AD School Matters Episode 2 (with Imogen Ruberg)

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 episode, Imogen Ruberg reflects on the pivot to digital and experimental practices, and discusses Jess Scully’s book “Glimpses of Utopia”. Also: climate activism, backyards, and bodies of water.

Hosted by Aria Joshes
Mixed and edited by Aria Joshes
AD School Matters logo by Art Start volunteer Marissa Yang.

Imogen Ruberg (she/her)

Imogen Ruberg 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.

Imogen Ruberg is interviewed by  AD School Matters founder Aria Joshes.

AD School Matters Ep 02: Imogen Ruberg
Episode Transcript


Aria Joshes (AJ): Hello and welcome to AD School Matters podcast. I'm your host Aria, and today we're interviewing Imogen Ruberg. Hi Imogen! Thank you for joining me in this podcast today and welcome to Arc’s ADa School Matters podcast. Could you introduce yourself to the audience at home? Who are you and what were you studying at UNSW Art & Design, and when did you start studying here?

Imogen Ruberg (IJ): Hi, Aria thanks for having me. Hi, my name is Imogen and my pronouns are she/her. I'm a recent graduate from UNSW. I finished at the end of T1 this year and I studied a double degree in science and fine arts. , and I majored in geography, sculpture and spatial design and I'm also a 2021 participant in the Kudos Studios Artist in Residence program, so that's been, um, a fun kind of new project to be involved with. When did I start, sorry?  So I started studying in 2017 and I guess between starting then, and COVID and things and changes to, uh, course curriculums... And I also was lucky enough to go on exchange before the pandemic hit, but I finished, yeah, at the end of T1 this year.

So I kind of extended by course by a term, which was actually really good, cause I was lucky enough to finish in person rather than online. So I was really happy about that. 

AJ: Awesome. Could you tell us a bit more about your practice? 

IR: Yeah, sure. Um, I kind of, I find it kind of hard sometimes defining what my creative practice looks like.

Um, I guess that's probably a combination of me still figuring it out. uh, and also just, I guess kind of generally more generally being confident in what I'm doing.  So I guess there would be a couple of themes that consistently emerge in the work I'm doing or in what I'm reading or listening to.

And so that kind of mostly revolves around people and community and the environment. I think if you, like, if I look at what I'm studied, doing the science and fine arts and geography and sculpture and spatial design, I'm drawn to that, I guess, intersection of people and place. And also, I guess that... different ways of thinking. So the scientific knowledge framework and also the creative knowledge framework and kind of what ideas or works can kind of be produced by looking through those different lenses. Yeah. I'd say I'm more drawn to, I guess, the processes in art making. So, my creative practice is isn't necessarily based around producing specific works, but often I enjoy more and am interested more in kind of all the work that goes around that if that makes sense?  So like, I really liked the reading and like the researching aspect and kind of collaborating with different people, talking about ideas that kind of put you on a path towards making something. But I often enjoy that process or that side of creative practice or aren't making as opposed to kind of what I actually ended up making in the end.

But yeah. And then in terms of some things that I've been working on this year, I did a course in term one where we worked with mold making and slip casting, which I hadn't done before. And I really liked that process. I liked that it was kinda messy and materials that I guess are less precious, so you can kind of be less of a perfectionist and just kind of try things. And then once you've got a mold, you can also make objects or like make an object really quickly. So I liked, I liked experimenting with that. 

AJ: So has your practice changed or been impacted by the global pandemic? 

IR: Yeah, I think, I guess everyone has been so... so certainly impacted, but all in different ways.

I think the main aspect of my practice has changed as just been, not being able to access studios or be able to kind of go to places like the library or even uni and things like that, too. Just be with other people and share ideas, kind of in-person. And also even just like in terms of materials and things, working with clay and plaster and all of that from home is pretty difficult. (Laughs)

So I've kind of had to reassess, I guess, what materials I want to be working with and even just the pace I guess of how you're working. I think it's a lot harder to, well, at least I found it a lot harder to be, I guess, productive or I'm working quickly. I think pre pandemic life is pretty fast paced, which I guess is also kind of thing in a sense, like some positives in that...

