Katryn Saqui

Katryn Saqui
with Jack Brown, Jo Thomas and Katy Beinart
Caravan, Gillingham harbour

Katrin: I’m used to working on my own, I really want to develop the dialogue and I am quite uncomfortable with it sometimes and I don’t really find it easy to talk about my artwork. Or I feel like I don’t talk about my work very clearly.

Like yesterday, I really want to get good at giving presentations and speeches. We had an awards ceremony in London, and I love the process of preparing for presenta-tions and getting organised and knowing all the words. And 2 minutes before the speech yesterday I legged it. (Laughs) I completely bottled it, I couldn’t do it. And I feel it’s really important for me to come today and try and talk about my practice.

Katy: There is no pressure at all, we just want you to feel comfortable.

Katrin: Yes, I would very much like to be able to find a way, with my MA I am very much trying to find my way of being present and comfortable. Maybe it will have to be performative, I don’t know, and informal is much better than standing up in front of a crowd.

Jo: It really is, especially when it has been built up in advance. It’s something we have to do quite a lot.

Katy: Yes, it’s terrifying. I’m doing it more and more, I’m doing a PHD and I’m doing a lot of conferences and talks and it does get easier, the more you have to do it, of course you use scripts and things.

Katryn: It has gotten easier. When I started off doing a branding degree in 2006 in Rochester, coming straight from my isolated studio for 20 years and going into a branding course where you have to work in a group and present your ideas. We had to work with the product design degree students as well and we had to work in a big group so it was a huge shock for me. And again, I would love the process, love the designing, love the PowerPoints and then the day I would have to present I would get in the car and drive straight past the college. (Laughs)

Branding and packaging and labeling is very much part of my process. The thing that I have got in the car is a Kilner Jar and its got OPTIMISM written on it. And it’s emp-ty. It did have my size 10 G-string knickers in it, which I bought about 10 years ago and I’ve never got into them.

Katy: That’s very optimistic

Katryn: And I took them out this morning, and thought, that’s it, I’m never going to get into those. Yes I’ll bring that empty and think about something different to put in it now. But I love maps.

Katy: Just to start with, can you say your name

Katryn Saqui: I’m Katryn Saqui, and I live in Deal, I’ve been in Deal for 8 years and previous to that I was an absolute nomad. I’ve moved all over the place. I’ve had all sorts of lives in care work and I think I never stayed in one place for more than 6 months. So actually being in Deal, and I married someone and we moved there and I’m settled and I love it. I really want to get to know the area and the locals and it’s an-other thing that I think about dialogue and talking, especially with the cine boat and the beach is really my studio and my gallery space at the moment.

Jo: How long have you lived in Deal?

Katryn: About 8 years

Jo: That’s a substantial amount of time.

Katryn: It’s so nice, I’ve just had to fill out an application form that asked where have you lived in the last 5 years and I only need to fill out one address.

Katy: I know that one. What took you to Deal? Did you know anyone there?

Katryn: No

Katy: Well what brought you there? I really like Kent, I think it’s really interesting. I’m currently moving to Brighton and I’m a bit unsure, so I’m curious as to what attracts people to places?

Katryn: It was purely circumstance. We were living in a big 5 bedroom house in Hearne and we had to downsize really quickly. I had two beagles and they were re-tired hunting beagles and the lady who I got them from, she rehomes retired hunting beagles, and I couldn’t find anywhere to rent with these two dogs. So I rang her up and said ‘I’m really sorry because it looks like I am going to have to give them back because I can’t find anywhere to live’ And she said that’s fine, I’ve got an empty home in Deal, I can rehome all of you, why don’t you go look at it?’ So that night we went to Deal and looked around and thought ‘Oh my god, this is gorgeous, and lifted the let-terbox of the empty house and thought, yeah that’s really nice’ and that’s how we ended up living in Deal.

Jo: Have you still got the dogs?

Katryn: We gave one back because she couldn’t handle the small space and the oth-er one died of old age four years ago. She was the oldest adopted beagle at 17.

Katy: So you moved to Deal, did you start the MA after that? Is it at UCA?

Katryn: Yeah

Katy: Did the MA orientate you to more dialogue based work?

