On the Couch with Natalie King

Natalie King photo by David HannahWho is Natalie King?
Curator, writer and arts leader currently Chief Curator of Melbourne Biennial Lab; Senior Research Fellow at VCA, University of Melbourne and Curator of Tracey Moffatt at 57th Venice Biennale 2017.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I am elated by what I do and find myself immensely content and inspired. As a curator, each day presents something new, and this is what I love. I am especially enthralled by working in Asia having curated exhibitions in Jakarta, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Taiwan, Bangkok and Vietnam. Earlier this year, I curated a two-person exhibition with Sally Smart and Entang Wiharso at the National Museum of Art in Jakarta.

Who inspires you and why?
Artists inspire me as they are guardians of the imagination and help us to dream the world awake. Artists are immeasurably creative, unstintingly passionate and habitually outspoken. In particular, I have a history of working with Aboriginal artists including Destiny Deacon, Fiona Foley, Michael Cook, Bindi Cole, Michael Riley and Christian Thompson. Each of these artists reminds me that we need to work towards reconciliation and cultural activism.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Andy Warhol said “everything I see has an element of make believe. I don’t know where the artificial stops and the real starts.” We need to find ways to use our imagination as the world is a mesmerizing mess.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
One of my favourite destinations is Tokyo ever since I was curator in residence at the National Museum of Modern Art in 1996. I have been lucky to combine holiday and work trips having curated Destiny Deacon’s exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and an exhibition by Rosemary Laing at the National Museum of Art, Osaka. The city is labyrinthine, dense and hospitable. Each time I visit, there are new discoveries.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I take visitors to Queen Victoria Market: the site for the inaugural Melbourne Biennial Lab. I am working on this project as Chief Curator with a lab for artists convened by Claire Doherty (Situations) and David Cross (Deakin University) resulting in a suite of temporary public art commissions.

Established in 1878 as part of the City of Melbourne’s mandate to manage the city’s consortium of markets, QVM resides on Melbourne’s first cemetery of early settlers thereby becoming a ghostly and commemorative place. Redolent with history, bartering, racketeering and extortion, QVM provides a place to imagine the traces of Indigenous, mercantile, migratory and colonial histories that are embedded in the site.

I have titled Melbourne Biennial Lab, What happens now?, derived from an anonymous paste up program throughout New York City in 1979 by American artist Jenny Holzer. This proposition offers an open ended inquiry and the prospect of imagining new possibilities. The market is full of stories, fresh produce, flowers, deli offerings and much more, part of communal and daily rituals.

What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading the love letters between Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz called My Faraway One, as part of my research into curating Tracey Moffatt at the 57th Venice Biennale 2017. Comprising over 650 letters between 1915 and 1946 when Stieglitz died, the correspondence reveals their passion and the creative evolution of their art and ideas. In 1926, O’Keeffe wrote “All my love goes to you – And the kiss that is my life.”

What are you currently listening to?
I like listening to podcasts especially when I walk late at night. Under the cover of darkness, I traverse the familiar streets of my neighbourhood with my dog – a great way to decompress after work. I just listened to one of the last interviews with architect Zaha Hadid on Desert Island Discs from 21 February; one of the final interviews before her untimely death.

At age seven she was designing her own clothes and by nine it was rooms in her family home in Baghdad. Arriving in London in the early 70s, she tenaciously pursued her goal of becoming an architect. Her buildings are distinctive and exhilarating, curved and soaring with complex geometrics. She says: “as an architect, if you can in any way alleviate an oppressive situation or elevate a culture then I think that you should.”

Happiness is?
Spending time at home with my husband and three children: Lilly, Coco and Woody… and of course the dog! Happiness is waking up on a Saturday morning, with the newspapers and a cup of tea, surrounded by my family.

What does the future hold for you?
The future is realizing a suite of commissions for Melbourne Biennial Lab in October as part of Melbourne Festival and then Tracey Moffatt’s exhibition at Venice Biennale May 2017. 2018 is completely unknown, but exciting of course!

For more information on the Melbourne Biennial Lab, visit: www.bienniallab.com for details.

Image: Natalie King – photo by David Hannah