Like I've had to slow down a lot and that's been nice to kind of be working at a different pace. But yeah, keeping in, I guess, like checking in with myself a lot and having like, managing expectations of myself and kind of what's doable. What's not doable at the moment, but yeah, I think definitely losing that ability to kind of go to exhibitions, go to galleries and to go to the cinema even and just meet new people and have a community I guess, that’s outside of home. That's definitely impacted kind of how I work and things like that.  

AJ: Definitely I can totally relate. I think it's great though. That what I feel like we're starting to see an end to this lockdown. I don't know. Do you disagree? Or like, what do you think?

IR: Yeah, no, I think I'd agree. I think there's definitely a sense of the light at the end of the tunnel. Uh, even just the same, like the season changing and kind of it's getting warmer and moving into summer. I think that brings a lot more optimism for the future and yeah, like speaking, catching up with friends and things. I mean, there's definitely a collective excitement about being able to go out into the world again, so definitely... definitely looking forward to that. 

AJ: Yeah, definitely. Spring is actually one of my favorite seasons, I think. And especially the flowers. I'm a bit of a girly girl and just seeing all these new flowers, I don't know if you've started using Google lens or not, but it's a new feature in the Google search bar. like I have it on my phone and I like to learn the different flower names. So. Off the top of my head, I've learnt about the Chinese fringe flower and the Reeve’s spirea. Have you used this feature before?

IR: No I haven’t! How does it work?

AJ: Well, basically you, it's got a little camera icon and you click on that and then you basically, you take a photo of... you can take a photo of it or you can hover over depending on what you're doing, because there's so many different features. Like there's a translating feature as well, and it can pick up handwriting and what it says in handwriting some of the time.

But yeah, particularly with plants, you just take a photo and it does a search of that photo to... usually of images that are similar, you know, in the internet. And often it can come up with the name of the plant and then you learn all about the plant and it starts getting technical. But I think because I'm not a botanist, I think it's nice just to know the name and just to be able to say, “That's Reeve’s spirea! That’s agave!”

IR: Definitely! That's so cool. (Laughs).  Especially at the moment I've been walking a lot. So it's kind of, I can imagine that'd be a nice addition to add to the walk, especially yeah, with all the... all the flowers blooming at the moment. It's so nice. All the, and like the scents when you're walking around.  There’s that...what's it called? I think it's like orange jasmine, but I feel like that's out everywhere at the moment. I love the smell. 

AJ: Same here. And wisteria! Wisteria’s got a really lovely scent that can just like go in with the wind and it just like passes by your nose. 

IR: Yeah. So nice... Amazing thing actually--- a friend of mine from work, actually, we always talk about in spring, that warm wind feel? That life coming out of winter where it's just like, the wind is just biting cold, and then you get that first kind of westerly or like warm wind feel, and that feels like you’re turning the corner towards summer, which was, which was exciting. 

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

IR: Yeah. So  I guess...studying at Art & Design and then it kind of moving from in-person to online. I've definitely, I think I talked about this before, but I definitely realised that I really enjoy the in-person experience of learning, I guess. So how much I value being able to engage in person with different people, um, and kind of talk about whatever it is you're studying at the moment.

I think courses I've done at Art & Design, especially some of the art theory courses, well all of them really have been... well a lot of it is centered around discussions and, and kind of listening to how different people interpret questions or interpret different works and things like that. And I have really appreciated and valued that I've been able to do that in person and kind of the community that comes out of that.

Also with the move to being online, especially in sculpture, it kind of really makes you rethink kind of what work you can engage in. So I did a course and with a teacher who is awesome and really kind of made the most of the fact that we weren’t going to be in the studio making things, but at home, in our own spaces.

And I kind of tried a lot of media that I wouldn't have otherwise tried, I guess? So I kind of experimented a bit with digital rendering, um, and sound based, work and performance that I don't think I would have otherwise really ventured into. It kind of felt quite, especially with the performance aspect, kind of felt quite outside of my comfort zone.

