Season Four – Leyla Stevens

Image credit: Seth Birchall

Leyla Stevens

Season 4 – Episode 4


Cemeti – Institut untuk Seni dan Masyarakat (Cemeti – Institute for Art and Society)

Instagram handle @leyla_stevens


00:00:00 Kiera Brew Kurec
Hi, I’m Kiera Brew Kurec

00:00:01 Nick Breedon
and I’m Nick Breedon

00:00:02 Kiera Brew Kurec
welcome to Pro Prac,

00:00:04 Nick Breedon
where we explore the professional practice of artists

00:00:06 Kiera Brew Kurec
and hear their stories.

00:00:07 Nick Breedon
Leyla Stephens is an Australian Balinese artist who works within a lens based practice. Her practice is informed by ongoing concerns around place, archives, spatial encounters, and transculturation. Working within expanded documentary genres, her interest lies in the recuperation of counter histories within dominant narratives. In 2021, Leyla was awarded the prestigious Blake Art Prize for her film Kidung/Lament, which engages with Bali’s silenced history of political violence. Her immersive, multi channel video installations have been exhibited widely through major national and international group exhibitions, including recent presentations at Museum of Contemporary Art, Tarrawarra Museum, UQ Art Museum, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artspace Sydney, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Guandong Times Museum, and Seoul museum of art. Leila’s works are held in significant institutional collections, including Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Kadist. She works collaboratively as a member of Woven Kolektif, an artist group exploring diasporic connections to Indonesia.

00:01:24 Kiera Brew Kurec
Leyla, thank you so much for joining us in the studio today. We’ve already had a fantastic chat pre recording, so let’s hope we’ve got something left for this. And we would love to hear by hearing how you got to where you are today.

00:01:37 Leyla Stevens
Thanks so much for having me. It’s, it’s such a good question. I think, yeah, I think going back as a kid, I did the usual things of like liking to draw, you know, and being good in art, probably because I was so bad in things like sport and other things that I was going to always be good at art, if that makes sense. Yeah, so you’re kind of like driven in certain ways as a kid of like, Oh, I can’t be good in these spaces, but I can be good in these spaces. But I think, yeah, it’s interesting thinking about it now, actually, cause, um. It has always been multidisciplinary for me, like, yes, there was drawing and painting, but equally and probably more strongly, like, I was a big reader as a kid, like, that was the escape world, right? Like, reading books. Um. I, like, I was, I, I was a ballet dancer, like, you know, like I wasn’t a good ballet dancer. Like dance to me was a big thing. Yeah. And, in, in different ways. So like the, the performing arts was big. So I grew up between, Australia and Bali. So I grew up in, Queensland in, Australia. regional coastal towns in Queensland. And when I was a kid, it was, you know, we’d have like six months in Australia and then six months in Bali. So we kind of pretty much split up the year between both countries. And that’s really, that’s really strongly informed who I am and who I am as an artist. So much of having like this kind of dualism all the time, and also probably something really common to anyone, you know, coming from two different cultures is like there’s two different versions of yourself always. And, and another thing that you’re kind of always operating as something a little bit other in each one. Yeah. So that’s sort of strongly informed me. The other thing I think like growing up was like, you know, I’ve, I’ve lived in Sydney for over 20 years now, but, I still consider it like I grew up in the country, you know, in that, that, that like access to nature and access to, you know, like beautiful spaces. And, for me, like the ocean was like a really strong sort of, yeah, kind of just like this place that like I had to, you know, have a relationship. It sounds, yeah. But you know, like, yeah, like you have to go to the beach every day. You have to have a swim. You have to be immersed in water. And I had really sort of opposite experiences of, you know, you know, in Australia, I was like growing up and we had this property. It wasn’t the country, but it was. It felt remote enough that like, yeah, you could be alone on this like big gigantic space. And the sense of space was

00:04:35 Nick Breedon
like rural.

00:04:36 Leyla Stevens
It was rural. Yeah. And whereas in Bali, like you’re, like, you’re never alone in Bali, like you’re always, like the collective is so strong in Bali, you’re always around people. And like, so the navigation of like all those spaces, it’s like, you’re always with a crowd or your family. And yeah. Yeah. So that was. That sort of strongly informed me too, but yeah, to go back to that, multidisciplinary thing, you know, so dance for me, I think, it’s like the first time I’ve actually admitted that I did ballet as a kid, but, so it was really weird, but I think it was,

00:05:09 Nick Breedon
Thank you for being so vulnerable with us.

00:05:11 Leyla Stevens
But it was like. In, you know, in Queensland in the nineties in re you know, in regional towns, like there’s really not much access to culture, you know, you’re not like surf culture was like the big thing, you know, I grew up in, right. And all that sort of like weird toxic stuff that comes along with that. And, yeah, so you kind of grabbed anything that presented an alternative. And, I. Yeah. My, my ballet teacher, she was the alternative. Like she was just this graceful, beautiful woman that, you know, rumor was it that like, she was like, gave up this really successful dance career to like come in, like, cause her mother was ill and she had to come back and look after her and then she decided to open up a ballet school. Right. But, her name was Anne Fraser, if anyone is out there. Yeah, what is it when you meet a, a teacher when you’re young and like they, like they see you, right? Like they are like, like this is not that you are like extraordinary talented and how that, but they see that you’re like, there’s something in you that needs to be in that space doing that thing. And they acknowledge that and that’s so, it’s so amazing, right? And you might be up against like the complete opposite experiences and all these other subjects you’re doing as a kid, where you’re told that you’re not good enough or like, you know, whatever. So yeah, so she, she was amazing and, I did it from when I was, I realized because I like, yeah, to be clear, I was not, I was not a dancer. I was not a ballet dancer. Not that good. But, I did it from like, from I guess the ages of six until 14. So that’s like, you know, you do it, you do it

00:06:48 Nick Breedon

00:06:49 Leyla Stevens
formative years. You do it like three days a week. And I guess what that taught me early on, There’s something there about the discipline, right? Like there’s something there,

00:07:03 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:07:03 Leyla Stevens
discipline, ballet, so it’s effortless. Like you, you’re never showing the effort, like it’s always like this, like graceful spring. Yeah. So that, like that taught me a lot, I think. And then on the other side of that, I had Bali, which was like, performance is such this huge, it’s tied up to ritual, it’s tied up to ceremony. And it’s such this huge, part of like, yeah, culture there. And, I loved, I loved, so many of the, like the dances and performances that happened. And that was like, really, that’s like, yeah. And I’d see, you know, like everything like from the tourist productions to, so what happens like you have these versions of like sacred dances that happens for tourist productions is like, it’s like, that’s the, like the small section that you’re going to give.

