Lucy Zola is a multi-talented individual, currently undertaking an Honours degree in Art and Design at Uni SA, following on from a Bachelor of Contemporary Art. In her most recent film and soundscape art piece Extrospection, Lucy utilises her incredible musician’s ear, photographer’s eye and ceramicist’s hand to produce a deeply powerful, immersive work that discusses themes of social anxiety and feeling watched. We sat down with Lucy to talk about Extrospection, social anxiety, and her processes and future plans.
Watch this segment come to life in our online exclusive video interview.
Your latest work Extrospection is an incredibly dreamy, ambiguous and rather ethereal film and soundscape. What is your intention behind this work?
With the combination of the sounds and experimental film, it aims to take the viewer on an emotional journey.
The intention behind my work, Extrospection, was to explore my own issues with social anxiety. I think after spending a really long time alone (being in Spain before the coronavirus pandemic happened) it was really anxiety provoking for me to enter back into society and try to reconnect with friends and social groups. I just really started to understand how much anxiety this caused me. I felt really watched and monitored, but I was also really aware this was kind of in my head; it was not necessarily how people were looking at me. So, I really wanted to explore those issues and to use that as a way of understanding […] almost as like a bit of therapy. I also really wanted to share this experience with other people because I am very aware that a lot of people experience these feelings. So, my work was intended to be very immersive. With the combination of the sounds and experimental film, it aims to take the viewer on an emotional journey.
The film and the sound do not have a narrative meaning; it is supposed to just elicit different emotions so that the viewer experiences the same feelings that I am feeling. I also added a ceramic body cast which was of my own body; [it] was also to represent the feelings of people judging you. The social shell – that is what people see. That is what I felt was one of the things people were judging and looking at me about. So, that was really therapeutic I guess to take a cast of my own body.
What did you find to be more cathartic: the process to express your social anxiety or the end product where the viewer could be immersed in the work?
For me, I found the process of making it the most therapeutic. Especially when I took the cast of my own body, [that] was really uncomfortable for me. I did it at [the university] I had four people in my degree take this cast off my body [when] I was nude. I was pretty uncomfortable at first, but, by the end, I just kind of felt like, ‘oh look, it is fine. This is just, you know… we all have a body. It is ok. They are not judging me; this is all just fun’. By the end of it, I did not feel uncomfortable.
I took a lot of videos and sounds from the world; both imagery that I felt elicited anxious responses and imagery that made me feel calm and really appreciate the world around me.
So, in my work, I took a lot of videos and sounds from the world; both imagery that I felt elicited anxious responses and imagery that made me feel calm and really appreciate the world around me. So, I found definitely exploring my environment and especially exploring the beautiful landscape we have was really lovely. It was a really nice way for me to kind of settle back into life here, because I was feeling ungrounded.
How do you feel the surround sound affects people in the viewing of your work?
I think that that was the aspect that makes it so immersive and kind of transports the viewer to another place. If you stand in the middle of my work, there are lots of different sounds going on around you and I made it so you could hear people walking around or breathing behind you. So, I think it kind of makes it a more realistic experience. Although, I want people to watch the film, I found if you close your eyes and listen to the sounds, it feels like it all just could be happening around you, which I really wanted to achieve.
Do you think being a musician assisted in the collection, collating and producing of the sounds and surround system?
Yeah, definitely. Especially because I wrote music to go along with it and also my partner helped me with it too. He is a musician. He played some of the instruments and taught me how to use some of the equipment because I had never recorded in surround sound before. Neither had he. We kind of worked out how to do it. Definitely being a musician really helped. Having recorded things in the past on my own helped. I guess just having that sense of sound and always experiencing my environment in sound and paying a lot of attention to sound really helped me to reproduce different landscapes in sounds.
So, we have talked about how viewers feel when they watch Extrospection, but how do you feel when you watch it?