So I guess lockdown, or kind of learning in that new environment definitely brought new perspectives and new opportunities to kind of try things that I probably wouldn't have otherwise tried. 

AJ: Awesome. I'm in a similar boat with you. I’m pretty much at the end of my degree now, and I haven't been doing lectures and things like that. And it's been a bit of an adjustment, like, although I...my brain is like, ah, finally some kind of mental break. A part of me is like “Oh, I miss it a bit!” Like, there's these other subjects that I could have done. How has your experience post degree been for you?

IR:  I finished in May, I think. So I had some time kind of post finishing where we weren't in lockdown, which was really good. I think I was quite happy as well to kind of finish at a bit of a random time in the year. It kind of felt like it took the pressure off a bit of knowing what I was going to do next. I feel like that's always the classic Christmas conversation with family (laughs) who you haven't seen in a while. “Oh, you finished studying! Like, what are you doing next?” kind of thing.

So it was kind of nice dodging that a little bit and feeling like I had the rest of the year to kind of noodle around and read what I wanted to be reading or kind of, not necessarily like the learning, I guess I was doing not being directed by courses but more just being directed by whatever I was drawn to and kind of what I was interested in.

AJ: Awesome. So with finishing a degree, some people experience a bit of depression because they have a bit of an expectation of getting a job in the industry fast or, you know, having more exhibition opportunities. Do you feel like you've adapted more to finishing a degree or do you feel like there have been times when you feel a bit sad about not having the same opportunities or not having...? Yeah?

IR: Yeah. Yeah, it's definitely a hard one. I think if I was having this conversation when I'd just kind of finished and didn't know we were going to be going into another lockdown, I was looking forward to hopefully being able to travel around Australia and also go to New Zealand so that when we kind of went into lockdown and suddenly that wasn't an option, I was pretty bummed about that to say the least. 

So it’s definitely up and down, um, in terms of like managing expectations and things like that. But yeah, I guess it's kind of one of those ones where I'm like, you're almost just riding the wave really and there's so much that's out of our control that even though it can be hard to kind of remember that. I think I've definitely been um, more proactive than usual in managing  my mental health in general. So yeah, I guess a work in progress in terms of always--- I guess, always a work in progress in terms of managing mental health and kind of responding to times like this, where everything's thrown up in the air and you have no idea what tomorrow is going to look like or what next month is going to look like or even what next year’s going to look like.

AJ: I think there's not a lot of talk about what to expect after a degree which is why I brought up the question just because I think there's also this lack of awareness of how to run the business side of being an artist too. So I'm trying to navigate that too.

And I bought a book from the Delphinian Gallery about how to emerge as an artist which I felt Was really helpful and helped me gauge what to expect in my early career slash post degree. So, yeah, I think it's good to like talk about it a bit more just because I think a lot of students who are studying don't know what to expect once they finished their degree. In fact, they probably are thinking of more... the workload that have now not really thinking about the end. 

IR: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It almost kind of feels like you're studying your degree and then it's like this patch of just having no idea how people suddenly get from studying to having work that is perhaps more stable. It’s like there’s this weird kind of gap where you feel super in the dark of how to actually get there. If that makes sense? 

AJ: Yeah, definitely. I also feel like artists run initiatives are really helpful tool post degree because you're networking with a lot of people who are in the same situation and you're sharing your creativity and your lives until you don't feel like it's such a lonely experience. Have you joined any artists run initiatives or do you have any advice there? 

IR: Uh, I guess, well, I'm currently part of the Kudos artists in residence program. So that's only started kind of in the last month or so, but I guess also has been impacted a lot by COVID. Cause we're not actually all in the space together. We just kind of catch up online. But I think, yeah, I guess just taking if there are... like opportunities that perhaps might. Out of your comfort zone. So like applying for things like that, or I'm even doing this and doing this right now! Um, I think taking opportunities that, um, might challenge you or perhaps kind of propel you into a new community. I think that there's always something to get out of that. 

AJ: Awesome. So, is there something that you've been, especially enjoying during lockdown, like favorite podcasts, music streaming, that kind of thing?

