Season One – Lynda Roberts

Lynda Roberts

Season 1 – Episode 7


Instagram handle @public.assembly
Instagram Handle @publicfieldoffice

Book: Decolonizing Solidarity by Clare Land


Kiera Brew Kurec 0:10
Hi, I’m Kiera Brew Kurec

Nick Breedon 0:11
And I’m Nick Breedon

Kiera Brew Kurec 0:13
And you’re listening to Pro Prac a podcast where we explore the professional practice of artists and hear stories.

Nick Breedon 0:21
Hello, and thanks for joining us today on Pro Prac. Today, our guest is Lynda Roberts. Based in Melbourne, Lynda Roberts is an interdisciplinary practitioner operating at the intersection of art design and organizational systems. Motivated by the creative potential of public space and the critical role artists play in the built environment she’s currently a PhD candidate at Deakin University, researching how we make art public. Lynda is co-director of Public Assembly with Ceri Hann, a creative studio exploring the social dynamics of public space. Their work has taken form as participatory workshops, tactical encounters and immersive installations, often working with and within civic systems. Between 2014 and 2017 Lynda was senior public art program manager at the City of Melbourne. In this role, she developed Melbourne’s public art framework and a suite of new projects, including Test Sites and the Biennial Lab. Thanks for joining us in studio today, Lynda.

Lynda Roberts 1:17
thanks for asking me to come along.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:19
It’s so exciting to have you here. When we were thinking up this podcast, you were definitely someone that we thought of immediately as someone we wanted to talk to you so thank you.

Nick Breedon 1:29
So Linda, can you tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are today?

Lynda Roberts 1:34
My journey into the arts has been long. And definitely there have been many different paths I’ve taken exploring creative practice, I says what’s been underscoring everything about my practice has been that I actually have a creative practice number one, but where that sits, whether it’s in design, or the arts is something I’m still I’m still working it out. And I says it’s the thing, it’s not. It’s not linear in any way, shape, or form. Yeah,

Kiera Brew Kurec 2:06
Do you position it in a way that it can coexist in both realms simultaneously, as well. Or do you find yourself bouncing from one to the other?

Nick Breedon 2:18
If I think back from when I finished high school, I think it’s more that I was in one field. And then there was a definite point in which I knew I needed to make a really strong and very courageous decision and take a risk if I was going to move into the arts, and that it meant not getting work. It meant going on the NIES Scheme. It meant I had to make a really clean line. Otherwise, I was always going to be stuck in design. And that was a really critical point in my life.

Kiera Brew Kurec 2:53
Yeah. So after school, did you go on to study design?

Nick Breedon 2:59
Yeah. So interestingly, enough thinking back about, you know, when you’re in high school, and you’re, you’re studying, I was I grew up in Sydney. I’m a kid from the western suburbs. And I really liked science and art, but my parents were very conservative about pursuing the arts. So I’m on a whim, right before I had to put in my preferences for university, I made a decision to apply for architecture. I really had no idea what architecture was about, where I really wanted to do was go to Sydney College of the Arts. And Mum and I had gone and had a look at Sydney College of the Arts, and Mum was freaking out (Laughter). It was down in a warehouse in Rozelle. And she was not happy about it.

my god, what did you see there?

It was just a giant warehouse it was just brutal space. And I realized now I grew up in a very protective environment where actually I was kind of on a very tight leash in terms of engaging with public realm. And I think it’s quite interesting. Now that public realm is the thing that I find most interesting, because it’s the thing that as I grew up, I wasn’t kind of it wasn’t the space that I was able to operate in as a young person or let out into. So studied architecture. And I think what’s interesting about the idea of slipping between disciplines, is that architecture and design completely informed my practice now, in ways that are subtle. It’s the way that I work, you know, whether it’s working in situ, you know, I when I studied architecture, I had to do a 12 hour watch and observe the Opera House for 12 hours. And this is like week two of my architecture course,

wow that’s brutal.

Lynda Roberts 4:39
It’s brutal, but it’s also fascinating because you see public realm and public space and you obviously are building operating in these kinds of arcs of time, kind of kind of deep reading of the space, and how important that’s become in all of my work. Things like the city as a laboratory or a space in which experimentation can occur. And other things in terms of my architecture influencing me have been, at one point, Chris Johnson, who was the government architect at the time spoke to all of us baby architects. And he talked about the power of the brief and the client, and you’re only as good as the brief that you’re given. And that was so instrumental for me to think about that actually, no matter how creative you are, how no matter how good you are as a credit designer, unless you’re working with incredible briefs, and the person’s asking you the right question, you’ll only be as good as the question that you’ve been asked. And I’ve realized that asking the question is the creative act.

Kiera Brew Kurec 6:01

Nick Breedon 6:02
So in lots of ways, thinking about the arts, as a space, which puts back those questions, and how the power of that that’s kind of where it was shifting, it was a really key point, in my studies to think about, well, you know, it’s like a architects are really on a chessboard, and there’s someone else moving the pieces. So how do you then influence up the line to the power structures that influence and put money and influence our public realm?