00:07:53 Nick Breedon
The Disneyfied

00:07:54 Leyla Stevens
yeah. But they’re genuine. Like, they’re really like, it’s like a viable way of like continuing like culture, right? And then, then you have the real ones that I love. I love when, like, when I compare, like, you know, what happened, like, yeah, it’s just such a different comparison of being an audience within those, kind of like dances, because yeah, they’ll start at like 10 o’clock at night, they’ll go on to like. They’ll go for four hours, like the Wayang Kulit, the, like the shadow puppet play, which is like one of the, that was so formative for me is to see that as a kid. That’s just like, it’s, the, the, there’s the shadow puppet master and usually it’s a he. And there’s very, very slowly, there’s a few women in that, but they’re. They’re also like a shaman, so they’re like, they’re kind of like the conduit for the spirits to come through. Right. So they’re like in a, like, so you’re not going to say, Oh, the performance starts at eight o’clock and finishes at 10 and here’s the intermission and this is like So yeah, it’s a really different way of experiencing, and, and being a part of those sort of performances and it’s always done kind of like within the village community. So within the banjar, which is what you call the, yeah, the sort of main sort of village or community structure, I should say in Bali. Yeah, so those, I would say like, yeah, performance was always there. The reading. So like, yeah, books was like this like life force for me as a kid. And, and, And then the camera, that was like huge, you know, so, my dad gave me this, yeah, this 35 mil film camera as a kid. And I was that like that angsty teenager that would just like bring around your camera all the time. And, you know, it’s, it’s funny, I think, like that mode of like having You know, that photography where you, you are going around with the camera all the time. It’s kind of, it’s an observational tool, right? Like, but it’s also a way of distancing yourself. So you’re walking around and you’re always, yeah, you’re always thinking about the shot, you know, and there’s that one step removed of like actually being in that experience. You’re thinking, Oh, how can I get that shot? And that’s, yeah. So I, I, for a long time, I was like that person that would like lug around the cameras everywhere until probably very recently, actually, but, yeah. So I just think it’s interesting now kind of looking back. Yeah. What that creative spark as a kid, and it actually wasn’t always visual, like. It was, yeah, there was like modes of recording. There was the writing, there was the dance. So yeah, that’s kind of, and now I look at what I’m doing now. There it is.

00:10:44 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. That makes total sense. Yeah.

00:10:47 Leyla Stevens
But yeah, in terms of formal training, I went to, I moved to Sydney, in 2001 and did my undergraduate at National Art School. And such, yeah, which was a different space back then, it had recently transitioned out of being a TAFE. What was it called? East Sydney Tech, I think. Yeah. I’m going to have to go back and fact check everything I say. Yeah.

00:11:14 Kiera Brew Kurec
No, that, that sounds familiar to me, but.

00:11:16 Nick Breedon
I think they still have the sign on the side.

00:11:18 Leyla Stevens

00:11:19 Nick Breedon
Like that’s, you know, they’ve ripped off. Or like Technical College or something.

00:11:22 Leyla Stevens
Yeah, its wild, cause like I’m back there now teaching sessionally and it feels like this, you’re encountering the ghost of yourself in this really uncomfortable way. Yeah. So like, look, I mean, not to like go, like, I’m thoroughly institutionalized. I’ve been to like all the major art schools in Sydney at different points in my life. So I can kind of like, it’s sort of interesting to compare and think about what would’ve happened if I hadn’t have gone to NAS at that particular point in time. Like, and, you know, in many ways I finished that degree and like did not get taught contemporary art once. Like I had no, I had no clue and I had no clue how to operate as an artist in like in a contemporary context at all. I could, however, like you know, tell you about the Western art canon, very well. And I could also draw, you know, so you get this sort of like, yeah, yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t know.

00:12:24 Nick Breedon
Sometimes you get too much of the other way, which I think was maybe more like my experience was like, knew about how contemporary art kind of worked. Not how to make it.

00:12:37 Kiera Brew Kurec
You know a lot about relational aesthetics. And nothing else.

00:12:39 Nick Breedon
Not about any history. Just like, okay, I know, I know how this looks. And I kind of get it in the sense that nobody really knows how contemporary art. Yeah. As much of a vague sense of that as you can have when you’re in your early twenties, but then like.

00:12:58 Leyla Stevens
I think, I think you can romanticize both.

00:13:01 Nick Breedon

00:13:02 Leyla Stevens
Positions quite easily.

00:13:03 Nick Breedon
And it’s hard. Could you, could you squeeze all those three things into a four year or like a three or four year degree? I don’t know.

00:13:10 Leyla Stevens
You can, you can’t. It’s really, yeah. I think about this a lot because I’m now I’m an educator. And I’m on the other side of it. And. Up against, up against the ghost of all these systems of like, that are severely outdated. At the same time, there is that thirst and that need as a young artist to like know how to make things right. You need to learn and it’s important.

00:13:31 Nick Breedon
Well, it’s, it’s really hard to like, what universities are really amazing at is they have a lot of resources and they have a lot of knowledge of how to apply them and teach them. That’s like, university is a really great time to learn about how to hone your craft because there’s people literally there to teach you and often it’s difficult to teach yourself that stuff. But that’s again, the same for all the other things too, you know, things, things can be a lot more easily contextualized when someone can explain how they relate to each other.

00:14:07 Leyla Stevens
Well, I was lucky with NAS because, I ended up being a photography major, and at that time, photo was run by this really amazing, like, all woman teaching staff, so shout out to Rebecca Shanahan, who was the head of photo back then, and it was kind of like the only, in my experience at that time, like, the only sort of space that, you know, they weren’t saying, You, you got to get into the archibald because that was like the measure of success at NAS, like, did you get into the archibald? They were actually introducing, you know, there’s like other alternatives. Anyway.

00:14:42 Nick Breedon
It wasn’t just painting is dead. No, it’s not. Yes, it is. No, it’s not.

00:14:46 Leyla Stevens
Totally, totally. Yeah. So yeah, came out of NAS, maybe back to that discipline thing, like interesting, like interesting to think about now, because in many ways, it didn’t teach me to, how to be an artist in a contemporary sense at all, and maybe probably stopped a lot of my, like, you know, progression as an artist. At the same time, there was that thing of like, you had to do nine hours of drawing every week and that, that kind of like humbleness that comes into it when you’re like, you’re going to have to be really bad at something for like, like to be bad at something and not be able to do it first off and that thing of like practice and doing it over and over again

00:15:29 Nick Breedon
and persisting when you have a terrible day, week, month, year.

