Season Four – Sophie Penkethman-Young

Image credit: Alish Gore for The Design Files

Sophie Penkethman-Young

Season 4 – Episode 6


Instagram handle @sophiep_y


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 ProPrac,

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

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

00:00:08 Nick Breedon
Sophie Penkethman-Young is an artist interested in how ideas and experiences translate digitally, how humanness could be described and how could it be uploaded to the cloud? She gained a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the Australian National University School of Art & Design in 2013 and completed her Honours at The Sydney College of Arts, University of Sydney in 2014 and Master of Art Curating at the University of Sydney focusing on digital museum culture and internet-based practice. Sophie held the 2019-2020 board position of Digital Manager of Runway Journal. Sophie is a curator and digital producer on Collective
Trace, Ghost and Frenzy creating time specific digital exhibitions for PAcT, Firstdraft, Art Month and Outerspace ARI. She is also one part of interdisciplinary show makers WHPY. Sophie has had solo exhibitions at Airspace Projects (2019), Sydney, Seventh Gallery (2019), Melbourne and Verge Gallery (2021), Sydney. In 2022 Sophie created and performed a live streamed performance lecture ‘In Progress
The Wait of Expectation’ as part of Liveworks.

00:01:15 Kiera Brew Kurec
Sophie, thank you so much for joining us in the studio today. We’re really happy to have you here in person. And, uh, we would love to hear how you got to where you are today.

00:01:24 Sophie Penkethman-Young
So I was born in Wollongong, I am the child of my Mum and her creative writing lecturer, which is a strong medium of life choices. I mean, I’m great, but for my Mum, she then left him after a year and moved in with my grandparents in Canberra. So I grew up in Canberra. I’m living with my Mum and sometimes also living with my grandparents, which was really lovely.And I love Canberra. My Mum is an artist. She makes music, she does theater, she writes things, she Had me in shows that she was working on really young, uh, in three, I was in a musical production of Animal Farm, which is quite young for Orwell, but not too young for the theater.

00:02:16 Kiera Brew Kurec
And musical did she say?

00:02:18 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yes. She was the musical director. There was like this, four legs good, two legs bad. I played a sheep. My Mum at one point denied that this had happened and then when I started singing the songs, she was like, well, you had a good time.

00:02:34 Nick Breedon

00:02:36 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I know. I know. I’m like, childcare is not cheap. I respect your decisions. She also

00:02:41 Nick Breedon
Your royalties must’ve really like, you know. Compounded a lot over the time.

00:02:44 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Oh yeah. Yeah. No, 100%. I, uh, my IMDb, I should get an IMDb, which is just like the three things that my Mum made me do. She was in a comedy troupe. And so my younger brother and I both were mimes with her for a little bit, uh, which is also great. I Played a lot of classical music, uh, until I was 16. And then, I was quite sick for a few years. And I think during that period where I was sick, I was pretty depressed because we’d had like, just like a chaotic series of events with our family. I quit classical music, which is always like a big deal because I was doing like an additional 25 hours a week on top of school. I was like in it.

00:03:32 Kiera Brew Kurec
Any particular instrument?

00:03:33 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I played violin and double bass. Um. Like in orchestras and then like electric bass in big jazz band. I was like a real, like this one time, like band camp kind of kid. And then I could also play guitar. Like my Mum jokes that I can play most stringed instruments. Uh, I joke that she just bred useful musicians, to put into her bands. like we used to like play a lot of gigs together. Oh, she taught me how to

00:04:03 Nick Breedon
I see you have a real pattern here.

00:04:04 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yeah. Yeah. Like I was like, she taught how to like do backing vocals before I learned how to do main vocals. Like, and so yeah, I quit music. And then my friend, um. In like college, cause in Canberra, you call year 11 and 12 college in a college. Her older sister, Lisa Toomey was at art school and Lisa Toomey was. I mean, like she’s still so cool, but she was like the coolest person you could possibly imagine when you’re like 16 and she was 20 maybe and I was like, Oh my God, Lisa Toomey is so cool. And she’s at art school. Maybe I could go to art school and be cool like Lisa Toomey and that is literally why I went to art school. Um. Yeah. So I went to ANU.

00:04:52 Nick Breedon
Shout out Lisa.

00:04:53 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Shout out Lisa. I think, she was a studio assistant for Abdullah Abdullah. She works, she does a lot of work for Romance Was Born. She’s like very like cool lady.

00:05:04 Kiera Brew Kurec
She’s cool. When you went to ANU, was there a specific department that you went into?

00:05:09 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Oh yeah. I was in photography arts and I got really good at darkroom printing, which is the world’s like most useless skill to be really good at. I am like an incredible color darkroom printer. There is one in the Southern Hemisphere. It is at ANU and that is the only time I can do that skill, but yeah, we lived it.

00:05:30 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Did you have any experience in photography before then or was that just like you just picked? at random because it was cool.

00:05:39 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I was really into like photoshop. I was one of those kids that had like a cracked copy of photoshop three, like a really, like a really early one. And I really love doing photoshop collages. So I photography screen arts was like the only place where you could do that kind of practice and I was like making little like zines and stuff of these collages. And so I entered being like, I love Photoshop. And I left after third year being like, I’m a diehard darkroom printer.

00:06:14 Nick Breedon
Analog for life.