Kiera Brew Kurec 6:30
so upon graduating from architecture, did you then go on to work in architecture for a period of time?

Nick Breedon 6:38
So architecture has two degrees. And I finished my first degree at Sydney Uni. And it was really lucky when my lecturers recommended that I work at Sydney have a year out. So that’s kind of like, year out, you go out into the field, you learn stuff. . So that was a great opportunity. I get got to learn, got to work with Virginia Kerridge. She was a young architect, she’s about 15 years older than me. She was just starting to emerge as a leading light into the Sydney architecture scene. It was her and me and her husband at that time, Phil Wallace, and Virginia got her first architecture award. And I thought I was living the dream. And I basically didn’t go back to uni. So I worked for her for seven years. In developing, designing houses, some retail spaces and the like, generally, it was private spaces, private clients. And that’s when I really started to see that we were making these exquisite spaces, but actually, only for elite kind of wealthy people.

Kiera Brew Kurec 7:47
And were these domestic environments as well?

Lynda Roberts 7:50
Absolutely. Exquisitely beautiful. And in terms of artistic integrity, Virginia was a leading light in terms of poetics, use of materials. I mean, she was, you know, it’s an incredible opportunity at such an emerging practitioner to work for a leading, you know, leading female architect at the time. And I suppose I lived vicariously through her and I thought, wow, this was this is my future. This is what I’m aspiring to. And at some point, I realized that I wasn’t interested in working in private sector in the sense of working on private houses. And this thing Chris Johnson had said about developing the brief, it came back to me about well, actually, I’m more interested in public realm. I’m really interested in thinking about how you ask the right questions. So Virginia, I burnt out after about seven years. Virginia, and I were one of a group of maybe five or six architects who were developing prototype housing for the Olympic Village in Sydney. And where everyone else had an office and we were working on drawing boards. So hand drawn and everyone else’s on CAD, we would toddle up to Mirvac and we wouldn’t have had much sleep. And I burnt myself out and ended up with chronic fatigue. Also, what was really interesting about that time working for Virginia was I was a contractor, and I wasn’t actually earning heaps of cash. So it was very stressful. It just moved out of home at the time, living in Surry Hills, trying to make ends meet, trying to reconcile life, like life outside of home and working for, you know, an architect and doing a really stressful job. And I was a workaholic. So I would work until 10pm at night, and I just burnt myself out. So at that point, I went to my Mum and she said why don’t you move to Byron Bay and take a break? And that’s what I did for two years.

Nick Breedon 9:42
That’s classic advice.

And that changed everything. Yeah, it’s so interesting health. At this moment in your life, which you see is like, Oh my god, it’s the end of the world actually ends up being such an important moment where you rethink your practice.

Kiera Brew Kurec 9:59
if you choose to take that time to stop or to pivot.

Nick Breedon 10:04
Or if you get forced to

Kiera Brew Kurec 10:05

Lynda Roberts 10:06
Yeah I was forced to you know, with chronic fatigue comes depression. You know, all you do is fall asleep, and you actually retreat from the world.

Kiera Brew Kurec 10:16
Did you think that there was maybe signs leading up to that moment that you kind of like suppressed or pushed away? Or was it kind of a, you know, big explosion in your face? And you didn’t see it coming in terms of how you had been treating your mind and your body and your practice as well?

Lynda Roberts 10:35
Yeah, it’s a workaholic. Yeah, you know, I should have seen those tell tail signs and I was stressed about not having lots of money to live off. So you know, my folks, you know, couldn’t financially help me out. I mean, you know, they shouldn’t need to, but I found really interesting was, there’s an illusion that architecture is well paid, and it is if you are in corporate sector. But if you’re working for really small practices, they’re struggling to make ends meet. So it’s just like an arts practice, you want to work for a practice that has integrity, that spends time designing really amazing things, then actually, you’re going to be compromised by how much you earn. So it was what I realized was, well, actually, you could be doing any creative practice, and you’d be earning about the same. So it was kind of those things all coming together.

Kiera Brew Kurec 11:18
And also, often when you are so fresh out of in whatever sector, maybe not, if you have actually studied business, but you don’t know or you might not understand how to manage your small amount of finances that you are coming in. So you are not only working with such a small amount of money, but you also might not have been informed on the best way to use it as well. Or it’s actually stretched so thin that you can create a safety net for yourself or start, you know, investing in your health or, getting to go to the dentist or things like that is something that it gets completely put aside when you are in such a small amount of income. So, those things kind of build up over time as well.

Lynda Roberts 12:08
I think we don’t acknowledge this, when we go through into education, this is a fundamental wellbeing how we look after our bodies, it’s actually and our minds, you know, how do we cook food If we’ve got limited budget? How do we ensure that we do cost effective exercise? And how do we ensure we know when to take a break? Yeah, these tools are not given to us. And particularly in architecture, it is notoriously bad for having crazy deadlines. You’re it’s a badge of honour to do 24 hours, you know, do all-nighters, it’s actually that’s part of the culture. You know, it’s the attitude and , I still struggle to shake it off.