00:15:32 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. So there is something to that. I think that Like take away all the other stuff that wasn’t really working there’s that kernel of like yeah, what is practice what is iteration? Like you have to keep on doing things over and over again that I think was an important training for me. Yeah. And now I can go into museums and go, I know that, I know that painting, you know, from the, from the, from the Western art history.

00:16:02 Kiera Brew Kurec
So coming out from NAS with a great understanding of the Western art cannon, but no, maybe practical skills on how to be functioning in the economy that we do, how have you navigated that since then?

00:16:17 Leyla Stevens
Yeah, well, like I, yeah, I find it so funny that I’m here talking about professional practice. ’cause for many years I just didn’t have a professional practice. . No, I really didn’t. You know, like I, I would have things that I like, I’d have opportunities that would come up and it felt like enough that I would continue to, you know, I, I would say for about, you know, a good 10 years after graduating from the undergraduate, it wasn’t like, I couldn’t confidently say that I was an artist, you know? I guess, yeah, you know, technically I did. I have, I would show every now and then, and I, I did the thing where, You know, I ended up doing an honors year at Sydney College of the Arts. I went on to do a master’s degree at Sydney College of the Arts, you know, in 2009, I think it was. Yeah, but so I feel like there was these certain moments that happened about 10 years ago that I think really, allowed me to you could kind of say that’s the start of like where I am now as an artist. And one of the ones was, I’d been a photographer for like, that was my chosen medium was photography. And for the first time I started working in video. And that was, that was really important for me cause all these things that I’d been wanting to think about and to do within that medium I was finally able to explore. And it sounds so obvious and, and like, why didn’t you do it a lot earlier? But you know, you have to

00:18:04 Nick Breedon
you’ve gotta get there on your own.

00:18:05 Leyla Stevens
I’ve gotta get there on your own. And I’ve always been a slow learner that way.

00:18:08 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. And I think also, you know, I think it’s different now because everyone has an iPhone and everyone’s so used to like documenting things by video and photography all the time.

00:18:18 Nick Breedon
Video was just like, hard, you know, it was like on TV. You couldn’t access making video.

00:18:24 Leyla Stevens
You’d have to record it on tape, like the video cameras will, yeah. Yeah, it was actually on tape.

00:18:31 Kiera Brew Kurec
And probably around 10 years ago is when it started to transfer over into less physical tape and more interdigital as well. And it started to become more accessible. But, yeah, it, it makes sense that at that time it wasn’t just like a,

00:18:47 Nick Breedon
no, it’s not obvious.

00:18:48 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:18:48 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. So that, I think the way that I’d been operating with, photography had for so often been this like, kind of fine line between, staged and documentary. And then with video, I could kind of bring them two together. So I could just allow for like, to press record, set up a situation, press record and actually just step back and let it happen. And that was like. I know I’m being abstract there, but that’s like, that kind of really informs how even today I work as like a director on sort of bigger productions or to the way that I go and do field work or, you know, anything kind of like image based, like don’t get in the way, like whatever’s happening in the world, that’s actually like what you’re interested. At the same time. It’s not this like mode of documentation, we’re just going to go and extract the images that you want to get. You know, you’re having those conversations with people, you’re having those conversations with community, it’s collaborative, you’re setting up, you’re staging it. So yeah, video for me was important in that way. And then, the other thing that happened to me, I, I did this, um. I did this artist residency in Yogya, Yogyakarta in Java, at Cemeti Art House and that was in 2013, I think. And I’d been trying to get over there for years, you know, like, as I had… Like, I knew Bali is for the family connection, but I didn’t know about the Indonesian arts scene, but I knew I wanted to, you know, and I want, and I had heard that like the. The artist residency at Cemeti was really good at that time for an Australian artist to get over it was only through Artlink and I was never successful at getting that. There was like this mysterious thing of like, how do you get this Artlink residency? You know, I never, ever was successful. So I ended up applying for ausco Grant for skills and development, I think it was called, and you could propose for a series of professional development. And one of the things I said, I was like, I’m gonna go to Jo Jakarta and I’m gonna do a artist residency. And so I, I did. And, to Cemeti were very, it just happened that like they had a space, you know, in their program. So for context Cemeti, art house, or art gallery, I should say is, yeah, like a sort of really important kind of center for a lot of, like contemporary Indonesian art in Yogyakarta. It’s like this sort of like, for many years, it was like this sort of central hub for, so many artists practices to come in and out of, I’m not explaining that very well, but yeah, it’s like, yeah, it’s in all the sort of history books of contemporary Indonesian art, like you see it mentioned is like this really important sort of space. So I went over there and it was a three month residency. And, it was part of their program, I think it was called Hot Wave, where they had a local, artist and then two international visiting artists. And so, both myself and the artist from the Netherlands, yeah, we like basically like shared this very, very intimate kind of living situation. And then our studios were in the gallery. So it was like this sort of wild time where like there’s, yeah, everything’s on display in a kind of really interesting way. And then at the end you, have an exhibition. So that was incredible for, like a lot of reasons for me. One of the, yeah, one of the things that it taught me was like different models of how an arts community could work and how to be an artist. It’s incredibly social and, kind of driven through these sort of like collective, you know, responses and initiatives in, in Yogya. And I think that’s probably been, yeah, like a lot of it. There’s a sort of fascination in Australia, I think, towards Yogya and how maybe there’s a bit of romanticism too, of how it operates, but, yeah, it’s very strong right. So like you, cause, because there’s not things like public funding, there’s not things like a lot of the kind of the learning and the sort of support for artists don’t come from institutions. They come outside of it. So this is a really sort of strong level of like community and sort of, peer support for art. Yeah. So. And the way that, what that meant for me, it was like, you know, it was like, Oh, seeing what happens with like, you know, the way you go about making work is incredibly social and collective. So, you know, you, you have a kind of research question. You don’t go to a library and, and, and go through like the journal database and find out the answer. You have a question and someone’s like, Oh, I know someone that you should talk to. And then you go and talk to

00:23:40 Nick Breedon
And then they take you to the person

00:23:43 Leyla Stevens
and then you find yourself talking to someone who has like this incredible sort of lived knowledge of what you’re researching, right? And you know, and, then also sort of seeing how it operates. Like, you know, you, you, uh. If you are in a position of like power or if you’re a senior artist, then it’s your kind of, you end up passing it back. You, you make a space, you open up a gallery, you have a studio, you give other opportunities to other artists. You’re always in constant dialogue with the community.