00:06:16 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Analog for life, which is like a big ANU energy. Cause it’s really like modernist school. They’re like, Oh, you’re a butterfly. Your work is special. Go focus on craft. And yeah, so. Uh, and then I went to SCA and it was like, they’re like, welcome to the OC bitch nobody cares about you. Capitalism sucks. Boo. And I was like, ah, this is a real culture shock.

00:06:38 Nick Breedon
Like go back to making collages in Photoshop 3. Don’t need your skills here.

00:06:47 Kiera Brew Kurec
You obviously had like a really creative upbringing. Was there a moment like when you were at, university that you’re like, yep, this is definitely something I want to pursue or like, was it just even before then, did you know that being in the arts was what you wanted to do?

00:07:02 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Oh, I like, I was so against it for years. I was like, I’m never becoming an artist. Like my Mum would date artists and they were all really flaky. Like , like, like when you were like 12, there is nothing more embarrassing than whatever you’re like, parents are into. And I was like, God art is so lame. I’m going to become a politician. Like I was like, primary school school captain, and I was like, I’m going to become prime minister. And my Mum was like, Okay. And then like, literally four years later, I was like, I’m going to art school.

00:07:37 Kiera Brew Kurec
We keep trying to like, I mean, they’re very, very young children at the moment, but our friends kids were like, what about becoming like, you’re going to hate art. So why don’t you become something really practical, like a mechanic? We would love to have a mechanic. Anything that we can benefit from, can you go like, just gently push them into that.

00:07:53 Nick Breedon
I mean, that was your Mum’s whole game, right? Oh yeah.

00:07:55 Sophie Penkethman-Young
But my Mum was like, I would benefit from a back up singer

00:08:00 Nick Breedon
Not a dentist.

00:08:01 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I keep looking, I just had a baby, five months ago and I keep looking at her and like whispering full stack developer front end and back end and she’s like waaaaa python

00:08:16 Nick Breedon
so imagine how good she would be if you teach, like, if you teach her, like, soon, you know,

00:08:21 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I just turned her into like the world’s like most hectic iPad baby and I was like, children can code. You can code too.

00:08:28 Nick Breedon
I mean, that’s, that’s really a step beyond iPad baby.

00:08:33 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I’m like, the matrix is real. You can manipulate it with your mind.

00:08:38 Kiera Brew Kurec
I mean, by the time she’s at primary school, probably

00:08:40 Sophie Penkethman-Young
nothing makes kids more chill than like simulation theory.

00:08:46 Nick Breedon
Maybe let’s find out.

00:08:48 Kiera Brew Kurec
So was there, a bit of a gap between, ANU and SCA or did you head straight over?

00:08:52 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I headed straight, I had, I headed straight over for honours. And then, I finished honours and I was like, so depressed. I was so depressed that whole year. And I, obviously, because Sydney is kind of small. I run into people that I went to art school with, like SCA with, and they’re like, yeah, you like weren’t around that much. And I’m like, I’m sorry. I was really depressed. I’ve, it was not, that year was not a good reflection of me, but it was like an incredible year for making, because I didn’t have dark rooms and, then, and I hated, and this is, I would have been awful photographer. I hated like having to go somewhere to take photos. Like I just wanted to be in my room and I was depressed. So it was like double. And so then, um. I, but I knew that I liked Photoshop, so I was like kind of making these collages and then I taught myself After Effects. And so I actually spent that whole year by myself in my room reading too much Jung, which is like a medium, and teaching myself After Effects. And that just like completely redefined my practice. And after that I was like, I am. I like, love making videos, I love, like, the internet, I was on this like really wild bent that I’m probably still on, where I was like, the internet is the collective unconscious.

00:10:20 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:10:21 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Uh, but yeah, and so that was, yeah. That was really amazing. That really like kind of changed everything that came up.

00:10:28 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:10:29 Nick Breedon
So your, your decision to, to go and do honours at SCA, uh, obviously moving from Canberra to Sydney, was there something that drove you, specifically to leave? You know, like a city that you grew up in, or that you were living in, and go to a different city.

00:10:47 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Oh yeah, cause Canberra’s my mum’s city. Like, she’s, she’s, she’s great. I like, I am obsessed with my mum. Uh, everybody who like, knows me, knows that. But, she’s like, Like bigger than life, she’s, and she’s so involved in the arts, uh, that like I was just Simone’s daughter.

00:11:09 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Gotta like spread your wings.

00:11:11 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Totally. Yeah. And also like Canberra is so lovely, but it’s cold. Um.

00:11:15 Nick Breedon
Oh, totally.

00:11:16 Sophie Penkethman-Young
And, uh, I also had a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to have the kind of career that I wanted to have there. And I didn’t quite know what sort of career that was, but I just knew that like, it wasn’t, it wasn’t gonna happen there.

00:11:37 Nick Breedon
And, and do you think, like, looking back now, uh, I mean we’ll get to reflection later on, obviously, but do you think now, like looking back, that, that, um. That’s probably the case for you that you, you might not have been able to have, I mean, obviously you haven’t, you know, you know, in a sliding door scenario, like you wouldn’t have what you had because you did move, but like, do you think that you would have, had kind of like your career that you’ve had now the same opportunities if you stayed in Canberra?

00:12:03 Sophie Penkethman-Young
No, I mean, I think that I think that I could move back now and like do some really interesting work. And I think that there is a lot. a really great work that happens in Canberra. They have like really incredible institutions, like the NGV is like, the NGA, sorry, is gorgeous. But I was able to have such a, like strange meandering journey to like, not only the sort of art that I make, but also like how I make my money. And I just don’t think that like, I think that the industry is too small in Canberra to just be able to kind of like float, like flow about.

