How Are You Today – Hayley Millar-Baker

Hayley Millar-Baker

How Are You Today – Episode 19

Instagram handle @hayleymillarbaker


Kiera Brew Kurec 0:04
Hi, and welcome to Pro Prac. I’m Kiera Brew Kurec.

Nick Breedon 0:07
And I’m Nick Breedon. You’re listening to How Are You Today? A spin off series where we call an artist and check in with how Coronavirus is affecting them, and ask them to share their worries and their hopes for the future.

Kiera Brew Kurec 0:23

Hayley Millar-Baker 0:24
Hi can you hear me?

Nick Breedon 0:25

Kiera Brew Kurec 0:26
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. I know that there’s a lot going on.

Hayley Millar-Baker 0:33
Yeah, it’s a little bit crazy. I’ve got my Maeve next to me here. She’s watching Trolls. She probably, she might jump in she’s a little bit shy.

Kiera Brew Kurec 0:44
So Haley, how are you today?

Hayley Millar-Baker 0:47
Not really with it today? I feel. I don’t know. It’s been a really long week of adjusting again. So um, so yeah, today and yesterday, I’ve been like a bit off.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:02
It definitely has felt like a strange week as we really settle into lockdown. And I just had the realization that we kind of just moved past week one.

Hayley Millar-Baker 1:14
Yeah, I know. Well, I actually thought that it started like two weeks ago. And then my husband reminded me that it didn’t,

Nick Breedon 1:23
it’s only been a week.

Hayley Millar-Baker 1:24
Because I was like we’ve only got a couple more weeks to go. And he was like, No.

Nick Breedon 1:28
It just started.

Do you mind sharing with us how the pandemic has changed things for you?

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:37
Yeah, so this is the room that I’m in right now is my office. And you can see, and hear Maeve just doing her thing going through everything. So I normally I work because I have Maeve I work three days a week, rather than I try and put three days of like full time work into those three days. And now it’s whatever day Maeve will let me. And sometimes it’s only a matter of like a couple of hours. And I’m got to squeeze like a whole week’s worth of things into those few hours. (Maeve speaks in background). But yeah, I don’t I, I really enjoyed my days that I had at home. And now, I was saying to my Nan last night, that, um, I hate it. Like I don’t, I do not appreciate being at home at all anymore. And like today, and yesterday when I was having, like, I’m just a bit off. Yesterday, I had to go for a quick drive, which was like, literally 15 minutes down the road. But those 15 like that 15 minutes. I was like, Oh my god, this is life!

Nick Breedon 3:00
So exhilarating!

Hayley Millar-Baker 3:02
Yeah, well, the other thing is, is that I’m pregnant. And so, um, and I found that out in end of January. So I had a couple of weeks when it was just sort of kicking off with COVID and, and I was like it will be alright, it will be all right and it was locked down. It was like, I really can’t do anything like I can’t even you know, go to a restaurant or whatever, when it was lifted a bit because I’m pregnant, and I can’t you know, that’s high risk. I can’t do that. So it’s just, like pure isolation for me from the very beginning with a toddler who also hates it. And I don’t know, we just watch a thousand movies.

Kiera Brew Kurec 3:54
Given that yeah, it sounds like life is very busy at the moment, are you working on anything? Do you have any time to work on any projects at the moment or are you kind of planning some to work on in the future?

