Sirens founder Charlotte Prebensen is in conversation with Prue Stent and Honey Long, an Australian artistic duo who span the mediums of photography, installation and performance with their site specific artworks. Their work centres on the female body in all its pink, liquid, visceral, fleshy glory, challenging historical modes of representing femininity.
Sirens: Artistic partnerships are always interesting in terms of their dynamic, how did you two meet and how do you divide your roles?
Prue Stent and Honey Long: We have been really close friends since we were 14 and our art practice has evolved out of that connection. We have a pretty strong understanding for each other's process's so we're able to make work in a very fluid way and the roles change depending on the situation. We definitely have very different strengths that we're able to recognise which makes the process easier. A lot of the time it feels less like a collaboration and more like we have created an artistic identity that we both contribute to.
S: Your work is a meeting point of many mediums: photography, performance, sculpture, installation - would you consider yourselves to be more closely aligned with any one of these? How do these elements play out in an exhibition space?
P and H: Predominantly we have presented our work photographically but within the process of constructing images there are elements of performance and sculpture. Whenever we have exhibited in physical spaces we try to make it immersive so the photos extend beyond the walls. For example including sounds, performance or sculptural elements that have a relationship to the images in some way. So then all in all it becomes an installation in that way.
S: How important is the setting and scenery in your photographs, and its relationship with the subject?
P and H: Really important, most of our work springs from interacting with a setting we are drawn too. These usually are quite liminal spaces which have the potential to exist as different worlds. Using bodies to engage with our environment the boundaries between subject and scenery as well as object tends to blur a lot. There is a kind of synaesthesia that happens in our process- wanting to assimilate the body with environments or objects and materials we find alluring.
S: The fluid and bodily nature of your images is very striking, as is the use of materials and objects that leak from, obstruct and shroud the form. Could you tell us a little about the significance of these abstractions?
P and H: Abstracting the body and disguising it is something we have always been intrinsically drawn to and have found to be quite liberating. Fragmenting the body and identity in this way on the one hand could be seen to reduce it to objective matter but at the same time we feel it draws attention to an inherent dynamism. We tend to be very drawn to materiality and viscera maybe because it has this underlying sense of intricacy and procreative forces. A lot of the time the materials or objects we use could be considered as quite banal, yet we are attracted to them for one reason or another and there is a desire to transform them and bring them to life in some way.
S: Much of your practice seems to centre around the female form, and exploring traditional modes of depicting women in art. What do you hope to address through your imagery in terms of how the female body is viewed and the meanings it carries?
P and H: That there isn't any wrong or right way to depict the female body and that the flaw lies in the dominant ways of 'seeing' that (in particular colonial) culture has propagated. In involving the female body in our work, and a lot of the times our own body, we're able to work from a place that is rooted in feeling and spontaneity. We want to disregard reductive binaries and active/passive associations. Rather it is about expressing things that we can't necessarily put words to.
S: How has the art world responded to a pair of young female artists using the space to discuss femininity in such a challenging away?
P and H: Challenging in that we are trying to defy stereotypical femininity but for the most part the work is visually appealing and quite easy to digest? There are definitely contradictions in our work but we're happy to have them there.
S: What's next for the two of you, and what are you working on currently?
P and H: We would like to focus on bringing our work into more tangible and physical spaces, both in and outside of the gallery walls. We have a few projects we're working on right now. One is a an immersive installation and movement piece for Underbelly Arts festival in Sydney and we're also starting to develop a new body of work to exhibit in the beginning of next year.
S: Any plans for exhibitions in Europe? :)
Yeh we're actually looking at a possible exihibition in Zurich in September which is exciting!