Artist Interview: Ian Sinclair

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 Ian Sinclair, an experimental artist, playwright and Live Art curator:

 

As many have pointed out, art and culture that we can access at home has been the saving grace of lockdowns. What are some of the things you’ve been reading, watching, or listening to?

I’ve been reading The First Time I Thought I Was Dying by polymath Sarah Walker which is a bunch of personal essays – a sort of autobiographical, body horror, fan fiction to her own anatomy and The Performance by Claire Thomas – which is a great read for those equally missing the experience live performance and who dread the anxieties of being an audience member.

I’ve been watching the TV show Vigil by Tom Edge, it’s a cop procedural set on a submarine. Suranne Jones is even more of a Queer Icon and gets to live my dream of doing a performance trapped in a torpedo tube.

It’s also set me on a path to watch all other Submarine Thrillers possible from Hunt for Red October to Crimson Tide to SeaQuest DSV– now I want to make a Live Artwork with a submarine. Maybe Performing Lines could produce it? Surely the old Collins-class diesel-electric subs will be going for cheap soon with those nuclear ones on the way.

I’ve been listening to Ayebatonye’s BLENDS 4 THE PEOPLE lockdown mashups after every NSW press conference. Octo Octa x Enya was a particular high point.

 

Has this been a significant change in how you engage with art?

No, but during the lockdown, I’m more attracted to works that are less acerbic or ironic – and are more sincere, locally-made and socially engaged. Artworks like Mohamed Bourouissa’s Horse Day – I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in.

One of the upsides of extended isolation is that it’s now socially acceptable to wear our pyjamas outside. What’s the most iconic piece of lockdown street fashion you’ve seen, or what is your absolute go-to comfort ensemble?

Sleepwear should always be everyday wear particularly now we’re all returning to Y2K style. The most iconic style is this local Marrickville dog whose outfits are always on point.

 

Sourdough starters are so lockdown 2020. If you could pick one outlandish skill for everyone to suddenly get into, what would it be?

I think truly the greatest skill of all is to avoid picking up new skills in lockdown. Do you need to upskill during a global pandemic? – no you don’t.

 

There does seem to be a bit of pressure to use our time productively. 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 lockdown to be a realistic standard?

Do you mean when Anne Hathaway wrote King Lear during the 1600’s lockdown? It’s true that as soon as you have the time and, for some, the support to make work or write your Epic. There’s a thousand other way to distract you. Perhaps everyone is making their masterpiece and I’m not? Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow. Although I have got a lot of making, ideas up and writing done.

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

I’ve become very interested recently in the ethical quandaries of cultural spectacles. What is the attraction to global and national mega-events? Which are often unethically administered and detrimental to many communities.

Just before lockdown, Pony Express presented Abolish The Olympics at Contemporary Art Tasmania. In which we held our own bootleg, Live Art, DIY Olympiad to explore the growing protest movement to cancel the games forever.  It was an exhibition, performance and live stream in which we performed all 33 summer sports, opening and closing ceremonies and were simultaneously the coaches, athletes, performers, spectators, and commentators.

You can watch the live streams here.

 

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

I’m not sure. Currently, I’m developing a new work called The Queer Woodchop.  This brings together Queer experimental artists, local Champion Woodchoppers, Blacksmiths and Agricultural Show event organisers to collaborate in understanding the current, historical and practical lessons of Australian competitive Woodchopping towards holding our own an abstracted, immersive, drag-raced, Woodchop contest in 2023. So, I’ve been making and think a lot about artworks that undertake similar processes.

 

What has been bringing you joy recently?

Buying too much food for 5 person picnics. Then doing it all again the next day.

Ian Sinclair is an experimental artist, playwright and Live Art curator spanning immersive and participatory installation, cross-artform collaborations, contemporary text-based Theatre and socially engaged world-building approaches. His projects consider queerness, kinship, the ecological uncanny and the ethical quandaries of cultural spectacle.

Sinclair’s anti-disciplinary partnership Pony Express, with artist Loren Kronemyer, lampoons soft and hard power structures to create palliative, speculative, alternate ‘realities’ that consider deep adaptation, burgeoning social movements, neologism, nonhuman politics and the slow apocalypse.

Sinclair has exhibited and toured, nationally and internationally, from contemporary art institutions to non-traditional venues. Collaborating with communities at the forefront of queer, activist, and environmental futures. Sinclair has a BA (Contemporary Performance) from Edith Cowan University and was a seasonal lecturer at the Iceland University of the Arts.

In 2021, he premiered plays Whalefall (Perth Festival x PICA); Nocturna (Subiaco Arts Centre x The Kabuki Drop); exhibited Abolish The Olympics (Contemporary Art Tasmania); curated Crisis Actor and Hyperlocal (PACT). In 2022, will premiere large-scale artwork Epoch Wars (Performing Lines), play Horses (Kunst Productions x Belvoir25A), and develop new works To A God Unknown (Pony Express), The Queer Woodchop and Fully Automated Luxury.

In everything we do, we acknowledge that we live on Aboriginal land and constantly learn from the wisdom of First Peoples.

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