Kiera Brew Kurec 12:45
Yeah. And I think also just generally, you know, kind of culture of what a break looks like, often people think it’s a holiday and that cost money, or that you kind of even now in terms of wellness, it’s often this kind of like treat yourself wellness which involves like a lot of money.

Nick Breedon 13:03
A retreat.

Kiera Brew Kurec 13:04
Yeah, rather than actually, what does it mean, maybe it means making sure that your phone is in another room at six o’clock at night so you, you can actually take time to switch off and that is taking time out or doesn’t mean getting up an hour earlier. So you can go for a walk outside, those kind of practices are actually free. But often we don’t even we’re not even told them because we’re marketed just kind of these packages and things more things to consume basically.

Nick Breedon 13:32
Well, you know, like thrashing yourself with booze, you know, to wind down, you know,



How many times it’s been very interesting, recent jobs that I’ve undertaken, that that has come back into the play, because it’s the culture, the culture, in certain organizations are you work hard, you play hard. And that happened in a couple of work contexts. And it’s really hard to manage that when your work culture supports that kind of, you know, having to.

Absolutely. So, from from Byron, how did you kind of move forward from that sort of like period of, you know, like, rehabilitation or, you know, for you like, how did you sort of come back from that?

Lynda Roberts 14:21
Yeah, it’s really lucky. I found yoga at that time, you know, I was in my mid just 26 or so. So, I found yoga and martial arts, and also acupuncture, and also pulled the pin in architecture in terms of this idealist romanticized, perfectionist goal that I had always dreamed of and that’s this idea of the heroic, singular creative fighting for their, you know, mode of expression. And that was big. That, to recognize that got counselling to talk about that. So it was really interesting how much work I had to do. But at the same time, I was very lucky, I got a very small part time gig working back in an architecture office, but it was very different. Pimping ourselves out to developers at the time was very interesting doing high rise buildings in Ballina. And for the first time ever, I was working for, you know, an architect, I didn’t kind of believe in, frankly. But learn a lot about Okay. What about having a practice that then supports another practice on the outside, and that was a big kind of shift for me. So after two years acupuncture, martial arts, yoga, I also at that time moved into and this is where chance, you know, it’s so interesting how chance encounters occur, I moved into this great house that happened to be a rock and roll festival, creating house in Byron, right. And through that, I just made this new set of connections. And that also kind of brought I suppose opened up what potentially my creative practice could be. And it was I moved back to Sydney after one of my tutors from Sydney Uni so many years before had said, I’m working at University of Western Sydney, I’ve got a great associate lectureship gig opening up, would you like to apply? It was looking at display an event design, I said, I’ll Yep, throw my hat in the ring. And so I moved back to Sydney, and started teaching at University of Western Sydney. And, and that was a part time gig and then also having a creative practice that started to bubble along the sides. And that’s when I started to look at things like radio, as a platform, and I, you know, volunteered for my local radio station, which was Bondi FM. And I did a radio show about the arts. So I started to think about what were my areas of interest. And I was like, yeah, the arts is definitely where I want to go. I’m really interested in how artists practice. So created an art show. And it was really doing the teaching and the radio show that I started to think about. Okay, What’s next for me? The teaching at Western Sydney, it was interesting, because I didn’t have my second degree in architecture, the head of school was like, you need to get your second degree. And that was the first time where I was like, Okay, I better get my act together and go back into architecture. And I did, I went and enrolled at UTS, and did the first and maybe it’s only a two year degree, and I did 18 months. And at some point, I just went, I do not want to practice architecture. And again, that was a pivot point where I just went, this isn’t for me, I suppose what I’ve realized I do a lot of work it out, try it, and then walk away. And that’s sometimes really hard.

Nick Breedon 17:56
I think, you know, you’ve already invested so much in pursuing a certain kind of thing. You know, sometimes it’s more effective to walk away, but we feel like we need to keep investing in it. Because we’ve already, you know, invested so much.

Lynda Roberts 18:12
yeah, at that point, I then started thinking about my teaching in Western Sydney, and thought, I’ve never earned enough money to even go overseas. So I then pimped myself out to the highest bidder, and I went corporate. I would never have done this, I would never have done this unless I’d had chronic fatigue. And I’d worked for this architect in Byron Bay, where I went, Okay, what if you have a practice that’s actually really pays you well, and then you have a creative practice on the side. And this is an idea called the barbell, I think it’s called what’s it called, is a barbell strategy, where you have one thing that enables you to kind of live and then you have another thing that actually enables you to practice. So basically, I de laminated, my practice between these two things, but at the same time, the corporate sector, it was so interesting, and it was so intense. And I had such incredible female bosses at the time, I had two that really believed in me, that, you know, I would do things like, I would run away from the office, and get back in my car and try and leave. And they would call me and say it’s okay, we will work this out.(Laughter) Like, I just had the best, most amazing women who would help me. But through that I had gone from, you wouldn’t hear a mouse like I was so quiet and kind of shy through the corporate doing these corporate work, I found my voice and then through doing the radio as well. So with these kinds of two things where it took me a long time to find my voice, and I would say it was at that point, that I started to realize that, you know, I had things I wanted to say or to open up and really have conversations with other people

Kiera Brew Kurec 19:59
and often it is through those experiences that are you know, where you challenge yourself to have to be in a place that might be uncomfortable or share different values to you, then you can really start to articulate what your values are. Through that process of comparison.