00:24:13 Nick Breedon
So that’s, I suppose sharing that, that knowledge, you know, some random is being brought to you and they’ve got a really interesting question and you’re like,

00:24:22 Leyla Stevens
your going to sit down and talk right. So, there’s a lot more like intergenerational sort of, kind of conversation and respect for where you are at different stages of your, as an artist, you know, the other thing was like, I, it was the first time that I, I think I got treated, seriously as an artist and that’s no small thing, right?

00:24:42 Like, so. You know, I, I, I had two assistants, I had like, you know, and then, and then there was like, you know, I had, I was put or been exposed to like, it was much more global as well. I have to say than Sydney, like, you know, it was a time of like the Biennale was on. So you’d have like visiting curators from like the Tate, because like Indonesia is very connected to, well, the Indonesian art scene is very connected, kind of more to Europe rather than Australia. Yeah. So you have like, you know, yeah, it was like kind of an interesting time for me in that respect. So yeah, that was, that was another sort of major turning point, I think, I’ve been like, okay, this is what being part of the arts community can be and what, ways of sort of working together that makes it feel really generative and generous and, placed within the world, within the community. And then, yeah. And then the final thing was that I had a baby. And that, that was really interesting because, yeah, I had. Yeah, and this is, no, so I had started my doctoral research and, that was in 2015. And because of the Yogya experience, I knew I started wanting to make work actually in Indonesia. I’d sort of made work about my family before and I kind of skirted around the edges, but now I knew that like, actually I was going to start making work in Bali, you know, and then kind of, and so that the doctoral research sort of was starting, that was the starting point. But then I had a baby in 2016,

00:26:23 Nick Breedon
the ultimate creative outcome.

00:26:27 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. Yeah. And, like personally for me, I think it was interesting because You think that having a child is going to be this like terrible, like so opposite of what it means to be an artist. But I found it this like moment in my life that things became very clear what I wanted to do. So I guess, you know, like I had for years, you know, I think like talking to that that 10 years of like graduating from NAS and then am I an artist? What am I doing? A lot of that, if I’m honest, was like, I was simply just trying to pay the rent. Like I was really scared about like, that’s, that’s like a genuine fear of mine of like not being able to pay my rent and living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. But what that, and it wasn’t like, you know, smarter people than me have another career that they like are trained up in other ways, that they have this other thing that can feed the art practice a genuine pathway, I would add, very highly advocate for that. If you’re at a beginning stage of your, you know, as a young artist.

00:27:46 Nick Breedon
Yeah. I would say, start a podcast that also pays you nothing.

00:27:50 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Don’t do this.

00:27:51 Nick Breedon
YOLO. Right?

00:27:54 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah, but diversifying your skills when you’re young as well.

00:27:58 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Listen to, listen to Leyla, everyone.

00:28:00 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. I can offer you advice of what not to do. But no, like, so for years, I had these jobs that would like just pay the bills, right? So, you know, I worked in hospitality. I worked in really poorly paid admin roles. And it wasn’t in the arts, you know? So it was never like in a space that I could feel like I could really own the work and be proud of that because that would be fine too right. But it was always like, you know, you’re in these spaces where you’re having to explain like, yeah, I’m an artist I do this thing. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t paint.

00:28:32 Nick Breedon
Double life.

00:28:33 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. So it’s a double life thing, right? So you can never actually be yourself totally.

00:28:38 Kiera Brew Kurec
I can definitely relate to this.

00:28:39 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. So when you, when I had a child, all of a sudden I was like, well, if I’m going to be away from her, it has to be for a really good reason. I’m not going to go to that crappy admin role and be away from my child. Like, I’m going to do it for like, for something that is like, I’m actually wanting to do. Right. So that was like, yeah, like, so, yeah, so much of that where I am now as an artist came from like, allowing myself to be a full time artist, and how did we make it work? So I, okay. We had to move from Sydney. We, so we left Sydney that we had. We had, my partner’s also an artist and we had about maybe about four months when Elka was born and he was, he had gone back to work, his casual job that allows him to be an artist, you know, and I was spending time alone with the baby in a small apartment. That he was going out to work to pay the, you know, for the rent for, and I remember at the time living, you know, we lived in like the inner east and Sydney and I’d like go out and like hang out in the park and look around and realize that like it was nannies, like I was with all the other nannies, I’m exaggerating, you know, like this is not, yeah, but that’s how I felt at the time. And I was like, this is not how I was raised, this is not what I believe in, none of this makes sense. So, we ended up spending, close to three years, at least two and a half years, of being kind of a little bit nomadic, so we would, we traveled like up and down the coast of like, you know, regional New South Wales. We would, you know, if someone had a sublet, they were going away for four months, we’d take it on. We’d stay up with family. We spent a lot of time in Bali. So at the time I was making, you know, the research in Bali and we, um. Yeah. Spent a lot of time there. But we were on the move a lot. There wasn’t like, the longest we’d stay in one place I think was maybe, yeah, about five months at a time.

00:30:57 Yeah. So we did a lot of traveling. Um.

00:31:01 Kiera Brew Kurec
Was that hard or did that feel good at the time?

00:31:04 Leyla Stevens
It was really good at the time yeah. It was hard. It was hard and it was good. So it meant that for the first time in our lives for a long time, we weren’t struggling to pay the rent. We still had to pay, you know, it’s like, you know but it wasn’t like at that. And, but it allowed this incredible amount of freedom and it allowed us to both be artists and both be parents at the same time. So things felt a lot even, you know, like that was really important that we could both be in our child’s life. Yeah. You know, like, and, and still be artists. . So yeah, it was this really amazing time actually, we both, yeah, it was just like, went for it.

00:31:42 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:31:42 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Cool.

00:31:43 Kiera Brew Kurec
So with that in mind, would you be able to share with us what, some of the biggest challenges that you’ve had to overcome to continue practices, having obviously rental prices in Sydney, but any others that you have navigated your way through?

00:32:01 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. I mean, definitely the, the challenge of parenting alongside being an artist, maybe what’s useful to hear though, for anyone like genuinely listening to this and being like, how, how does it work? What’s this mysterious thing, right? Like a lot of times you have these, barriers that you just don’t know why it’s not working. I think in those, like, in those years where I would sort of like, kind of mumble my way through of like, yes, I’m an artist, but not really. And I, I do this thing, but it doesn’t pay the bill. You know, like that sort of like moment as an artist where you’re like, not very confident to say that this is what you’re doing. I think for, yeah, the challenge around that, I think maybe when I was a young artist, like simply the things that I was interested in. Just weren’t in trend .

