Feature image: Memorphosis by Sophie Giblin. Photography by Steven Glashier.
Sophie Giblin – artist, feminist, educator, and curator – is a 26 year old powerhouse who is constantly demanding positive change in the arts. She moved from England to New Zealand in October of 2015 and spoke to Artists Alliance about her past and upcoming projects.
Sophie lives in opposing gears, very fast and very slow. In her highest gear she runs Kollektiv Gallery, an online art community, publishing hundreds of artists’ ‘picture interviews’. She also writes manuals about crowdfunding, hosts gallery openings for emerging artists, and runs creative innovation workshops.
In first gear, she’s a conceptual artist who blends durational performance with neuroscience. Her recent work involves endless drawing of repeated lines or dots as a form of meditation and discipline to transform herself. Visit Kollektiv Gallery’s website: kollektivgallery.com or Sophie Giblin’s website: sophiegiblin.com to see more.
AA: You’re a curator, educator and artist. Please tell us about your art practice.
SG: Almost every piece of art I’ve made is about my mother’s remembering of my grandmother’s car accident which lead to her death. It happened when my mother was in her early 20s. I make art about womanhood, inferiority, self-transformation, discipline and repetition. I love intertwining my practice and research with psychology and science.
The Dishonoured Hand was a project about my mother who was aggressively forced to be right handed when she was a child in Germany, because left-handedness was thought to be evil. I’m right handed naturally and as a tribute to left handers everywhere, I learnt to be left handed over a series of months and exercises.
I wrote in Victorian cursive handwriting with my left hand, left elbow and left foot every day for months and months.
A year later I shifted to Memorphosis, an ongoing drawing and science project about my personal anxiety with school, dyslexia, memory loss, and an imminent dread of dementia. The project involved me drawing lines onto a twenty-metre long roll of tracing paper to study the science of human memory.
I learnt that every human memory is fabricated. Memories change more and more as we recall them. A constant renewal is taking place which means we alter our memories without realising. Each line I draw represents a memory, and each line I draw follows the preceding line. Human error causes the line to become like the altered memory – the first line is nothing like the last line. Both are unreliable, and enduring.
AA: What art projects are you working on now?
SG: I’m working on a few new projects! The first is called Unfinished, it’s similar to Memorphosis in that I’m drawing repetitive lines, but this time the lines are made up of tiny dots, which takes a lot longer to draw. I’ve given myself a rule that if I take my pen off the paper for more than 15 seconds, I have to stop and write down the reason on the same page. This project is a form of ridiculing myself for not finding the time to make more art.
Another project I’m about to start is using my own menstrual blood to draw pages of repetitive dots. This new practice is about womanhood, sisterhood and society shaming womens’ periods.
I am also working on a new annual digital curation project called Lokal. This project requires artists to ask each other questions about equality, gender, feminism, online identity and mental health, then reply using photographic artworks, discussions and podcasts. Each artist will act as artist-ambassadors online by displaying the artworks on our Tumblr. In particular we’re tackling problems surrounding anonymous or non-anonymous online abuse. Such issues might be ‘trolling’ death and/or rape threats in forums, cyber safety, and freedom of expression. We’re aiming to inspire younger artists to start their own supportive networks online and learn how to discuss the delicate topics we’re exploring.
AA: How did you end up curating?
SG: I became a curator as a necessity after I finished my art degree in 2013. Post-graduation was like walking into gale-force winds. I felt guilty for not lining myself up with a graduate job or opportunity while studying. I was hardworking, but I was unprepared. Eventually I worked on projects in the music industry and learnt the hard way that not knowing my own worth financially meant that I was fiercely underpaid and overworked.
Frustrated by graduate life and not working on projects on my own terms, I made the transition from artist to curator. I set myself the goal to open an art gallery for me and my friends, so that we could learn about artists’ rights, contracts, exhibiting and selling. From that moment, I started taking a lot of risks.
I bugged people for meetings, went on entrepreneurship courses, looked for gallery spaces and contacted a lot of creatives. In just two months we were an army of 25 artists. We made a Kickstarter campaign and raised £3,200 in two weeks. After months of endlessly searching we bagged ourselves an empty butcher shop and turned it into a gallery in Brighton, England.
We repeated this model with new artists and then I wrote a free open source A-Z ‘how to’ manual aimed at creatives just starting out. The manual includes how to run collaborative projects, use alternative funding methods like crowdfunding, and opening galleries in derelict spaces. It’s about curating our own alternative post-education learning.
My curation style is political and community based. I think it’s important to stand up to unfair treatment, and learn by taking the lead in a supported network.
AA: How has teaching and curating affected your practice?
SG: I became active in politics and community when I started curating and teaching. Teaching became part of my life when I created a workshop called Fast Art in 2014. It’s a speedily paced creative entrepreneurship workshop where teams start, finish, and sell a project in under two hours. It’s about trusting your gut, letting go of expectations and paying homage to the innovation inside each of ourselves.
I’ll never forget when I turned up to teach, what I’d been told was, a group of shy young people. To my surprise, 30 rowdy teenagers came through the door throwing chairs and spitting swear words at each other. It was only then I was told they’d been excluded from mainstream education.
Six boys came into a room with me for a 30 minute Fast Art workshop. For the first 10 minutes they mostly tried to climb out the window. Suddenly one of the boys looked at me and said, “I wish I was dead.”
I replied, “You mean… you wish you were doing a performance of you being dead?”
The room’s atmosphere suddenly changed and all the teenagers’ ears pricked up. Another boy quickly said, “Yeah and I’ll be the forensics.”
Another cried out, “I want to be the murderer!”
And another, “Only if I’m the police man.”
There was a small dispute over who should play dead. In the end we had two murder victims lying on the floor, and then set about selling entry to see the show.
These young people needed a chance to explore something dark and very real to them through a creative outlet. They just needed permission. I want people to feel believed in. Community, politics, and education help me think more deeply about society and psychology, which are involved in the art projects I create today.