Hayley Millar-Baker 4:09
Yes. So before lockdown happened. And everything, all the schedules have changed. I am working on a new body of work that was going into one of the work was going into Photo 2020 which is now photo 2021. So I was rushing around mad because that deadline was February. And I didn’t get to work in until the end of February and then it was extended by a year. And I was just all that stress ….and I’ve got enough. And then that work was a catalyst for a new body of work that’s going into the Melbourne Art Fair which I had until that that was going to be in June. So I had about until end of April, to have that done. And I am very, very grateful that that has been moved to February next year as well, because had it been this June, God knows what I would have put in because I’m still working on it. Like, it was only a few weeks ago that like I started it started in December. So research aside started making in December. And yeah, a couple of weeks ago, I called my gallery and was just like, I’m going to start again, because I’m not into it. So So if it was going to be in June. I don’t know what I was going to put it in. Yes, I’m slowly working on all of that. But it’s all coming together. And it’s also I found that with isolation and the lockdown. I’ve never really given myself time to have a break, or to have time to like extensively think. And so I really questioned you know, where I am in my life, who I am and where I want to go with my practice. And be able to, you know, slowly work towards those changes rather than beforehand. Yeah, before that, it was just, I kind of got into the mindset of the art world works so fast, that I just had to keep pumping stuff out to be able to stay relevant. Or, you know, so people didn’t forget me. Yeah, so I kind of because I feel like that my practice, it only really started in 2017. And that was in my, that was a final year of Masters. So in the scheme of things, but you don’t really count your practice until you have left, whatever your last University was, when you start counting, whether you’re emerging, or, you know, whatever. And everything just happened really, really fast. And I kind of was going with it. And I realized now in this break, that what I was doing was just like not healthy at all for me. And the way that I was thinking of how I had to keep up and I had to keep producing things that people wanted to see from me, you know that’s all that’ll changed. And it’s literally just changed in the last couple of weeks, having talked to friends about it artist friends, and I’ve realized that, you know, I am the author, I can do what I want at what pace I want. And the people who enjoy my work, are going to enjoy it, whether it’s, you know, now or in a year or in two years, rather than just like, you know, trying to keep up with every single person because and then I think it was Destiny Deacon said something like, Don’t judge your two years to somebodies 30 years. And so that is sort of stuck with me during this break. Yeah, so I think that like a lot of this has changed like in my mind and the way that I work and the rate that I work at, so I’m actually really enjoying making this new body of work. And prior to this, it’s kind of just been really stressful.

Kiera Brew Kurec 9:08
I think that’s really important what you say and I think a lot of artists feel like that, that there’s like continuous deadlines that you know, that shows or the fairs come around every year and there’s like, you know, an expectation to be in them, included in them, included in like whatever it is. And it I’m kind of hoping that during this pause the kind of institutions and galleries are kind of recognizing that they’re putting artists in a really not a healthy space to be working from and also they’re not going to be producing their best work if they’re kind of put under crazy amounts of pressure. And that hopefully we can yeah more exciting or more like engaged work because artists have the time to dedicate to research or to rest, or whatever it is that they need at that time.

Yeah, well, even these funding opportunities that are coming up, and the quick response grants, and I’ve thought, you know, like, I’ve lost a lot of work, you know, a lot of things have been cancelled, a lot of things are being postponed, but for this year, basically, you know, like, I don’t have much of an income this year now, because my practice is my entire job. But these quick response grants that are happening, most of them are connected to the theme of COVID. And I feel like, I’m already living in it, why do I constantly be thinking about it, and like making work about it? And so it just doesn’t fit into, you know, like, I’m not applying for the money that I, you know, would like to have, because I don’t want to be in a pandemic bubble in every aspect of my life.

Nick Breedon 11:02
So what does your routine at home look like, at the moment, since you’re spending so much time there?

Kiera Brew Kurec 11:14
Well, um, just keep in mind, I’ve been pregnant this whole time. So like, first trimester was my routine was, if I could lift myself up out of bed, I would go to the couch, and just be like, to Maeve, like, you can reach the cupboard, you know, fend for yourself (Laughter). And then I got a little bit better. And now it’s, um, I pretty much shower after lunchtime. So I will get up in the morning, feed Maeve, we’ll have breakfast together. And then we go on the computers. So I’ve got, I have two computers, one old one. And she uses that to watch her movies on which she thinks is super cool. So she does that while I work. But I also have to listen to the soundtracks of the movies over and over and over again. So I’m sitting here working, making serious work singing to like trolls, or Disney movies. And then we break for lunch, and then have a shower and then just chill. Like, it’s not. It’s super relaxed. And it’s, you know, whatever day it happens on like, the beforehand, I would work: I do Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. And now, I do you know, what, whatever day I can do. Yeah, so it’s just up to Maeve you know, like, if she’s not feeling it, then I can’t work. But if she’s alright, she’s in a good mood. And we can do it, and we’ll sit at the computer. So that’s, that’s pretty much the routine. And then my husband comes home, and then it’s dinner, bath her get her in bed. And the day is over. This year has just like, really wasted itself and I don’t remember half of it. Sometimes I don’t even know what day of the month it is. It’s just whatever, you know. And coming out of this is going to be really hard I think. You know, I wonder if people will just go back to, you know, like, let’s have a meeting at this time, you need to be here, this time, this is the deadline, whether people will just go straight back into it, or whether everyone’s just gonna, you know, be cruisey and let everybody slowly slide into.

