Multi-Disciplinary Artist Cat Zauner Speaks To Us About How She Remains Inspired Whilst In Covid:19 self-isolation.
Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
Cat Zauner: I was born in Hong Kong, now I’m based in London pursuing a career in the arts. I just spent my 22nd birthday in lockdown! Growing up in Hong Kong I led a pretty sheltered and “safe” life – when I wasn’t rebelling against my parents of course. Although it’s known to be one of the biggest international cities in the world, a lot of what we were exposed to from young was considerably filtered and kept at a distance. The toxic international culture in Asia that I grew up knowing and being a part of, was something I had to unlearn as soon as I arrived in London to study Fine Art.
Now that I’ve had the chance to move away from it all, I view what was a place I used to call home in a very different perspective. It’s a beautiful and complex country, especially where my family and I used to live. We lived deep in the countryside by the beaches and surrounded by mountains, but were only a short half-hour away from a seaside town. There’s a lot of mixed emotions when I think of Hong Kong, and it’s definitely contributed to my art practice. It has pushed a level of investigation into myself that I’m sometimes able to translate into my work. There’s still an unsettling feeling of displacement that lingers whenever I think of my country.
How has the Covid:19 lockdown affected you as an artist?
Cat Zauner: As an artist, it’s mainly challenged the way I’m able to make the most out of my days. I’m having to think of ways of creating work out of limited resources, and constantly think of a range of visuals without even leaving the house or having a studio in my space. I’m privileged to be staying with my partner, who is also a model. So having a consistent muse to be able to work with has made this lockdown experience as an artist much easier.
However, aside from the challenges of planning and making work, I’m also having to think practically and realistically about my future in this specific industry. There seems to be a lot of shared uncertainty amongst creatives on their current role and future prospects in the art world because of this lockdown, and I definitely feel particular anxiety about that too.
How do you continue to remain inspired whilst in isolation?
Cat Zauner: It’s not so much as remaining inspired as it is being bored, and trying to fill time the best way that I can. There’s a small part of me that is thankful for this time in social distancing, it’s given me room to really think and not be distracted from the outer world. When you allow yourself to be bored, it’s fun to see how you manage that feeling into something productive. And ideas that you wouldn’t usually pursue because of fear of failure have no choice but to be experimented with, because what else is there to do? It’s not like I have someplace to be right now. Creating art has definitely kept me sane so far, it’s been a key coping mechanism for myself and I’m sure for many others out there.
What would be your advice to other art students stuck at home at the moment?
Cat Zauner: My advice would be to use this abundance of time by yourself to explore alternative ways of creating, and give yourself an excuse to try out those ideas you’ve been holding off on. When you become more familiar with yourself and how you work in these tight conditions, you’ll find that there’s actually so much more room to experiment now more than ever. I was saying to a friend of mine the other day that there aren’t any “rules” now on how one should go about making art or sharing art. I think in an industry where so much of what we make has become easily digestible and palatable to an audience, it’s made everything feel like there’s only a certain way to go about creating that will give you the satisfaction or the gratification.
However, I also understand that it is unrealistic to think that all art students or freelancers are able to feel like they can work from home. Many students that I know of don’t have access to their work, as a lot of the work itself is stuck in campus workshops or in their studios where they’ve not been able to retrieve them due to our current situation. As someone who works mostly with photography, I have an advantage- but what about those who work in textiles who need a loom? or any other artist for that matter that has a specific material that can only be worked within conditions that a home environment cannot offer? I think it would be naive as artists to think that we all come from the same end of the stick, and I think we should be respectful to those who choose to not carry on creating for the time being for whatever reason.
What do you think is the future of the art world, now it has been brought to a commercial halt?
Cat Zauner: I would like to think that there will be more openings for creative people in the art world, there’s a lot of interesting art being made right now that I’ve not seen in the last 4 years that I want to see carry on into the future. But I have a feeling people will go back to what they find comfort in which is what they are familiar with, in order to get that sense of normality back after all this craziness subsides.
You know, we always speak of accepting different and alternative concepts, but anything too different or too alternative that is difficult to digest in the plain eye is usually shut down in a commercial art space. But that might mean that it opens up more room for spaces within the industry that are untapped and full of potential. We’ve become used to fast art, and social media helps with that! This moment we’re in right now may be slowing us down and therefore contributing to different ways of practicing art however, we’re creatures of habit at the end of the day. So we’ll have to see, I think we need to remain positive but also realistic!
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