Spotlight On: Collusive Miscellany (aka Bailee Lob and Amy Claire Mills)

By Emma-Kate Wilson

Photos: Glenn Locklee

How did the concept of Collusive Miscellany first come about?

We first started working with the idea of collusion when we were asked to do a collaborative work together for an exhibition. We had previously worked collaboratively within Show Us Your Teeth – we are both founding members of the performance art collective – and worked side by side on exhibitions, so it was an easy transition. The theme of the exhibition was Collaboration – each work was made by two artists and as we created the work, discussing the install, the outcome, the two of us started to feel as though we were conspiring.

The work was our secret creation – made without interference from others, kept between the two of us. We continued on with this theme of collaborating throughout 2016 as we had two exhibitions that called on us to collaborate.  

It’s funny because ‘collusive miscellany’ is really just a label for the outcomes of our work together. We produce work without interference from others, each piece is a secret amongst ourselves until it eventuates. To a certain extent, it’s even a secret from ourselves because thermoplastic moulding is a process that you can’t predict the outcome of 100%.

The work is produced through trial and experimentation, each time we produced an artwork using this technique the outcome is completely different.

How does your creative process come together?

We work in a practice-based manner, so we make things and do a lot of testing and then we talk about it.

Sometimes, we get into the swing of things and it’s like we’re both thinking the same thing at the same time. Other times it’s more of a negotiation.

We never make with anything in particular in mind though – the work comes from the energy between us, and the ideas come through our discussions, interactions with the work, and performances. Even after working so closely together in so many different ways, we are still surprised by each other and channeled by each other. 

What do you invite the audience to explore?

‘Collusive Miscellany’ is all about exploring the space between two people who share the process of making work. This space expands when we present the work to the audience, in viewing us and experiencing the work they share in the meditative space that emerges as we create.

Textiles are a haptic medium; people are enticed to use their other senses to experience the art, and often will touch the cloth. Art was, for a long time, purely visual, but in recent years, there has been a shift to a fuller mode of expression and experience, and the creation of more immersive works. When someone touches the cloth or moves beneath it, they are sitting within a transformative space and able to explore the immersion and fullness of the installation completely through the cloth.

What elements of your own identities and bodies are you exploring?

Bailee: I guess for me, the really personal exploration happens when I’m performing with the works. Each performance is different, depending on my mood, and some days I might work on feeling strength, others on the lines and shape of my body, sometimes on the sensation of the fabric across my skin.

In doing so, I am exploring my vulnerabilities, exposing my body in a way that I would not normally, relaxing gradually into my body, as I become absorbed in the rhythm of the work.

Amy: For me, I think the work is reminiscent of the body in transition. My body is always in a state of flux due to my chronic illness. Change is not something to be afraid of, it’s something to embrace.

At different stages in our lives, our bodies will feel completely different to how we have ever felt before. The body and skin hold memory just as cloth does, yet it adapts to takes on new shapes and form and evolves, metamorphosing into something different.    

How do you feel about the representation of women’s bodies in the art world?

Bailee: It’s getting better, there is definitely a lot more diversity than there was but there is still a long way to go. Representations of certain bodies, like those with disability, are still not very commonplace.

Amy: I have a large scar across my torso from a liver transplant 15 years ago, and while I am proud of the strength of my body, represented through my scar, at times I have felt very other-ed by this feature of my body.

Do you want to construct a different image of your bodies?

I don’t think the work is about constructing different images of our own bodies; it’s more centred on the vulnerabilities of uncovering our bodies. The cloth and our bodies become one, interweaving to form abstract shapes; our bodies are the force of conception.

How does the fabric play into the dynamics of the female body?

There is an undeniable relationship between the body and cloth through our everyday use of textile materials for comfort, warmth, protection, and self-expression. In this work, the cloth acts as a mechanism for exploring the body, a way to conceal, to feel texturally, to frame the body, and to mimic the movement and fluidity of the form.

The potential energy stored in the cloth parallels the body’s capacity for change, for dynamic movement, and continual growth, providing energy when the body is absent from the work, and assisting our exploration of embodiment when we are present.

How does the process of building this kind of art come about?

We start with the fabric usually; sometimes there is an idea about drape or scale, but often it’s just about the texture and the flow of the fabric – the possibility that cloth holds.

Once we have the fabric, we start thinking about the moulding process and the weight of it, how it will move or hang in a space, how we might perform with it.

The changes that the cloth goes through while we work is incredible; It starts out as this lightweight flat sheet and gradually becomes heavy with resists, then hot while we steam it and then as the resists are removed, it becomes lighter again. Yet the fluidity is changed, altered, by the structure of the thermoplastic forms left.

How do you feel about the use of social media platforms for displaying ways to view your art?

Social media is a great tool for social change. It can help launch artist’s careers, build artistic communities and sell your work commercially.

For us, social media censorship of the female body plays a big part in what we can and cannot share via the platform. We have had work taken down because of this. We should be embracing all forms of the female body in all its glory, not hiding it away behind filters and Instagram stickers.

Does this offer a personalised view point for the audience to contemplate your perspective?

As this work was really about the process of making, sharing its progression via social media reveals how labour intensive the work was to make. In this way the audience is both learning and experiencing what it is like to be an artist.