Katryn: Yeah it was completely unexpected. I had 2 years in between my degree and my masters and I had started developing a first aid kit for emotional emergencies. I had started an installation with Kilner jars and labelled them with all the different emo-tions and wanted to do some kind of installation that involved talking to people about these emotions and using the jars. And I really wanted to develop the first aid kit but I completely went off on a tangent and never ended up developing those ideas at all. But with all the stuff I have been looking at, I thought I would actually like to go back and develop those things as tools for creating dialogue and projects.

Katy: And what kind of dialogue work started happening?

Katryn: Well I think the biggest thing that diverted me was that Prosper and Canter-bury festival were looking for projects to do with people creating unusual and diverse collaborations. So I put in a proposal to work with the fishermen in Deal and they loved the idea so I did that.

Jack: How did you find or select a fisherman?

Katryn: Well there is actually only one working fishing boat, so there are probably about 3 or 4 fishermen. There is one guy training his son, so we approached them and they were quite happy to have us drawing them and talking, and they took us out on their boat and recorded and filmed and photographed them. Then we started want-ing to have more meetings with them but they were too busy, and they wouldn’t come to our house, so then we all agreed we would meet in the pub, but then the wife didn’t like it. The fish wife thought we were trouble.

Jo: Well I guess you were taking away someone’s free time as well.

Katryn: yes, there were all sorts of things, so we were trying to talk to them so we rang the father up and he said ‘I don’t want anything to do with your project, too much trouble at home.’ And that was the end of that, and it was almost the end of the pro-ject. I live opposite the pub and fortunately this guy I had already met was walking out of the pub and I asked him if he would like to work with us and he said yes. So we did quite a bit of work together, he’s around, he’s quite difficult to get hold of and pin down but we just figure it’s quite a slow process and we aren’t going to get fed up with it we are just going to work with it. If he turns up, than its fine. So we have quite a unique friendship with him now.

Jack: Well, without pay or contracts it’s difficult to expect people to put time into it.

Katryn: We used to pay him, as part of the funding we put in a fee allocated for him. He was brilliant he gave us a list of all the words they use on the ship, the names of all the nets and areas and shipwrecks and all sorts of things. So we paid him for that time and I also recorded him saying them and filmed him and we paid him for that. And then we used this list in workshops in schools and got the children to use them and make nonsensical poetry with all the words.

Jo: What sort of words were they?

Katryn: Winchbox, names of the boats, my mind has gone blank, haul in the nets, rip-tide, Twinky Hamilton was a fisherman who lost his thumb because the winchboxes were quite evil and they used to get their thumbs caught in the chains. There were some weather words as well.

Jack: It’s like a lost heritage that language that stops being used

Katryn: Absolutely, we also did another project where a school in Deal approached me and wanted us to do a project for their conservation week. So I went in for an in-terview and they directed me to the paint pots and I said I don’t want to work with paint pots I want to conserve the fishing language and do a performative project with them. And they wanted us to do it in the ten classes and realised it was going to cost too much. So I said let’s get them all on the beach, all in one day, and do a perfor-mance with the words so then it’s just a one day workshop. So they had assembly on the beach, around that boat, and they went off in groups and they did all these per-formances and they wrote their own poem with these words and I filmed it and it was really good. That was dialogue and speaking. I like this idea of memory as heritage as opposed to boats or architecture.

Katy: Yes, I went to a talk yesterday about intangible heritages. It was at the ICA but it was organised by people who worked at Kingston University and it was looking at the heritage of performance and the performance of heritage. So you would probably be really interested in it. I find that really interesting as well. How do you remember things and what is heritage and is heritage just about sites or is it about how you actually re-peat things or perform them then they become active rather than things that hap-pened in the past.

Katryn: There is a heritage fund very close to where we are and we wanted to do a project with the cineboat. The cineboat is a 13 foot fibreglass boat and it’s only a two seater so we have turned it into a 2 seater cinema. We showed a film by Micheal Tubursky and it’s a 10 minute film called “Angelfish” and it’s about the lure of the sea and a young man searching for something he can’t find in New York City. So he goes on this boat and it’s just a very beautiful short film. For us it was the idea of the boat and the lure of the sea and being on the beach being able to overlook the sea gave the whole experience a deeper connection. So we wanted to contextualise it into the heritage of remembering by creating unusual memories about those places. It’s a her-itage site.

