How would you describe your approach, the concept and methods used in your work?
I use storytelling to draw on my cross cultural and personal experiences along with social issues which are being faced in Australia, some of which have directly affected me. I examine these stories as a basis for my inspiration. They form the foundations of my practice, not only as a mode of self-discovery and self-representation, but also as an instrument to explore the country that I now call home and the people in it. Currently I am working with both film and photography, as I find these to be the most immediate and engaging method of connecting with the viewers. I take them on a journey with me, exploring memories, ideas, past reflections and future hopes.
What most engages you through the art process?
For me art should transcend the aesthetics and become the reflection of our times, or to quote Hannah Arendt ‘to secure the sense of reality’. This social art project is not about me or my art practice. It is about how you can use the power of art to shift the discussion around people seeking asylum in Australia; how we can challenge persistent negative narratives and redefine who is a ‘refugee’ and who is an Australian.
Tell us about the themes behind your work?
I put ethics central to my work: ethics of representation, ethics of collaboration, ethics of storytelling. When telling someone’s story I am deeply aware that I am not creating a fictional narrative but I have a real life in my hands. I have been trusted by participants to tell their stories, there is no chance for a mistake. In this project, I am working with concepts of home, identity, belonging and success. Yet for me success is to be able to get up every day and walk with a smile after everything that happened and forced you in displacement. I hope to pass beyond just displacement and give a message of hope to anyone who may find themselves in dark times. With my work, I want to confront narratives of victimization of people from a refugee background. I want to challenge a singular identity of a ‘refugee’ and show real people with complex and multidimensional experiences.
What recent experiences have most influenced you?
I’m humbled with the support and collaboration that I was able to receive and develop through the project. I was able to find amazing people like other artists, individuals and organisations who shared the same vision and supported the Stories about Hope project in various ways. This support gives me a lot of hope for the future of not only art, but the bigger social change too. Stories about Hope has now been shown in NSW and Victoria thanks to leadership and commitment of wonderful people and organisations.
Are you inspired by any particular artists or designers/other?
I am very interested in the art of Peter Pavlensky and Marina Abramovic. But I never limit myself or stop learning.
What messages are you aiming to communicate through your work?
I aim to challenge false narratives of victimhood and people from a refugee background being a burden to Australian society. The experience of forced displacement should not define someone forever. To be truly welcoming as a society, we should allow people to be a part of it. No one is just a refugee, we are all people with complex histories and stories.
What do you hope to be the outcome of your exhibition at Chrissie Cotter Gallery? What’s next?
When I produced the project, my goal was to reach as many people as possible but not just show the art, but spark conversations and change. The exhibition at Chrissie Cotter Gallery will be the third one in 2017 after being in shown in regional NSW and Victoria. After it, Stories about Hope will travel to Wagga Wagga. We will continue looking for more venues and partners to take the exhibition further around Australia.
Anything else you would like to mention?
There is also a Stories about Hope book published that further explores the stories. With the project, I wanted to leave a long-lasting impact. I have adopted a give back concept, when we are donating profit from the book sales to organisations that are working with people seeking asylum. It becomes this circle that people not only see the art and raise their awareness but they are supporting a bigger cause and making a difference to people’s lives.
Artist: Renee Dixson
Exhibition Title: Stories About Hope
Exhibition Dates: 12 – 23 July 2017
Venue: Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Pidcock Street, Camperdown
Opening Function Date and time: Wednesday 12 July 2017 6pm – 8pm