AD School Matters Episode 1 (with Lachlan Bell)

Welcome to the  AD School Matters podcast! Each episode we feature an interview with a creative from the student community at UNSW Art & Design. We aim to capture the diversity of our community, whether you’re studying locally or abroad we aim to build connection that extends beyond campus walls. Let’s embrace the diverse ways we study, create and play.

In this inaugural episode, podcast founder Aria Joshes and guest Lachlan Bell discuss mycelial networks of moodboards, archives and browser tabs. Also: midnight art projects, crop circles and Covid messaging.

Hosted by Aria Joshes
Mixed and edited by Aria Joshes
AD School Matters logo by Marissa Yang


Lachlan Bell (he/him)

Lachlan Bell on Instagram

Imogen is an emerging artist currently living and working on Bidjigal and Gadigal country. She is enjoying figuring out her practice but generally works at the intersection of creative and scientific knowledge frameworks and is interested in using art making as an attempt to better understand and engage with place. Imogen considers her practice a form of research where any work is a work in progress and is just a new iteration of what has been learnt, read and engaged with inside and outside the studio space.

AD School Matters Ep 01: Lachlan Bell
Episode Transcript

Lachlan Bell (LB): Hi everyone, my name is Lachlan, I used he/him pronouns. I'm currently finishing up my Bachelor of Design and Media on majoring in advertising and textiles and graphics, I started back in 2017. When semesters were a thing nowadays and I'm currently just wrapping up my internship to complete my degree.

Aria Joshes (AJ): Cool. So could you tell us about your creative practice?

LB: Yeah, so I guess I like to use that catch all term is multidisciplinary, I really do like to dabble in different areas. I particularly like, textiles, but also everything surrounding that. So, photography, sculpture, performing performance, and even as an aside, I do like branding and graphic design work and some more commercial aspects. I tend to gravitate towards archiving history as a place to sort of start my work sort of looking at, you know, the dark web of random academic essays and drawing from family stories. My Estonian background as well as things like mythology and things. Yeah, there's a lot of things that contribute to my works.

AD: Awesome. That sounds really interesting. I'm very much interested in archiving and history as well I think you get to collect a lot from starting from a place like that. So it makes a work seem more bigger and complex, don't you think?

LB: Oh, for sure. I totally agree. I think a lot of the reasons I enjoy archives because it does give a lot of credence to the work and you know can be art-wanky where like, You know you're referencing a painting of the painter of painting, but you know I think knowing what you're doing is building on top of what has come before you, I think is really important especially when you're dealing with, like, sensitive narratives or things that you know experiences that might not be your own. Even things like mythology or like belief systems that aren't your own. Having that starting point, I think is really important to make it authentic and still genuine it's not just, you know appropriating something that's not yours.

AJ: Yeah, definitely. I agree with you...I like where your head's at.

LB: I think it did change. I'd say university’s  definitely challenged. What I started off my practice. And I think the more I've listened to my peers about this specifically like diaspora, you know narratives that kind of reached their peak in the past couple years, the, I think universities really made my work a bit more sensitive and not as immediately, you know, not just a Wikipedia page but something that's more nuanced and more personal to myself.

AJ: Wow, I can definitely relate to you there. That's really awesome that you've been getting such an enriching experience from university in relation to your practice. So, how has your practice changed or been impacted by the global pandemic?

LB: (Laughs).This ongoing thing, I think, you know, undeniably it's made me think about how my work sort of encourages... prior to this pandemic, I used to like the idea of interactive works or works that could encourage touch or proximity so something like explicitly that's changed, like, textiles, having that distance from the viewer literally through social distancing or through digital screens... I find it really difficult to communicate. The reason I love textiles is because of that materiality and the ability for touch in the materials to be as much of the message. So that's that's one difficulty but I think the pandemic also grounded my practice a bit more. I felt like I could make sense or I was more aware of what I couldn't couldn't do within the limitations of my home, you know, Bunnings and the Hobbysew were like my most frequented places last year because not having... Like I was so lucky to have sewing machine at home because my grandma has a sewing Husqvana. And it made me very resourceful and economic with I couldn't, couldn't use especially you know, the whole economic challenge of, like, yes, we had job keeper and supplement. It was also quite tough to spend money, and I live with my family and my grandmother and my mum, and I felt there was much more collaborative approach to my work when I was, you know, they were involved during everything that past two years now. 