Jo: So the ‘we’, you are part of Underground Pearl aren’t you?

Katryn: Yes that’s me and Lauren Bevan. When we first set up Underground Pearl, Nigel the fisherman was also a director but because he was so difficult to get hold off and he moves around a lot we took him off as a director. But he is still very much of it in spirit and he takes part as and when he wants to. Underground Pearl was two art-ists and a fisherman, and originally it was very much him but now we are realising that fisherman can be a fisherman anywhere.

Katy: So is that almost a recipe for your collaboration then, its two artists and a fish-erman.

Katryn: Yeah, although it’s not rigid.

Katy: How would you generally make a project happen? What sparks it off?

Katryn: I guess with Underground Pearl it’s been the boats that haven’t been used. We think what a waste this shoreline used to house a thousand boats, it used to be a real thriving hub. Surely we could use this beach in a different way, so while we are eyeing up these boats we are working out how we can do that.

And this boat, Julie, we have done a few things with her. This image is a proposal, its not happened. Lauren wrote a lot about stained glass windows for university and one day we were talking about it and I realised we could put stained glass windows on Ju-lie, and then recently I’ve started looking into it and there is actually a lot of churches have a very big connection with it architecturally. All the fishing industries used to make little models of their boats and then cover them in wax and hang them above the altars and the wax represented god’s protection, and it was their way of making their families feel more secure about them going off in rough seas.

And the other one you’ve got there, we paid Nigel the fisherman to paint it, and he renovated it. We painted it in phosphorescent paint and last summer there was a Brit-ain on the Beach event at Deal festival. Lauren likes working with old narratives, snip-pets of history and we like to revamp them, and the glowsticks and the phosphores-cent paint was our intervention for Britain on the beach. You know how I said there were a thousand fishing boats on the shore there, well that created a huge amount of smuggling and debauchery in Deal. So someone from London sent an army of peo-ple to burn them all. And we can’t work with fire for this event and Lauren really liked the idea of the glowsticks so that’s what we did to commemorate the burning of the boats.

Katy: How did it go with the people in Deal?

Katryn: They loved it.

Katy: So they got it?

Katryn: Completely

Jo: It’s their history as well

Katy: I suppose doing these things it could be quite risky, but it’s actually connecting people to the past

Katryn: It’s still risky but it really creates a lot of conversation and the last thing we did was with the balloons. And we filled up my house windows with the balloons so they were all coming out the windows, and it was just so lovely to hear the laughter and the conversations when it was pitch black in the house with no daylight and you could hear the people talking about it and the cars slowing down to look at it. The next morning we took it down and this lady that lives up the street, she has one of these battery mobility scooters and she knocked on the door and I answered it and she said ‘It’s taken me all morning to get ready to get out, I’ve got my camera, I’ve come all this way and its gone, everyone has been talking about it so I’ve come up to have a look and it’s not there.’

Katy: It’s really nice that it’s quite temporary so either you see it or you don’t, and people will talk about it and its legend lives on.

Katryn: And there is something naughty about it all, and I like the naughtiness, the mischievousness.

Jo: I think what I find really interesting is the relationship between yourself as an artist, and it’s in your own home. So you are publicly working as an artist in your own home, rather than going to a location.

Jack: You don’t need an art space to validate it you are just doing it as a person who lives in a house. Which is quite a good idea really.

Katryn: When I was a painter I used to sell my work to lots of galleries in England and I had this big studio. When I did the MA I could no longer afford my studio so it’s forced me to work from home, or the beach using the materials around me.

Jo: I get the sense that the audience is as much your next door neighbour as much as a town visitor.

Katy: Who do you think you make it for? in the long run do you want a particular au-dience or is it actually about who is down the street at that time?

Katryn: I think that is more of where I am going at the moment. I think it’s more of the locals and neighbours and fishermen in Deal.

Katy: Because part of what we are interested in is how work gets funded and com-missioned, and you always have to say that you are reaching a certain audience. And so we are wondering does that force people to make work that isn’t intuitively what they want to make?