IR: Yeah. I've been listening to quite a lot of new podcasts. I've came across one particular that I've really enjoyed listening to, which I think is also actually a radio segment, but it’s by FBI, but it's called Out of the Box, which basically they get someone on the program who they interview and they bring with them, like, I guess a collection of records or songs from their music collection and kind of, they talk about their life, what they've done, and also kind of how each song I guess, gets into their life. So that's kind of a nice one because you hear new music, but also hear about different people's kind of lives, especially there's a lot of people interviewed that are kind of in the creative industry. So it's interesting hearing about all their paths, life journeys. So, yeah, that's been a nice one to listen to. 

I've also started, I've also started reading a book, which has been really good by Jess Scully, who's the Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney, but it's called Glimpses of Utopia. There's been a bit of a pattern of some of the stuff I've been reading and like thinking imagining better futures and all of that, because it's easy to kind of spiral into the not being able to imagine a better world, I guess this one has been really good for that, but it kind of like, even in the title: Glimpses of Utopia, like it highlights, or it focuses on shining light or on people and projects that people are working on across the world or that I really focusing on.

Well, I guess that are just bettering the communities on all different scales. So she talks about people who run kind of co-ops and work their own, but then also talks about people who are trying to change tax systems and all of that. So there's a massive scale and projects she looks at, but it's a book with a lot of hope and kind of, it makes actually, it makes me excited for that, that there are people out there doing cool things and I'm excited for kind of what the world could hopefully, and hopefully will look like one day.

AJ: That's a really interesting way of dealing with this... I suppose you could call it an existential crisis that we're going through with climate change, because there's so much protests around it and it's very doomsday-ish times. So to be able to like balance that out and think about what kind of future we do want to have...? Well, I think that's a really good way of like... because if you're too focused on, you know, what we don't want, then it's almost like --if you believe in this kind of thing-- almost like perpetuating more negativity, if that makes sense?

IR: Like, yeah, I definitely get what you're saying. And, um, yeah, I guess if you, yeah, if you are kind of only focusing on. Like what you said, what we don't want there for you to talk, like, it kind of takes up so much brain space that you don't also then have the brain space to actually imagine how good it could be?

AJ: Yeah. 

IR: Yeah. So, yeah, I really, I really enjoyed that. And even like talking to friends and things like climate fatigue is such a real thing  so I think it's nice. Yeah. Something where I feel like I'm learning something, I'm learning new things as well. And, uh, yeah, it's been, it's been really nice and I think as well, it kind of makes me think about like potential of art-making... of kind of anything in that creative industry and in the care industries about how they can, I guess, how can it have the potential to help us imagine new way, like new features, new ways of thinking.

Yeah, I really like through art, how is a community built. So whether it's going to like a gallery to see like an exhibition opening or anything really like being at uni and chatting to classmates about projects that we're working on. I really like how art kind of has that ability to bring all different people together.

AJ: So, what do you mean by climate fatigue? 

IR: I guess so thinking a lot about climate change, thinking about the future, and it's very easy to worry about it. And I guess that constant worry or kind of seeing decisions being made by leaders who. blatantly seem not care about future generations at all in terms of climate I think that can be super draining. 

And yeah, just in the news, like reading about a lot of things, I think if it's, it's easy to be consumed by it. And so it's hard to find a balance between still enjoying life and still having a lot of fun, but also knowing that it's a crisis that we’ll, that we need to solve or at least change kind of what we're doing. And I think a lot of young people, at least I've spoken to, I guess, would kind of feel a similar way. I'm not sure. What would you, what do you think? 

AJ: I think that focusing on, on things, negative things so much really does drain somebody's energy. Like I agree with you. I think. Trying to think about what we want.

And as well as thinking about the problems is better. And also the frustration with our leaders is very real. I feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel there too, because we’re due for election to be called fairly soon. And I don't like, I mean, other people might disagree with me, but I do feel like Scomo needs to go-go.

IR: Oh, absolutely! Yeah. God you just hope that there's enough people who feel the same way, just to reframe and hopefully we can turn a new direction

AR: Yeah definitely. Uh, can you describe to me a meme that you, you found that made you laugh so hard you cried? 

