Am writing this post as I was mulling over a conversation I had following Marion Conrow’s opening exhibition MUSEUM OF MY FRIENDS #1 at the Lismore Regional Gallery. A person who knew Marion and her work before her accident, told me innocently: “You didn’t have to do much as a mentor!” So here is my response.
I have known Marion for many years prior and post her disability, and have had very successful and recognised collaborations with her in the past, including the installation performances “The Hands Project” (1998-2001) and “Thanatonauts” (1st version shown at Latitude Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse in 2001).
Internationally exhibited, her work has been presented in QCP (Queensland Centre of Photography), QUT Arts Precinct, Australian National Museum, Artstate, & Lines in the Sand Commonwealth Games Cultural Program. She has had residencies with Blast Theory (UK), Antagon Aktion Theatre (Frankfurt), Artspace (NSW), and had a two-year residency at University of Queensland’s ViSAC laboratory (Immersive VR). She has collaborated with many major figures in the arts world, notably with Judy Watson and Denis Beaubois.
Of course, Marion is and remained an artist before and after her accident. She kept her creativity and skills. But what people might not know or understand is that she struggled for 10 years after her accident with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI). What does it mean? Headaches, different social life and habits to cope with pain but also with fatigue and short term memory loss. These are unseen stigma of this disability. These actually demand a huge discipline and understanding of her needs, in order to put in place and develop processes to be active, creative and manage all the administrative and promotional sides which pair with artistic work.
I have been amazed how Marion took the opportunity of receiving a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts to do this mentorship, to strengthen what she started to establish during these 10 years, and built on. We spent several sessions to map out what she wished to aim for, what she needed to make it happen, and summerised where she was at.
Then, she went away and made her stepping stones plan, much more detailed than any funding body would ask for, just because that is how she now functions. She compares/ed the ideal plan with what she can and could do, and readjusts/ed her timing according to the stepping stones. She also wanted to work with a big fabricator company Urban Arts Project, and prepared all her meetings with them like a business woman, with agendas and budgets.
During this period, a few majors things I could contribute, were: to guide her at times in how to make decisions and reinforce them according to her primary ideas; to revisit the work according to the logistics; and to find ways to express issues that matter for her.
MUSEUM OF MY FRIENDS is a homage to her peers (AñA Wojak, Beau Dachs, Devi Thomas, Jeremy Hawkes, Roger Foley-Fogg, Stephen Allkins, Edda Lampis, Marion Conrow & her cat Oscar Prince Wilde), a social take on artistic life in regional area, in the Northern Rivers, reconnecting with them and rendering feelings and thoughts about personal and societal isolations.
I wish Marion the best in her endeavour, as well as in removing and alleviating her barriers to broader cultural inclusion and opportunities.
“Suzon Fuks, international award-winning artist and former Australia Council for the Arts Fellow, has been invaluable and an amazing and inspiring mentor, strict & encouraging, her help has gone above & beyond while working WITH my Disability. Her help continuing and refining my work for international exhibition will give me insights in her broad range of artistry and experience in visual & performing arts.”
– Marion Conrow –