Katryn: I’ve never thought of neighbours as the audience, but I really like that idea.

Jo: It’s an incredibly honest way of working. In my experience a lot of practitioners will shift into a different way of being for the work.

Katy: Also it’s one of the things we are talking about, whether you are doing it where you live or are going into an area where you don’t know and then you can take on a different role as a stranger. But being in your own locality you can’t walk away from it, can you?

Katryn: The consequences

Jack: Everyone knows you are an artist all the time, you can’t pretend not to be one.

Jo: Do you find there is an expectation developing from it?

Katryn: I’ve got one neighbour opposite me who fixes the computers when they break down and he was saying ‘ I keep looking over here to see what you are going to do next’ and we did for Cheritan Light Festival a piece called ‘ Diskoda’ and we got fund-ing to make a great disco ball and we put it in the Skoda, and we got lights and the rotating thing and we parked it on top of a hill and we lit it up and the streets and the sides of the houses. The disco ball is now in my sitting room and my friend came with her two children so we thought we could have a disco dinner. And the next day this guy who fixes the computers was wondering what was going on in our house last night? Was it an installation? What were you doing? Yeah so there does seem to be some expectation or curiosity, like what weird thing is she up to this week?

Jack: Well it could be the opposite in other communities where it wasn’t appreciated, like ‘What is that?’(Negative) It seems like you get a positive, inquisitive response from your work.

Katy: But it’s not really demanding much off people.

Jack: That’s what I mean it has a lot to do with the type of work that you make as well.

Katryn: In fact in 2010, I repurposed a caravan just like this one for my final show and we toured it around Hastings and St Leonards but we took everything out except for two seats. And we made a unit inside the cupboard to turn it into a little shop to sell our work and we took it into Duke St that I live in as well, and it was quite a hit and even the vicar turned up. Turned up in his black.

Jack: I want to move to Deal. Everyone seems really happy.

Katryn: Well I was thinking actually, we’ve got open studios in the last two weekends in June, I’ll have to give you the dates, and I would love you to be there.

Katy: That will be really nice. And also by then there will be more building then. We don’t really want to take anything out of it though.

Katryn: We completely got rid of all of the units, we ripped the carpet up.

Jack: Where did you get it from?

Katryn: Well it was my friend Julia’s, and she was using it as a studio on a farm and she decided she just wanted to do an art installation in it. It was called ‘Internal States’ there is a blog about it. She has one side and I had the other. She had ‘misguided’ and it was all about travel and I had the jars and latex objects that represented different emotions and it was about the internal journey.

Katy: So much about journeys and transport.

Jo: Do you think of yourself as a ‘public artist’?

Katryn: I feel like I am slightly mutating into that kind of area.

Jack: That sounds like it’s all going wrong

Katryn: I am becoming, well sometimes it can be really painful. I don’t really know, I still don’t know, I’ve got three months left on my MA and it’s still not clear.

Jack: I think it’s important to not really know. If an artist tells me they don’t really know, I am inclined to want to find out more. But if they tell me they are a painter, or a sculptor, or even if they say they are a sound artist, I’m a little ‘ooo’. But if they say I’m working on this, I always find it more interesting.

Katryn: That’s really nice to hear, because I always feel like people think ‘She’s doing an MA and she really doesn’t know what she is doing’

Jack: Well there are a lot of people who have gone into it, done it and left it in exactly the same place they got into it from. And I think, why did you do an MA? What have you discovered about yourself? What have you learnt? And then other people I know have gotten into lots of different things, and get into a kind of obscure, kind of point-less thing at the end of it where now you are going to make casts of very particular things in bronze. Yeah okay, and they have lots all of that really amazing inquiry stuff.

Katy: The funny thing about that is that I want to do some really amazing stuff in bronze.


Katryn: Do you have lots of strands then? As artists?

Jack and Katy: Yes, we have got loads.

Katy: That’s what’s interesting though, we all broadly do art in public in some way, ei-ther engaging through dialogue or making work in public but we do quite a lot in terms of media, in terms of approaching different roles or publics.

Jack: I think that’s the lots of different strands or having lots of different hats type of thing. Like organising or curating and making work, but I think we all have lots of dif-ferent strands in how we make the work as well. Not like one medium, I would never say I was a painter even though I can paint.

