We’re Closer Than You Think: Q&A with Natalie Bull & Zoe Robinson-Kennedy

21 Nov 2017 /

With a combined background spanning fine art, design and styling for film and magazines Natalie Bull and Zoe Robinson-Kennedy produce innovative programs and events both in their roles at Arts Northern Rivers and independently as artists and curators. The pair jumped at the opportunity to shape the visual arts component of Artstate Lismore welcoming the chance to facilitate a dialogue between the audience and the artist and to extend the conversation beyond the conference walls.


What were your goals when curating the visual art works in the Artstate Lismore Arts Program?

We wanted to give visitors and locals alike the chance to experience the work of contemporary artists who give shape to the place we inhabit. The program moves across disciplines to investigate the encounters between our environment, the overlapping of histories of place and the continuation and creation of our cultures. We chose artists who explore the nature of our location and their lived experiences.
Lismore is such an interesting place, not only it’s people and environment but as a site to present works. With the recent floods in Lismore, the City itself became an important backdrop that we kept coming back to for inspiration. Works such as 1974 pay direct homage to the natural forces that impact the area and become signifiers of a collective experience.
Artstate presented a fabulous opportunity for us to facilitate this dialogue between the audience and the artist beyond the conference walls.

Can you tell me a bit about We’re Closer Than You Think, and how you selected the artists?

We’re Closer Than You Think started with a conversation about, why we keep needing to have this conversation about ‘regional artists’ and how we could question if there is even such a thing these days!
The Northern Rivers can be a transient place, somewhere that people are drawn to from all over the world. But for its ‘locals’, whether they have been here for 3 years, 30 or 30, 000 there is real sense of connection and belonging to the area. People choose to live here because of the landcape, the people and the culture of the area. The 19 artists we chose question this notion of regionality and the now long held misconception that artists working outside of metropolitan areas are hindered by location.
Some of the artist we are very familiar with, and the exhibition gave us an excuse to get them all together in one room, so to speak, which is really exciting. The exhibition also gave us the opportunity to uncover some incredible emerging talent coming out of our region and therefore to show artists in various stages of their career and working across a range of disciplines. The constant is that each artist in the exhibition was chosen for inadvertently refuting the relationship between location and success, population and production, and that the quality of their practice is determined by these imaginary borders.

You have both also coordinated a series of works and interventions called Disruption of Distance. Can you tell me more about that?

We love working in public spaces!
Hidden throughout the streets, Disruption of Distance incorporates outdoor installations, sound works, projections and semi submerged exhibitions that delegates and the public can experience across the Artstate precinct.
The series of public works speak directly to their site where a blank brick wall becomes a space to investigate factors that shape Earth’s surface. Below the Conservatorium a group of artists from the Byron School of Art will respond to a semi-submerged room. Field recordings taken along the Wilsons River are heard at the level where the 1974 flood peaked and hidden in a corner a portal into the unknown is found inviting you into a strangely familiar but uncanny world.
The Lismore community has generously shared their space to present the selected works that explore the encounter between location and practice. We hope these works will surprise people and generate new ideas, conversations and exchanges for future collaborations.

How would you define the creative community and culture in the Northern Rivers?

We don’t know if it is possible to define creatives in our community, that’s the point. We live in a creatively diverse region that is in constant motion. As new people arrive to the area and blend with ‘locals’ there is potential for creative practice to engage and challenge existing notions and borders creating new narratives and embracing a contemporary practice that’s isn’t defined by location.

What are you most looking forward to at Artstate Lismore?

The conversation. Having Artstate here provides a platform for the Northern Rivers to interact with a broader dialogue that is being had across the arts sector. It is always exciting to be amongst peers and be inspired by creatives from across our region, the state and the globe.
For more information on We’re Closer Than You Think and Disruption of Distance, head to the Artstate Arts Program.
Images: (Top) Zoe Robinson-Kennedy & Natalie Bull, Fun Times, (Middle) Charlotte Haywood, Yield, (End) The opening of We’re Closer Than You Think.