TBI Q&A: Multimedia and motherhood - Sarah Jane Parton
Sarah Jane Parton is one of New Zealand's most talented and respected multimedia artists. This year she is blurring the genre boundaries with a science fiction musical odyssey, Belonging, which is part of the Fringe Festival in Wellington.
Sarah Jane juggles an art career with raising a small child (and has another baby on the way) and the music career of her partner, the Phoenix Foundation's Luke Buda.
"There's not much money in art or indie-pop/rock (in New Zealand, anyway), so childcare tends to be out of the question unless it's free. Moses has been on Radio NZ, C4, Radio Active - and in most offices of the creative type in Wellington. Both Luke and I drag him around on our various missions - and then compensate with prolonged playground and beach visits so that his childhood isn't too weird!"During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?
Early in the morning, late at night, during the day, and often when I'm asleep - or not at all. It's a case of extremes.
How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?
An honest friend would say it is pretty haphazard. I'd like to think my aesthetic is lush, but it definitely gets a bit busy and chaotic.
What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?
Working with great people. Making lists is also pretty thrilling. I make a lot of lists.
How do you think your environment affects your work?
Um, I have a two year old and too much stuff - so adversely, I'd say! Living with a musician is great - noisy, but great.
Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?
You're well known as a video artist in New Zealand. Do you think people give the artform enough attention?
Yes. It's all relative, but I think that video art is definitely getting enough attention at the moment. It's a very engaging media - people love telly.
You have a theatre piece coming up with the Fringe Festival in Wellington which seems like a departure from your usual work - what's going on?
I'm diversifying! I'm blurring some boundaries! In all truth, I don't know how much of a departure this is - I see it more as a continuation of my practice. I'm working with many of the same people I've worked with before, and many of the same ideas that have been rolling around my head for the last two or three years.
In the context of the Fringe, Belonging is billed as a Visual Arts piece, rather than 'Theatre'. The piece is a giant collaboration and somewhat genre-defying - yes, I know that it's a total cliche to make such a claim, but the piece incorporates dance, drawing, a live band, video, sound art, and live performances by actors. So genre-embracing, perhaps? Multi-genre.
Please explain your fascination with lycra leotards.
Who isn't fascinated by a leotard? Or a unitard, for that matter?
Do you find it hard juggling an art career with raising a small child and your partner's music career?
The short answer to this is yes.
There's not much money in art or indie-pop/rock (in New Zealand, anyway), so childcare tends to be out of the question unless it's free. Moses has been on Radio NZ, C4, Radio Active - and in most offices of the creative type (Creative NZ, design firms, universities, web/tv production companies, galleries, etc etc) in Wellington. Both Luke and I drag him around on our various missions - and then compensate with prolonged playground and beach visits so that his childhood isn't too weird!
In some ways we probably have an easier time of it than couples with kids where one person is working full time and the other's at home trying to do a bit of their own thing when they can fit it in. We generally try to take turns with spending time on our projects - we still haven't found a balance, but we're working on it.
What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?
Christine McVie said it all: "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow - " - plan ahead and think long term as much as possible (in a flexible way).
Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?
Guidance, which materialised as a solo show at The Physics Room in Christchurch last year and later morphed into The Way at City Gallery, Wellington.
Who or what has inspired you recently?
Robert Fisk's The War for Civilisation. I finally committed and read the whole thing.
If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?
I'd like to do something more useful - I always wanted to be an aid worker, but studying art doesn't really give you many skills with which to aid people - something doctor-y, I think.
What place is always with you, wherever you go?
Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt. Inescapable.
What's the best way to listen to music, and why?
Blissfully, at the Leigh Sawmill cafe, or a similar venue, with my family and friends - away from bars full of loud drunk dicks.
Unless, of course, I feel like being a loud drunk dick, which is not something I'm into at the moment, being four months pregnant, but I'm not always totally averse to being loud and drunk and - inevitably - a bit of a dick.
You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?
Something terribly artistic that reflects the five and a half years I spent at art school -
What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?
What's great about today?
The sun is shining, I'm about to meet up with the brilliant band who are playing in Belonging, and it was my son's first day at pre-school. How great is that?!
What's your big idea for 2008?
I have no grand philosophy for this year, my 28th. My plans are to work on some art, travel a bit, and put forth another little Buda, in that order.
What: Futureshock presents Belonging
Where: The New Zealand Film Archive Cinema
When: February 28-March 1