This week we talk to Cat Auburn, a contemporary artist from New Zealand who immigrated to the UK in 2015. Although Cat primarily works in sculpture and film, her art practice crosses over into different media in order to facilitate transformative experiences for her audiences, and her working life touches upon many other artists’ practices.
Cat Auburn, The Horses Stayed Behind, 2015, tapestry detail
Hello, could you tell us a bit about your practice?
Hello! My name is Cat Auburn and I am a contemporary New Zealand artist who has been living and working in the North East of the UK for the last three years. I have always explored systems of power through my art practice and have a deep desire to facilitate transformative experiences for audiences. This has taken many forms in my practice: from recreating Constable’s iconic British painting, ‘The Hay Wain’ at its original National Trust site in Suffolk in front of a live audience, through to a tapestry made from hundreds of snippets of horsetail donated by the equestrian community in New Zealand to explore a lesser known WW1 narrative.
What are you exploring at the moment?
I’m exploring the colonial inheritances of New Zealand’s involvement in the Middle East Campaign of World War One. In many ways, this is the exploration of Britain’s colonial legacies by proxy. Now that the four-year period of World War One Centenary Commemorations is officially past, I think it is vital to reflect on the ways in which we have remembered, and the systemic ways in which we selectively and collectively forget. This is especially pertinent when a debate is currently occurring in UK parliament around the abolishment of Remembrance Day.
Cat Auburn – Shaken, 2018, film still
Have you found there’s anything in particular that has influenced you over the years? What inspires you?
What has been truly influential for me over the years is the privilege of having audiences connecting with the different projects that I have offered, and the opportunity for conversations that this has provided… they inspire me to find new ways to talk to them.
I have a friend who has recently started her own creative business in order to support the kind of ethical, sustainable lifestyle that is important to her (if you love a beautiful, hand-dyed quilt, then check this out! www.hazelandhope.co.uk). I am incredibly inspired by her journey. Seeing people take on the decision to live a different kind of life really wows me.
Cat Auburn, Preparing the Ground, 2017, film. Image credit Colin Davison
Where do you work?
My studio is currently inside my laptop! It’s a magical space that expands into a factory warehouse and contracts into a smartphone depending on the kind of project I’m working on.
What’s on your bookshelf/what are you listening to or reading at the moment?
Why I No Longer Talk to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Could you give us between ten and twenty words that define your practice?
Transformation, investigation, connection, research, inheritance, discomfort, courage, facilitation, transnational, narrative.
Cat Auburn, Training Aids, 2012
Where can people see your work?
Our last featured artist, Jane McCracken, asked,”What do you love most about making your art?” Could you answer Jane’s question please and think of a new one for our next artist?
What I love most about making my art is the endless opportunities to decipher, puzzle-over and problem-solve – I love a good mystery.
My question: What’s the most important tool in your kit?