IR: I was trying to, trying to think of one, this isn’t a specific meme, but anything that Saint Hoax posts on Instagram I don't know if you're familiar? I don't know much about them. They basically, it's kind of like pop culture, satire things that they post got always so hilarious. And also one that I saw recently that kind of made me laugh-cry was a Kath & Kim One, that was basically like: a week that it was moods through a week in lockdown.  They kind of went through all the different days and they just had snippets from different Kathleen Kim episodes. Um, it was, it was so accurate and so funny. Um, yeah, that one's been really good.

AJ: Awesome! What's one thing you're looking forward to the most when we're able to go back onto campus?

IR:  Um, I guess, well, I guess I won't be, cause I finished studying, I won't be returning to classes. I am looking forward to hopefully being able to graduate in person. And I think that would be a nice end to study.

Also, I really have realised I really liked going to the library, especially the COFA library. I love it there! So I'll be looking forward to kind of being able to use libraries again, I think they're great spaces in communities and it's definitely the, definitely a space that I want to try and use more when things open up again.

AJ: Awesome. So last question: What inspires you right now? And do you have any advice or hot tip for our creative community? Be it about creative practice or surviving lockdown or having fun?

IR: What inspires me? I feel like, uh, something that I've been doing, which I, I guess is pretty cliche, but just moving my body a lot.  I think if I think about kind of what I've been doing more in lock down, I've definitely been kind of bike riding and running and swimming more than usual and so that kind of just getting out of the house, having a walk around or going for a swim at the beach. I think that is or has been instrumental in keeping me sane during, during lockdown and also having a dance. I've been listening to... Fat Boy Slim has a bunch of mixes on SoundCloud that are like lockdown mixes. So I think there's 20 of them, like from week one of lockdown to week 20.

And I've been listening to those, even if I go for a run or before I had a shower, because the acoustics in the bathroom are great! And just having a big dance. And I feel like that kind of gets me feeling good again really quickly. So that'd be one of my hot tips for trying to try to stay sane. And also I've been eating any meals a lot outside. 

So with my housemates, we've got a kind of little nice front garden. We've got a table set set up in-- or outside in. And so we've been eating dinner when it's sunny and kind of warmer outside, which is nice. And you can kind of wave to people walking past and our neighbors across the road, actually one evening also had dinner outside at the same time as us, so that was kind of nice. We “cheers”ed across the road and yeah, it was kind of like a little, little community thing that you can do to kind of feel more connected to everyone. Yeah. 

AJ: Awesome. So it sounds a bit like you live close to the beach?

IR: Yeah. I, I'm very fortunate to be. I live in a big share house and there's six of us usually which is a bit chaos, but less at the moment because some have gone home, but yeah, we're within walking distance of the beach. So that's been really nice being able to kind of go for walks along the coast, which yeah, I'm so, so grateful for. I think it's definitely not the living situation of a lot of people in Sydney. So I've been super lucky. 

AJ: Wow. Yeah, definitely. You are very lucky. I wish I lived near the beach! I live near some watery areas, but more like lakes and lagoons and things. There's a lot of nature around me, so I am grateful for that. 

IR: Yeah, it is nice. It's crazy. Just, I think at least for me that both bodies of water, there's something about them that it always is  a nice reset to be able to a, to swim or even just like walking around. 

AJ: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. I feel quite connected with water. It's like, if I get overwhelmed, I need to like walk near a lake or something. And for some reason it just refreshes my mind. I don't know what it is, but yeah, I feel like it's really good for your mental health to just get near a body of water, if you can. Or you could just like grab a couple of bottles of water and line them up and walk past the bottles of water! (Laughs)!

IR: Yeah, or um, stand in the garden and turn on the garden hose for a little bit!

AJ: (Laughs) Yeah,  so thank you for talking with me today. It's been a real pleasure speaking with you and getting to know you. And, um, I hope that you have a nice day.

IR: Thanks Aria! Yeah, it's been fabulous speaking to you too, I’ve really enjoyed myself

AJ: Awesome! Glad to hear it.

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