00:32:56 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:32:56 Leyla Stevens
Like, I don’t know. Is that, is that like so easy to like Yeah. And like a lot of the things that we accept now as being really valid and important just like weren’t, weren’t, there’s no space for that. Right. And, it’s a lot of the things like this, you know, I loved working with narrative , like, I loved working with like, you know, things couldn’t be beautiful things had to be like, or if it was beautiful, it had to be in a kind of like, you know, ironic way.

00:33:26 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Really just this past week, really thinking back on that period. I think we were both kind of graduating into and the aesthetics that

00:33:40 Leyla Stevens
were kind of really strong. What was allowed. Yeah. What was permissible to. Yeah. Yeah. to be art that was important enough.

00:33:48 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah, totally. And I was, cause I was just thinking about my own practice and thinking about like, The opportunities that are kind of, or the, the different kind of conversations I’m having now about my practice. It’s not that my practice has changed. It’s just that when I emerged out into the world, there was no one there to receive it because it was, it wasn’t cool. And yeah, it was

00:34:11 Leyla Stevens
definitely not cool. And I always felt a little bit, and then there’s that double edged sword when it’s like, when it’s your It’s your culture, it’s your lineage, but then, yeah, if I can be blunt, you know, it was such a, like, you’re, you’re, it was such a white art world in Sydney for so many years. So when you were like talking about these things, it’s not being received in the way that, you know, like there’s this kind of gap. So when I would talk about, you know, like spirits and hauntings and, kind of like knowledge systems, that, within trees. You know, like that was like, that was so other than, so exoticized and, and like, not, it wasn’t that it was like, it wasn’t that it was, it was accepted just of certain point, but it was never like, I was definitely not having curators come knocking at my door. That’s just like, there was no kind of like. That wasn’t the sort of interest.

00:35:13 Nick Breedon
Yeah, I can definitely, like that, around that time, I think that the interest would have been so like very grossly like, Oh, that’s so interesting that’s so like backwards or something. Rather than, rather than like a kind of, like a seriousness in the interest, you know, of being like, Oh, that’s really fascinating. You know how. You know, how generous of you to kind of like let us into that knowledge and teach us or like show us or, you know, tell us a story about that and how that’s. Or how you know about it. It’s like, it’s all like, Oh, cool spirits.

00:35:50 Leyla Stevens
Yeah, no, absolutely. Right. Yeah.

00:35:52 Kiera Brew Kurec
And I think there’s also like this kind of lack of understanding of conversations that they, that, that like, those practices and those works could have with other works and it was, they were kind of just seen in little silos, whereas like, you know, in, in the wider world of, art, of course there was that very that trend was prevailed everywhere, but there were still places where there was these kind of critical conversations happening between these things and, and they weren’t just, I don’t know, that kind of, that work that is only to exist in a Biennale format with it.

00:36:29 Leyla Stevens
Absolutely. Yeah. It could exist with the big international artists coming over for the Biennale, but on a local level, that was not. There was no space for that.

00:36:41 Kiera Brew Kurec
And no one knew how to talk about it either. And so it was just not showing or it was only showing when it was like certain people putting on those shows for themselves.

00:36:52 Leyla Stevens
Yes. Yeah.

00:36:54 Kiera Brew Kurec
Thanks for bringing this up because it is something that was really kind of,

00:36:57 Leyla Stevens
and so you’re made to feel that like, and I, and I think as, you know, I would try and present or talk about these things I was interested in, in a more palatable, like I would try and make it fit, but it never quite fitted, you know, and, so that was, yeah, I would say that’s been one of the biggest challenges and, you know, like, you know, I, that was, I had all, I’ve, I’ve been through every stage of an arts education that you can, and I have only, I only ever had like white art lecturers, like, you know, there was no one there. And there was some very, very good lecturers, but there was no one there to be like, able to guide me in that way. Give me that like kind of context or give me ways or language

00:37:39 Nick Breedon
or even critique because no one can critique you if they’re afraid of engaging with your work.

00:37:44 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. Right. And, I’m so aware of that now, like, and, as being on the other side of that, being in the educator now,

00:37:50 Nick Breedon
Just critiquing the shit out of all the students, like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re full of shit.

00:37:57 Leyla Stevens
Your grandmother did not say that. Yeah, so that’s, that’s been, I think one of the biggest challenges is like being able to, find a space and representation for the things that I’ve just been genuinely interested in as an artist for a long time. Yeah.

00:38:18 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Yeah. And what I’ve been reflecting on when I’ve been thinking about this is like, I wonder what artists are kind of emerging out into the world now from universities whose work is just not hitting the audiences because we’re not open to those conversations yet. And like, yeah, and I’m trying to think like how, how to be more kind of expansive or understanding of those, those conversations that, and to hold space for that as well. But also I’m not a curator. So curators, this is, this is your job.

00:38:55 Leyla Stevens
For me, like, it started with young curators actually being interested in my practice. And that sort of says something, right? You know, it wasn’t my generation that was interested in my work.

00:39:04 Nick Breedon
We’ve all kind of come of age. Yeah. So we’re all out here, like repping each other I mean, yeah, some of the other guests that we’ve had have expressed a similar, frustration that’s occurred in their practice too. And I think that they’ve reflected on, you know, how important it was for them to basically like, you know, if you’re at uni or you’re just starting out and your people aren’t, like you’re having that experience, like you’re putting yourself out there and everyone’s just shrugging, and your people aren’t there is to, to kind of try and find them somewhere else. Find, find where they are and then.

00:39:39 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. Find your community. Yeah. Build your community.

00:39:42 Nick Breedon
Stick your claws in and never let them go.

00:39:46 So given, given that you’ve told us a little bit about, you know, that, that period of, of, of mumbling through, as you said, and not really feeling like you could claim that title of artist for yourself, what is, what is being a successful artist mean to you now?

00:40:07 Leyla Stevens
I mean, yeah. Extending what we’re already talking about. It’s like it’s, being, being visible, right? Like, you know, having the kind of opportunities or that space to be able to show your work and have your work in dialogue with other, other practices, you know, um. Yeah, as much as like, there’s a sort of continuing romanticism, like the, the studio practices is really like, that’s, that’s all the joy that you like, that’s all, that’s all the joy that you need is just to go in the studio and make, we know it’s, we know actually it’s not true. Right. Like, and, and we do need to share that work at some point. So, to me being a successful artist is being given the opportunities to be able to share the work in a kind of, in a critical and generative way and, whatever that means, you know, like it can mean different things at different points in your life, I think. Yeah.

