The Lismore artist who turned a brain injury into art
ELEVEN years ago yesterday, Lismore resident Marion Conrow suffered a car accident that changed her life, but did not destroy her creativity and her love for the arts, quite the opposite.
Conrow was announced last week as one of the recipients of the latest round of Australian Council for the Arts grants.
With the funds, Conrow will create Museum of My Friends, a new audiovisual work exploring aspects of living with mild traumatic brain injury, to be exhibited in Lismore next year.
What can you tell us about the project?
This work will be challenging, but I also want it to be a bit fun.
My last work, Unravell Egg, explored the aspect of not being able to process language.
There are many aspects to Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), the biggest hurdle is that as I appear normal, it is an invisible disability.
It is isolating also.
The last five weeks since finishing the Commonwealth Games project have left me unable to be social or be in company, mostly I have been sleeping for close to five weeks.
I don't talk about it much, as our experiences are often negated or are seen as laziness.
I am definitely not lazy.
I can work hard do my best but inevitably there is a trade off.
There are so many issues with MTBI, this work will develop this into an interactive projection sculpture/installation.
What will Museum of My Friends be about?
The rationale of Museum Of My Friends explores aspects of my MTBI sustained in a severe car accident in 2007, losing friends and communication with the outside world.
I was house bound, unable to converse, isolated, asleep most of the time and without memory.
Sense of loss and memory, both real and imagined, are at the core, with playful and ghostly holographic environments.
Small objects become giant building blocks, where humans are ghosts caught in a loop and reflections grasp the mundane that in future becomes historic.
It is a way of having these friends close or in proximity, like when I am awake, encapsulating friends in memory pods.
The collection of portraits will highlight the culture specifically emerging from regional areas such as Lismore.
Strong arts and alternative cultures gatherings with my new creative peers is what got me through isolated times, my only outlet was to dance in the dark, from deep depression to survival.
I hope to raise awareness through this work about MTBI to a wide audience, as it is an invisible disability that suffers societal incapacity of dealing with it.
Each portrait will present a friend and their universe, including AnA Wojak, Jeremy Hawkes, Stephen Allkins, Roger Foley Fogg, myself, my cat companion Oscar Wilde and others.
How long have you lived in Lismore for?
I stumbled across Lismore in 1988 whilst looking at the media course which was then when Southern Cross University was the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education.
I then completed my degree in Sculpture and Media.
I have been based here since then but have had gaps where I have lived in Sydney, Brisbane and overseas.
Lismore has an incredibly rich creative culture, our artist really contribute to the lifestyle here, I really encourage people to support artists for the work they do.
How long have you been an artist for and what made you specialise on audiovisual?
Since a child I was very shy so creating artistically was how I communicated.
My journey with mediums has been a long one I started with classical training in ceramics, drawing and sculpture, but often what moved me most was film and music, I studied video along with many other things completing my degree in both Sculpture and Media.
I am known here for establishing LINC TV Lismore Community TV station which was, in my mind, a creative project utilising broadcast.
My passion for the last 20 years is visually working with projection and sculpture to make light forms.
As artists, it is a long journey and a way of living, it has its sacrifices but also the joy of breaking through with new ideas, I love to push the medium and with projection have aimed to create ghostly holographic works with a sense of play, this also crosses over into my event work where I get to play, experiment while covering my costs.
Basically I love building with projected imagery that I also create.
Is this the first time you receive a grant from Australia Council?
This is the first time I have received a grant for my own work.
I am incredibly excited to have this opportunity at an important time in my career.
I have worked on over 50 other arts projects and am glad that I am finally recognised for my own work.
In 2018, Artstate Lismore gave me great exposure, I am very thankful to Regional Arts NSW, Arts Northern Rivers and Real Artworks for that.
It was also at the conference that they emphasised partnerships.
It was The Kaching that finally sank in, so in this project Museum Of My Friends my key partners are internationally known sculpture facilitators / fabricators Urban Arts Projects, based in Brisbane, Shanghai and New York.
I am undergoing a mentorship with them and they are building my new work at cost.
My other partner is high profile artist Suzon Fuks of Igneous, who were based here and are now in Brisbane. Her help writing my grant is probably why I was successful. She is helping me with strategy, arts practice and video side of the work.
Contributing artists on the project include the legendary local DJ and composer Stephen Allkins, and with interactivity Brad Hammond based in Melbourne.
I will be including local artists as portraits such as my friends AnA Wojak and Jeremy Hawkes.
While I am very excited about receiving this grant, its been a long road to get to this point and I also know that there are another 1000 plus deserving artists per grant, all I can say is don't give up!