And, you know, making that connection and acknowledging that work that from the sides came in and I think also, you know, understanding and being aware of where my, my art and my, what my art was saying how it sit within a broader historical narrative, Like, yes, I can talk about the times I can talk about COVID, but like, what else am I going to say, because there's other stuff that was happening. And I felt like, you know, with all the noise that was happening in the 24 hour news cycle it was constantly you know, news about COVID outbreaks. I felt, being able to step back and being able to think about, okay, what do I want to say? Do I need to contribute to this? What's important to me to be saying, the moment? Yeah so I think those are the main areas that change.

AJ: Definitely the news that really does dominate those headlines and it's kind of sad because there's a lot of stories that are happening at the same time that are just as important that should be reported on. But we're not hearing about them that much because everybody's so fearful of, you know, the pandemic.

LB: Yeah, for sure. I think highlighting those personal narratives... You know, so much happened last year that wasn't. I'm still seeing artworks today in response to the Black Summer bushfires and that was such a traumatic experience for so many people. I think a lot of people brush off those works as being quite limited to that time period, almost like historical documents but no, they just as relevant... I wish more artists...I don't know how I feel about COVID artworks necessarily I've been somewhat tongue in cheek and a bit naff but I like the idea of making work that's in response to the times, but I think art is always responding to the time so whatever you make is always going to be relevant.

AJ: Yeah, definitely. Have you heard about... There was that was a petition I saw recently where they're trying to get a segment on the news that's all dedicated to the arts, and what's happening in the art world?

LB: Yeah, that was like the five minutes at the end. Kind of the idea of like sports reporting? Like how  can we shift that to arts reporting? Was that what you were talking about?

AJ: Yeah, but I still think it's good to have sports, if we got rid of sports my partner will not be happy.

LB: Definitely. 

AJ: Yeah, but having like a bit of art news is I think definitely relevant  because it does comment on everything else that's going on, it's like, you know it's not totally separate from the world. Because we’re... our works are always relating to what's going on in the world and to ourselves.

LB: Yeah, I think that, I think that diminishing that barrier between the art world and the real world is, if people can call it that... Yeah, I really liked that idea and I think, you know, you see some programs on ABC and that, going to the gallery, you know, regular people talking about art. I love those shows. I think yeah it definitely should be a more integral part of our news cycle. It’d be a nice distraction, I guess!

AJ: Yeah, definitely. So have your studies at UNSW helped to give you a different or new perspective during lockdown? Can you tell us more broadly about your experience studying during a global pandemic?

LB: Yeah, I mean, I feel really sorry for those in first year, I think they really missed out on that important breaking-in period of social aspect of study and I wonder what university will be like next year, you know? It's so uncertain and  so I really feel bad for them. You know, it was hard and I think for different people, it was varying levels of enjoyment.  Some, some subjects were great. I did a coding class digitally, I learned about web design and that works fine online. We had a course on post-porn, you know that that's the one that everyone has heard about; and doing that digitally was different. Was it as effective? I don't know because they didn't do the other, I didn't do it face to face but it, it created a new dynamic, I think with your review cohort, like being able to be face to face, and, you know, make comments to your peers, just offhand and not have to raise your hand in class and take the stage, you know, to make something just on the side.

Everything felt digitally, like you had to know what you're saying to stand up because you know you can't have a chorus of voices  digitally because it's just a mess, and you know it was  disappointing that the university didn't really compensate for how practical courses were impacted or reduced fees, I think, not having access to the facility, and even lockers! I have so many friends that have stuff still at uni and they haven't been able to access that for months and they've not arranged any way or postage or some kind of pickup delivery service... I was lucky but a lot of my friends were impacted a lot by campus being closed. I think, you know, for me it was, I chose to do a less intense workload to stretch out the degree and to actually, you know... I had such an empty week that I could spend more time on specific courses. I did a photography course, I did a “Dressed to Kill” course that I really love and I recommend anyone interested in textiles to do. It’s on main campus but it's, it's what you want from a textiles course on theory at COFA but it's not available there really. Yeah, I really recommend that. 

