Quickfire Q&A

with Kate Mills

Having attended the vernissage festivities for the 2016 Biennale of Sydney, W.E. decided to take the opportunity to learn a little more about its new Chair, Kate Mills. With a background in policy, law and governance, she is also a passionate, if eclectic, collector of visual art, has a bursting library of books, foreign film DVDs and videos, vinyl and other (still) unfashionable items (although convinced their time will come). 

W.E. When someone says the word 'art' what springs to mind?

K.M  Creativity, experimentation, polemical, quirky, cheeky and even visceral - not bounded by any particular form or material – that traverses a wide field of endeavours including film, writing, music, dance     and other performance works, in addition to what might conventionally be considered “art”, such as painting or photography, or other visual art forms.  It is a way of conceiving – seeing and thinking about the various worlds we each occupy, our place in them, what we idealise, find inspiring or fetishise and often a means of confronting issues or provoking differing views of and responses to the status quo.

W.E. How does art make a difference to your life?

K.M. It reminds me constantly that there is a multiplicity of ideas or visions in life and in particular, that there are no right or wrong views nor any basis for belief in western socio-cultural hegemonies.  It also reminds me of the importance of making plenty of time in life to engage meaningfully with others and also with physical things (as distinct from cyber and virtual realities), to explore commonalities despite outward differences, to be both accepting and willing to be challenged, to be self-reflective, and ultimately, what a joy it is to be living.

W.E. Tell us about your top five 'dream' instagram followers.  

K.M. A mere five is tough. I have selected the following for their lack of conventionalism, the inability to neatly categorise their work and their influence generally. The first would be Louise Bourgeois for her singular iconoclasm, particularly in spotlighting the negative effects of patriarchies, her unapologetic critique of the visual arts including those artists brave enough to visit her home and subject their work to her unflinching gaze (she held regular workshops at home over many years which any artist could attend), and for producing so many works of quiet majesty in addition to the more iconic works for which she is now mainly known. I would then have to say Margarethe von Trotta for creating fresh portrayals of women in film and their relationships in the context of a variety of political settings while eschewing feminism. David Bowie  would be next for having such a restless approach to music and being highly inventive and experimental with musical forms or genres right up to his death – Blackstar is a true masterpiece. The writer and poet Roberto Bolano produced some of the most imaginative, lyrical and (frequently) subversive works I have read, including casting chief protagonists as villainous writers or poets to explore the relationship between crime and poetry and to highlight the violent underbelly of Latin America. And finally I think I would choose Peggy Guggenheim for taking the road seemingly less travelled, promoting so many artists (controversially) and creating such an interesting legacy.

W.E. Of all the places you have been in the world, which would you describe the most creatively exciting?

K.M. Again a tough one as I have seen far too little of the world despite a lot of travel. I have a preference for London at present because it is a cultural crossroad – many artists from across the world still make their way there and it remains ripe with possibilities. It has a rich, varied and at times quite bloody or troubled history (including periodic violent confrontations between cultures and classes in recent times), yet still manages to support a diversity of artistic endeavours and practices which respond in challenging and ever creative ways; and enables us to see this work together with works across the ages, albeit sometimes in problematic fora (national institutions, whose policies for collecting or staging until relatively recently in some cases have come under scrutiny as paternalistic or culturally insensitive).

W.E. What is the last work you saw that blew your socks off?

K.M. Mona Hartoum’s untitled grater works on paper at an art fair in Hong Kong because in addition to making me feel squeamish at the thought of hand rubbing paper over a cheese grater, it was when I first sensed a frisson with my partner (we weren’t together at the time) and how a mutual passion for art could excite real possibilities in life.