00:12:47 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Maybe you’d have to be a bit more strategic or just. You know, have a, a more certain path to take.

00:12:55 Sophie Penkethman-Young
And I think also like a lot of the work that I do now interacts quite like a lot with like, The tech world, and I think that there just like, isn’t that kind of mass of that industry in Canberra.

00:13:10 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Unless you want to do like government tech.

00:13:12 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I know. I do. I’m on maternity leave right now. I do work for like Creative Australia. So in that way I am doing government tech, but uh, it would be even more hardcore government tech. Maybe I could work for ASIO.

00:13:25 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Homeland Security.

00:13:26 Sophie Penkethman-Young

00:13:29 Kiera Brew Kurec
So given that it was a really tough year in honours, what was your feeling like after honours, and coming out the other side where you’re like, okay, this is, this is liberating now that I’m out of it. Or were you, was it kind of still a struggle?

00:13:45 Nick Breedon
How did you turn it around?

00:13:47 Sophie Penkethman-Young
How did I turn this shit around? Not quickly. So like I got out of honours, I was like so depressed. And I think that as everybody who does honours knows, like you go into yourself too deep, it’s really messy, it’s not enough time to rebuild yourself. And also you have to

00:14:07 Nick Breedon
That’s what masters is for, speaking from experience.

00:14:10 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I had like, I had a really beautiful and fulfilling master’s experience and I had like a shocking honours experience and like, you have to submit your exegesis so far, like so much earlier than the work. Yep. And there’s this weird like chasam between the, anyway, so like honours is finished. I was super depressed. I had been, this is very funny. I had been making money by DJing all through honours and like not DJing particularly glamorously though occasionally I would get a not too bad gig. I mean like DJing at like sky zone, which was also horrendously depressing. So like. I was making…

00:14:49 Nick Breedon
What is Skyzone?

00:14:49 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Skyzone was an indoor trampoline club. I also played a 10 pin bowling alley. It was just like, I’ll play anywhere that they would pay me. And it was this like golden era of random places being like, we’re nothing without a DJ.

00:15:06 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yes. I remember that time.

00:15:08 Nick Breedon
What was your, what was your sort of like, Uh, your track list for a typical night at, uh, SkyZone.

00:15:14 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I had this amazing, like, Funky House remix of bare necessities. I had this, like, dubstep remix of the Around the Twist theme.

00:15:23 Kiera Brew Kurec
Oh my gosh!

00:15:26 Nick Breedon
This sounds like a really good night out to me.

00:15:27 Sophie Penkethman-Young
It was just like, it was like, and then, and then it was just like party hip hop. And there is nothing quite like playing this song, living it up, staring at a bunch of like 10 year old jumping where you’re like, when you’re depressed, when you’re depressed.

00:15:39 Nick Breedon
So this is like a movie or something.

00:15:43 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yeah, totally. I had a really great on this year. And so I’d like finished honours and I got kicked off youth allowance. And so I was looking for a job because I wasn’t making enough money DJing without like that layer of government support. And so then I was with my honours in visual arts, obviously super qualified for nothing. And then I saw a, job ad for a visual merchandiser at about life. And I was like. I’m a visual arts graduate, I have worked in retail before. There is nothing that could make me more qualified for this job. And so I went and I applied and I got the job and about life was this like organic food store in Bondi and it was one of the most toxic jobs I’ve ever had.

00:16:34 Nick Breedon
Wow, I’m so shocked.

00:16:36 Sophie Penkethman-Young
And About life at the time, now defunct as a Scorpio, like my vengeance on About life was really like, it just was so satisfying when they went bankrupt. Like I followed it. Anyway. So they were like doing this like renovation. I was like stacking shelves all the time because that was my job. They were like, they would put expired food, like back out and I’d have to keep checking it for mold. Like it was so gross and so ethically dubious. And the customers were so mean and the staff were like, the manager was also so mean. And, this whole renovation went, took longer than they thought it would. And they ended up like firing, like, a bunch of people involved, including me, and, like a week before they fired me, I’d cry before every shift. It started at 6am. I would be, like, walking to the train, crying. I’d cry after every shift, and I called my Mum and I was like, Mum I want to quit. And my Mum’s like, you can’t quit because you won’t be eligible for Centrelink for like six weeks to two months, if you quit, if they fire you, you will be eligible instantly.

00:17:46 Kiera Brew Kurec
That is true.

00:17:48 Nick Breedon
Good advice, but also really grim advice.