Nick Breedon 20:16
Yeah, if you’re not the kind of person maybe, you know, speaking from personal experience, if you’re not the kind of person who is just like, you know, really putting yourself out there all the time, it can be, you know, really hard. I mean, for me, it was really helpful to start I kind of radio, you know, like, I’m doing a little bit of radio, and it’s like, it’s good to just, actually, for me, it’s good to actually force myself like, it’s really challenging. It’s really hard, but it’s like, yeah, like trying to break through, then it’s like, oh, I live there. And it’s just like, you know, getting out.

Lynda Roberts 20:45
It’s so spot on Nick because because I was so shy. Radio, for me was really pushing me into my discomfort zone. And I realized, you know, I, frankly, you know, from Bondi FM, I then went to FBI, radio. And it was kind of a lovely, delightful experience at FBI because it combined my design work, I design the studios at the time when they set up. But then I also got an opportunity to work and be a producer on Sunday night movies, which was this really great experimental one hour of audio kind of experimentation. And I was so lucky, I was given that because it was the at that point that I started to see sound as an art form. And I was experimenting with sound walks back in the city, and using rebroadcasting of those sound recordings back into the radio broadcast. And it was at that point that I started to see that sound was his ultimate architecture, it was ephemeral. It was the ultimate form of architecture in a way, spaced in terms of time and space. It was immersive. It kind of did everything that architecture could be, but it in such a fluid and dynamic way. And it meant that you could control a process, and you didn’t have a client pulling the strings in terms of what you could and couldn’t do. But yeah, I think radio is a really important point.

Kiera Brew Kurec 22:06
So through this process of learning that sound could create these spaces. Did you decide to then move it into kind of what would be seen as an arts practice? Or were you kind of still directing it into an architecture scene? What was your kind of process in navigating that? Or did you even identify with it as an arts practice?

Lynda Roberts 22:33
Certainly thinking it was starting to be an practice. And I suppose the thing is that at the time, it was not, it was different to design. So it was something else. But at the time. I don’t know if I would, I wouldn’t have been very reluctant at that point to call myself an artist. Because it was all volunteer based projects, you know, in some ways, I could have been seen as a dilettante at that point in time, and and possibly, and no doubt, I would be still viewed that now in terms of my practice, and I still think my practice now is potentially still emerging.

Nick Breedon 23:11

Lynda Roberts 23:15
because there’s always been this dynamic of working and enabling and doing other things while having its practice at the same time. So that’s just the way my practice has evolved. But sound it’s interesting radio and sound. There’s another avenue that came from this. So through my old housemates at Byron Bay, and the radio connection. One of the people that I’ve met at that time was putting on a big rock and roll Festival on Cockatoo Island is the first time the island had ever been opened up to the general public ticket sales were going well, he called me up and said, Hey, do you want to do arts and decor for the festival? I said, Sure. We had about three months, I ended up calling at UTS and getting some interior design students to work with me. And I also worked with my flatmate at the time, who was also doing her master’s, or was doing her master’s at COFA. She curated Her name is Carly …., she and I worked on curating a series of site responsive spaces. And it was at that point that I started to see a connection point between radio and sound installations, site responsive works and festivals. And it was like penny drop and I then moved to Melbourne to do my Masters myself at RMIT in art and public space. And that was the point where I went Actually, I need to bring all this together. I actually need to stop I had like a mixed economy of doing like four or five things. I was also making jewellery at the time. You know, I had my radio show you know, doing a few little exhibitions as part of that radio shows like Hang on, moved to Melbourne at the time, the Melbourne laneways were really big. Obviously Melbourne knows what they’re doing. I’m coming to the city to try and work it out. I mean I intended to go back to Sydney. So, yeah, I didn’t intend to still be here.

Kiera Brew Kurec 25:05
it’s so interesting how when you kind of look back and reflect on your kind of process of making and how a share house can be as formative as the years studying at the University and those connections and fostering those connections and seeing the value in other people’s practices that sit outside of yours, how much you might end up using their, their knowledge or their influence, or collaborating with them in the future. And it always kind of, you know, shocks me how much I kind of think about these people that are in my lives, that are other people’s lives that have such huge influences outside of just the structures of a formal education.

Lynda Roberts 25:55
And reminds me of something that Patricia Piccinini said, at the Navara future forward conference that was in Canberra, in 2018. And she talked about her experience of working at or establishing an ARI Melbourne. And she talked about the idea that you don’t join a community, or create community, you build one. And you don’t just go in and say, I’ve claimed this space, this is a long game. Yeah, these connections you make, and you just don’t know which ones or what things are going to shape your future practice. And it is very interesting to think about being aware of opportunism, but also not being led by it. So that’s that really interesting thing to go actually, then when do you start to build a structure around it by going actually, I needed to get a pure line of vision so when opportunities come, yeah, I then know which things are actually aligned with my practice and which aren’t and then has taken me years to work.