00:41:13 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Do you think also that, that model that you discussed earlier of, you know, a or mutual way of creating work where, yeah, you are not only just exhibiting your work, but you are part of a, a process of sharing, that information and that knowledge that you’ve gained as well as, you know, you’ve, you’ve Benefited from the knowledge and experience and expertise of other people.

00:41:45 Kiera Brew Kurec
It’s reciprocal.

00:41:46 Nick Breedon
Yeah. And then as you age, as you get older, you impart that knowledge and wisdom onto others. Yeah. That’s very fulfilling for me. So, I’m wondering if that.

00:41:58 Leyla Stevens
No, it is. Yeah. And I think, I think what tends to happen in Australia is that, you know, you, You become successful and then you, your success kind of like, unless you’re in roles of education or so forth, but like you’re successful artists often don’t mix with younger artists.

00:42:20 Nick Breedon
No, they become like isolated.

00:42:21 Leyla Stevens
They become these kind of silos and that’s when it becomes mysterious. It’s like, how did they get there?

00:42:25 Nick Breedon
Or this sort of becomes a bit of a nepotistic, like they select their, you know, mentees and they shepherd them upwards.

00:42:34 Leyla Stevens
So, yeah, it goes back and forth. So I’d say if you’re, if you’re, if you’re a younger artist, find your mentors and I’d say if you’re an established artist, what are you doing? Who are you talking to? Who are you engaging with?

00:42:50 Nick Breedon
Yeah. And what do you expect in return for that? Yeah. Just give it away for free.

00:42:57 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Well,

00:42:58 Nick Breedon
like this podcast. Yeah.

00:43:00 Leyla Stevens
Maybe you need a patron, like what’s the patreon?

00:43:05 Kiera Brew Kurec
I know, we have thought at times about like sponsorship from like arts, art shops.

00:43:09 Leyla Stevens
Do it, do it.

00:43:11 Nick Breedon
Yeah, advertisers.

00:43:13 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Arts Hub anyone want to sponsor the show? Um. No, but I think that that, I think that goes into kind of just more of a broader cultural thing here in Australia of behavior that is so, you know, it’s linear, like people are stuck in their, their age brackets and it’s rare, like we don’t have an intergenerational kind of culture here that you. You move on a scale between up and like, you know, your elders and your younger people within your community. So, yeah, it’s…

00:43:47 Leyla Stevens
If you’re coming from cultures where like, listening to your elders… And obviously there’s like a big thing about here, in this continent that we’re in, of like, yeah, First Nation, listening to Elders, like, what’s that, you know, how do you pass that knowledge down? How do you receive it?

00:44:03 Kiera Brew Kurec
Obviously when I’m saying Australia, I’m meaning like, you know, the white Australian culture of, yeah.

00:44:10 Would you mind sharing us, what your practice looks like, a day in the life of Leyla working on a project and I have a specific like side question that I want to come to at some point after you’ve answered as well.

00:44:25 Nick Breedon

00:44:26 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. I just thought of it.

00:44:27 Leyla Stevens
Oh yeah. Well my process is really because it’s moving image base, there’s just these very distinct phases of production that I move through, so I’m kind of a different person in each one so it goes, you know, in the beginning when you’re developing a work, I will be in the studio and kind of staring at the wall, trying to write and, and that is sort of really hard to like quantify of like how my time is spent sometimes. And then when you’re actually producing the works, a lot of my work is very collaborative. I have like the. You know, the producer hat on and it’s very like, yeah, I’m sort of out in the world and having to like meet a lot of people and having this sort of like, yeah, be very practical in some ways. And then you shoot the work and then it comes, it kind of, it’s interesting to kind of track this like movement of like being very internal and alone to these intense activities of like having to be the leader of this thing that all these people are only there because you told them to. And for someone who’s like,

00:45:39 Nick Breedon
what do we do now?

00:45:40 Leyla Stevens
What do we do now? Like, cause someone who’s like, I guess like a, a high functioning introvert that can be really intense, but you just do it, you know, you’re just like, okay, this is what we’re doing. This is how I’m going to guide this, this moment. You know, when you have 20 people looking at you going, what’s next? You’re like this is what we are doing. Yeah, so yeah, this kind of intense actually is for like between being very, internal and alone to out in the world and then, then kind of back again through posts. So when you’re doing the editing process, you’re just by yourself in a dark room for a long time so that’s, I would say like, that’s the rhythm of like, yeah, of any kind of production I do. But on a day to day level, like practically. Yeah, cause I have a young kid, it’s like, it’s very, it’s very strategic. Like I, I did my doctorate at the same time, she was quite young. Right. So. I’m, I, I’m naturally a morning person and that’s when my brain works. So I would get up, yeah, that thing, you know, like I, I would get up at 5 a. m. between five and seven. I had this two hour block that I could do something in.

00:46:53 Nick Breedon
The dream window.

00:46:54 Leyla Stevens
The dream window. And I was, and I’m. Pretty good at that time, actually, like it’s a little bit downhill after midday without caffeine. I can push myself into the night, like, and I obviously, if there’s a deadline, I’ll do it. But it’s a really sort of structured time when you have a young child because, you know, even though she’s at school at the moment, like she. Yeah school finishes at three o’clock. That’s for most people. That’s just like when their day is still continuing, right?

00:47:18 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Like you’ve just gotten, gotten on a roll after having something to eat, you know?

00:47:22 Leyla Stevens
Exactly. Right. So yeah. In terms of like, yeah, the advice around like parenting and being an artist, like just, it’s actually this amazing time management, you know, like you, you’ve only got a set amount of hours to do it in and you kind of move through that. You have to kind of step outside of that doubt, and that kind of insecurity of making, and you just gotta do it.

00:47:51 Kiera Brew Kurec
You kind of already answered my like, my question, which was going to be like, when I was watching one of your pieces recently and looking through the credits and I was like, wow, that’s a lot of people to work with. And I was wondering, um. Because you have already touched on it, but maybe I’ll ask instead, what was it like the first time that you went into that space of working with other people and in that kind of position of director and how, like, did it start slowly where it was just a few people that you’re working with and then over time it’s amassed to a larger.

