Interview: Natasha Caruana

This weekend HOUSE Biennial opens in Brighton and one of their major exhibitions this year comes from Miniclick speaker Natasha Caruana and a new body of work, Timely Tale. We spoke with Natasha about the work and what visitors can expect from the immersive installation she has created…

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Timely Tale runs from Sept 30th to Nov 5th at the University of Brighton Galleries on Edward Street. For more info, inc opening times, click here.

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Film Still, from the series Timely Tale, 2017 

Miniclick: Could you give us an introduction to the work?

Natasha Caruana: The body of work Timely Tale is a film installation on my mother, Penny. The work is a complex layer of narratives, drawing from the personal and political. Underpinning all the work is the theme of excess, the overarching subject of the Biennial.

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From the series Timely Tale, 2017 

MC: It’s a deeply personal piece of work. When making a body of work like this public, how do you decide how much to show and how much to hold back?

NC: Interestingly, by using the 360 format I was not given the opportunity as to what to show and what to keep hidden. Yes, the work is very personal but also very honest as the viewer has a 6 minute window into my mother’s world. There is no directors hand to lead the audience. I have always photographed my mother, in fact, I learnt focusing and f-stops during A-Level Photography, photographing my mother in the back garden. So it seemed natural for this process of photographing to culminate into a piece of work at some point. Given my mother’s health is deteriorating so much and this commission deadline was so quick, it felt like the right time.

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From the series Timely Tale, 2017 

MC: The manner the work is presented to the viewer is very important. Did you always envisage it in this way?

NC: I did always envisage playing with point of view and giving the choice of what to view to the audience. This is perfect for the 360 format as the viewers are transported directly into my mother’s bedroom and given the opportunity to navigate the space. I was also really interested in charities starting to use headsets to create more empathy and wanted to explore what it would feel like to confront the reality of living with illness. My work has always been about exploring the slippage between our preconceptions and reality.  Physical and mental illness has such stigmatism, but the work reveals the reality that you can still buy designer clothes, you can still be on the internet looking for men, you can still be upbeat and positive in the face of these problems.

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From the series Timely Tale, 2017 

MC: There’s two distinct ‘rooms’ for the visitor, the NHS waiting room and the chandelier POV camera in the bedroom. Can you take us through the decision making process for both of these?

NC: When the visitor comes into the space they are confronted with a reconstructed NHS waiting room. Each object has been sourced from decommissioned NHS spaces in the UK. The reconstruction acts as a physical environment to be inhabited by the visitor as they are transported into the 360 world of my mother’s bedroom. The contrast between the two spaces is important. When accompanying my mother on hospital visits I was struck by the unfriendly and sterile nature of the waiting room spaces when these spaces are really where people need to feel welcomed and loved. I wanted to create a more honest conversation between these two spaces and how one contrasts with the other.

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From the series Timely Tale, 2017 

MC: Does the opportunity to present your work in different ways, like this, drive your practice at all?

NC: It is always really interesting to work on quick commissions and I definitely use them as an opportunity to push my practice. This is because the commissions offer a support network, a deadline, funding and final show which makes it a fairly safe space to work with new possibilities. For this commission, it has been absolutely this process, and although working with a tight budget, it has allowed me to bring specialists on board. I worked with composer Emile Levianaise Farrouch, who created an emotive composition for both the film and installation. And Sven Mattes you recorded and compiled ambisonic sound to be experienced in the 360° environment.

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Timely Tale runs from Sept 30th to Nov 5th at the University of Brighton Galleries on Edward Street. For more info, inc opening times, click here.

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