BASTIAN FOX PHELAN

Wednesday 7/5/17 time 3:27 PM


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Background as an artist

I am a writer, musician and zinemaker from Sydney, Australia.
 
I grew up in the regional city of Wollongong, on the South Coast of New South Wales, and studied a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in Philosophy and Creative Writing. I'm currently undertaking a Master of Arts (Research) at the University of Sydney.
 
For the last few years I have been writing my first book. It is an autobiographical work focusing on my experiences as a female with facial hair. My writing explores how, as someone who doesn't fit the binary, I have navigated gender identity, public life, relationships and self-acceptance. I will submit part of my book for my Masters major work. My writing has been published in The Lifted Brow, Trace Magazine and Tincture Journal.
 
I am also a writer of zines, and have been making zines (small independently published magazines) for 12 years. Some of my zines include the 'How To Be Alone' series and 'Ladybeard', which is held in the collections of the National Library of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia.

As a musician, I am one half of dream pop synth duo Moonsign. We weave magic, sensitivity and lush, synthy sounds to take you to another galaxy full of blissful experiences, touching melodies and compassion. We have independently released several EPs and a full-length album, and have toured in Australia and Europe.
 
I love being able to express myself in different mediums, and I also love to collaborate and be part of creative communities. For me, making art is intrinsically tied to self-love and self-care, sharing my ideas and discoveries, connecting with others, and connecting to the universe. It's how I process my experiences and how I find meaning in everyday life. Creating art is one of the best ways that I feel I can I contribute to life.
 

How did you end up choosing your media?
 
Since I was a kid I've been writing stories and singing. I taught myself to play guitar and sing as a teenager and then started writing songs. Growing up, I was obsessed with music and reading books, and as I started to think deeply about aspects of my identity as a young adult, I realised how valuable these mediums were as communication tools and tools for self-reflection and empowerment.
 
I chose to study Creative Writing so I could learn how to write, but I also taught myself a great deal about writing through writing personal zines.
 
In 2013 I decided to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and wrote a 50,000 word draft of a book about my life in one month. That was the thing that set me on the path of writing a book, and in the last few years of writing, studying, thinking, refining, and seeking feedback from my writing group and supervisor, I feel that I have really been learning what it takes to be an artist. A book seems to me to be the best way to share my journey with others. I write so that others can see their own personal stories reflected in mine, so I can give courage to others and so that those on the path to self-acceptance may have a companion.
 
Music was the way that I sought to connect with others in order to be understood as a teenager, but my reasons for making music now are different. I love to sing and perform for others as a kind of offering. I enjoy the feeling of transforming the energy in a room with my joyful performances. It gives me so much pleasure to sing and write music. While writing is usually a solitary pursuit, with music I work best in collaboration. When I started writing songs with Carlin Dally for Moonsign, I was able to realise my dream of being in a band. I've learned so much about making music through collaborating with Carlin! It's ultimately about sharing an experience.


What do you find as the best and worst sides of being an artist?
 
What I love about being an artist is the freedom to express yourself, being able to share magical experiences with others, using your intuition, allowing yourself to daydream, feeling connected to the flow of life in the universe, being able to have intimate experiences with others through making art, touching people, being part of creative communities, making something that can mean so much to another person, being able to let yourself play like a kid, being able to go on adventures and call it research, documenting life, commenting on what it means to be a human being alive right now, honouring all the artists that have come before you, meeting artists that are making art now, making art with friends, discussing being an artist with other artists, finding out what is the best part of being an artist for other artists, learning about how other people work, discovering your own work rhythms, being able to give people unique gifts, being able to honour your friends and family though your art, being able to honour yourself through your art, being able to honour the creative spirit of the universe itself.
 
The most difficult aspects of being an artist for me are: self-discipline, believing in myself, working out a good routine and sticking to it, not losing heart when the work is hard, letting go of my original idea for what the work would be, feeling uninspired, feeling like I rely on other people to reassure me about my work, procrastination, fear-based withholding, having the stamina to finish things, getting overwhelmed by the size of a project, feeling confused about how to make a career our of anything I do, not taking proper breaks and then getting really tired, and the lack of opportunities, mentorships and financial support for artists.
 

Is this your first time in Finland? What kind of expectations did you have about Finland/ Joutsa?
 
I've been to Helsinki twice before – in 2008 and in 2014 – but I've never been to the countryside in Finland.
 
My expectation was that Joutsa would be a quiet little town with beautiful lakes and forests and a lively artistic community within Haihatus, and I think my dream has been fulfilled!
 
I expected that we would have lots of nice times enjoying sauna together, and that has definitely happened. At Midsummer we even had vasta/vihta to gently beat ourselves with, thanks to Raimo! I imagined that the artist resident group for summer would be bigger, but our little group of four was just perfect for getting to know each other and being able to give each other space to work. I definitely wasn't expecting the club at the gas station to be so much fun!
 
I feel that through my experience living in Joutsa for a month, I came to a deeper appreciation for the Finnish landscape and people. It's something I can't quite articulate, but there is a very special feeling you get from being in a forest or sitting by a lake or just looking out your window at the empty streets at midnight when the sun is setting. I felt so blessed to experience such gorgeous silence. As the days went by, I felt myself emptying out, relaxing into the calm energy of the place, and I feel like I left with a much stronger sense of self and security in my purpose for making art.

What are the best sides / opportunities in having an art residency?
 
Time and space to be alone with your art, and with yourself. Talking to other residents and the opportunity to collaborate. Being in a dedicated artistic space for a good period of time. Exploring the area. Soaking up inspiration from the lakes and forests. Being able to look at the art exhibitions and talk with the artists who made the work. The silence of the landscape. Letting the residency guide you. Letting the residency be whatever it wants to be. Reconnecting to the source. And sauna, of course!

What are your plans after Haihatus?
 
My band Moonsign are doing a short tour of Europe, playing in Tallinn, Riga, Vienna and Berlin. Then it's back to Australia where I'll be finishing my Masters and my book. Busy times ahead! Having had this quiet, contemplative time in Joutsa will be working wonders for me for a long time.

How does Haihatus meet your expectations?

I mostly had expectations of myself, rather than Haihatus. I thought I would work super hard and be so productive! But the landscape kind of got to me, and I found that I needed to rejuvenate after working so hard on my book for so long, and the forests and lakes made sure I was well-rested and filled up by the time I left. Haihatus itself was a truly magical place. The summer exhibition was a source of inspiration, which I wasn't expecting. The house is full of little treasures to discover. And Merja and Raimo are such lovely people. I hope to visit again one day!


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