I think the novelty of like rolling out of bed for a lecture, kind of, kind of disappeared after three weeks and I actually enjoyed studying during the week and having those classes because it gave structure. I think now I really have not got that sense of time, and it's not a bad thing, I think I missed that sort of order. Yeah, I think. I think those are probably shared by a lot of people but I think a lot of people have it worse, so I feel sorry for them.

AJ: The post-porn subject you just mentioned earlier, was there any mention of any mention of Annie Sprinkle there? 

LB: Yeah we did Annie Sprinkle.  I think, cause I think everyone's heard a little bit about it here and there about it, it was great. Melinda was a great tutor, but you know, everyone has their favourite tutors and whatnot. But yeah it was a real test of how digital or like how online classes could work, especially ones that rely on students talking. Like there’s art theory courses, I’ve only done a couple so I can’t really speak for the entirety but maybe for design theory...They rely on students to engage with the content. They can’t be standing, talking to a computer for four hours straight, and yeah, I think it was disappointing that students felt like they could just have the camera off the whole time and just not do anything, I think, the way this is gonna work for everyone is that you  participate because nobody wants to be in the situation but we're trying to make the best out of it.

AJ: Yeah, definitely. One thing I want to just mention on this topic, I noticed that they started a new sort of space, a learning space at UNSW called the Hack Space, which had a lot to do with learning coding and things like that. So if you ever get a chance when you go back on campus, check it out because I think that was a really awesome initiative because coding, just opens up so many doors.

LB: Oh, for sure, there are so many applications now that are designed to make coding as simple as possible but like having that understanding that coding language, you really appreciate how much goes into websites and whatnot.

AJ: Yeah, definitely. So what's something you've been enjoying during lockdown? Favourite podcasts, music streaming, things like that?

LB: Oh, my friends Laura and Charles had this podcast called Vanity Project, it made me so happy and I just laughed so much hearing that.  It’s like, they’re also UNSW AD students and there’s also an occasional reference to COFA and it’s like, I just really enjoyed that.

I’ve also found listening to albums in entirety at night, just like no shuffle. I'’ve just really enjoyed that. And just mindless walking, being a flaneur just finding secret parts in my local area has really like, feeds my desire learn about history and you know, finding monuments to random sportspeople it’s like, facinating.  And then lastly doing... I call them like, my “midnight projects” which are only intended to last or to go for a day or two. Sometimes I get bored of them already by the time, but I start to do little tasks that I’ve put off for a while, little projects and ideas. Having that time at night when everything’s quiet, and you kind of feel like there’s nothing else happening in the world, it's kind of just darkness. I don't know, it's nice. I feel like you're in the zone, you feel like more focused at night. But yeah, so those are things I’ve been doing.

AJ: Awesome. Can you describe to me I meme that made you laugh so hard you cried?

LB: (Laughs). I really enjoyed these Giovanni Giorgio memes that were happening a couple of weeks ago. I feel like explaining to meme doesn’t doing it service3, but it’s like from that Daft Punk song. That was just a photo, like a video, it's a six second clip, most of the videos are.  And one of them was just like a piece of bread falling down, and it's so absurd that I found it funny but I think videos get me a lot more than photos, and I feel like there's like my Instagram feed, is such a random mix of deep-fried memes, downward spiral memes. It's like you kind of get so oversaturated with them, and they're great, but man they can get exhausting and you feel like an empty husk at the end of the day. 

AJ: (Laughs)

LB: And then speaking of empty husks. There was this one video about the BBC dance radio, and it was like the announcement of Prince Philip's death in between like an Indian dance song (Laughs) 

AJ: (Laughs) Oh no!

LB: Rest in peace, but also... that got me so good!

