On the Couch with Astrid Pill

Astrid Pill photo by Diana StentaWho is Astrid Pill?
I am a performance artist based on Kaurna Yarta. I do bits of everything – writing, performing, singing, physical image work, teaching. I love playing with process and form and tend to make work that is as dark as it is funny and absurd.

I have an enduring relationship with Director Ingrid Voorendt and Composer/performer Zoe Barry, having made many works together in the past. We are premiering our new work I Hide in Bathrooms for the 2024 Adelaide Festival, along with other key collaborators. While I do love collaboration the most, I also love being alone to write.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
Not much to be honest. If you pushed me I would say that if I had nothing stopping me I would have a space and enough money to create and experiment every day, responding in multiple ways to ideas – delving into film, music, visual art, sculpture and performance art.

Who inspires you and why?
In terms of art? Initially my parents because they raised us to understand the importance of it – the people, the processes and the outcomes. I am inspired by work and artists who play with pace, rhythm, dynamics, pause. Arvo Pärt and Bill Viola were formative in my earlier years in terms of these ideas. Not just their work, but the way they speak about it.

Now I am watching a lot of film and the ones that allow space for the viewer to really see and hear and infer appeal to me, such as Aftersun (which I can’t even think about without feeling big things). Other than that, people who do good things and have some humility!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I am impressed by activists who are deeply dedicated to social justice and environmental causes. So many intelligent, principled people who are trying to make change. Particularly some of the young ones. They blow me away and make me want to do better. I used to be more engaged and active as a young person and I’d like to organize my time so that I can participate more.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Flinders Island. I am Tasmanian but I never went to the Island as a young person. My school made a documentary about Wybalenna which is where the ‘Protector’ of Aboriginals’ forced some of the Tasmanian indigenous population to live. I wasn’t part of the class that travelled to the island but I did get to write the music for it. The story stayed with me and I always wanted to go.

When I got there I fell in love with it. As well as that dark history, it is a thriving island with incredible landscapes, empty beaches (even in January), superb food and wonderful unpretentious people. My partner and I said we’d go every two years but we haven’t stuck to that. We are well overdue. Iceland is my dream destination.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
We live next to Morialta Conservation Park and the waterfall is quite beautiful in winter. The walks are great and there are lots of kangaroos, koalas, an occasional echidna and the hard-to-spot tawny frogmouth. The beaches are generally very tame but crystal clear and accessible, with West Beach and Semaphore being favourites. My family is really into visual art so whenever anyone from home visits we always head to the Art Gallery of SA and also some of the smaller galleries. And of course, the Central Market!

What are you currently reading?
Reading is tricky for me when I am working on a show because I am either tired or completely consumed with show thoughts. But I am slowly reading Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au, the pace of which I haven’t experienced before – a beautiful, quiet unfolding. Next is Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh, which will be my fourth experience with her writing. I think she is wonderful.

What are you currently listening to?
I listen to a lot of podcasts when I am doing housey jobs and am really into long-form investigations, documentaries and 1 on 1 interviews. At the moment it is Louis Theroux’s meandering style, exhibiting great humour, feeling and respect for his subjects.

Music is important and varied. I am being drawn to romantic works of composers like Tchaikovsky and Dvorak because of the themes in our show – love, death, romance and grief. I am also listening to the album Ageism by Sweeney, an amazing multi-disciplinary artist who I am working with at the moment. Marlon Williams, Agnes Obel and The SMILE are also on high rotation.

Happiness is?
Happiness is not something I think about!  My Dad was always very cynical about the obsession people have with being ‘happy’ and it has rubbed off on me. Feeling and responding to people and situations is more important than being happy. Consuming and interacting with excellent art is the best, especially when those experiences make me feel something deeply.

Laughing with my quietly absurd partner and being cuddled by one of my teenagers cannot be underestimated. Working is important, as is a decent cup of tea. Having a good cry is vital. Climate change is always sitting somewhere in my brain so I don’t think I will ever be 100% relaxed or ‘happy’ ever again to be honest!

What does the future hold for you?
I have a new project slowly bubbling away called Peter Out, the Obsolete which is about abandonment, obsolescence, and sustainability. I also have some work with Patch Theatre Company and Restless Dance Theatre coming up, two companies with which I have a long history. I hope to be working on a range of projects as a collaborator, or actor, or maker/writer.

Meeting new artists and working with people I have never worked with before is on my agenda. I studied writing at uni and I have always wanted to write for the screen but that is a completely different scene and I am not sure how to enter it! But I have been doing some writing and looking into some possible entry points. We’ll see.

Astrid’s work can be seen in I Hide in Bathrooms – which is being presented at the Waterside Workers Hall, Port Adelaide, as part of the 2024 Adelaide Festival, until 16 March. For more information, visit: www.adelaidefestival.com.au for details.

Image: Astrid Pill – photo by Diana Stenta