Loose Canons: Kate Bartlett
Loose Canons is a series where we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.
Kate Bartlett is a performance maker who originates from the South Island. She's been quietly freelancing for the past eight years, and received an award for Best Performance Art at the 2015 NZ Fringe Festival, with Back-Yard Oddity, a work that caused more bruises from repetitively careening down a water slide than the accumulative years she spent being a 'dancer'.
Kate is performing her solo work MADWOMAN / GENTLEWOMAN as part of ArtWeek at Basement Theatre (Oct 11th – 15th)
People talk about ‘bedroom producers’ in relation to making music, but I consider myself a bedroom producer too. Almost every work I’ve made has found its conception (or end) in my bedroom. Initially, this was an emergent thing that was closely tied to my anxiety and isolation. My method of practice was solitary for a very long time, and it’s only recently that I’ve begun to work with new people and allowed collaboration to influence what I make.
My mental health was probably at its most fragile while I was doing my masters at Auckland University. Getting myself into a room with people was hard, so I found the perfect solution by staging my examination performance in my bedroom. It was about creating an isolating experience within a domesticated setting. Ironically I invited lots of people – some of them strangers – into my private space, and somehow I kept my shit together. These days, I still make work in my bedroom, but now I’m more likely to take things with me into theatres or galleries or wherever.
Holly is my flatmate and, like me, she makes work in her bedroom. Her illustrations are a perfect balance of sad-funny. They’re frank and there’s no pussy-footing around. Holly works with self-portraiture in a way that I’m drawn to because she lays her perceived failures, flaws, observations, and truths out on the page. Her work is personal and simmering with experience, telling it like it feels.
More recently, she has given herself the challenge of producing one drawing a day for 100 days. I think that’s brave. The immediacy and turnaround of daily experience into a tangible drawing is not an easy task, and I’m interested in how that could be translated into a performance challenge. 100 days of mini-performance…perhaps…?
Nothing engages me more in a film, live show or book than the moment a performer or character hits a breaking point. It’s the moment that the switch flicks and they become unhinged. It might be a morbid fascination due to my own experiences, but I can’t get enough of it. I admire performers who play these moments, or writers who write these characters, with genuine conviction. It has a strong correlation with primal screaming for me. If there was a primal scream therapy group in Auckland, I would be there, every week.
So much of myself identifies with Oamaru as ‘home’ even though I only lived there from the ages of 2-4. It’s where my grandparents lived for almost their whole lives. It’s where my father grew up. Despite the McDonalds and Subway that has popped up, it feels like a place that has been paused in time. It still smells and looks like it did in the '90s. It’s a signifier of that era for me. I fantasise about doing a self-appointed residency in the house that Janet Frame grew up in, or living out my days in a tiny home on South Hill - writing, reading, inviting people around for fish’n’chips. I make a point of returning every year and visiting the Peter Pan and Wendy statue in the public gardens. It’s the site I can easily pinpoint as being a moment in life where I was truly and unequivocally happy.
Remembering is my best friend and worst enemy. I obsess over details from my childhood to the present day. I have watched our family home videos so many times, I could recite our conversations like a script. I like challenging my memory and questioning how I think something played out or how it truly was.
I look at photos from my life and ask things like “What happened in the hour leading up to this?” “Did we continue to stand close to each other, or did our arms fall to the wayside?” “Why did she look perplexed?” “Who took this?” “Why did I decide to wear blue that day?” Memory is haunting. It can be empowering, and sometimes it can be painful. One day, I’ll write a work where I attempt to fill in the blanks in my memory. How I think it was, how I wish it was, and how it actually might have been.
Julian Barnes writes in his book Nothing to be Frightened of: "We talk about our memories, but should perhaps talk more about our forgettings, even if that is a more difficult – or logically impossible – feat."
Madwoman / Gentlewoman
is on at the Basement Theatre
Tickets avaiable through iTicket