On the Couch with Heidi Axelsen

Heidi-Axelsen-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Heidi Axelsen?
Co-curator of Bankstown Biennale, artist, mother of a 6 month old and a 5 year old, co-director of MAPA Art and Architecture.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
Probably be a seaweed farmer amongst a collective of like-minded people cultivating giant kelp forests. Anyone want to join me?

Who inspires you and why?
Brave, bold female artists such as Agnés Varda and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. These artists traverse disciplines telling stories, addressing inequalities and making visionary possibilities to problems our world is facing.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
As co-curator of Bankstown Biennale, I am very proud to curate and support this incredible group of both emerging and established artists to make new work in this time of crisis. The works of the selected artists show an alternative way of relating to the world beyond the cycle of fear and crisis. Bankstown Biennale has 75% female artists taking part, majority are artists/parents, and from culturally diverse and Indigenous communities.

The arts sector has been hit particularly very hard by the impacts of COVID, on top of that if you employed on casually or on contracts, you are female, raising young children, from Indigenous or emerging communities, the impact has been enormous.

In the bigger picture, I hope that the projects I work on and how I live my life, the relationships I build, conversations I have, the children I am raising, the trees I look after, will add up to make a small difference towards making a gentler, kinder, fairer, more beautiful, connected and balanced world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My favourite local holiday place is the magic Broken Bay, Pittwater and the Hawksbury, for the sparkling sea and many wonderful childhood memories. Overseas, Sicily for the incredible food, the rugged and breath-taking mountains and sea, the people and the language. The mountains in Niigata, Japan for the thermal springs among the snow, and hot soba in a tiny jazz restaurant with friends.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
If I am in the Blue Mountains, down to our local lookout on the Prince Henry Track, to an awe-inspiring view. If we are in Sydney, to Bankstown to experience the best of this city’s diversity and to have a delicious Pho.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve been reading various blogs about phytoremediation and how incredible mangrove plants are, as well as a beautiful book on Joseph Beuys – a birthday gift from my husband.

What are you currently listening to?
In the covid days I’ve been listening to a lot of ABC kids news time podcasts! These wonderful podcasts keep my 5 year old captivated and enable me to get some work done while learning amazing things with her.

Happiness is?
Digging around in the garden, eating home-grown raspberries, making pasta at home with my family.

What does the future hold for you?
If 2020 has taught me anything, it is that we have no idea what the future holds. Although what I do know is that I will keep doing what I love, being with my wonderful family and working on collaborative art projects connecting people to each other and to nature. After the Bankstown Biennale, I will continue working on a site-wide public art strategy for the City of Sydney together with Hugo Moline and a public art project in Parramatta we have coming up.


Heidi is the Co-curator of Symbiosis: Bankston Biennale 2020 – which is presented by the Bankstown Art Centre from 10 October to 21 November. For more information, visit: www.cbcity.nsw.gov.au for details.

Image: Heidi Axelsen (supplied)

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