Q&A November

A monthly Digest feature where we ask questions about the nature of creative collaborative practice, the stories artists tell and ANAT’s place within the art + science + technology network.

Jenn Brazier, ANAT Program Manager. Photograph Sia Duff.

Jenn Brazier

Jenn Brazier is a photomedia artist and Program Manager at ANAT, based on Kaurna Yarta (Adelaide), South Australia. 

Jenn has worked in the arts industry for almost 20 years across a broad spectrum of the sector including not-for-profit, local government, tertiary education and commercial galleries and business. Areas of interest in the support of artists and the cultural community include First Nations first as integral to planning & programming; experimental and cross-disciplinary practice and collaboration and ways of working that celebrates, encompasses and values introversion.

Jenn originally began her career in the arts at ANAT in 2004. In 2017 she returned to focus on programming that enables artists to push the boundaries of creative experimentation.

Can you tell us about your connection to ANAT?

The first time I encountered ANAT was in the early 2000s when I was studying for my arts degree: a visiting speaker (former ANAT Director, Julianne Pierce) came to tell the class about ANAT. I was hooked! Aside from supporting the arts and artists that engage in cross-disciplinary practice, I deeply admired the focus and practice of care for artists as being absolutely central to the organisation’s ‘being’. This ethos made an indelible impression on me.

The second time, I was fresh out of art school in 2004, and as a founding member of the artist collective ‘Shoot,’ our work was commissioned by ANAT as part of the ‘Luminosity’ public art projection program. Interestingly, the work was stolen from a city rooftop highrise, together with the projection equipment… (they really wanted the artwork, right?)

I became the ANAT Membership and Administration Officer soon after, and this inaugural step into the workers’ arm of the industry served as a solid foundation for my career onwards. In 2017 I returned as Program Coordinator – and the rest is history! I’m incredibly grateful for the artists, partners and colleagues I’ve worked alongside during my time with ANAT thus far – it’s been a rich and rewarding journey to date and I continue to look forward to supporting artists to push the boundaries of creative experimentation through cross-disciplinary research and collaboration through ANAT’s programs.

Shoot, in-situ projection of Metrospective, Rundle Street, Adelaide, 2004. Photograph Jenn Brazier.

Everybody’s a storyteller. What stories are you telling through your work?

Art surrounds most facets of my life: I am a visual artist and arts worker, my partner and many of my friends and colleagues are artists and my social life encompasses artistic interests. With this immersion comes the belief that artists and art are absolutely essential to humankind. Artists have an instinctive ability to look deeply into things and pick up on nuances of the moment. I think this is because at their true core, they are incredibly tender beings, sensitive to all and everything around them.

So I guess the stories I tell through my work at ANAT (on our artist’s behalf, together with my colleagues) is that artists are true explorers for humanity. Coupled with science and technology, artists whose practices sit within cross-disciplinary approaches are the ultimate explorers! They intensely delve into areas where others have never been or where some may fear to tread. Sometimes, what surfaces from these investigations isn’t easy to see, hear or experience, but they tend to be innate truths and at this moment in time, humanity dearly needs to know its truths.

Jenn Brazier, Instinct and the Unconscious (Secret Garden), 2016, Giclee print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, 80 x 119 cm.

On a more personal level, as somewhat of an introvert I find it challenging to openly speak my stories, so for me, art is the perfect vehicle. I think the story I tell, the common thread that weaves through my artwork, is that we are all connected and that this connection runs much deeper than between one another; it extends to all living entities. Perhaps at the heart of this story is to practise treading softly on this world, to strive to be a little more tender, kind and open and more accepting of one another; other humans, flora and fauna alike. 

I read a great book recently – ‘The Dreaming Path: Indigenous Thinking to Change Your Life’, by Paul Callahan, with Uncle Paul Gordon. It has cemented some core beliefs and provided me with many new learnings. I smiled when I read this excerpt: 

“From an Aboriginal perspective, everything that exists – the planet, the flora, the fauna and the people – are one connected organism. If something or someone suffers, then all of us are affected – true wellbeing cannot be achieved if all things aren’t well. We are all in this together.”

Jenn Brazier, Gilding Untruths # 2, in-situ, 2022, Giclee print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, repurposed foam, glitter, sand, acrylic paint, 80 x 120 cm. Photo courtesy the artist.

How has your practice changed over time?

My practice is slow burning. Working with ANAT has given me a rare awareness into others’ artistic practices:  whilst undertaking residencies, artists percolate upon questions, theories and queries, experiment and play with research collaborators and form connections and partnerships that would otherwise not have occurred had they needed to spend this time on producing tangible, finished ‘outcomes’. This has given me 20:20 vision on the importance of allowing space and time within my own arts practice. Allowing for ideas and thoughts to seep deeply, to sit and develop roots if you like, helps immensely towards the development of fully formed concepts.

Practically, although in the past my work has often included unconventional presentation methods, recent work has seen me dipping into the incorporation of installation elements. I often use long exposure and unconventional lighting techniques in photography as the resultant quality lends itself more readily to my conceptual aims to delve into liminal spaces. I’ve recently incorporated 3D elements to my work – perhaps in an attempt to provide an added sense of tangibility.

What are you working on at the moment?

2024 will be the 20th anniversary of ANAT Synapse and with the call for applications closing soon, it’s always such a pleasure and quite special to see the range and depth of applications being submitted. Alongside Synapse, a celebratory opportunity will be announced in the new year, plus, ANAT are planning events as part ofISEA 2024 Everywhenwhich will take place in Meanjin, Brisbane in June 2024. Stay tuned for details! We are additionally beginning to consider the next iteration of ANAT SPECTRA. The triennial will next take place in 2025 and given ANAT works with artistic ‘explorers’, it’s exciting to look forward to the possibilities and limitless potential for the program. 

On the personal front, I’ve been invited to develop new work as part of ‘Neoterica’, an artist-initiated and -run exhibition showcasing 20 mid-career South Australian artists as part of the Adelaide Festival in 2024. The exhibition will include a catalogue with essays by 20 South Australian writers and artist and writer talks and performances. Open from 1 Mar – 14 April 2024, I’m humbled to be included within such a group of highly regarded artists and  I show my appreciation here to Ray Harris, Project Lead/Curator/Producer and Team Neoterica – thank you for the opportunity!

What advice would you give to your younger self (when you were just starting out as an artist)?

Two things: 

  1. You are not an imposter! You really are an artist!
    Backstory: I’ve been drawn to art as far back as I remember, but as a young adult, I thought I wouldn’t be good enough to ‘be’ an artist and I wasted several years with this self-limiting approach until a voice in my head told me to wake up and have a go. I applied for a Bachelor’s degree, was accepted and the rest is history. Thank you, small voice in my head.
  2. Dive into the river of synchronicity!
    I feel I know I’m on the right path when intentional, thoughtful decisions lead me to synchronistic and positive happenings, especially in relation to my arts practice. Such decisions may not necessarily be the ‘easy’ choice, however, if synchronistic connections, ideas, opportunities, collaborations, etc. start happening and things begin to fall easily into place as a consequence – I know I’m on the right path and continue on with this flow. It’s incredibly uplifting when it happens and I’ve found it has always led to positive outcomes for both my arts practice and other areas of my life.

And here I shall leave you, with another quote from ‘The Dreaming Path’:

“We need to flow like water – to reach our destination by calmly winding and meandering in synchronicity with what is around us. By doing this, we experience a plethora of topographies, learning with each twist and turn about many things we did not know even existed.”

Looks like I was on the right path when I chose to read this book. 😉