I’m wondering if you could share it if there’s anything that you’re currently worried about?

The world’s going to shit, first of all, has been for a long time and, and this year, it’s just like, have you seen those memes on the internet? where it’s like, you know, next month is July, what else can happen? And there is like demons coming out of the sky and things like that (Laughter). Nothing is impossible right now. Worries? Everyone in my family, that’s just what I’m concerned about that everybody’s doing the right thing. And no one’s you know, getting stupid. Because I don’t know, we’re such a close family, and although we can’t really see each other, we still have to, like, you know, check in on my Nan. My parents have to check in with me because I’m pregnant and caregiving purposes. But if one of us stuffs up and gets COVID somehow, then we all get it that’s probably my only concern. Yeah, I mean, the police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement really, like that big spike in the movement that happened a few weeks back. That really like, there was, I had to turn my phone off for a good few days. Because although it is super, super important, it’s just so hard hitting, and especially, because my family, we have dealings with the police fortnightly weekly, in our family, but it was just like hitting so hard to home. And so now I’m kind of like, thinking, you know, what purpose does social media really have, like, everyone just pushes out their opinions all the time, but cancel culture, you know, the really explicit videos and things that get put up on there. Um, so I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and the health side of it, and whether to be involved or not. And so I I’ve also restrained myself and taken off basically anything that is personal. And at the moment is just strictly exhibitions, like photos of exhibitions, which is the most Personally, I think, very, very stale and boring. But I think that that’s the only extent that I can engage in social media at the moment because of, it’s just so much to take on. And being part of an Aboriginal family and having specific things going on in my family that also relate to videos and things that were going on and the deaths in custody and things like that. It’s just a lot! So I’ve been trying to just, like create my space, and focus on I guess, what I can control. And what is healthy to bring into the family rather than being glued to the news. And, you know, like, I still know everything that’s going on, but I’m not allowing it to affect my life more than it already is on a personal level that we’re dealing with. Yeah.

Nick Breedon 17:36
Would you mind sharing with us what you’re hopeful for right now?

Kiera Brew Kurec 17:41
I don’t know that this to go really quick. And then I no longer have to be pregnant. Because that’s a drag in isolation (Laughter). Just hopeful it’s just gonna, everything’s gonna sort itself out. I’ll give birth, work will resume next year, I was meant to have a residency in Italy this year with Monash University. It’s three months and that’s been put off to next year. And that would be absolutely delightful to get there next year, but who knows. So just as long as everything keeps trying to sort itself out. And then this baby comes into a world where like he can see outside of the house and not just be locked in (Laughter). Yeah, I’m hopeful for like, just a little bit of change so we can use resume little bit of life.

Before we wrap up do you mind sharing your Instagram handle and a website if we have one for the listeners to be able to go see your work?

Hayley Millar-Baker 18:48
but my Instagram is just my name which is just a @hayleymillarbaker And my website is

Kiera Brew Kurec 18:54
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us this morning.

Hayley Millar-Baker 18:59
No worries. Thanks for chatting and listening to all my woes. (Laughter)

Nick Breedon 19:05
Pleasure! Alright, see you later.

Hayley Millar-Baker 19:07

Nick Breedon 19:11
We respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we have recorded and pay respect to elders past present and emerging and the elders of the land on which this podcast reaches you on today. We extend that respect to all First Nations people listening and acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded.

Kiera Brew Kurec 19:27
How are you today has been generously supported by the city of Melbourne’s quick response grants. Follow us at @propracpodcast on Instagram or email us at If you haven’t already, please subscribe on whatever you listen to podcast on.

Nick Breedon 19:43
Please stay in touch. We’d love to hear what you’re up to as well.

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Pro Prac acknowledges City of Melbourne’s generous contribution to How Are You Today? through their Quick Response grants program