00:17:50 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yeah, it was so grim. I was like, I can’t believe you’re not supporting me. And she was like, I can’t afford to support you, you’re 23, like get it together. Uh, anyway. And so then I was like, I can’t believe that you’re not going to let me quit. And then a week later I got fired, which was kind of a blessing. And so then, what had happened like at the end of honours is that my work had been put into like an emerging artists show at Woollahra called M Contemporary. And my mum was like, And they were looking for a gallery assistant. And I was like, Oh, they’re looking for a gallery assistant. And my Mum was like, you should apply, go in there and apply. And so like, I walked in and the gallery director, Louise had been like really nice to me and they had been like, we like this video work that you made, blah, blah, blah. So I like went in and Louise wasn’t there. The owner, Michelle was there and Michelle, I was like, she’s like great. But I was afraid of her because I was depressed. And then I like walked out without talking to her, holding the CV that I hadn’t like handed to her, walked around the corner, cried, called my Mum. She was like, you have to go back in there. Obviously didn’t. Then the next day my Mum was like go back to that gallery and apply for that job. Centrelink will not come in for six weeks. You need to be already applying. Also great advice. Also grim. Also true. So I went back the next day, I applied for the job and Louise was like, you are unqualified. We have had somebody more qualified than you apply, but our Sunday girl is actually going to Venice. So to like work on one of those Guggenheim internships. And she was like, We can give you five hours a week on Sundays and I need a new babysitter. Can you babysit? And I was like, yes. And so that was my first job in the arts. I worked Sundays and I babysat this kid called Sebastian, and it, and it changed everything. I turned up on time. I was so excited. I could use Photoshop. That was the number one skill back whenever this was 2016, 2015. If you could use Photoshop, you could have a job. I started working on their blog. I rebuilt their website. It was my first website. . Um. And I still hang out with Sebastian. I took him to like see Cosmos Midnight at the opera house for his birthday. And it was his first gig that he ever went to.

00:20:17 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:20:17 Nick Breedon
thought you were going to say Sky Zone?

00:20:19 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I’m not welcome back to Sky Zone. But yeah, that was. I think that after that, I worked at the Qantas credit union arena before it shut down. And that was like my first like entertainment industry job. They gave me a three month contract because they were closing and they needed somebody who could work Photoshop. And now I manage the digital programs for Creative Australia. And that is, you know, you too kids can get a niche job in the arts and slowly work it into, uh, Slightly better paid niche job in the arts.

00:20:55 Kiera Brew Kurec
Ah. And so all of this time, were you practicing or have you taken time off at certain times to focus more on work? How was that? How have you balanced those?

00:21:06 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I think, I don’t really have as big a divide between my art work and my professional work, I sort of see it all as like my practice, like for three years, I made my best friend, Andy, a show, a video for her FBI radio show called Pure Space. I would make her one 30 second video a week. And I like that felt like a part of my practice, it all, I think that I have probably exhibited at some point every year, but the kind of like scope of what that looks like has like sometimes somebody just wants to play my one hit wonder work, Woolworth’s Orchid. And sometimes I have like, like the live works show. So like, yeah. But I think it’ll, I think it’s made me a better artist and a better. Like professional, like, to think of them all kind of as my practice.

00:22:10 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. I, I remember in, I think it was season one, Ari Rain Glorie spoke about his kind of curatorial and public programs practice as one in the same with his own performative and artistic practice that they just kind of all bleed into each other and inform each other. His approach to curating is the same as his approach to making and there isn’t a divide. And, and kind of, you know, for some people that is really important to like wear two different hats, but for some people it is all of just, it’s just all one creative practice.

00:22:44 Nick Breedon
So obviously you’re someone who has worked collaboratively quite a lot, throughout your practice and career. How, how have you kind of found that as a process? Like, was that something that you, you found that you had to kind of like learn or grow into? Or do you think that came from like your, your youth being bullied into working in the theater against your will? Like, how did, how did you kind of come to that sort of like, is that something, it seems to be something you obviously enjoy, you know, that process of working collaboratively collaboratively with other people, you know, like having kind of part of their vision sort of come to life and like kind of, uh, creating that with someone else.

00:23:25 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I used to say, I mean, I still say it, but, uh, I really think the best work is made in the space between people and I, I am better in response to somebody else. Like, I think that by myself, I can get like a little bit like circular thinking, and with other people, like their energy kind of, I will bounce off their energy and we can talk our way into something far more like real and rewarding than maybe we would have before. Like, my husband. Um. And I met making shows together at the Opera House, and I think that, like, I, I do not have a friend who I haven’t worked with at, in some capacity, at some point, I don’t think. I think working with people is, like, the truest joy and, like, the loveliest way to know somebody. And I really, I really enjoy it. I think that, yeah. You’re making shows with other people, there’s nothing better. Why would you do it alone?

00:24:38 Nick Breedon
I’m questioning everything now. You spoke a little bit about your, you know, horrific year in honours. But do you, are there any, other challenges that you’ve had kind of throughout your, your practice or your career that, you would want to speak to?

00:24:54 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I think it’s quite funny because I’m gonna say the one that everyone says and then I’ll say, I think, a very specific one. The first one is obviously just like affording to live. I, I cannot advocate enough for the niece program. Oh yeah. I think everybody should do it. The government will pay you a small amount of money for nine months to start a business and they will put you through a cert 2 or cert 4 or whatever in a small business management. It is so good. It turned me into an adult, but doing a profit and loss on my life and life as practice and stuff made me realize that like it wasn’t until a few years ago that I made over 50, 000 in a year. But it was amazing. Like I did like five years worth of tax just to get through that. It was so good.

00:25:42 Kiera Brew Kurec
I think, yeah. Just bringing that up. The learning how to do a profit and loss and like looking at your practice and your life, like, or, and just having a good accountant that will even sit down, like I learned that stuff through my accountant who was really generous to kind of give me time to be like, At some point Kiera you got to turn this around.

00:26:03 But like, I feel If

00:26:04 Nick Breedon
he didn’t cancel you for the shoebox full of recipts that .

00:26:07 Kiera Brew Kurec
Now I have a really great system.