Kiera Brew Kurec 26:52
But also, I think, maybe, maybe when I was younger, I might have been a little bit judgmental, or quicker to put those boundaries around myself being like you are, you know, you’re of the same kind of industry as me, therefore, I kind of think of you in one way, and you are a friend, but work in a different industry and so I think of you, or like associating my brain of you in a different kind of spot in my life, when actually those people have been as vital to my career and making parts of my work even be alive. You know, so you know, that the friend that I went to high school with who has gone on to help Jess Johnson at NGV, those kinds of how do those people you know, and you know, as a teenager, you don’t understand that those relationships are really important. And I’m so grateful for those people in my life. And I wish I kind of could tell myself as a younger person don’t put parameters around what you think is a professional relationship and what you think is a personal relationship, because your practice often relies on so many people.

Nick Breedon 28:00
I totally wish someone had told me that networking is just about making friends with people. It’s not, you know, it’s not this secret other thing, it’s just, it’s just friendships, just friendships that become, you know, professional relationships. And that’s, and that’s kind of, you know, all it is, it’s not this other weird,

Kiera Brew Kurec 28:18
or vice versa.

Lynda Roberts 28:19
Because it’s sometimes the methodologies and the approaches of those, those parallel areas, or completely different ones where true inspiration comes from I had a friend who worked in the film industry. And her experiences of working on site in cities was a really interesting was one of a number of things that influenced the development of Test Sites. And talking to her about her experience of being working with site managers. And how you get access to a city or make a film was kind of so interesting. I had only just Penny drop was like, Oh, I know someone who works in the film industry. And in finding those kinds of contexts you’ve already got opens up. Other lines of inquiry for practice?

Nick Breedon 29:02

Kiera Brew Kurec 29:03
So once you kind of came to Melbourne and started amassing all of your avenues of knowledge and skills, and how did that end up kind of manifesting into what your practice is today? Because I mean, there’s been so many avenues since then, as well.

Lynda Roberts 29:21
So maybe we start now and work backwards. So well. Right now, I’m operating out of a converted Bedford ice cream van. It’s called The Public Field Office at the moment, but otherwise known as lovingly known as Daisy the ice cream van and I’m currently doing my PhD. Looking at public art, and the process behind public art, which is drawing on my experience of working at City of Melbourne as first the public art program manager and senior Public Art Program Manager for about almost four years and with the PhD It’s been really interesting a lot of this is about drawing on the experience that I had from working inside a bureaucracy and a space that enables significant public art commissioning, and really opens up the city for artists to operate in. And was, in one way, really drawing on my architectural experience. I mean, it’s talking about space, but it’s also understanding the regulations. And architects are very good at being able to navigate those parameters. So I was drawing a lot on that experience, and also working with architects at City of Melbourne. So reaching out and starting to open up the program to start to connect more broadly with other areas. But at the same time, you know, still having a practice. So I have a practice called Public Assembly, which is, as you mentioned, it’s with Ceri Hann. And I met Ceri, when I first met moved to Melbourne, within a few months, he was working at RMIT. And we, you know, connected and started, you know, we have personal relationship. But then after about a year or so I actually changed courses. So I started out in Art and Public Space intensive which was amazing. I did six months and got a grad cert. And then I flipped back into ironically back into architecture, and did a master’s in architecture, but in expanded field. And it was like, Oh my god, someone who understands and misfit like me, who actually understands you can have an arts practice, that’s actually has a cue back to expanded practices in architecture. So through that having the Public Assembly and then working at City of Melbourne, it was interesting, because I, you know, for that period of time that I that I was there, I had started to establish a practice of called Public Assembly and it was at that point that I stopped doing design work. You know, before I started City of Melbourne, for three or four years, and I had, I think I could pretty much say there was a practice that was established through doing the Masters that mine through the supervision of yet another really amazing female practitioner and mentor of mine, …… where she goes to me stop, you know, you do a lot of enabling in these art festivals or rock festivals. What about if you did a work? And it was like, wow, okay, that’s a real shift. I’ll try that. And through that process, it was still a sound based work. But through that, I started to realize, yeah, there’s an interesting thing here about engaging with the public or not so much getting engaged with the public, but how do you immerse people into projects? And I became really interested in participatory work at that point in time and site specific work.

Kiera Brew Kurec 32:44
With this project and this practice, does Public Assembly, encapsulate that whole practice, or is it a fragment of your practice?