Watching the films, I do see it almost as I am letting go of those feelings
I guess I see a lot of the hard work! It is probably a little bit of a different experience to me than somebody else would have because I made it. I can see every image and where it was from. When I watch it, I can see that I filmed that out in the markets or you know, that was the university electricity tower. So, it is a little bit different. I definitely do experience the emotions that I am also trying to elicit in my viewer. I enjoy listening to the music, which is quite rare for me. I often struggle to listen to things that I have produced myself. I do really feel like it transports me to another place. The anxious parts do make me feel anxious and I like listening to the calm bits of music. Watching the films, I do see it almost as I am letting go of those feelings and a lot of it was about experiencing this, acknowledging it and moving on. So, I do get that from the work too.
So Extrospection is a follow up from your original film Introspection; how does Extrospection vary or build from that?
Introspection was actually a more positive work, and it was about feeling isolated, but I guess my experience with that was quite positive because I felt like when I was separated from society. I really learned who I was when nobody else’s opinion mattered. So that work was really positive and it was about more looking internally to find meaning and about accepting that, and how good and freeing that was. That was made when I was in isolation. Extrospection I guess followed on from that but was almost like the flip side of it. The [emotions] returning of feeling monitored and feeling that social anxiety again, but then also learning how you cannot always be isolated from society and it is not actually a good thing in the long term. I guess that one’s more looking out, and looking at the world and looking at how people see you but also just accepting that and learning to see things differently.
Do you hope to create more bodies of film and sound work, perhaps as a follow up from Extrospection? Or will you move in a new direction?
I am definitely really excited to keep working in sound and film. I might start to do it less about my own experience and [instead] more generalised. More of the world.
This year, or next year, whenever it happens, I am going to Nepal to create my work. So those works I am not quite sure what the concept or the meaning will be behind it, but I am going to work with an artist in Nepal who works with different landscapes. [I plan to] translate these into experimental film and sound so that people can experience the emotional essence of the place, rather than how you would generally record a landscape. It will be more of an emotional feeling and understanding of it. So, I am excited to make those.
Do you think you will ever continue to focus on social anxiety within your work – is that something that will always run through at some level? Or do you think you have focused on that already and now you want to move on?
With anxiety and mental health issues, well for me, it is always cyclical.
I think it will definitely return in my work. With anxiety and mental health issues, well for me, it is always cyclical. I experience it, I struggle with it, I get better, I move on from it, but I always know that it will come back at some point. Art definitely reflects your current feelings and what you are going through. So, I am sure it will definitely re-enter my work at some point.
Do you find that there’s a lot of artists that already talk about it, or do you wish that even on a local scale you saw more artists talking about mental health in their art?
I think definitely in the past few years, I am sure for a long time as well (this is more just since I have been paying attention to it), I have been seeing a lot out there about mental health, and I think it is really good just to be able to openly talk about it. I definitely think it is something that is addressed, but it is certainly an important topic and everybody’s experience of it is different. So, if the way I experience social anxiety really relates to somebody else and can get some kind of feeling that someone is going through the same thing as them, then that is really nice.
Beyond Nepal and your Honours degree, where are you thinking of heading?
I would love to get into the Arts Community, helping with Arts Programs and getting other people to experience and enjoy the arts. I am quite interested in education as well, like I would love to work for the University. I love studying. I am definitely an artist but I certainly feel like I am really heading down the academic path, and I could see myself doing Masters or a PhD. I would love to eventually, one day, work at the University; that would be really nice. I used to really think about the future and where it was heading, but now I’m trying to take it as it comes. Go to Nepal, focus on my music, focus on my art… eventually head down these different routes, but I am the most indecisive person ever, so we will see what happens.
If you had one piece of advice to give to a fellow art student that was struggling with social anxiety and was struggling to make work, what would it be?
You cannot always end up with the most amazing outcome, it is all about experimenting and trying new things.
I would definitely say, do not focus too much on the outcome. Just focus on experimenting and the journey and exploring whatever you want to explore. I think social anxiety really feeds into it – [worrying] about what people will think of what I do. Worried about what the outcome will be [and] worried that the outcome will not be good enough. Those ideas themselves prevent you from making anything at all. I definitely really struggled with that in my third year of study. I think letting go and just experimenting with different things, in the end it all worked out. If it does not, you tried and that is what art is about. You cannot always end up with the most amazing outcome, it is all about experimenting and trying new things. Do not get too caught up on how everything will turn out.
Interview by Christina Massolino