00:26:08 Nick Breedon
It wasn’t even a shoebox, was it? I think it was a jug.

00:26:10 Kiera Brew Kurec
It was a jug, a water jug.

00:26:12 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Oh, we’ve all been there.

00:26:14 Kiera Brew Kurec
I was, I was a baby, but he like, that’s how I learned how to do those things and sit down and really kind of look. At the hard facts of what is outgoing from my arts practice and what is incoming and how much I was living on from part time jobs. And, I yeah. I could not advocate for that happening earlier and that that is actually something that is taught in university is like how to look really objectively at the finances and let wright profit and loss statements.

00:26:45 Nick Breedon
Oh, right. Yeah. And like if you, if you’re out here listening to Pro Prac right now and you have never done your tax and you’re, you know, just starting out in your practice or maybe you were a little bit further along in your practice and you don’t have an accountant that you can sit down and talk to. Find someone who, who has that, like ask every artist that you see until someone says, Oh yeah, I’ve got a great accountant and get their name and make an appointment with them immediately.

00:27:11 Sophie Penkethman-Young
DM me. It’s Sophie P underscore Y. I have an amazing accountant. I’m obsessed with him. All of my friends go and see him. And then we. get drunk and talk about how much we love our apartment. James Madden.

00:27:25 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:27:25 Sophie Penkethman-Young
based in orange. 10 out of 10.

00:27:27 Kiera Brew Kurec
Fantastic. Thank you. That is

00:27:29 Nick Breedon

00:27:29 Sophie Penkethman-Young

00:27:30 Kiera Brew Kurec
Great resource.

00:27:31 Sophie Penkethman-Young
His voice sounds like a true crime podcaster and he’ll do it over the phone. But yeah, I think like that was really like, that was huge for me. It was like a real struggle to understand like what exactly this like wriggly worm, like freelance work, some part time work, my practice, like I couldn’t, I couldn’t pull it out. I was terrified of getting audited by Centrelink. It has now been seven years, so they cannot audit me. The day that it went over seven years, I was like,

00:28:05 Kiera Brew Kurec
Is that the timeframe?

00:28:06 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Deep and profound relief.

00:28:07 Nick Breedon
Oh, yeah. Um. They actually just changed it so that it’s, there’s no, what is it called, the, the, uh, yeah, the, the thing.

00:28:18 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yeah, which is so bad.

00:28:20 Kiera Brew Kurec
But you need to keep your tax.

00:28:21 Nick Breedon
That was Malcolm Turnbull.

00:28:22 Kiera Brew Kurec
You need to keep your paperwork for seven years, right? And then you can get rid of it. Not like someone we shared a studio with once who lit a fire and threw all of their tax on and I stepped outside being like,

00:28:34 Nick Breedon
and I’m burning on my receipts like, Oh, they’re seven years old. He’s like, no, I just did my tax.

00:28:39 Kiera Brew Kurec
No, no, no, no, no. So yeah, that’s a PSA for everyone. Keep your receipts.

00:28:42 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Keep your receipts for seven years.

00:28:44 Nick Breedon
But this is, Centrelink’s different from an ATO. Yeah.

00:28:48 Sophie Penkethman-Young
It used to be the same. Oh man, it used to be, oh, that’s so dire anyway, when I thought I couldn’t get audited by Centrelink anymore, this is a sad podcast now, I was like so deeply relieved. And so a lot of that anxiety was really tough. And the other thing that, I really had to navigate with my practice is that there are places that will have me as a producer or as an administrator. And that will reject me as an artist. That is a, that is fine. And, you know, like totally just if you’re for some people, you’re not for other people, but it is always going to be hard when you were for them for your administrative labor and they don’t want you for your artistic labor because I think there is this thing, especially like when you operate in like ARI land where I spent a lot of time and a lot of my formative years, like working at ARI’s volunteering at ARI’s being on the board for things, um there is this idea that you put in all of this work and all of this care and all of this love to the artist that you work with, and one day it will be your turn to get that. And realising that it, in some places it’s like just never going to be my turn because it is not for me. That is, that was like very humbling and very like complicated to understand. And I think now I have like, like my Mum said this great thing to me once where she’s like, don’t mix up your friends and your fans. Some of your friends will be fans of your work and some of your friends are just friends and some people will be fans of your work and they are not your friends and they might not even want to be your friends. Like, and I think that’s actually like also true with kind of organisations. But it’s a complicated thing to understand.

00:30:47 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve definitely experience that too. And yeah, there’s a little bit of bitterness as well, because you’re like, Oh, you’re right. Yeah, I see what I see what’s going on here. But yeah,

00:31:00 Nick Breedon
yeah, well, I think, I think some, some places too, like they have a kind of person that they, you know, they, they want to make into a star, you know? So if you don’t, if you don’t fit that, like, you’re never going to be that at that place, you know?

00:31:15 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I Think sometimes you are the perfect worker for somewhere and and then some places like, but that’s, you know, that’s the thing. Like there are places that have programmed me and should me so much care that I have never worked at. And there are people that work there that feel the same way about that place. So it’s like you have to, but I think holding that is like. It is, it’s like the downside to life is practice, because like, life is practice is also like when they reject you, they reject all of you. Yeah.