00:48:28 Leyla Stevens
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. So starting off with like a team of like me and one other camera person and a sound recordist yeah, like to be clear, I’m not working on like feature films. I’m not working like I’m film adjacent, right? So it’s, but it’s at the same time, I’m, we’re, we’re doing all the things that you’d still do on a film set, right? Yeah, I think within that role, like, I’ve had to kind of accept the, like, what kind of director I am. Like, I’m not going to be the one who’s like getting up there and giving that sort of like, you know, shouting at everyone. Yeah. But like, I, I am kind of a quiet presence on set and I used to feel uncomfortable by that because I was like, Oh, I have to. You know, be this sort of version of a director that I’m not, but now I’m feel kind of like I know that like, that’s how I work and, and that I’m really, I’m, I work with people I trust and I work with really talented people that I can be like, simply like, just do it. Like, like I’m going to sit, step back and not get in the way many times. Yeah. And, um. Yeah. Thank you. In terms of the performers I’m working with, like I, there, there, there’s a general level of collaboration there in that the things that you’ve written, I, I sort of think of them as, like, I won’t write a script, but I’ll write what I call like a film score. Like I’ll write like how I think a scene should maybe look like, maybe a series of like actions that happened in that scene. And kind of the main sort of concept for that scene and then the performers, they kind of, it’s kind of their work in that moment, if that’s how they interpret it. So there’s a kind of high level of like, letting go, in those, in the, when we’re shooting and that, that can be really scary. There’s often times where I’m like looking at what we’re recording going. Oh God,

00:50:30 Nick Breedon
that’s not what I planned.

00:50:31 Leyla Stevens
This is not what I had planned at all. And slight panic, right? And then, and then you trust it. And then that’s why I continue, even though there’s a lot of different parts of the process that I have started, like I, I used to shoot all my own work, but now I work with cinematographer, you know, like there’s a lot of parts of the process that I’ve kind of like now work alongside other people, I still hold onto the editing process and that’s not because I’m a, I’m not actually that good at it, you know, like I’m not like, it’s something that like I was very self taught, but I hold onto that process because that for me is actually the When I get to make it my own again, so it’s like you start off with like the writing and the developing what it is So it is your own then you have these processes of collaboration where you have to let go You know, it’s beyond your control and other people are engaging with your ideas in a really nice way They’re like extending it way beyond what you were even thinking of moving the work in a different way And then you get back to the editing process where it’s like, it comes back again and you’re kind of reclaiming it again.

00:51:44 Nick Breedon
So, Leyla would you, have any resources that you would like to share with us and the listeners of, anything that’s really helped you in your practice? That’s been a bit of a game changer in learning to make or. Helping with your professional practice.

00:52:04 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. So I was briefed not to say friends or family. I have to think a little bit, cause yeah, I mean, obviously, and we talked about this for like find your community, right. That’s important. I, I also, I’m a parent, but I also have a very supportive partner. Well, he’s also an artist, his name is Seth Birtchill and yeah, we’re in it together. So like that,

00:52:29 Nick Breedon
shout out Seth. Yeah.

00:52:31 Leyla Stevens
Yeah, like it’s, I don’t know, everyone’s, we were talking a little bit before we started recording, I think on like knowledge sharing. Like the, what are the kind of collective knowledge out there? What, where do you access it? Where is it recorded?

00:52:48 Nick Breedon
Yeah. We’re also all like, um. What’s the right word? We’re all very old. I had a good word for it, but like, we’re all kind of like pre internet people. So like it used to be sequestered in weird pockets of the internet that people put in, like they put, you know, like a VHS recording that they ripped off, you know, their university archive and made like a weird little webpage on the internet that nobody can be bothered suing them for having. And it’s been there for 15 years, but those places are just like, it’s all on YouTube now, you know, so you don’t really need it as much.

00:53:28 Leyla Stevens
That’s a good point. Cause, I, okay. So back to that idea of like, what do you actually learn at art school? Not usually the practical skills. Right. And so as someone who came into video, like it was all through youtube tutorials, like honestly, like in terms of like dealing with like the tech side. So I just want to take this moment to thank every nerd out there who’s uploaded a video on Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere and like that really uploaded a video, Nerd Tutorials, all the way. Thank you. That and like, okay. There is, there is actually very good tutorials on any kind of software you need to learn. If you’re a uni student, it’s probably accessible through your library database called Lynda Tutorials, Lynda

00:54:23 Nick Breedon
I think it’s actually owned by LinkedIn now. It’s actually LinkedIn Learning.

00:54:29 Kiera Brew Kurec
Oh, yeah. It is. Yeah.

00:54:31 Leyla Stevens
Like LinkedIn’s free. Isn’t it?

00:54:33 Nick Breedon
I think you might need a membership to it. Cause I, I, I actually did this, During COVID times, I, I think that was one of my COVID development things that I was like, I’m going to learn, you know, 3d modeling, which I did, which I did. I ended up using YouTube a little bit more.

00:54:48 Leyla Stevens
Yeah, no, you can, you can, yeah, but different things out there, but I would say with those ones, any different software you want to learn it’s there. And they’re like quite, they’re not. They’re not done by the company who, like, sometimes, like, this is getting really nerdy, but like sometimes the company that like actually owns the software, they don’t make very good tutorials. But it’s actually someone, a practitioner who uses it, who’s like, here’s a 10 stage step of how to do it. Yeah.

00:55:13 Nick Breedon
They’re like, I’m an educator. Yeah. Not a. Software engineer. Yeah. Yeah. Cause there’s Adobe ones sometimes it’s like, they bring up, you know, David from software and he’s like, hi everyone, I’m going to show you how to use Premiere. And you’re like, no, no, please no. Please bring someone who knows how to convey information for learning, not how the software works. Yeah. Those are two very different things.

00:55:40 Leyla Stevens
And maybe that extending that, like, you know, even if you’re not. If your practice is not about software, like, what is it, like, who, what where are you going to find that knowledge? So like, if it’s like, like ceramics is obviously like a big one at the moment, there’s so many, like, you know, but if it’s like, find the people, find the craftsmen, find the artisans, find the master printmaker, you know, find all those people who like that knowledge is still there. Really important practice and learn off them.

00:56:09 Kiera Brew Kurec
Were there any other resources that you wanted to share?

00:56:12 Leyla Stevens
I think, yeah, it’s more just that, that collective knowledge thing and being able to reach out, like I would extend that beyond, Practical questions of making to also like professional practice. So like, and I do this quite often of like, you know, sharing with someone, applications I’ve done before, like giving really concrete, like here’s what a budget looks like. Here’s what this kind of grant application could look like, here’s some advice and you know, how to tailor things. That’s, that’s totally fine. And people have done that for me in the past, you know, so it’s a, it’s a system and we’re all just going to learn that system, right?

00:56:50 Kiera Brew Kurec
And it, and it’s really hard at the beginning if you haven’t been taught how to write grants, because it’s a real formula, and once you kind of get that down, yeah. Your success rate will go up.

