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BWW Interview: Katt Osborne of UNHEIMLICH at PICA

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Tarryn Gill's sculptures come to life in a journey through the subconscious

BWW Interview: Katt Osborne of UNHEIMLICH at PICA

UNHEIMLICH, roughly translated from German, means uncanny. The work stems from world-renowned artist Tarryn Gill's Guardian series of sculptures, and is brought to life with the help of acclaimed director Katt Osborne. I spoke to Katt about the process behind bringing it to life and what we can expect when UNHEIMLICH opens.

UNHEIMLICH is set in a dream like state, somewhat befitting its meaning. Indeed, it began as a daydream, looking at Tarryn Gill's Guardian series of soft sculptures and considering the stories they tell. "Tarryn had a residency at the Freud Museum in London, and that's where her original inspiration for the series of sculptures came from," explained Osborne. "Anna Freud [daughter of world -famous Sigmund, but a renowned psychoanalyst in her own right] would reportedly weave on her loom while talking to patients, so Tarryn made these lovely, textured sculptures with the idea of exploring the subconscious and seeing the journeys you can take in there." Katt Osborne, like many people, couldn't help but get dragged into a story by the sculptures and that's how UNHEIMLICH began.

BWW Interview: Katt Osborne of UNHEIMLICH at PICA

"Whilst it started with a discussion, we quickly got a group of creatives together and pieced together the show. Tarryn started by making masks and costumes and as soon as we got each piece a part of the story came together. It's been a really collaborative piece, and whilst it's all based on Tarryn's sculptures and I'm directing, it really is a team effort to put the show together." Having said that, Katt Osborne was quick to point out that the collaboration is a part of the show and no one is put out by the process. In fact, the show explores many things, with point of view being one part of it. "Obviously Tarryn had her own ideas when she was making the sculptures to begin with, and I need to have a sense of what's going on when directing, but at the same time I feel my directing has always favoured the organic coming together of ideas. Our team is amazing at getting inspiration from the sculptures and bringing it to life, and the many points of view really help. What I've found now as we look at the show as a whole is that, just like the sculptures, different people are getting different things from it."

BWW Interview: Katt Osborne of UNHEIMLICH at PICA
A cat narrates the relationship's journey
in UNHEIMLICH

This then poses its own questions; Seneca's maxim says that if you don't know what port you're sailing to, no wind is favourable. So how has UNHEIMLICH come together if it didn't start with a script and the show is being built as it goes? "It may not be like a show I'd normally direct, but at the same time I know that I, or someone else can complete change the perception of a show with one change. I think Tarryn's work actually provides a neat analogy, because UNHEIMLICH really has started like one of her sculptures. She begins with a base layer, and for us that was the original sculptures. Then she adds texture and layers and things become clearer, and that's how the show has come together too. We've always had a broad sense of where we could go, and just as watching a show is a journey, creating it has been a journey too."

Whilst many ideas have gone into the show, Katt has her own perception but expects that people will all find something different from the show. "UNHEIMLICH also means unhomely, and that's a big part of the story that unfolds. It's about when something familiar becomes unsettling or even disturbing. The show takes place in a normal home more or less, and at its core it's about the ending of a relationship. That's probably a familiar thing to many of the audience, although that in itself can be uncomfortable. At the same time, it's acted out by these shapes that are sort-of-but-not-quite human. The narrator is a cat, and I think people can even bring their own life experience to that. For some, a cat is a source of comfort whereas for some they're a source of annoyance." With so much coming together, UNHEIMLICH may seem outwardly odd, but Katt Osborne and her team feel audiences will well and truly be along for the journey. "We've put all different ideas and points of view together, and people will take from it depending on their own experiences and points of view. There's a lot of it that is based on common experiences, it's human to react to these things. It's a show about perception and change, and I think everyone can get something from that."

UNHEIMLICH is at PICA from September 23-October 2. Tickets and more information available at PICA


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