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Exploring Non-Duality: An Interview with Lisa Stewart

Erika Belavy

There is no doubt that as individuals and as societies we are constantly growing and transforming. Australian-born multi-disciplinary artist, Lisa Stewart explores just that with her intricate collages. Based in Berlin since 2012, Lisa's practice spans across sound, video, collage, installation, performance and live art. Her work invites the viewer to look sideways into mustier crevices of consciousness.  She has a particular interest in the fine line between history and mythology, often working with fable to illuminate fact and explore alternative timelines. 

In her interview, Lisa tells us how her series, Plasia, looks at internalised personal growth in correlation to rapidly ‘advancing’ (depleting) societies, allegorically reflecting an internal cleansing processes. Read on to discover more!

What made you decide to become an artist?

I couldn’t help it. I’ve always been drawn to the application of abstract ideas, dreaming up imaginary worlds, following strange thought spirals to see where they go. I think as a child I was really craving adventures that weren’t manifesting within my Melbourne suburban existence, which was often a bit too controlled and conventional for my liking. Art was one strategy for me to disrupt normality and bring more weirdness and magic into my life. This need then lead me to studying visual art at University, which then helped to push me onto the path called ‘artist’.

What drew you to collage?

I started doing collage as a way of visually mapping abstract concepts in my head that were surrounding larger experiential installations or ephemeral works that I planned to make. At first I only considered my collages as part of my ‘research’ process – but then after awhile I began to see them as works in their own right.

Tell us more about this series. What inspired it?

A lot of my collages work with the idea of “as above, so below”, where the microcosm is the same as the macrocosm, the exterior world a mirror for our interiors. This particular series “Plasia” looks at internalised personal growth in correlation to rapidly ‘advancing’ (depleting) societies. The works allegorically reflect internal cleansing processes, venturing deep into your own muck in order to release some of the junk that builds up. When we spend years in careless states of excessive consumption and exploitation of our resources things can get pretty degenerated, natural ecosystems get clogged or exhausted. You can see this reflected in landscapes around the world and in human bodies alike.

As individuals and as societies we are constantly growing and transforming. Through science and technology we can increasingly manipulate the world around us, we make things faster, more built up. We morph our environments at increasing speed through the constant transmutation of raw materials into products. Sands becomes glass, trees become vampire novels, metals become complex computing machines which in turn can transform thousands of animal remnants into bags of chicken nuggets in a matter of minutes. Matter is getting more and more mixed. Rivers, oceans and human bodies carry plastics and synthetic hormones inside their systems….

I don’t think its all doom and gloom, but it is largely unconscious behaviour. Something on one level we know we are doing, but are not ready to really address because it would mean having to change so many systems and ideologies.

What do you want to accomplish with your work? How are you doing this?

I like to open up new associations, new pathways in the brain.  My works offer viewers a chance to connect ideas that maybe they hadn’t considered side by side before. I’m interested in sharing the reality of illusion, how fantasy can be used to look sideways at a truth. My works seek to broaden understandings of Non-duality (the scientific, philosophical, spiritual concept that all existence is one, inextricably interconnected and that nothing exists in separation). Starting from the concept that all points in time and space are connected, my works envision alternative timelines, blurring pasts and futures to better understand non-linear time cycles.

My works tend to use a lot of humour. I’m often making small jokes with existing logic systems (eg. the format of a news broadcast or a day spa), using their own language to bend their interpretation into something a bit off. I do this to highlight the construction of experience and also to investigate the malleability of accepted realities.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

100% Alchemy of the mind.