ON GROWING UP AND MAKING ART

Sarah Walker and Giuliano Ferla on getting more mature, learning to talk and making the decision to get shit done. An out-take from an interview for The Art Olympics.

GF: Playing in Twin Beasts has really made me aware of it (communicating and not trying to do everything yourself). I think I’ve dropped that whole auteur-ism thing. You know, like you need to do everything. I mean, I’m mixing now, because I have an interest in it, but there are countless people who could do it better, who’ve spent their life getting really, really fucking good at it.

SW: There’s a difficult lesson, which I suppose is part of growing up and being more mature, which is trusting people with things. I’m terrible at it. I’m so bad at it. That’s why my job suits me really well, because it’s just me most of the time. And then if I have to delegate, I get really stressed out about it, and invariably people will fuck stuff up, and you go ‘I shouldn’t have given it to you. I shouldn’t have trusted you.’

GF: Do you think that’s a thing that you’ll learn lessons in? Becoming very, very good at communicating? Or you’ll get better at knowing how to tell people what you want?

SW: I think that’s part of it. It’s been interesting directing recently, and getting to a point in a conversation where an actor says ‘The way you’re communicating to me is actually not working. You’re saying things that don’t speak to me on a level that I’m thinking at.’ Learning how to reverse the truck, and go ‘Okay, what about this route?’ has been interesting. Because sometimes I’ll be like ‘No, no, no, I’m telling you!’, but people will be like ‘Yeah, but I don’t get it, so you’re not doing a good job of telling me.’ And it’s like ‘Oh. Just because it makes sense to me doesn’t mean it makes sense to you.’

GF: Yeah, that’s right. I think that’s growing up. That’s learning that you are not the centre of the world.

Laughter.

GF: In a really basic kind of way. Just because you have this feeling and emotion and view of the world, doesn’t mean that everyone can see it. And so we have to use this clumsy tool of language, because that’s all we’ve got, to communicate to people.

SW: And words don’t mean the same thing to two different people.

GF: No, that’s right.

SW: It’s like this thing with the dress today!

GF: Yeah, totally!

SW: Fifty percent of the population is like ‘I just don’t understand how you can not see it this way!’

GF: That’s exactly it! And if you’re being really stubborn, you’re fucked. Because you can’t see that that is blue and black!

SW: The moment when you realise that getting really angry at people doesn’t really help them understand you is quite a good one.

Laughter.

GF: It is a good one, isn’t it? Yeah. That’s a microcosm of it. You just have to accept that everyone’s experience of the world is just completely different. And we just have to learn how to talk to people.

SW: Big talks. It’s great.

GF: It is great.

*

SW: Your stage dive that you did recently at the Gas, was that your first stage dive experience?

GF: Nah.

SW: When was the first time you stage dived?

GF: Probably when I was playing in a punk band called The Vaginals.

SW: Oh, I remember The Vaginals! God, I forgot about that.

GF: Speaking of The Vaginals, Anty, who was the trumpet player in The Vaginals, is now playing in The Bennies, who are getting really big. They did a ‘Like a Version’ on Triple J this morning. They’re going really good. And I’m listening to this music – it’s very different from The Vaginals’ stuff – but there’s still that punk kind of ska and dub element to it. It’s amazing how all these contemporaries of mine, people who I’ve played with for the past ten years, some people are going up, some people are staying on the same level, some people are bowing out completely because they’ve done ten years.

SW: It’s the same with theatre. People who I hung out with are now gettin’ famous. And other people are like ‘You know, I need some structure in my life. I want to buy a house.’

GF: Yeah, that’s right. I’m at that stage now. Because I’m like ‘I want to be employable.’ I have a great skill set, but I don’t think anyone knows it. And I’ve spent the past ten years doing all this stuff for free. I didn’t get paid for the past two days of sixteen hours’ work on mixing stuff. It’s just volunteer time. It’s great, and I’m not complaining, but imagine. It’s like some far-off dream. Imagine if I actually got paid for that.

Laughter.

SW: I sometimes imagine what my life would be like if I worked in an office and then was a photographer on the weekends. How that would change my relationship with what I did.

GF: Would you get depressed?

SW: I don’t know. I get really depressed when I’m not creating – that sounds really wanky. When I’m just not doing anything. Leisure really depresses me.

GF: Me too! Isn’t it the worst? I feel like a dick. It’s like, I’m so fucking lucky that I get to have a day off, but I get to the end of the day, and I’m like –

SW: ‘That was awful.’

Laughter.

GF: That’s right!’ It’s like, fuck! People would give their right arm for that shit!

SW: If I have a day off, I have to be quite productive on that day off. I don’t do work, but I have to do other things. Go to Bunnings. Hit something with a hammer. Clean things. Which is a good thing, I suppose. It’s nice to know that you hopefully won’t be the sort of person who just sits around on a sofa for the rest of your life. So yeah. Maybe I’d just be a person who got better at leisure. I’d probably just watch tv. That’d probably be my life. It’d be awful.

GF: Maybe I spend a lot of time on Facebook and stuff like that. But it’s like people who watch all the tv series…es.

Laughter.

GF: I don’t have time for that! And I’m kind of happy that I don’t have time for that. You know, I’m happy that my passions keep me occupied enough that I don’t actually have time to watch fucking –

SW: Like people who watch ‘Home and Away’ every day.

GF: Not even ‘Home and Away’. Like, people watch, what’s it called? ‘House of Cars.’ And, what are some of the other ones? ‘Mad Men.’

SW: ‘Game of Thrones.’

GF: I watch ‘Game of Thrones.’ I give myself ‘Game of Thrones.’ But people who stay really up to date with all those tv series. I’m like ‘How do you…how? Where do you find the time?’