00:31:49 Nick Breedon
Yeah. I think that’s, that’s sort of part of why, you know, in the arts that we feel so deeply, the, uh, imposter syndrome, because, because, All of us is wrapped up in, in what we make and what we produce, so it’s so easy to feel, like an imposter when your whole, your whole kind of sense of self and identity is wrapped up in, like, what you make. Because it’s not just you going to a gallery and being like, you know, look at this thing that I made that is not, you know, it doesn’t have anything to do with me. your actually going to them and being like, Hey, look, here’s me. And they’re like, no, we don’t, we’re not really interested in that.

00:32:27 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Yeah. Well, kind of on that note, what does a successful practice mean to you?

00:32:33 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Um. Like keeping making, I think, like, as I said, there are years where like I have like prolific years and then I have, you know, chill years. I actually, my friend Annette Orley got me really into numerology and this year I’m in year seven, which is a year of introspection, but next year is my power year. If you’re listening and want to program somebody in their power year, but yeah, I have Even on these kind of more introspective, like, less, like, artwork focused times, like, keeping making is really important. And like, and keeping engaged in, in it. And whether that’s like, in my work, like, You know, the, in the discourse that’s around this kind of like intersection of art and technology or whether it’s like in my practice, which is at the intersection of art and technology, you know, like, being chronically online, but yeah, keeping engaged in the discourse critically and, but joyfully and, and making and learning new skills at the moment I’m spending a lot of time on cinema 4d. And that’s like, That’s really, that’s just so joyful to sort of still be engaged in like making it in that way.

00:33:55 Kiera Brew Kurec
Mm. Great. Obviously, you’ve just said that you are having a more of a, introspective year. Would you be able to give us, and you’re on maternity leave, as well, would you be able to give us a bit of a rundown of what a day in the life of Sophie looks like at the moment and how you weave your practice into it.

00:34:14 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yeah, sure. So I am on maternity leave, but I am still working on some projects, which I’m really enjoying at the moment. Uh, we’re also, we saw a sleep witch, like a, like a specialist to help us work out like Frances sleeping so I could tell you exactly what it looks like because we now follow a sleep schedule.

00:34:37 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:34:37 Nick Breedon
That’s so good.

00:34:38 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yeah. So wake up at 6.30 and then we say, good morning, Francis, because we’re trying to help her differentiate between night energy, low key and day energy, which sounds like a musical.

00:34:51 Nick Breedon
I love this.

00:34:52 Sophie Penkethman-Young
And then, uh, she goes down for like a 9am nap and then, uh, I generally have something That has come up that is like always a little bit random at the moment. Tomorrow, I am doing a debate for live works on whether or not AI is going to destroy the art world. Unfortunately, AI will not destroy the art world, nothing can destroy the art world. It’s like a cockroach,

00:35:18 Nick Breedon
despite trying,

00:35:19 Sophie Penkethman-Young
despite trying. So I’ll like write a bit of that. I’m working on, our third year, me and, Alex, who I work with as a graphic designer, sometimes on web projects. We’re working on a website for SCA for their grad show. So I will do some like data entry for that, uh, and update the project management notion. And then, uh, I’m doing a bunch of Cinema 4D renders for a work that I’m making for Verge in March. So I will watch the spinny wheel of death until Francis wakes up and then pretty much do that again in every nap section, which is actually like a really lovely way to work.Cause I would only ever work in like weird hyper focus. SO it’s just like that around this. Five months old schedule.

00:36:08 Nick Breedon
That’s like a, that’s like a good constraint, like to work, to work with.

00:36:13 Kiera Brew Kurec
It’s like, what is, what is it called? The little 20 minute things?

00:36:16 Nick Breedon
Oh, it’s like a Pomodoro.

00:36:17 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. But according to Francis.

00:36:19 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yeah. Which is like really, has been really lovely having that. Like structure, I think before we had that, everybody was like, what even is a day?

00:36:29 Nick Breedon
Yeah. You’re like, have I paid in 12 hours? I don’t think so.

00:36:33 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I don’t even know. Whereas now everyone is like really in a good groove with it. Thank you. Sleep Witch. 10 out of 10.

00:36:40 Nick Breedon
Is she actually called Sleep Witch?

00:36:42 Sophie Penkethman-Young
No, she’s not. We just call her that because she’s like bewitched our child. Yeah. Oh, right. Yeah.

00:36:47 Kiera Brew Kurec
That’s fantastic that it’s working.

00:36:51 Nick Breedon
Does, does, does this work with adults as well? Can I?

00:36:54 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Actually like, now we’re all on the sleep schedule, like the nighttime sleep schedule and I’m kind of obsessed. I will give you the Sleep Witches details. I think they do work with adults too.

00:37:05 Nick Breedon
Oh good, good. What, so what time do you, yeah, I have so many questions. What time do you go to sleep then?

00:37:09 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Uh, at the moment I go to sleep at like 8. 30, cause I have two wakes in the middle of the night.

00:37:14 Nick Breedon
Yeah. So you, you, It seemed to me like someone who has quite a lot of practical skills in a lot of different areas. But, do you have anything specific, I mean, aside from the, you’re a wonderful accountant, that you would share with artists that is an amazing kind of, professional, practical resource?

00:37:33 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yes. But I would just like to say that I’m saying this. I have a particular resource on behalf of myself and not of any employers that I may or may not be on maternity leave from and any employers of the future. Okay. So what you do is you take a photo of your student card and then you put it into Photoshop and then you change the date that you finish so that it’s always current. And then you use that to get discounted software.

00:37:57 Kiera Brew Kurec
So good.

00:37:58 Nick Breedon
Oh, software.

