On the Couch with Amanda Haskard

Amanda Haskard Arts Review On the CouchWho is Amanda Haskard?
I am a clumsy humanist and I really like art. I am a curator working predominately in socially engaged practice. I have developed projects in collaboration with communities that have been presented across urban, regional and remote contexts, in Australia and abroad.

I am currently the Festival Curator for the Gertrude Street Projection Festival. I am the program producer at SIGNAL – a creative arts studio for young people in Melbourne. I also work independently on Animatism – a project dedicated to artistic action and creative exchange between Melbourne, East Timor and Indonesia.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I can’t imagine not doing what I do now. I feel blessed to be surrounded by true renegade angels and creativity every single day. It’s pretty amazing. I am super grateful to be able to do what I love.

Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by all of the fierce gals in my life, most if whom are artists, musicians and curators all killing in the art world. They work incredibly hard and are immensely smart and talented. I say gals because I think that inequality in the art world is still very real. Feminism has done a lot for us, but we still have so far to go. I come across inequality everyday in my work, everyday sexism is alive and well particularly in the arts. It also extends to real life obviously, particularly when I think about my personal safety.

I’ve only ever had men take credit for my work or downplay my leadership or addressed my perceived skill set or intelligence within the context of my gender. Working with young and emerging artists I still see fewer men engaged in art school or mentoring opportunities than women, however women have far less opportunities to show and are represented at disproportionate rates than male artists in exhibitions, galleries and live gigs.

This is particularly true for digital and new media artists. Men don’t face the same barriers as women in terms of participation and showing in the arts and this is something I acknowledge and challenge as a curator. Women face inequality based solely on their gender. I consider gender in every project I curate and I work to ensure women have a platform to address this historical imbalance.

When I see fierce gals taking on the art world and killing it, witnessing how hard they have worked to overcome these barriers, I am truly inspired. I am really proud of my gal pals and the success they have achieved. Yay for girl power!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
There is so much going on the world right now that is absolutely heart breaking. The recent attacks in Orlando, our countries continued brutal and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the outrageous shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile that took place in the United States just this week. I think a lot about how privileged I am to live the life that I live and to be surrounded by so many inspirational and courageous people.

People who are true to who they are, what they believe in and embrace this wholeheartedly everyday. I value an imaginative, diverse and just society that is respectful and welcoming of all members of our community. The only way we can make a difference in the world is to live by the values we hold close, stand up for what we believe in, accept difference and be kind to each other. Living these values is how I hope to make difference in the world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Mexico. In 2014 I traveled through Southern Mexico and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I ate the most delicious food, sipped homemade mezcal, climbed mountains, swam in waterfalls in the jungle, rode collectivos with chickens and cheeky kids and was invited into the homes of local artisans in Oaxaca to experience their work, meet their families and drink hot chocolate.

I experienced some of the most breathtaking art and museums of my life, the Diego murals and Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul. The thing that struck me the most about Mexico was the way in which people come together, embracing the true nature of collectivism. Everyone has a role to play in community life from taking care of the flowers in the local church, to herding the goats, to making the cheese to running the village. It was pretty amazing to experience how people look out for each other and how much community is valued.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
My neighbourhood Collingwood. I have lived here for many years and have witnessed it change so much but the remnants of the past still remain. Collingwood has such a rich and diverse history. It has it all, great coffee, galleries, chilled out pubs, live music venues, great food, a vibrant and diverse community and even a traditional Japanese Bathhouse.

I have also been able to make so many new friends on Gertrude Street working on the Projection Festival. Everyone has really come together to make the Festival happen. It’s been a really enriching experience to connect with so many great people in my community. Gertrude Street is home to so many wonderful eccentrics, passionate artists and really cute animals! I love my neighbourhood so much.

What are you currently reading?
I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. I like to talk about feelings a lot. lol. So I really love this book. What I love most about Chris Kraus is the way she tackles female desire and vulnerability in a raw yet pure way. This book taps into artistic failure and ambition, alienation, sexual obsession and the frustration of personal intimacies, all presented through a fierce female consciousness. What’s not to love?

What are you currently listening to?
I have Tropic of Cancer on repeat right now. The entire catalogue. Tropic of Cancer is the electronic solo project of Camella Lobo. Someone once described it to me as the sound of a gothic fairytale laced with heartbreaking melancholy. I think that’s pretty on point. Restless Idylls is an incredible record.

Happiness is?
Those rare moments when all of your favourite people who are usually scattered across the globe come together in the same place at the same time.

What does the future hold for you?
I have no idea! I hope more exciting projects with talented people. Maybe a weird art project in the jungle, if I could realise a crazy dream. I recently had a birthday and never thought I would make it this far. I guess every day on planet earth is a blessing. I just hope my future continues to bring happy days.

The 2016 Gertrude Street Projection Festival continues until 24 July. For more information, visit: www.gspf.com.au for details.

Image: Amanda Haskard