Mimi Catterns3
Image by Mimi Catterns

A Hypothetical *insert place name* with Katy Moir

08/12/2020

Regional Arts Australia: Can we begin by hearing a little about how your work as an architect influences your work as an artist, and vice-versa? Do you keep them separate entities or are they intimately entwined?

Katy Moir: They are completely entwined. These days I introduce myself as an Artitect, it tends to cover all bases.

I studied and worked in Architecture for 12 years, there is no way I could just throw that away, nor would I want to. That dedicated training and experience strongly influences the way that I view the world, and the way I view people's interactions with the worlds we have constructed.

Working in the arts, and with artists, has allowed me to completely rethink the way that Architecture could manifest and question its place in the world and what motivates it to occur.

RAA: Tell us a little about how your journey with thinking about cities and places as "hypothetical" began?

KM: In 2018, the Darwin Fringe Festival engaged me to design their first flagship project in ‘Interstitial Space’ (the space in between.)

This was a large scale art installation that took over Civic Park in the Darwin CBD with over 300 square metres of reused shade cloths, sisalation and insulation. The amounts of material that I was able to gather (for free) were relatively small amounts for the built environment organisations that were donating them, but for me and the festival they were incredibly significant. The architectural nerd in me also became fascinated with the Australian Standards that applied to a temporary rigged installation as opposed to a permanent building. The learning process that came from working between these two industries sparked my interest in the hypothetical space that exists between architecture and art.

Parallel to this I had personally invested a significant amount of time into being as informed as possible about the many planning and government developmental decisions that were happening in Darwin. I have only been here 7 years, but within that time I have seen a series of frustratingly cyclical ideas with very few coming to fruition. I know from others who have been here much longer than me that what I was witnessing was just the tip of the iceberg.

RAA: What exactly is A Hypothetical Darwin, and how did you carry this research methodology, artistic process and exhibition over to the town of Alice Springs?

KM: ‘A Hypothetical Darwin’ developed when I was a Creative in Residence at the NT Archives supported by Arts NT. It started out as a design by research project, researching the many ideas for Darwin that have been envisioned over the last 80 years and why they have, or haven’t happened. I then used this research to inform a series of hypothetical designs of my own. The residency manifested in an exhibition with an installation by Darwin artists Lisa Burnett and Amina McConvell.

When I took the project to Alice Springs I presented the installation and work from ‘A Hypothetical Darwin’ and after a short period stripped the installation to its bare bones and re-populated it with research and drawings relevant to Alice Springs. The content was, of course, different. I don’t have a lived experience in Alice so I felt it would have been presumptuous that I could come up with a series of ideas for a place I’ve spent (collectively) 12 weeks in.

RAA: What kind of public responses did you receive in Darwin and Alice? Were they similar, or markedly different?

KM: They were not as different as people would think. My work attracted a similar demographic and audience in both places. The differences were more pronounced in the diversity of industries that interacted with the work—not surprisingly, Artists, Architects/Planners and Historians.

RAA: What did your time with the NT Archives reveal to you about the Northern Territory's colonisation that you had not previously thought about or encountered?

KM: As a person living and working on stolen land I cannot be reminded enough of how deeply the process of colonisation affects all of our lives. I was continually surprised by the layers of colonisation that exist, particularly within our planning systems. I was constantly having to challenge my own design ego, to question the projects that as a designer I would love to be a part of but also recognising how these same projects continue to support a capitalist and colonial agenda. Even seemingly uncomplicated projects, that I looked upon with a colonial nostalgia, once I dug a bit deeper was yet again faced with planning and design used to dispose First Nations peoples of their land.

RAA: How do you see this work—either as an idea, a methodology or process— continuing in the future?

KM: 'A Hypothetical *insert the name of a place here*’ is both a methodology and a process that I think could be employed anywhere. It is about bringing a framework of research and community input to a place to expose histories but also give people a voice.

All of my propositions and thinking would require a huge cultural shift that I don’t think our governments (local, territory or federal) will be capable of any time soon.

Not all hope is lost though! Often in my crits people would ask “What can we do if we can’t trust governments to action the things we care about?” In our respective communities who have both people who are able to conduct radical anarchist movements, as well as those who campaign consistently and clearly to the government.

My skills (and a learned respect for authority and process) sit in the latter, so I’m hoping my work will have some influence in that space, while still inspiring others to continue pushing alternative models of thinking in their communities.