Lynda Roberts 32:54
Yeah, I think Public Assembly, I think of it as like a research laboratory. It’s a test space. There have been times in Public Assembly, I’ve had to pause in some aspects when I then took on being, you know, hate to say bureaucrat, but at City of Melbourne, and being a public art program manager, I think I’ve probably got two practices. So Public Assembly is one, it’s a collaboration. And that’s kind of why I say I’m emerging still in my mind, because I feel like a significant part of my practice in the public realm has been with somebody else. And while I have very clear ideas about where that practice sits, and very specific ways of practice, I haven’t done a lot of practice on my own projects on my own. So I would say there’s Public Assembly. And then there’s an enabling practice that either is working at City Melbourne, as a public program manager as an enabler, to assist artists, or it’s to work with young emerging artists, or creatives at RMIT, primarily, either in the teaching academic capacity, or my recent and kind of role that I’m currently paused because I’m doing study, I’m on study, leave it to do my PhD at RMIT Creative. So, you know, for me, my practice has to have two parts, I have to have a part that’s enabling and supporting, I can’t do it otherwise. And then there’s a part of me that’s about a research experimental space where it’s self-funded. We’re not going for, we have autonomy, agency, if I want to work in the public realm, I’m just going to go out and do it. I’m not going to ask for permission and I never did, which was so ironic when City of Melbourne employed me because I was like, Do you know my practice? Do you know what I do? (Laughter). Ceri and I are Public Assembly, we generally would go out and do something or a curator would asked us to do something, or develop a project, so it’s very interesting to suddenly be in the table’s turned in this enabling role. Like, well, this is interesting. Let’s see where it goes.

Nick Breedon 35:12
Would you mind talking a little bit about practicing with your partner?

Lynda Roberts 35:17
I mean I can turn the tables and ask you both that. (Laughter)

Kiera Brew Kurec 35:24
Sorry, just to interrupt even before Nick and I started collaborating on any projects. My practice, although I have autonomy over it became a collaboration in that just my living and my experiences, were often something that was shared with Nick or I would have conversations with them about it and it becomes collaborative, just through that process alone, I believe that there’s parts of my practice that are really shared, because I need feedback, or I need to have assistance in certain areas that are like technical because they’re like things that I really struggle with. So just as maybe a really close friend becomes like a, you know, sometimes of bringing in personal assistant, or photographer or something or resource to you, they become another resource of, yeah, bouncing ideas around and, you know, listening to crap on over dinner about like, what the new idea is. So even before actually coming out with a output that we’ve shared, I feel like we’re already collaborating in those ways.

Lynda Roberts 36:38
So true.

Nick Breedon 36:39
And this is our first collaboration, like a you know, as a thing on paper, you know, sorry, am I forgetting something? Or I’m just wondering, is it? our first creative project together. So that’s really exciting.

Kiera Brew Kurec 36:55
So I feel like in what you’ve told us, you’ve already kind of shared some of the challenges that you’ve had to overcome in terms of, and really coming up with some amazing solutions to create balance to make sure that you sustain yourself and sustain your practice. Have there been any other challenges that you’ve needed to overcome to continue our practice? Or do you think that these these methods that you’ve employed, have helped create a sustainable practice for you at the moment?

Lynda Roberts 37:30
Practice is never sustainable (Laughter). Just the neurosis about of, you know our brain you know it’s that that angst, the struggle, the pain, the kinds constant moments of, was that crap? Have I got anything to say? like moments of total insecurity. We all have it. So I think you’d be lying if you said that they weren’t constantly. I mean, yeah, I learned a big lesson getting chronic fatigue. And then I fall into the same trap over and over again. And then what’s been very interesting, I’m doing Of course, a, I’ve signed myself up to the world’s most craziest PhD, which is in one year, with, and I’m going to dob him in David Cross who also is as crazy to think that you can do it and that I can pull that off.

Kiera Brew Kurec 38:24
How does that happened.

Nick Breedon 38:25
How did you even make that happen? I feel like it’s like you’re breaking some kind of rules there like, you like one year I’m gonna do it. Watch me.

Deakin, and David Cross. That’s all I can say, great combination, and we’ll see it. But it’s been interesting, because I have been thinking about this one year, and thinking about the challenges. So certainly, I’ve established and I found a yoga school that does really cost effective like limitless kind of classes per week, like 25 bucks. So he’s like, That’s amazing. I can afford that. So thinking about what structures you put in place for mental health has been actually priority one. So yeah. But in terms of challenges, a really big challenge for me, was coming out of being a bureaucrat at City of Melbourne. And when I started, my peer group, my identity changed with my peers. And I became It is interesting role of power. And the challenge there was, I then was a symbol of a role people saw me as you’re the city, you’re a blocker. You are you’re actually out to get me the you’re not an enabler. So, and I was naive enough to think, yeah, I’m gonna go in there. I’m gonna make change shift the system. Well, you know, it’s a highly politicized environment, and there are a lot of stakeholders and a lot of push and pull. And where I’d had hoped I could make space for artists to test ideas, to take risks to You know, so that there was space where artists had agency and where they weren’t answering a brief, like an architect or designer would, that actually had open ended enough briefs to really pose provocative questions back to the city, you know, that was hard to still have my own identity within that, and then acknowledge that I still had arts practice or creative practice, because people didn’t, you were either one or the other. It’s very interesting people find very difficult If you are both roles. You are either one or the other. Yeah. And and it’s a big issue in the arts, because so many people who are enablers who are arts administrators, where they’ve started is as being artists and then they’ve gone into these roles to try and sustain their own practice. And I think we don’t give each other enough acknowledgement about that. So that would be my first thing is about, I then had to rebuild my identity once I left City of Melbourne, and to say, so that was my first challenge is, you know, in this is really, for anyone else that’s actually working inside systems, how you enable people, and then there’s mutual respect and how you build that. That’s big challenge. And then how do you rebuild your identity once you’re out? So for me, I started a Instagram account a year before I left city of Melbourne as and that was like me doing a visual affirmation once a month, or once every fortnight to say I still have a practice. I still have a practice. Yeah other challenges, it’s always the constant push and pull of most jobs are full time. And how on earth do you sustain your practice? And I’m currently, I love the role I have at RMIT Creative, but it is full time. So how do you for me, you know, it’s the unicorn of finding the three day a week really well paid, that doesn’t take your brain completely. Yeah, and then have something else that’s actually a practice. And I think that is a constant. That’s a constant challenge.

