our work deconstructs the social perceptions of gender, sexuality and identity by cross-referencing art, popular culture and media language. What motivates your interest in this and what is it that you are trying to awaken in the viewer?
I am motivated by the connections I have experienced that exist between seemingly opposing identities within myself as an individual and within the communities to which I belong. Being both white and queer, I recognize and appreciate my experience and perspective is one of an insider and an outsider, both privileged and marginalized, powerful and powerless. I notice these dichotomies woven throughout history as well as experiencing them in daily life. They create tension that give contrast to the elements within each relationship that make up who we are. It’s exciting to see how they exist and shift within our consciousness and how they guide and define us culturally. By talking about the push and pull within identity as a living thing, I want to remind viewers that they have authority over who they are and their place within their family, friends and community. It will be whatever you make it to be.
Would you say that your art is also introspective?
Up to recent processes and aside from collaborative work, I had only ever made work about myself and my own experience or family. At the same time, I have tried to make work that is accessible to others. Work that is relevant to a broader dialogue by acknowledging and questioning the political structures, history or social context that informs who and where I am and the content within each performance. My process is a constant mix of questioning the motives and intentions that inform me and ensuring the authenticity of my place within the work. After arduously questioning and justifying an outcome, in the end my work is often expressing a gut feeling or instinct left standing amongst the rubble of my internal dialogue. So yes, but it’s exhausting being in one’s head all the time and is one of the reasons I am seeking new conversations as part of my process.
“I recognize and appreciate my experience and perspective is one of an insider and an outsider, both privileged and marginalized, powerful and powerless. I notice these dichotomies woven throughout history as well as experiencing them in daily life.”
Liam Benson, Glitterface, 2010, C Type print, 61 x 91cm, edition of 5, (assisted by Naomi Oliver). Image courtesy of the Artist and Artereal Gallery.
or your project Adorned, you worked with 14 women to make headdresses reflecting their cultural heritage and exhibited a series of photos in Adorned: Women of Western Sydney, 2015 and video installation Adorned: Wisdom, Memory and Song, 2017 at Riverside Theatre Parramatta. You must have made some great connections with these women throughout the process. What was the greatest thing you learned or took away from this experience?
The ongoing relationships we have formed within the Adorned project is the most precious part of the experience. For a long time, I have been searching for an extended family that I can relate to and sustain an exchange of ideas, process and development. As well as my friends and colleagues, that search led me to a group of loving, spiritual and knowledgeable people, a network of makers who share and connect culture, process and ideas in way that comes naturally to each individual. It was through the support of the WeAve community run by Kiri Morcombe at the Parramatta Artist Studios, that I was able to collaboratively develop the Adorned project. The core Adorned artists are Angela, Seini, Gail, Tamkin, Sherin, Farzana, Maureen, Susan, Marina, Tacheen, Kathryn, Kiri, Hilin and Haifa.
Adorned became an extension of the cyclical nurturing and support that occurred within WeAve, and continues today as a lively growing network of artists, makers and their friends who meet and create together. I am grateful every day for the companionship, laughter and the shared sense of belonging that is core to the vibrant and diverse Adorned family.
What is the most memorable or moving response you’ve had to your work and why?
It’s been a pleasure sharing my practice through recent collaborations and participatory workshops. During the conversations and making within these interactions I have witnessed the overwhelming compassion and respect people have for one another. Not only towards the people who are present at workshops or within participants families, communities or immediate circles, but the genuine desire within people to extend their love and respect to whomever may need it. Sometimes all we hear about is the worst side of humanity, so it’s reaffirming to see the best.
“Acknowledging and celebrating the importance of the women in my family led me to supporting the Adorned project as a space where artists used their own voices to recognize and celebrate their significance as powerful women.”
hat has the proudest moment of your career been to date?
I’m proud of the artists who make up the Adorned project and what we have achieved together. In 2012, I created the MOTHERLAND series to honor the matriarchal influence, support and guidance of my Mother, Sister, Grandmother, Auntie and Cousins. This was an emotional and transformative time for me in my life because I was also processing the recent loss of my Mother and Grandmother. Acknowledging and celebrating the importance of the women in my family led me to supporting the Adorned project as a space where artists used their own voices to recognize and celebrate their significance as powerful women. I am particularly proud of the way the artists created an environment of safety and trust where we have been able to share and resolve our potential insecurities or concerns, for instance overcoming language barriers, realizing how valuable and unique we are and building new connections to culture and community. Through the process of collaboration each participant has nurtured an exchange of knowledge which has led to developing new skills and confidence in our lives as well as our creative practices.
Why did you want to be an artist?
More than anything I just wanted to make things. Beautiful, tactile things. It was the materials that attracted me right from an early age. A sensory response.
As a kid, I loved crafting and constructing things out of the materials I had available to me. The casuarinas into bows and arrows, wool into braided tassels, left over scrap into tree houses. That’s what motivated me to go to Art School where I discovered performance, which became a whole new process I was able to embrace. Now my focus is building relationships through creating and conversation, a harmonious combination of the two ways of making.
Liam Benson, Coat of arms, 2009, C Type print, 61 x 91cm, edition of 5. Image courtesy of the Artist and Artereal Gallery.
Favourite book? Depends what you mean by extremist: Going Rogue with Australian Deplorables by John Safran
Favourite film? The Last of the Mohicans
Favourite band / musician? Fleetwood Mac
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? A Tradie
If you could change one thing about the world today what would it be? Replace hateful vitriol with constructive criticism and conversation.