Friday, June 3, 2011

Speaking with Anita Haywood

When I was in my late teens one of my best-friends started using heroin. When expressing my concern to her she told me that it was her body and she could do what she likes with it. In my naïve teenage way I empathised with what she was saying. Navigating ones way into adulthood we are faced with questions about who we are, how to/whether to assimilate with societal restrictions and ideas of what is normal. Many of us spend our whole lives struggling to feel in control and for some, like my friend, even the most self-destructive actions can lead to a feeling of gaining a choice about ones own destiny.

It didn't take long before we realised that she was addicted, the control she thought she had was false. She had in fact, just traded one form of control for another. I felt an intense powerlessness as I watched someone I love submit to something like a slow motion suicide, with seemingly little action that I could take to change it.

Anita Haywood is currently exhibiting her show, The Illusion of Control at Heathcote Museum & Gallery. Please don't misunderstand my introduction, it is not about drug abuse but it does deal with that experience of spiralling loss of control and the methods that we try to put into place to gain some. It also spurs us into reflecting on situations in our own life and our perception of control. My story is just one and I have no doubt you'll have your own.

In her statement about The Illusion of Control, Anita says,

“We strive throughout our lives. It is the Human Condition. Racing against time, battling with opponents over various dilemmas, coping with the stresses and strains of everyday life, as if we are in 'free fall'.

We like to believe that we have control over our lives. But have we? No matter what controls we think we have established, events develop out of our jurisdiction. Even in death, nothing is guaranteed.”

The Illusion of Control will run until the 3rd July 2011 at Heathcote Museum & Gallery. Anita will be giving an artist talk at 1.00pm, Saturday, 4th June and she will be artist in residence at the gallery on Saturdays 11th, 18th and 25th June, where she will be available to discuss her work.

Anita has also kindly agreed to do a Q & A about her art practice with me for June Speaking with.

Ignition, Anita Haywood, burn photograph.

Can you tell us a little about your background, where you grew up?

I was born in England, but as my Father was in the RAF, we lived in several countries while I grew up, usually 'hotspots' - Germany, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Wales and Aden. When I married, I lived and worked in Iran and very briefly in India, all as a teacher.

What kind of work you do you make?

I did my degree in conceptual sculpture & finished my BA Hons in 2008 in Scotland. I specialised in filming groups that I planned & directed in 'communication scenarios', either as Interventions or Performance. Sometimes I set up 'mis-communication' theatrical sets for Audience Participation Art, and exhibited work in Aberdeen & Edinburgh as Sound Sculpture.

What drives you to do what you do?

That's more difficult to answer! I suppose I've always liked 'creating' something that stimulates me - from chopping up clothes as a child & refiguring them to wear. I tend not to like cooking that is consumed so fast, but making something that lasts longer & I can evidence. Answers to 'Why We War' interests me.

Did you grow up in a creative environment?

No, except that my mother was a great seamstress. She was the cook & never let me in her kitchen!

Running Past Perth, Anita Haywood, Infrared photograph & light box

You've emigrated from England relatively recently, what do you like about Perth? And how do you think living in Perth has influenced your work?

The people are very friendly. It's extremely clean & warm [maybe a tad too warm in the summer] But especially the art & the gallery openings are such fun. Fremantle Festival was the best, but I love all the performances by dancers & actors. The Writers Festival is brilliant. All hugely stimulating even down to filming at the Agricultural Show! I think about identities.

What are some of your favourite materials to work with?

Probably the camera(s) I have digital, camcorder, film & medium format, & have set up a darkroom in my bathroom [very exciting & obsessive to develop] I probably like the control of directing people too….

Any medium you would like to explore that you haven’t done yet?

I'm just starting with paint, so there's tons to learn. I want to make more small figures in mixed media that will mirror my film ideas.

Universal language, Anita Haywood, Oil on canvas.

Who are some of your creative influences?

Bill Viola of course. Rebecca Horn, Annette Messager, Shirin Neshat, Mona Hatoum, Johanna Billing, Anselm Kiefer.

Where can people find out more about your work?

My website shows my audience participation, collaborations & interventions. Or they can email me on & have a chat.

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