A And security as well with job security. And that doesn’t like fire you every six months, and then re hire you over, you know, four weeks after that.

Lynda Roberts 42:10
Sessional academia, or academia is amazing. However, you’ve got three month gaps, where and it’s the ultimate notion of precariat. I think artists are, you know, we’re kind of like the ultimate model of precarious and we’ve kind of we do this because we love it, but it kills us at the same time.

Kiera Brew Kurec 42:32
So throughout, you’ve already mentioned, people who have been huge influences, resources, door openers and expanders, within your practices, along with yoga and other practices to assist you in maintaining a practice. Have there been any other resources that you have found that have been really important and helps you kind of stay on track?

Nick Breedon 43:08
So influences definitely my Dad and he’s practice. I mean, he left a full time job when I was about three or four, and then worked out in his garage for my entire life. You know, developing R&D, prototyping, communications, engineering equipment, and I think about it now. And I go, my goodness, that’s just so courageous, they he did that, and supported a family, on self-motivated projects and running his own practice. And in some ways, that is an arts practice unto itself, which is just incredible to acknowledge that and his shed is a menagerie of incredible bits of equipment, of which I used to play in when I was a kid. Drills, coil, like things to make coils. And you know, I think now I was creating my own language. I didn’t understand what he was doing. So I created my own. So he, he has been a really important influence. And then obviously, he was a communications engineer, so obviously, he and I connected through radio. So it was kind of great to actually end up doing some projects with him in my own practice. So he, he’s definitely an influence. I think there’s also the influences of other things of the conservativism of family and the family not wanting you to fail or for you to be poor or for you to be unhappy. And it’s interesting balancing not disappointing the family’s wishes and it’s it that’s why I didn’t do arts to start with but I’ve slowly moved there. Just took a really long time and I’ve taken my family with me on that journey.

Kiera Brew Kurec 44:56
A softer entrance into the world of the arts for your family.

Lynda Roberts 44:59
Exactly. So now they go, they have to go to art projects. And I think there’s an acknowledgement now that it’s there validity of practice, obviously carry my partner as well in terms of influencer. He’s my anchor, but also the person who he has an ever expanding brain of a constant state of lateral thinking. And, and it’s incredible to hear share time, just like you were saying that constant conversations and feedback and complex questions, criticisms. Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s been great to share almost 13 years, with Ceri, and also my best friend, Kate, who she and I started out in architecture. And we’ve both also navigated our lives, getting out of architecture, and having another person in your life who’s on this same path, but also she’s the one that she and I will do the, let’s do our five year plans. Let’s write an affirmation. Let’s work out what’s your goals? So she and I are like our buddies, where we both check each other’s career not careers, but where, what what are the critical things we need to achieve, and she’s the one that keeps me on the straight and narrow, in terms of thinking about the bigger picture. And I do that for her so it is a mutual support system where Ceri’s esoteric mind is just incredible Kate is kind of my person who she’s my go to, like, need to make a strategic. But I have incredible female managers that I’ve had or teachers from Virginia, my first boss, and then Paula and Deborah who in the corporate sector, who believed in me …….who was my supervisor for my masters and opened up that you can have an expanded practice. And then at City of Melbourne, I had these two rose? ….., who is my manager at public art for a period of time and, and also Natalie King, who was the curator who worked with me on the biennial lab and was chief curator for that year, my relationship with Rose and Natalie were complex. And you know, and we were in the trenches together. And while they were both really challenging, I also learned so much, and Rose from Rose, I actually started to understand that no babies were going to die when I work in the arts, but generally speaking, like put it into perspective. And she knew how to manage risk. And I finally someone who could take on risk and really and take and talk about risk in a really different way. Whereas Natalie was so inspiring in terms of, you know, never giving up, working through the system, having a clear vision, thinking about supporting yourself and supporting other female leaders. So I learned a lot from those from I just, I’ve had incredible lineage of female visionaries. And I think that’s really rare. I feel I feel really, I feel really special and privileged to be able to say that. In terms of resources, there are people that you meet along the way. And I think about a resource like certainly when you’re working somewhere like City of Melbourne, and the acknowledgement of working or getting to know or to meet people like N’arweet Aunty Carolyn or an incredible resource that I think has been really influential for me during my time at City of Melbourne was reading Clare Land book Decolonizing Solidarity. So also acknowledging the place that you are and what’s gone before. And I feel like it’s been a great opportunity, while working at City of Melbourne to connect with really important First Nations elders. And to think about to consider self determination to think about working with, not for, like, I think these are questions that have opened up for me that have come from like, so it’s one part resource, but also these it’s really those people. So this is a really good question to be asking. Because right now, I’m asking the same question to myself about what can I offer back? and because it’s a one year PhD, I’m reflecting on work that I’ve done at City of Melbourne and before, and seeing how that is research and what what can I provide for other practitioners? And I realized that the knowledge and resources is so much it’s all embodied. It’s so much about I’ve learned from a discursive space. It hasn’t come from books. It’s actually doing it. It’s being immersed. It’s being Institute’s being, you know, right there and that means you are absolutely going to make mistakes. You are absolutely you know, I have made so many mistakes, I continue to make mistakes. I made an epic mistake in December, I thought for a project. And you know, what’s so interesting is through that embodied knowledge, okay, what I learned from that. So sometimes a resource is actually just saying go and do it. And that resource, just the methodology as a resource, you’re saying, okay, you need to do this, you might actually be in your total discomfort zone, which you know, you can be, but you have to try it, they have to get up and do it again.

