What happens to the person who always has a hundred projects on the go when they are forced to stay still?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Susana Hill, an incredibly talented artist and photographer, and discuss what happened when she broke her leg earlier this year, and how it affected her and her art.
Izzy: So maybe you can start by explaining your injury a bit.
Susana: So it’s a fracture, in the tibia. I broke it while roller skating, haha!
[I was actually there also roller-skating when Susana broke her leg. She handled it very calmly whilst I freaked out]
Susana: At first, I wasn’t sure how bad it was, I was hoping it was just a sprain.
Izzy: Maybe we can put a picture of the x-ray in this.
Susana: Yes! I f*cking love the x-ray I wish I had the physical thing. It was quite fun taking pictures in the hospital. I’m so intrigued by the whole process and the surgery. I wish I had had my camera on the day of the surgery. I really regret not bringing it. Well, I thought you weren’t allowed.
Izzy: So I know you had a lot of stuff planned coming up before you got injured that got put on pause…
Susana: Yeah I had all these plans! I was going to have an exhibition for my graduation project (Alley of the Rising Sun) at my friend’s café. We planned to do it at the end of February, and I was getting prints ready for that, and then fractured my ankle beginning of February, so we had to say “let’s postpone it until I get better”.
Izzy: Did that bother you?
Susana: It was interesting because normally that would really screw me up and I’d think: “It’s never going to happen again, I’m ruined” But I was actually like: “ok cool we’ll just postpone it and it’s ok”, so I’ve just left that aside and I’ve not been working on it. I have all the prints ready. It’s more just about being in the space and seeing how I want to hang everything.
Izzy: So, did having to put those planned projects aside derail your practice much?
Susana: No! If anything it just gave me space and time for new things, and these new things weren’t planned projects or anything, it’s not like I had a vision before or anything but it’s been quite nice because I feel like I’ve had the space to just let things happen.
Izzy: Did you have to change your perspective or how you worked? Was it a big adjustment?
Susana: It’s funny because I’ve had moments where I’ve thought: “I really want to go on a walk with my camera” and moments of frustration but apart from that, it’s not been something where I’ve questioned “how am I going to make work now”, it sort of happened naturally and I’ve found myself setting up the camera on the tripod and hopping on one leg, trying to balance everything. I think that’s why I’ve pretty much just been taking pictures in my bedroom and of my bedroom in abstract ways.
One thing that’s changed is that I’ve been shooting with my wide angle lens, which I hadn’t done in a very long time. Just because it’s easier to focus because it’s wider, I can’t always hold my camera with both hands if I’m standing up because I need to balance.
Because of all those adjustments physically, I’ve made visually new things, which has been interesting. It’s that thing I haven’t had in so long where I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, I’m just doing something and then looking at it and thinking: “oh sh*t this is cool, this is something and it’s working!”
Izzy: It sounds like you’ve definitely made the best of a bad situation
Susana: It’s just such a nice feeling and I know we’ve spoken about this before, but after graduating from university I had to find a way of falling in love with making things again and it’s been ages since I created something so organically.
I think most of it has definitely been just having the space and time to be able to relax because I’m normally going at 100 miles an hour, so I’ve just had that mental space to chill and read, and from that naturally ideas come to mind. I don’t think I realised how much of a mental effort it was to work full-time at my regular job until I suddenly had all this time to just be creative.
Izzy: I would describe you as someone who is always busy, always working…
Susana: Yeah, I guess in a way it’s like I normally keep myself busy to avoid certain things but now that I’m not busy really, not out and about all the time it’s been the opposite.
Obviously, I’m also always working because money is this constant thing you have to think about, and then I’m finding time to be creative around that so I’m just never really doing nothing.
It’s funny that during the lockdowns I got out more than I have recently. I’ve been stuck at home for 6 weeks, and maybe got out of the house like 5 times, but it hasn’t affected me. If anything I’ve woken up every day feeling like “I’m going to take these new pictures” and I’ve started working on a new project from it.
Izzy: Can you talk a bit about the new work you’ve been making since your injury?
Susana: I’m always a bit wary of talking about premature ideas but as of right now, I’m thinking about materialising the project in the form of a poster zine that I’ll eventually stick on walls around the city.
It stems from me being in the house all the time, and at night trying to go to sleep and I’m struggling to sleep because I’m just not active, so that becomes falling asleep at 3 am, and then those moments where you are half asleep half awake.
I started to really envision my brain, I felt like I was in my brain… everything I was seeing was me in my brain. I started printing pictures in contact sheet format so they’re small, I think what I was trying to do with these images is contradict my introverted thoughts of being trapped inside my head during my injury, as I haven’t been able to go out as much and engage with the world, by documenting those darker thoughts that we all sink into every now and again. I wanted to do something with the thoughts I was having, as opposed to just dwelling.
I made the decision to display the images next to each other leaving no gaps between them, emanating a black hole of sorts, to create a feeling of spiralling.
The project is currently called: ‘You’re so in your head you can’t even enjoy where you are’.
Izzy: So you get your cast off in 2 weeks now, how are you feeling about that?
Susana: It’s weird, I’m not wishing that the day comes sooner, I’m just cool with it. I know it’s going to happen in 2 weeks and I’m not desperate for it to happen now. I’m actually just surprised by myself that I’m so relaxed about the whole thing. It’s not affecting me but I’m surprised because it would be the sort of thing that would normally freak me out but I’m chilling.
Izzy: Any big plans for when your foot is free?
Susana: Not massive plans, I’m just dying to go and to be able to hop onto the bus and go for to an exhibition or something, I’ve just missed that independence and the freedom to go out whenever.
Izzy: So how are you feeling about everything now in hindsight?
Susana: I definitely think this was destined to happen in a way and it has happened for a reason. A lot of positive things have come out of it, and because I’ve had so much more time I’ve been able to sit down and make something and finish it. So many side projects that have been bothering me for a while because I never had the time to just finish them and get rid of them.
On a more personal level, it’s also actually really improved and benefitted my relationship with my brothers because they’ve been super helpful but it’s also meant that we’ve become more of a team which is really nice.
[For context Susana lives together in a flat with her two brothers]
Susana: Just little things like when my friend visited recently, we had all these plans for when she was here, but then because of this, it meant that we didn’t do all that, we simply just spent time together, which wouldn’t not have happened otherwise.
Silly things like that, it’s just been good.
You can check our writer Izzy’s work here.