AJ: Yeah, I think that's where Tik Tok really has taken off, hey?, Because whenever I watch The Project now they usually try to highlight funny things they’ve seen on the internet, and it's often a Tik Tok. 

LB: They go viral these days!

AJ: I like that. I think it's from UNSW student as well, there's this guy that did a dance video of this Centrelink “on-hold” music, it's really funny. 

LB: Oh yeah, yeah. I mean Centrelink’s probably never been busier right now!

AJ: Yeah, true. So, what's your creative go to activity at the moment?

LB: Ooh, I think for me I've been doing a lot of reading and I have this habit of being a digital hoarder, I like to save up a shit-tonne of articles on my taskbar... Sorry if I can’t swear, I don’t know! (Laughs)  But  I like doing just the manic searches for random articles, load them all up, leave them for a week and then I'll come back and just sit down and I think, prepare. Because I think sometimes you know you've seen an essay that’s like 200 pages and you’re like “Oh God! When am I going to have time for this?”  And sometimes just setting aside some time for that is really good because you kind of limit your distractions  and whatnot, but it can be hard. And I think, I mean I've read stuff about how people's attention spans are like being impacted by digital tech and like, it is kind of harder to sit down and have a good read but I think getting back into that habit is really good. I did a video for Framework a while ago and I, I left like little references to essays and bathroom toilets with Posca pens. And I really liked the idea of like sharing knowledge unasked for, like, especially in public spaces. I feel like even the internet as a public space using it to share, PDFs, you know, if you’ve ripped them illegally, if you’ve scanned a book and you like, share it to a friend, but I think that's something that's really beautiful, then you’re using the internet for the right purpose. 

I like the idea of rebelious academic, like on Chrome you can get apps that allow you to download PDFs from like Jstor and stuff without having an account I think that is what it's for! That's what learning is for. And you know without access to a library that's kind the only thing you can do right now. 

AJ: Yeah, definitely.

LB: And yeah, I think the main thing I'm doing is I'm working on multiple projects at the same time, when I, when I have an idea I’ll start to like, make a folder on my laptop. And I'll just start populating and adding articles and reference images, and building mood-boards. I’ve got about five projects currently going on about crop circles and army confidential documents and working wills, and fern floriography, and dopplegangers... like my mind is just a tangled mess and it's probably, probably not for everyone. some people like to have one project at a time, but I think, you know, give it a shot! I really like to idea of just like having works that are concurrent and they can just build off of eachother instead of having this idea of like a linear career where everything kind of is just stacked on top, it’s like “This references that!” I like the idea of everything kind of drawing on each other and one article might support two works at the same time. It’s more like a mycelial network of art than more of a kind of stratified kind of layer. Yeah, so that's one thing that I really like doing at the moment.  

AJ: Awesome! I'm a bit the same. I like to build on other works as well. With my works... I wanted to say something about the crop circles that you just mentioned. Do you reckon that a lot of people just make them to be shit-stirrers? (Laughs)

LB: Oh, for sure! I love it and I think anonymity of it, that people don’t even claim them fascinates me. I was really inspired by the Arecibo message. I don’t know how it’s pronounced. And the response to got some random field in England I think there was a pattern that emerged and  I love this idea of like miscommunication, people sending out governments, investing billions of dollars to send out messages to space and by the time they reach their desired target they’re just completely warped and I feel like that was pretty resonant with how the messaging we've had by the government about COVID felt. I think by the time it arrived in our TV sets and our phones it had become so distorted and so like... missed the mark?

AJ: Definitely. I think I saw some  videos somewhere about people like making stuff, like, really weird wacky stuff to be seen on Google Earth to just trip people out. It’s just really funny.

What's the one thing you're looking forward to the most when we get back onto campus?

