‘Human presence in a void’ is all you’ll get if you ask artist Siena Hart to describe her work. Her exhibition Girl Practice just finished at KUNSTBUNKER in Brisbane, and there are no plans on stopping.
We asked Siena a couple of questions about her work and how she perceives the industry around her.
Behind perplexing notions of identity, disparity and profundity, Siena Hart seeks only to raise questions, rather than ever answering them.
HAPPY: Where do you draw inspiration?
SIENA: Good conversations, sentimentality, intangible futures, ungraspable pasts, frustration, and the backwaters of the internet.
HAPPY: How would you explain the concept of Girl Practice?
SIENA: Girl Practice was really the culmination of a long investigation into how memory constructs identity. A visual report if you will. It’s something I will inevitably come back to, as it obviously is incredibly self-reflective, but you can’t look inwards forever. The political climate especially has been a big driver in my move toward looking outward at larger narratives.
HAPPY: Would you say you’ve used your own personal memories in Girl Practice?
SIENA: Not explicitly, but they are definitely there. Visually, the imagery that I use may appear to have no connection at all to a memory, but it’s the colour that reminds me of something else unrelated in my life, for example. It’s representation, to me, isn’t as important as the mood of an image. That said, it is this representational distance that allows audiences to connect to the work themselves, creating their own narratives. That is what I strive for and love most about my work, it’s ability to provoke a shared, but unique intimacy.
HAPPY: How does your work relate to feminism?
SIENA: I think everything I do is inherently linked to my physical embodiment as a queer woman; it’s how I see and understand the world, and the thing that significantly impacts on how the world sees and understands me. In terms of the work I am doing now, interdisciplinary feminism is almost inherently linked. You can’t make investigations into these themes without revealing the historical disparities there, and I’m not interested in glossing over them, or any experience, in favour of a more palatable narrative.
HAPPY: What made you want to pursue art as a career? And what career path would you have approached if you didn’t ‘make’ it as an artist?
SIENA: I don’t think I ever thought of it as a potential career until I really came to find a niche that felt really natural to me – a pretty heavily digitally-engaged conceptual practice. I was always compelled to be creative, but I didn’t have an ‘aha!’ moment until I realised that I could use it as a tool for understanding and communicating in the true senses of the words. I figured that it was worth making sure I get to do this and share it for as long as I can. If I hadn’t found that I would have continued in writing, but I almost can’t imagine a world where I don’t find my way back to art.
HAPPY: What do you want viewers to feel when they watch your work?
SIENA: That’s a good question because I try to stray away from ‘directing’ the viewer into a corner. Instead, I hope the work acts more like a question than a presentation. It’s the audience’s experiences that I’m really interested in. In my opinion, that’s what the work is, I function only as a question.
HAPPY: Are there any kind of special techniques and resources you’re using?
SIENA: I use so many, and almost none consistently. The only consistent in my technique is collaging, in some form or another, and doing far too many things at once. And the internet, of course.
HAPPY: Do you ever experience mental blocks? How do you regain inspiration?
SIENA: All the time. The more excited about idea I am, the harder it becomes to hold onto it, so I usually try to slow it down, go for a walk somewhere quiet. If that doesn’t work, I try to ride the chaos a bit. Collage is so good for this, it feels random and disconnected then you stand back and you’ve unconsciously worked through the original idea.
HAPPY: What do you think is the role of an artist in today’s society?
SIENA: That’s a pretty big question and I think the smartest answer I can give you is that I don’t know myself yet, but I’m very invested in finding out. For now, I think it’s almost impossible to designate a role without limiting the notion of what an artist could, or should, be.
HAPPY: And last but not least, what can you tell us about SSSY666?
SIENA: SSSY666 is a contemporary, femme, reimagining of the Myth of Sisyphus. She is part performance, entity, space, and network. I’m still in the very early stages of putting together the series of work, and I’m excited about pushing the limits of my practice using SSSY as something of a vehicle. The series will take an intimately critical look at fear, strength, labour, visibility, and the tension of failure within feminine embodiment both on and offline.
Find out more about Siena Hart’s work on her website.