting, pysanky (traditional Ukrainian egg painting), or anything that induces a meditative state of flow. Not only do I find this crafty relaxation incredibly soul nourishing, but I also find it a valuable way to help recalibrate my often jumbled thoughts. I have actually started to incorporate daily crafting into my artistic process; a deliberate act of creative rest to help settle my mind at the end of a day.

A few other things I have been enjoying during this time have been:

This Book:
SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by Neuroscientist David Eagleman: short poetic provocations on existence and theories of the after life.

This podcast:
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green who reviews facets of the human centred planet on a 5 star scale

This sound artist:
William Basinski, in particular his Disintegration Loops.

 

There does seem to be a bit of pressure to use our time productively during this pandemic. We keep seeing this very factually suspicious meme circulating, claiming that Shakespeare wrote King Lear throughout a plague. Have you found this expectation of creativity in such to be a realistic standard?

I think we need to rethink our understanding of productivity more broadly. I believe fast-paced capitalistic over-productivity puts an unsustainable amount of pressure on ourselves as humans as well as the planet’s finite resources. COVID has massively disrupted our experience of productivity presenting a broad spectrum of challenges that are felt very differently felt across our society. In this context I’ve been thinking about how, as an artist, my work can act as a gentle and loving resistance against this fast pace – creating slow, democratic and reflective spaces for community to come together.

In terms of the expectation to be creative?

In the initial unfolding of COVID it felt important to stop and listen. Everything had changed so it didn’t feel right to push on with ‘business as usual’. Context is everything and I wanted to deeply listen to what was happening around me to better understand where my creativity fits into this.

As time has moved on and I have engaged in rigorous conversations (many being newly accessible to me via zoom) I have definitely found strong desires to follow through on artistic ideas. There are many ideas bubbling up ready to be released into the world!!

However, regardless of whether I feel inspired or not, sadly the reality of sustaining an independent arts career means a hell of a lot of administration which is often unpaid labour. If I be perfectly honest, it has been pretty hard to keep motivated and productive in a climate where the opportunities that we work so hard for are at such a high risk of being postponed or cancelled due to forces outside of our control. I’m incredibly grateful for the artists and organisations that have shown care and understanding during this time. We all need to support each other to be able to get through this.

If you have been working, is it in a different way than before? Has your focus shifted to
different forms or ideas or methods?

 My focus has definitely shifted. In this time of widespread isolation and continually unfolding mental health issues, continued gender inequality, radical shifts in neighbouring and global political landscapes, and a rapid deterioration of our climate situation, I imagine that I am not alone in questioning the role of arts and my artistic practice in amongst all of this urgency. For me personally, I have shifted away from thinking about the creation of an artistic product per se, instead focusing on what skills I have as an artist and how I can apply them to address some of the challenges we are facing. One of the most urgent things I believe we need is safe spaces for people to come together to collectively process the tension of our time and build a sense of collective resilience. So I have been thinking a lot about how I can use my artistic practice to create these spaces while welcoming the joy and release of embodiment.

 

Has your perspective changed on your own practice, and do you think this will impact
what you do in future?

For me, in times of crisis the unimportant and unnecessary seem to fall away and I gain a sense of clarity about what is most important to me and the work I want to make. I’m feeling more focused on the value of using the arts to create safe spaces for collective embodiment, reflection and resilience building. I believe this is such a powerful offering the arts can provide at this moment in time. I’m also about to study counselling; I’m interested in the intersection between the arts and mental health practice and how the two can work together in the betterment of social health and well-being.

In terms of how this impacts me in the future… well I’m not sure. Now more than ever the future seems so uncertain, so I guess I am just taking it day by day and leading with what feels most important.

 

 What has been bringing you joy recently?

Gardening.

The song of the butcher birds near my home.

Teaching my 6 year old niece ballet over Zoom.

Making and sending little care packages to friends in lockdown.

Listening to ‘Patience’ by Olof Arnalds

Many cups of tea.

Liesel Zink is an award-winning Queensland based choreographer interested in the body in shifting environmental and political landscapes. Seeking to engage new and diverse audiences in meaningful arts experiences she creates large-scale dance and sound work in public space and uses her process as an opportunity for artistic, cultural and intergenerational exchange.

Liesel received the 2017 Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance for her durational public space work project ‘The Stance’ which has been presented internationally at City Contemporary Dance Festival (Hong Kong 2019), Sziget Festival (Hungary 2017), Ansan Street Arts Festival (South Korea 2017), and nationally at eight different festivals.

View Liesel Zink’s full artist profile here.

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Where we are and the history that precedes us informs how we work and how we move forward.