LB: I think being involved with the campus garden is something I’ve been really missing. I started helping Claire and Audrey in the campus gardens that there were five different beds and we were planning on a group exhibition for it which had to be cancelled. We were creating all this fun stuff and had all these great ideas about revitalising interest in students helping in the gardens and is really sad that it couldn’t happen. I hope that it happens to you at a later date. I also had planned to do a mural at a later date too. It’s all in the air. But I think also being able to go to the Kudos Studios... I was selected as recipients, I guess, of getting studio space at the Kensington space along ANZAC Parade. And you know, having that physical studio is something I've never had before. My studio is currently my bedroom, and that is also my sleeping space and so it is kind of hard to separate it and hard to feel motivated when surrounded by, you know, things that make you want to go to bed. But, I think, broadly, I think, you know, talking to talking to friends, meeting new friends. Going to exhibitions, maybe not openings, openings were always kind of wanky, but going to exhibitions is one of my favourite things, and seeing what my peers are making, that’s what is inspiring.

AJ: Yeah, definitely. I'm hoping that non alcoholic alcohol takes off at openings...

LB: Yeah, for sure!

AJ:... because I don't really I don't really drink alcohol anymore. It's not fun to me anymore.

LB: Yeah, especially with that like social aspect to it, it kind of feels a bit like “What’s this for?”. I remember having to work myself up to enjoy gin, and now I can at least enjoy a gin and tonic with my mum but it was a social aspect, it wasn’t really the drink itself. I could do without it. So yeah, I agree. Non-alcoholic alcohol would be a good presence at openings.

AJ: Yeah, definitely. So my last question is what inspires you right now, and do you have any advice or a hot tip, our creative community can take onboard to help them have fun have fun and survive at this time?

LB: I think everyone's gonna deal with it in their own ways, I’m fortunate to be living at home and for me to give advice about survival might feel a bit funny. I think,  on things like having a routine, you know, having the ability to distinguish each day is good. Make sure like they're just prioritising what you need to be doing at the moment. And like and things that are important like work and whatnot, but I think also having a way to make every day, different or special. Doing something new is good. I've found doing small projects, practical things, using my hands, even mindless things...! Like they could be.  like I'm sanding a loom that I was gifted a long time ago. It's quite mindless repetitive action, but that is something that's really quite satisfying when it's finished.  And, and then just tick off any like any things that you really don't want to be doing but you just got to do. One thing I've been doing an actual resume. I didn't realise that a CV … this sounds really dumb... but I dodn’t really realise the difference between a CV and a resume until I was asked to submit a resume. So that's like, work on your professional things. And an extension of that is to be applying for any exhibition applications, any show call outs, or even Framework, our university arts publication is doing call outs, that you don’t have to pay for... make use of those opportunities while you’ve got ‘em. I think broadly just call up friends send memes. Just have a chat and, yeah, I think, take everything, you know... it is a serious and like, not, not a great time for everyone. But making the best out of it, and also having a laugh, from time to time is really good.

AJ: Yeah, can we go back to that resume and CV thing? Sorry? There’s a difference between a resume and a CV- what??

LB: Yeah, yeah, your CV is basically kind of like a life story, you’re kind of putting basically everything you’ve done... I feel like a CV is very loose, in terms of structure, there are different ways you can format it. But resumes have got a bit more things, you know. Listing your skills, your bio, maybe having two, max three maybe work, like some work that you’re currently doing, and feature them, why they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for. And I think that is one thing that anyone... like I am doing design and I kind of have this background, thinking that I need to be applying for like, jobs. This might seem obvious, but make sure it's like, relevant, and  your resume’s appropriate to your job. So what I recommend is having separate CVs and and separate resumes. If you're an artist and designer, maybe separate the two. So, a design agency might not care about the fact that you’ve exhibited at Three Foot Square, but and art space will, so that is something to keep in mind. But also university does have assistance like that. I don't know what they're doing digitally at the moment. In person you used to be able to go to a consultant on campus at Kensington and they would help you. I think this is kind of the time, even if you're in first year, have a think about it because there’s no harm in doing it.

AJ: Definitely, definitely. Yeah, awesome. well I've learned something today! Well, thank you for coming on to our podcast Lachlan, it's been a pleasure interviewing you and stay safe and take care.

LB: Exactly. Stay safe, and take care!

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