Elizabeth Bills is one of FAC’s many artists in residence, busily working away in studios hidden throughout our building. With a background in anthropology, Liz draws from everyday life to create her clever, evocative installations that offer emotive and often darkly comedic insights into her world. For her latest exhibition For The Lonely, she’s tackled feelings of loneliness to create an unusually accessible show that’s designed for audiences to touch.
Your artwork often seems to act as a way of exploring your own experiences, from work life to childhood and now feelings of isolation. Tell us about your practice and how it’s developed.
I have a contemplative approach to life and I often wonder why we as humans act the way we do. Having an art practice is how I process my own experiences; it’s where I give myself time and space to reflect. My previous exhibition Snakes and Ladders: a catalog by a receptionist, was an attempt to reflect on my time working as a receptionist. For The Lonely is an introspective look into my life a few years ago when I felt deeply lonely. Though those feelings have now lessened, I find it incredibly comforting to create work on that period of my life and feel less isolated as a result.
You’ve been preparing for your upcoming group exhibition For The Lonely while in residence. What have you been creating?
I’ve been using the space to collaborate with the other artists I’m working with for the show. We’ve been creating a variety of works with diverse mediums, including felting into fabric, creating clay sculptures, designing a 3D printed sculpture, exploring the properties of faux fur and embroidery. I’ve also been able to collaborate with other local artists while in residence, and to use the space for group workshops focusing on the finer details of performance art.
You’ve worked with seven other artists for this project. Why did you decide to work with others on an exhibition about loneliness? Are these various experiences of isolation an important part of the concept?
Loneliness is a subject that’s rarely voiced, and often just whispered about. In order to process my own experience of loneliness, I mapped out an exhibition during a train ride I took in 2014. Two years later I asked seven local artists if they would like to collaborate on an artwork reflecting our personal experiences of loneliness. I decided to involve others because it became clear to me that loneliness is universal, and while people may not express their feelings openly, I believe everyone experiences this at one time or another throughout their life.
For The Lonely will feature a series of tactile, immersive installations. We’re so used to experiencing art in a purely visual way and to typically not being allowed to touch artworks in a gallery setting. What made you decide to flip this? How do you think this changes our experience of art?
Before this project began, the way I saw my audience was really as an extension of myself – people of the same age with the same life experiences. It was a subconscious assumption I had until I was really challenged to broaden that view by partnering with incredible organisations like DADAA Ltd and VisAbility. I realised there was a large, art-loving community out there who, due to a variety of barriers, were unable to fully engage with the work. Art galleries are often not accessible, be it via entry to the gallery, the nature of the artwork (predominately visual engagement) or the lack of knowledge from staff around providing sensory experiences. Working on this exhibition under their mentorship has been an incredible learning opportunity and I now wholeheartedly believe accessibility needs to be considered in all exhibitions and is something to consider from the inception of the work.
What’s up next for you?
A break! I want to take some time to do things other than work on exhibitions, but I know that will only last so long. I already have a plan for another body of work, I want to revisit my gap year experiences in Tanzania. I also want to keep learning! Over the past year I’ve met incredible artists working in this field and I hope I can collaborate with them in the future.
Audio-Described & Tactile Tour | Sat 6 May | 2:30–3:30pm | Free | RSVP Essential
Preview Performance | Sat 6 May | 4:30–9:30pm | 30min Sessions | Tickets $23–31
Soft Opening | Sun 7 May | 10am–2pm | Free | RSVP
Exhibition Runs | 6 May – 19 May | Every Tues – Fri | 10am–4pm | Sat – Sun | 10am–2pm