00:57:04 Nick Breedon
Often, and you know, if it looks like somebody is very successful and finds certain things very easy, it may be because they have someone in their life that is giving them or helping them with this information. If it, if you’re doing grant applications and you’re completely confounded by what a certain thing means or how it should be is, yeah, find, find someone who can help you. Just ask, just, just ask for help for everyone. Just go to an opening and turn to the person next to you and ask.

00:57:43 Leyla Stevens
And this, because I really, I, I so strongly believe this, like we shouldn’t have to be so good at everything as artists. You can pay for someone to write you a grant application and that might be a really good investment. So, or you can write it, there’s like people who will be very open, generous and say, write it into the budget. So if you get it, I get paid, you know, there’s like different ways of going about it.

00:58:05 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Do you, do you have any tips on how you would find someone to do that?

00:58:10 Leyla Stevens
Like yeah, no, I can definitely send, yeah, people who do that.

00:58:13 Nick Breedon
So DM, DM and, ask people who, who you should get to write your grant application. So expect, expect your inbox to be full.

00:58:22 Leyla Stevens
It is based on like trust and like community, right? So that’s why when I say, who’s your community and build them, build that up, it’s like people in your community who can, who can offer that.

00:58:33 Nick Breedon
I think that’s the, that’s the thing that can be really challenging though, is cause you’ll, you know, it’s like, have, have, find a person who can, you can pay to do this, but it’s like, how do you find the person to pay to do, you know, like when you write at the start and you’re just like, I don’t even know where I would begin to, you like go to Google and you’re like art grant writer, Sydney,

00:58:53 Kiera Brew Kurec
you know, like my, my advice then would be for those artists is like, where are you showing at the moment? Are you showing at a certain type of ARIs? Ask who’s working at those ARIs can like, obviously ask them to write letters of support, but ask them, do you know anyone that can assist me in some grant writing, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like start where your circle already is and then work out. Because they will be the people who are already fostering you rather than thinking like, you have to make a really scary leap and ask someone that’s, you know, outside of that. So, yeah.

00:59:29 Leyla Stevens
But like, you’re not gonna, don’t expect, if you are a young artist and you’ve never talked to someone

00:59:34 Kiera Brew Kurec
Oh, oh yeah.

00:59:36 Nick Breedon
Didn’t be like,

00:59:36 Leyla Stevens
Hey, can I have a support letter?

00:59:37 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah, no,

00:59:37 Leyla Stevens
You gotta build a relationship with, right? Yeah.

00:59:40 Kiera Brew Kurec
So to finish it off for today, if you could go back. And, maybe give some advice to younger Leyla and you can take this from any point in time, maybe when you’re dancing, but maybe, maybe when you’re stepping out of, NAS, what advice would you give?

01:00:01 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. A few things. Like, I think, like just own it, what you’re doing, right? Like when you, when you get presented with like the realities of the world, like fill in a form, what’s your occupation, wright an artist, like you’re an artist don’t like, kind of like defensively say, Oh, I’m, I’m working in office, but I do this thing, you know, like, so sort of, yeah, have that, and that’s hard because you know, you have to, as an artist, I would say, have this really healthy relationship to comparison, right? Like there’s always, like use comparison to artists that you admire as a way to feel, to propel you forward. Right. I think I, we are of the generation now that like, I’ve seen friends like really crash and burn and the mental toll it takes as well, like, you know, and we are all sort of, you know, sensitive people doing lots of different kind of mental kind of like realities, right.

01:01:08 Nick Breedon
And gymnastics even, this will pay off in the end.

01:01:14 Leyla Stevens
Yeah. Right. But it’s like, if you’re, if you’re in that state of like, you hear your peers or your friends success and your immediate reaction is like contraction. Like that’s not healthy, right? Cause like being an artist is a bit of a feast of famine. And you need to have, I guess the theme of this talk has been like, what are the sort of generative, like actual real communal ways of how you’re working as an artist? So yeah, I would say own it, own what you’re doing and be really proud of it because you’re doing something that like doesn’t fit in the world in all the usual ways, right? We’re, we’re sort of asking you to believe and trust and do this thing that feels so personal and then fit it within this neoliberal model and it’s not, it’s not going to fit, like simply put, it’s not going to fit, right? Yes. There’s like successful commercial practices out there, but even those successful commercial artists, you actually look at them and they’re also going through financial insecurity at various points, you know, so if you’re in it to make money, don’t, don’t do it. Yeah, that, that would be one advice, commit to it, and I think, like, commit to the long form as well, like there’s that thing of like, It’s not always going to arrive immediately, and obviously that’s what happened for me. Like, the ways that you want to make and do things in artists, we’re in this like, there’s such a pressure to like, get it when we’re really young. We’re in this like really beautiful career that like, maybe you’re going to be making your best work when you’re 70 and we’re not, and we can still be doing it then. Yeah. And, and I love that. Like I love like, yeah. Okay. So the best advice that was given to me and she will laugh if she hears this was by my doctorate supervisor, Ilaria Vanni and this was like just before I was submitting the thesis, and you’re in such a vulnerable state then, right? Like just, yeah, so you’re in such a vulnerable state, you’re like, you’re having a kind of like, you’re just so tunnel vision of like doing this thing that means so much and getting it right. And I remember her looking at me and going, she’s Italian, so she has a very charming accent. And so she said this in a much more charming way than I’m going to say it. She’s like, you know, Leyla. Your PhD is not going to be your best work. And that was so brutal to hear at the time. I was like almost quite crushing. Like, what are you talking about? I’ve like put everything in this, but then it was actually when I digested it, it was like, it was so liberating your best works to come. So anytime you’re doing something that you feel the stakes are so high, there’s no way that you could fail in such a public way. Like your best works to come, like you can do it properly, do it the best as you can in that given moment, but it’s going to continue afterwards.

01:04:21 Kiera Brew Kurec
That is good advice. Thanks.

01:04:23 Nick Breedon
Amazing. Thank you. I really needed that. I’m submitting next week.

01:04:30 Kiera Brew Kurec
Ah, well, on that note, yes. Thank you so much for chatting, for sharing.

01:04:50 Nick Breedon
This episode was recorded on the lands of the Bidjigal and Gadigal of the Eora nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded. And we extend that acknowledgement to the lands on which this podcast reaches you on today. Kiera Brew Kurec

This season of ProPrac was funded by Creative Australia. Our music is created by Evelyn Ida Morris. Nick Breedon

Thanks for listening to Pro Prac. You can find us on Instagram @propracpodcast or reach out to us at We would really appreciate if you could take a moment to rate and review us. As it helps others find Pro Prac and it assists in our funding applications. Kiera Brew Kurec

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