SW: I think maybe if I spent less time on Facebook.

GF: That’d probably be it, yeah.

SW: I have this weird relationship with film and tv where I’m like ‘I’m not going to watch a movie, because that’s Not Doing Work. But being on the computer is Kind of Doing Work.’

GF: ‘I can kind of flick between Facebook and the email that I’m writing.’

SW: I kind of justify – I’ll be like ‘I’ll take photo and edit it and put it on Facebook’ – this is not an actual thought process, but to go to the roots of what I’m doing, if I had to justify it, that’s how I advertise my work. Because people know me because I put photos up on the internet.

GF: ‘So, it’s just work! Might as well pay myself for that time!’

SW: Urgh. It’s terrible. So, in terms of people who inspire and excite you artistically – and that may be musical people but also totally non-musical people, who’s turning you on at the moment?

GF: I don’t know if I have an answer to that.

SW: What’s the last thing that you heard or read that made you go ‘That’s great’?

GF: The first thing that comes to mind is – I’m reading a Napoleon biography. And in it, he talks about how he – well, obviously not he, but it’s quoted – that he was talking about how easy he found it to compartmentalise his brain. He found it very, very easy to keep all these things in his head, and it was like his head was a big set of drawers or cupboards. And he could just open up a cupboard and there were all the thoughts and all the things he needed to do for that particular thing. He could just rifle through it and just not pay any attention to anything else, emotional or otherwise, that’s going on in his life. Close that cupboard, open another one. And when he wanted to go to sleep, close everything and he’s asleep. And that’s how he described it, and I was like ‘Fuck, I want to do that. I want to live like that. That’s great.’ The myth is also that he slept four hours a night, you know, that kind of thing. I’ve got this real kind of obsession with wanting to be as busy as I can be. And I don’t know if it’s healthy.

SW: I’ve had this kind of revelation recently where I think especially artists glorify busyness. You see someone and ask ‘How are you?’ and they say ‘Oh, I’m so busy.’ And then people who take time to do stuff for themselves, people who are like ‘I’m going on a holiday.’ Or ‘I’m going to meditate for half an hour.’ Everyone’s like ‘Oh, you’re so lucky to have that time.’ But what they mean by it is ‘I’m better than you.’

GF: ‘I’m really busy because I’m really busy.’ Totally.

SW: And I’ve kind of recently started being like ‘Actually, I’m better at being busy when I’ve slept, when I’ve eaten good food, when I’ve exercised.’

GF: Totally.

SW: When I’ve just taken some time to sit down. This is what I quite like about this 52/17 work technique, because I work really hard, and I don’t fuck around, and then I just read ‘Infinite Jest’ for 17 minutes.

GF: Best book ever. My favourite book.

SW: It is really changing my life.

GF: I’ve read it three times.

SW: Wow.

GF: Yeah. Love it. My favourite.

SW: Incredible. I’m sort of getting near the end now, and I’m just like ‘No!’ I’m starting to purposely slow down.

GF: Yeah, you just want it to keep going. It’s just a world. I love it. It makes me so excited. David Foster Wallace. He’d be on top, the very top of my list of people to have dinner with. Of heroes.

SW: He wrote that book in something insane like –

GF: Three years. Amazing. What an organised person. Being organised! Fuck this artistic idea that you have to be messy and you have to be disorganised and you’re really flaky. That’s fucking bullshit. Really great pieces of work, it’s work, you know? And it’s organisational skill, and it’s keeping your fucking life and your ideas in such minute order that you know where everything is at once. A piece of work like ‘Infinite Jest’ – without an incredible filing system, that would never have been made.

SW: And it’s not as romantic as waking up surrounded by French women and cigarettes and wine –

Laughter.

SW: But that’s how it gets made. I think everyone knows those people who could be just incredible artists, but who just live in this state of chaos, and they’ll produce one thing every year when they could be producing something every day if they just worked.

GF: And worked out their structure. Yeah. Structure. That was something that doing my thesis actually taught me. This is going back to what you were saying earlier. I worked really hard on my thesis, and I got Dux of Honours, and I got that because I slept eight hours every night, I slept until ten o’clock. I might have worked really, really hard during the day, but I never left anything to the last minute, and I treated myself well. If it got to the middle of the night and I just couldn’t concentrate, then I’d go ‘That’s okay. Go to bed. You can go to bed. Go to bed, get a really good night’s sleep, and do it tomorrow morning.’

SW: Working during the day has been quite a new thing for me. I used to procrastinate to the point of quite bad anxiety throughout the day, and then I’d get to 11 pm, and I’d just work until like 6 in the morning, and I’d just sleep all day. And that worked fine for a while, and I could only work at night. And then I just sort of got to the point where I was like ‘If I get up at ten, and just work til 6, then I can just have night time.’

Laughter.

SW: And just, hang out with friends.

GF: And that’s nice! That’s good, isn’t it? Yeah! And that keeps you sane as well. It’s like, Friday afternoon, it’s 4:30, and I’m going to have a beer. You know? Because I started work at 8:30 this morning and I’ve had enough. That’s a good day’s work and I’m pleased with that. Yeah. I think that’s my thing at the moment. Because I do still want to be as busy as I can, but I want to work smart, not hard. And I want to keep things in my brain. I want to be fucking organised. And I hate that romantic idea, that totally impractical idea, that being an artist is being really loose with your time. No! No, it’s being strict. It’s being strict because it’s the structure that actually makes the foundations, that allows you to shoot off to the stars and grab ideas from here and here. Because you’ve always got this really solid base. I’m all about that. I’m just all about that.

S x

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