New York-based artist Liz Linden is a graduate of Yale University and a recipient of the Richter Fellowship. She has shown in exhibitions in New York and abroad, and took part in the group show Peace Tower 2006 as part of the Whitney Biennial: Day for Night. She has participated in residency programs in Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, and Melbourne. Currently in Australia for vacation and work, Linden shares how her experiences in Oz have helped shape her as an artist.
Flavorpill: What are you currently doing in Australia?
Liz Linden: Right now I’m just on vacation! My partner and I spend a fair amount of time on the south coast of New South Wales and I especially try to get here in the summertime. We’ve also been celebrating the holidays here with family and friends.
FP: How would you say the art scene in Australia differs from what you grew up with in San Francisco? Or the New York scene?
LL: First I would say that Sydney and Melbourne each have a different kind of art scene, and while I spent about a month in Melbourne in 2009, I don’t really know it well enough to generalize too effectively. I saw lots of interesting artist-run spaces there that wouldn’t be out of place on the Lower East Side in New York, but Sydney has what seems to me a more international kind of art community.
I do find it interesting to work in Australia but it is still a bit tricky for me because so much of my work is really cultural commentary about various curiosities of American culture, my culture. I don’t know that I’m comfortable with (or particularly good at) working with other cultures. That said, because so much of Australian culture is proximate to America’s, it is always interesting to see the ways that we are different. In some sense they are rarer, so they stand out.
FP: What specific pieces did you work on at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces in Melbourne? Do you think location informed your work?
LL: Melbourne was an interesting place to be working. Gertrude has a two-year residency that I did not participate in; I was only there for one month in the end so I can’t really speak to their program too specifically, but I used the time to make a series of drawings and maps based on bits of American culture that were turning up in the local thrift shops.
Basically the detritus of our culture, as filtered through theirs.
FP: As your work explores semiotics — what does the word “Australia” symbolize to you? What assumptions do people have who never visited make that are wrong?
LL: Well, I suppose I always associated Australia with the usual: kangaroos, Aboriginal paintings, sea, surf… Growing up in California, everyone I knew who visited came back loving Australia, probably because the surf cultures were related, and I always expected I would love it here.
Since actually visiting Oz for the first time, and on my subsequent trips, I’m always impressed by the wildlife I see here (kangaroos, echidna, bearded dragons, flying foxes, gowanas, kookaburras, dolphins) and all their crazy behaviors. For example, who knew that kangaroos actually like to play in the surf!?! It sounds like a joke and when you see it, you really do laugh.
Getting back to my comment above, about the differences really standing out, here’s something that surprised me: I had always assumed, because of Australia’s frontier, wild-west-y kind of reputation, that they would have similar gun control laws to us in the States, but it turns out they are in fact very strict here, and handguns are basically impossible to buy. So on the one hand there is this very rough-and-ready reputation to Australia because of all the open landscape and wilderness, but it is coupled with in fact a very progressive kind of social fabric in terms of popular access to guns.
FP: If you had to assemble a pile of objects that represents Australia, what would it include?
LL: Oh man, Stubbies shorts, Reschs longnecks, and some nice, fresh fish. And some shiraz. And a kangaroo.
This fall Linden co-curated Double Take — a group exhibition featuring new work from six emerging artists commissioned by New York’s Public Art Fund and on view until September 2010. Later this year she will collaborate with Jen Kennedy on Failure is Impossible: a Feminist Forum — a project at the Brooklyn Museum‘s Sackler Center for Feminist Art that is part installation, part teach-in.
Want to work and play in Australia, too? Visit australia.com for more information.