Meagan Streader Interview: Lighting Up Soft Centre
Streader is creating a huge installation as part of the new Sydney audio/visual festival.
A couple of weeks back we announced an exciting-looking new art/sound/light festival, SOFT CENTRE, taking over the Casula Powerhouse this Saturday 23 September. Along with an exciting lineup of music artists from all over the world, it's going to feature some incredible installations from some equally exciting artists. One of those is Victoria-based artist Meagan Streader, and we sent her a bunch of questions to find out more about what she does, and what she has instore for Soft Centre.
First up can you please introduce yourself, and offer a bit of background into your art experience?
My name is Meagan Streader and I am an artist currently based in Melbourne. I have been working in the arts for many years now, originally in gallery management and running artist run initiative projects, but more recently concentrating on the development of my own practice over the last few years. Within my work I aim to push the limits of light within sculpture and installation through site-specific reinterpretations of pre-existing spaces. I have exhibited work throughout Australia and internationally for a range of arts festivals including Underbelly Arts Festival (Sydney), Electrofringe (Brisbane), The Amsterdam Light Festival (Netherlands), as well as held solo exhibitions at Nicholas Projects (Melbourne) and Metro Arts (Brisbane). In 2014 I was lucky enough to travel to India for the Kochi AIR program (Kerala) and more recently completed a 3-month residency at NARS in New York City in 2016.
I have been working on a number of new projects in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney this year – only just two weeks ago completing my biggest site-specific installation ever – ‘The Weight of Light’ at the Brisbane Spring Hill Reservoir.
Can you tell us a bit about what mediums you work in, and what drew you to them?
My happy medium is light. I was always a bit of a shy daydreamer; I loved to create new worlds in my head - spaces for exploration, escape and silence. It took me a long time to realise light as a medium that I really bonded with, and a recent residency in NYC finally solidified that for me. Light is a medium that has highly transformative and sensory qualities. It can affect mood, be immersive or minimal, can be subtle or blinding, effecting physical experiences beyond sight – tricking the mind and body into feeling a range of sensations.
The type of light I have been using most frequently within my work is electroluminescent wire – it differs from the typical neon, fluorescent and colour-spectrum/light fill techniques used by other contemporary and late artists. I am attracted to this light material specifically as it still holds these transformative qualities, yet is non-illuminating and (within my work) acts to reshape or retrace the site through line, forming a kind of 3D blueprint. Using light in this way to echo the physical qualities of a space can be quite perceptually distorting and destabilising for people. I am interested in how people push past these feelings of discomfort and uncertainty to experience the work on an intimate and immersive level. I want my art to be a total experience.
Your ‘Weight Of Light’ installation seems like a really immersive experience, is that something you always try and explore with your installations?
Yes – The Weight of Light is a completely immersive experience, and it has been the largest installation I have created yet. Viewers are invited to descend into almost complete darkness, guided only by lines of light that trace the reservoir archways and grid structure. I want my work to be experienced physically and psychologically, not just visually. I aim to heighten people’s awareness of the space surrounding them, and ask viewers to consider their own physical presence within each space. I want to create a contemplative site for exploration – a slight step away from reality.
And following that you’re working on the Response VI (Partition II) concept at Casula as part of Soft Centre, which looks incredible. What drew you to Soft Centre, and can you offer a little insight into how you’re going to bring the concept to life?
Soft Centre found me! (Luckily) When they presented the concept in its early stages I was interested in the crossover of local and international art, music and performance – it sounded like a total sensory overload. It’s going to be a hard slog getting this HUGE project installed in the short time of two days. But I am excited and confident. I will be working in the Switch Gallery space at the Casula Powerhouse with a team of installers – ‘Response VI (Partition II)’ will reimagine the space as an artificial space, describing the geometry of the gallery by tracing the structural formwork, walls and floors with light.
The event brings music together with art, does that play much of a factor when you’re in the concepting phase – how the two will work together?
It’s not a direct or specific collaboration for my work. Music and art can pose a myriad of immersive, challenging, emotional and physical experiences – but for this project I feel like my installation will sit as a kind of in-between space for the audience. I haven’t compromised for any other act, but I have tried to consider how a large audience might navigate the installation during the festival. I am also interested to see if collaborations and thematic connections with other artists naturally arise, and if my work could present a new platform for other performers.
Do you listen to/draw inspiration from music when it comes to your art in general?
Not directly. Music can put me in a mood, or get me singing when I need to concentrate (thanks Craig David and Diane Cluck). But generally music acts as a shoulder support to lean on. I couldn’t put a pin on any one genre or artist that get’s me through the days, it’s a mottled concoction of ambient, jazz, 90s bangers, avant-garde rock, R&B, pop, rap, etc. etc. the list goes on. One of my favourites when I’m trying to knock out out a last minute presentation or render is Melbourne instrumental post-rock group, Hungry Ghosts. But as a high functioning workaholic who runs on adrenaline, lately I’ve been pumping Marie Davidson to get me through installs.
Is there a particular time or place that generates a lot of ideas for you?
Ideas come from dreams, places, sites, travelling, other people etc. Sometimes an idea will hit me right in the face out of nowhere and most of the time they come at 2am in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. It can be a small detail of a space I’m walking through or a feeling I get that will generate a blip of an idea that unravels into something huge.
Last year I visited Dia:Beacon in NY, a museum home to many of the minimalist artists from the 60s onwards and to me this was absolute heaven in terms of inspiration. When I’m surrounded by art that gets my blood flowing hot, ideas tend to come swarming.
Is art your full time career?
I wish! I’m lucky to have a DREAM (part time) job working for Volker Haug studio and his incredible team in Melbourne, developing and manufacturing designer light fittings for architectural and commercial projects. It’s a hands-on role as I’m mostly in the workshop making, but I have learnt so much from my incredibly multi-skilled colleagues since coming on board. It’s great to have a consistent income, but recently I have been battling constant burn out juggling the huge opportunities I have been working towards this year
as well as trying to pay rent.
Who are some artists/designers/creative we should check out?
There are the usual big-name suspects such as Dan Flavin, Cerith Wyn Evans and Robert Irwin. But to bring it back to a couple of local artists I would recommend checking out Ross Manning who currently has a major survey exhibition on at the Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane), and Kinly Grey who is exhibiting ‘The Size of Air’ in October (also Brisbane), which will be an incredible immersive colour-field installation that will feel like walking into the sky.
After Soft Centre, what’s coming up for you in the remainder of 2017 and beyond?
Not|Fair in Melbourne towards the end of this year! The art festival will be hosted in an old Nuttelex factory in Windsor - and I am developing a new sculpture for a large hole in the second storey floor.
Challenge accepted. ヽ(。_°)ノ
SOFT CENTRE (CLICK THE POSTER FOR MORE INFO/TICKETS):