00:37:59 Sophie Penkethman-Young

00:37:59 Kiera Brew Kurec
That is a good one.

00:38:00 Nick Breedon
That is a great one. I do that at the pool, but you know, software is better.

00:38:05 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I think software might save you more money.

00:38:07 Nick Breedon

00:38:08 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Uh, other than that, if you can possibly, I did this like many years ago, go to somebody in your life. I went to my grandfather and ask them for a masonry drill for Christmas. Having a masonry drill is incredible. Learn how to use it. It will save you so much time, so much energy. Borrowing drills is exhausting. Gallery drill bits are always blunt. If you can use it yourself and if you have one, it is. It’s, it is incredible. It completely changed my life and now, and like nothing is hotter than when you start seeing somebody go to their house, patch their walls, sand them back, hang their art. It’s like truly like nothing is more powerful than that as an energy, like go for it. And then the last thing is find a couple of people who do really good YouTube tutorials in what you’re looking for. And then bookmark the creators because normally you are just searching like random words on Google to get your YouTube tutorials. If you find people that are good and that like talk to you, bookmark them. They’ve probably made a tutorial on that and it is far more effective than looking through like seven every time. Yeah.

00:39:28 Kiera Brew Kurec
That is great advice.

00:39:30 Nick Breedon
It is all very good advice. Yeah. I’ve definitely done all of these things.

00:39:33 Kiera Brew Kurec
Absolutely. I was just giving that drill advice to a friend who just. I just moved into a new place and I was like, where do you keep your drill? And she’s like, I don’t have a drill. And I was like, Oh,

00:39:43 Nick Breedon
you just flipped the table

00:39:46 Kiera Brew Kurec
and she was like, I don’t know how often, I mean, she’s not an artist. She was like, I don’t know how often I’m going to need it. And I was like, no, everybody needs a drill to have a drill. Yeah. Everybody needs it.

00:39:59 Sophie Penkethman-Young
It’s so empowering. I think it’s like. I think it is one of the best life skills that I have building a shelf. Oh, we have like 32 shelves in my house, like in my apartment, but like, it’s, it’s game changing. And then I have like never, I’ve always gone bond back because I can patch a wall.

00:40:21 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:40:23 Nick Breedon
I think, even like, even if you don’t think that you will use a drill very often, you can get a corded drill. And obviously the batteries will never go bad. So like, if you’re not sure, you can probably buy a corded drill that will, you know, be much more powerful than a, than a cheap cordless drill. And that can, you know, that’s a, that’s a, an incredible start if you’re not sure.

00:40:49 Kiera Brew Kurec
Hmm. I don’t know. The batteries are pretty good these days. My mom’s drill, she’s had for, uh. A very long time and it’s cordless and it’s, it’s still good.

00:40:58 Nick Breedon
Yeah. I mean, like if, you know, if you don’t have like 200 bucks to drop on it on a drill and you’re kind of looking at like the, you know, there’s ones that come at Ikea, you know, the one that you can get at Ikea, that’s more like a cordless, screwdriver.

00:41:11 Kiera Brew Kurec
But it’s a great like birthday or Christmas present, get your, your whole family to like put in for it.

00:41:16 Nick Breedon
Absolutely. Which is I think what I actually, asked for my, I think my like 18th birthday. I asked for like, you know, a, a drill, which was a corded drill, I feel like, but this was like in the before times.

00:41:28 Kiera Brew Kurec
I feel like there should be, you know, a graduation starter set that you come out of art school with, and it’s like you get your ABN, you get a drill, you get , you get like handed a, like, you know, a recommendation for an accountant. They should be like, these are the, these are the things we need. A

00:41:45 Sophie Penkethman-Young
This is like, it’s so funny. Because I didn’t, I’m like, I’m kind of an internet artist. Like, I don’t really drill that much, but it has like defined me socially. Like I am a person with a Lupa player and a drill and both of these things, like people are like. I’m in demand.

00:42:04 Nick Breedon
Like, I was going to say, you should be careful saying that you have a looper

00:42:08 Sophie Penkethman-Young
I lent my Lupa to somebody and they didn’t return it and I can’t remember who, so I’m a person currently without a Lupa

00:42:13 Kiera Brew Kurec
well this is a call out, if you’re listening and you have Sophie’s looper, please return it.

00:42:18 Nick Breedon
Return it.

00:42:19 So that someone else can borrow it.

00:42:20 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Can borrow it and then steal it. And then steal it.

00:42:23 Nick Breedon
It’s a circulate economy of the Lupa. I really do feel that though. Like, I feel like. Everyone’s always looking for someone with a lupa.

00:42:31 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:42:31 Nick Breedon
And then whoever has a lupar is like, yeah, borrow my lupar.

00:42:34 Kiera Brew Kurec
I think this is like, I remember the thing being when we were in undergrad that people would be gifted like vitamin P or vitamin D, like those big Phaidon books. It’s like, That is useless. No one needs that. We need a lupa, you need a, yeah, you need a drill, like, these are the real practical things.

00:42:53 Nick Breedon
Buy hand tools. Yeah. Hand tools never go bad.

00:42:57 Kiera Brew Kurec
And like, if you realize that you aren’t going to use them, you can sell them because they stay of value, like,

00:43:04 Nick Breedon
Or, if you think you don’t need them, just keep them another 10 years because you might find out that you need them in 10 years when you know how to use them.

