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In Conversation with Fringe Festival Artist Yvette Turnbull

"For me, I’m keen to tune into those invisible cycles that exist around us in nature, in the environment, and tune out of other external influences that may cause stress or unwanted pressure – allowing myself to take control of my own wellbeing."

We speak to Artist Yvette Turnbull about her work ‘CLOUD CONTROL’ – an exploration of the earth’s climate and the role it plays in our everyday lives and our many moods. Yvette tells us about her inspiration for the work, the importance of wellbeing, mental health, and playing!

Your Fringe Festival work ‘CLOUD CONTROL’ invites people to ‘come play’. How do visitors interact with the piece?

With ‘CLOUD CONTROL’ I am extending an invitation to spend the afternoon at the Abbotsford Convent indulging in the art of cloud gazing. I hope that visitors take a moment to relax on the grass and take in the shape-shifting sky above. I wholeheartedly believe in the restorative benefits of simply being outdoors. A recent study led by The University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions suggests that people who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have poor mental health than those who don’t.

‘CLOUD CONTROL’ examines the impact weather and environment has on our everyday mood. Will the installation make peoples’ days with rays of sunshine or ruin them with rain clouds?

I’m hoping for sunny days and gentle breezes, so let’s say ‘make peoples’ days with rays of sunshine!’ I love that!

You’ve said ‘CLOUD CONTROL’ seeks to highlight the similarities between the earth’s climate and the human mind. What parallels are you hoping to draw?

A phrase I keep returning to when thinking about this work is – ‘Climate is constant. You are in control.’

For me, I’m keen to tune into those invisible cycles that exist around us in nature, in the environment, and tune out of other external influences that may cause stress or unwanted pressure – allowing myself to take control of my own wellbeing.

‘You perceive nature with your senses. Your brain processes those sensory experiences and triggers physiological responses.’ – Richard Mitchell, an epidemiologist at Glasgow University, UK.

‘CLOUD CONTROL’ is an instrument to help visitors gauge and highlight their own perceptions or emotional readings.

While poetic, ‘CLOUD CONTROL’ also takes a serious look at the state of mental health in Australia, using the weather as a framework to talk about our moods and our minds. What are you hoping visitors learn or takeaway from their experience?

Nature-based interventions have positive effects on both our physical health and mental wellbeing. Psychological benefits include reduced stress and anxiety, improvements to mood, increased perceived wellbeing, improved concentration and attention, and cognitive restoration.

I really hope visitors take a moment to engage in the work and find a sliver of calm in it. Sundays are my personal wellbeing days. I’m really encouraging people to take in their immediate environment, clock the wind, the sky above, the passing clouds, and the sun on their face.

How has your work as a set and costume designer influenced or informed your work on ‘CLOUD CONTROL’?

I have always been interested in space, place and our relationship to it. Similarly, I’m fascinated with objects and the stories they tell. In theatre we create worlds out of words, though ‘CLOUD CONTROL’ is allowing me to tap into an environment rather than fabricating my own. Naturally one informs the other. I am still the constant in the work. My research processes and skills are still the same. Though I admit it is a slightly different headspace thinking of my work in a visual art context, I see it as a welcome change!

Does installation art provide you with an outlet to create a dialogue on more serious topics, like mental health, that you otherwise can’t engage in through costume design? Or do both mediums allow you to create a discussion through art?

Oh, defiantly the latter. I will always try to approach my work on a production in a holistic way. As a designer you are a communicator first and foremost, so I would be failing at my job if I weren’t trying to engage the audience in the narratives and tensions of the work. Though for me this opportunity to be a part of Fringe, an open access arts festival, is really an opportunity to try out an idea for myself. So often in my practice I’m responding to a brief as part of a collaborative team, which I love, though ‘CLOUD CONTROL’ has been entirely self-initiated. It’s a different approach. Essentially, I’m trying to give myself an outlet to experiment and play.

In a slightly different role for the Fringe Festival, you’re designing this year’s Fringe Club. Was that a fun project to work on?

Yes! I was brought on as the site designer for the Festival Fringe Hub this year. I’ve managed to rack up quite a few site design projects this year, which was unexpected, but I’m really enjoying it. It allows me to refine an aesthetic of sorts and take some risks with colour and form that my work in theatre might not always allow me. The Fringe Club is such a fun place to be during the festival so I can only hope that I have contributed to that atmosphere and done so with a touch of humour!

Where else can people hope to see your work?

Come and play with ‘CLOUD CONTROL’ at the Convent’s Providence lawn Saturday 30 September – 1 October 2017.