Nick Breedon 45:14
So what does having a successful practice mean to you? I think you’ve kind of covered a lot of ground on that. But, you know, with all the different facets of your kind of career path, like what what, what is the sort of a successful practice sort of look like to you? Or what do you consider when your practices feel successful to you?

Lynda Roberts 50:55
if I’m thinking about my practice, as so the two sides, and I have to say, I have to admit right now I am a Gemini (Laughter) and my star sign is really important here because there are always two sides But I’m not secretly two sided just so you know. So next time you meet me, don’t think that

Kiera Brew Kurec 51:12
that’s okay, we were Aquarian.

Lynda Roberts 51:16
So, in terms of my private life, in lots of ways, my practice is personal, even though it’s public. You know, it’s about a space for me to experiment and idea and test it. And that because I do it through doing and not through theory, that means to having space. And that’s a lot of time, it’s just time to have time to go and do something. But it’s not just that it’s the motivation. So it’s twofold. It’s not just time, it’s motivation to get out there and try something out and having that space and agency to do it. I’m very happy not to be funded to do that If I have agency. So I’d much prefer to do something where I don’t get permission. And that’s how I’ve always operated is you don’t get permission, and you go and try something out. And then if you think it’s good, then you go get your permission.

Nick Breedon 52:06
So is there any advice that you really wish you could have received when you were kind of starting out your practice?

I had no idea when I started that I wouldn’t be an architect. So nothing is ever fixed. And I think that’s what’s so incredible. Like, it’s just hilarious at that first question, we took so long to get through my crazy path it’s taken to get to where I am, and it’s gonna continue. I’m not there yet. I’ll never be there. Because we’re always going somewhere. So for me, it’s an I need to tell myself this still now is, Hey, be patient. You’re not going to get there. You can’t push it. Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait. Like, I don’t tell myself that enough. Even now, you know, even if it’s patience, waiting for somebody to get back to me, like just that fundamental. It’s not going to happen instantly.

Kiera Brew Kurec 53:06
If people want to either experience your practice, look at parts of your practice, can they find you on a website, or Instagram or at the markets? How can they find you?

Lynda Roberts 53:20
Well, we’re at Camberwell markets every fortnight that’s a bit random at the moment in terms of which it is the first or the second week of the Sunday, but generally, if you show up a Camberwell you’ll see an ice cream van. And that’s where we’ll be near the rotary van. We have a website, I also have a closed Instagram that’s exploring my PhD, which is called public field office. So if you’re interested in finding out what I’m doing in terms of exploring public realm and how we make our public, then might be good to check that out. And with my other Instagram, which is public assembly, public dot assembly, that you’ll see all the manifestations of my jewellery making that I was using during the time I was at City of Melbourne. And now my my Instagram account is dying to show my practices back. So during projects with Ceri,

Nick Breedon 54:18
Thanks so much for coming into the studio today Lynda we were so grateful you could come and talk to us.

Lynda Roberts 54:24
It’s been an absolute pleasure. I just want to tell everyone I’m really sorry. That was such a long, kind of crazy path that we just went down in terms of my career. So yeah, hopefully something useful has come. You might have gleaned something that was useful out of that discussion.

Kiera Brew Kurec 54:41
I’m sure. I have. So thank you.

Nick Breedon 54:50
This episode is recorded on the sovereign Land of the Kulin nation. We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land the Wurundjeri people and pay respects to elder’s past, present and emerging

Kiera Brew Kurec 55:01
Thanks for listening to Pro Prac you can listen to other episodes and subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can stay up to date with what we’re up to on Instagram @propracpodcast or send us an email at