00:43:11 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Oh, you’ll definitely need them. Yeah.

00:43:12 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Never throw away tools.

00:43:15 Sophie Penkethman-Young
No, no.

00:43:17 Nick Breedon
Um. Yeah, we really all got into that advice, advice column.

00:43:20 Sophie Penkethman-Young
That was really passionate.

00:43:23 Kiera Brew Kurec
To round this all out, Sophie, if you could go back and, tell you, give yourself some advice at any point in your practice, either in undergrad when you were doing the darkroom prints or even when you were like in the depths of honours or on the other side of it. What advice would that be

00:43:43 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Like eat, cigarettes, Ritalin, and a piece of cake,

00:43:49 Nick Breedon
I hope there’s a comma after each of those.

00:43:51 Sophie Penkethman-Young
It’s not food. You think it’s food, but it’s like, it’s not. And then one of the reasons why you’re crying in public is because you are consisting on nicotine, sugar, and like essentially speed and like you will feel better once you eat, and if you eat in the daytime, it will be better for your digestion than only eating at like 10 p. m. at night when you’re so definitely hungry and tired that you give up and you go and buy like a bread snack from Coles. Also, Coles doesn’t have good bread snacks at 10 p m. Just like, do better with food. And also Stop trying to look for mentors in older people, like the best mentorship you’re going to get is from your friends and peers. And, uh, you will get that from working with them, you’ll get that from hanging out with them. Like, Talia Smith is like one of the smartest people that I know. We are friends and she is like one of the best mentors I’ve ever had, just purely through our friendship. Yeah, I think when you’re young. Or just starting out, not even necessarily young, there is this idea that like mentorship is like, this mentor is going to come from heaven and then they’re going to find you a gallery and they’re going to tell you what’s wrong with your work and then they’re going to show you the world. And I think that they are few and far between. And also like, that is not really. How mentorship works. Yeah. And you’ll get a lot more from like actually really listening to your friends and not just like thinking in your head what you’re gonna say next.

00:45:36 Nick Breedon
Mm. I think also like mentors, it’s not like, how do I do art? It’s like, how do I pay car registration ? You know? But it’s also, I mean like the old, older one. Yeah. You know?

00:45:48 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

00:45:50 Nick Breedon
Don’t overlook the ones that you already have.

00:45:52 Kiera Brew Kurec
Oh, exactly.

00:45:53 Nick Breedon
Sorry, I’m like jumping in on your advice now.

00:45:54 Kiera Brew Kurec
No, I think that that’s really great advice because it’s come up a few times in this season and the last just about like, how do you find your mentor and yeah, just looking at, at who is already around you and who are you learning from, from their own life experiences and their perspectives is a really great take.

00:46:13 Nick Breedon
Absolutely. And I think, I know that. You and I, Kiera, have talked about that, that effect of, which is, you know, essentially what you’ve just said is that not only are your friends and the people around you your mentors, but they end up have, you know, they have their own careers. They become curators, you know, they become, they become the people who put you in shows. They become the people that you collaborate with. They come, you know, they become the people who you know, the people that you study with, the people that are your friends and not just like, you know, young dorks that you hang out with their future artists and curators and amazing people who like, you know, just like keep, keep everyone around.

00:46:55 Kiera Brew Kurec
Well, I think it’s also that thing as well as like. You, you know, don’t build friendships with the idea of trying to instrumentalize that friendship. Like that is not a good way to be a friend or like, well, you’re not being a friend. And it’s also not a great way to find, people either because you’re coming in with there being conditions. Make friends. And learn from them rather than,

00:47:21 Nick Breedon
and what can you do for them? You know? . Not, not like, oh, all your friends are gonna make you famous.

00:47:25 Kiera Brew Kurec
I’m sure that the feeling is mutual on Talia’s end with you as well. Yeah.

00:47:29 Sophie Penkethman-Young
It’s also like, I just remember being on the runway board with Nanette Orly and watching the way that like she worked with people. And like, I think Talia curated me into like my, one of my first shows in Sydney. I was like a real baby artist and like working with both of these people and just like watching how they worked and being like really carefully and being like Oh like this is how they chair a meeting This is how they ask me questions. This is how they send an email um And just like, like taking that, like really like soaking it up because I couldn’t, I think when you’re at university, you like, you’re like your lecturers, they feel really far away. And also like, you’re so depressed, in my case, from not eating, but also like, you’re so in your own head and in your own work that like, it’s actually quite hard to take things in like that. But as soon as you’re out or as soon as you can like, can free up that part of your mind, just really watch how people work because like, working is like a philosophical pursuit and the way you work with people is like one of the things that can really define you and your life. So just watch how other people do it and learn from it.

00:48:51 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. That is wonderful advice. We love it.

00:48:56 Nick Breedon
So good.

00:48:56 Kiera Brew Kurec
Well, thank you so much, Sophie, for joining us in the studio today. It’s been a pleasure. There was lots of really good laughs in there too.

00:49:03 Sophie Penkethman-Young
Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

00:49:06 Kiera Brew Kurec
I now want to find the animal farm.

00:49:08 Sophie Penkethman-Young Oh my god, Imagine.

00:49:10 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.

00:49:25 Kiera Brew Kurec
This season of ProPrac was funded by Creative Australia. Our music is created by Evelyn Ida Morris.

00:49:33 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.

00:49:49 Kiera Brew Kurec
Also, consider sharing this episode with a friend.