Katy: I think that is the kind of thing that happens once you start practising as well. I’ve got a friend who is a painter, well she was defining herself as such, but really what she is doing now is object making, or textiles. It’s very loosely painting because there is paint involved. And using those definitions is very restrictive as well. Whereas actually allowing yourself to see how you respond to things as well.

Katryn: I notice how I respond to it is ‘At the moment”

Jack: That’s quite a good one as well, or the last thing I made was.

Jo: That brings us back to that public speaking thing as well, how you communicate with other people and learning how to communicate that.

Jack: Being able to be articulate about being vague.

Katryn: One of the things that has always been consistent is that I love paradoxes and parallels and opposites.

Jack: In fact you know how you get those quotes on Facebook now where you get the quote and the face of the person who says it. There was a quote I found that was something along the lines of ‘The problem with fanatics is that they are always really sure of themselves, whereas really clever people are not really sure of themselves and always worry about what people think. But the really mental ones always really know and are really definite about what they are like I am definitely a racist or what-ever’.

Katryn: I did a project a couple of years ago called ‘Positively sick’ and I love that.

Katy: Do you think that your work has had an impact on Deal?

Katryn: I think that is a really slow process, I think the fishermen, the relationship with him was quite slow and that’s similar to the relationship with Deal, it’s very slow.

Jack: I suppose that’s quite different to a lot of publicly engaged work where some-one gets dropped into a community for like two months and then leaves. And how does that impact? And there might be a town centre sculpture left or a publication that is sent off to galleries that ends up in the path of everyone. But actually being there long term, being a slow burner. I just love the idea that people are looking into your windows to see what the artist is doing. Particularly because I work in Hackney Wick which has got hundreds of artists and you can never see what artists are doing, it’s always behind closed doors, up some steps somewhere, you have got to ring a buzz-er, it’s invisible. And there are not many artists who are visible unless they are choos-ing to be like putting a show on or doing an engaged project.

Katryn: That was the thing I found interesting about working with the fishermen, be-cause their used to be hundreds of fishermen and now they are invisible. They are still there and the families are still there, and there is an art scene in Deal but you have to be in the know, and fit in. They are both kind of invisible, and so the idea of making both of them visible on the beach is perfect.

Jack: And the word ‘community’ is really used as if there is always only one commu-nity when actually there are always many different communities within a space. I im-agine it as lots of layers of communities, and artists often just drop a line between the two instead of passing that community like normally. It’s not really that artists can an-ymore bring a community together but you can really link two little bits of it, like the fisherman and artist can chat for a while. The intergenerational thing you see get funding for is quite difficult to do.

Jo: Depends what you mean by bringing something together. If someone just physi-cally brings a community together in a place for an event, is something very different to the weaving of two or three people.

Katryn: Rise of the Renegade with the glow sticks around Julie, we originally thought it would be great for the public and for everyone to turn up and then we realised it was a ticketed event and it was £10; So even though it was on the beach it immediately made it exclusive.

Katy: That’s an interesting one.

Jo: So did they close the beach?

Katryn: They tried to, it’s such a shame.

Jack: What situation nowadays where would you find the whole community in one space? Where would that ever, ever happen?

Katy: The supermarket

Jack: But if you are in Aldi, maybe parks

Katryn: The beach is a really big space

Katy: and really democratic

Jack: but people get a park zone but you can’t do that with a beach.

Katryn: There are two types of parks, there is the kept park and then there is the common which is actually for everybody but the park is owned by the queen.

Jack: You can still keep animals that is the thing about commons. There are some old bylaws in London and you can walk through with a flock of sheep.

Katryn: I would love to do that. For my final piece for my MA, you know how I was talking about the fisherman who lost his thumbs on the winchboxes? My husband has built me a box.

Jack: And you are planning on losing your thumb?

Katryn: No,

Jack: What is a winchbox? One that you turn it like that and it’s geared inside?

Katryn: And they are really old and ricketty on the beach and every plot has got one. And the beach is on quite a slope. These winchboxes are amazing, they are all differ-ent sizes, different colours, they are all completely unique. And they’ve got gear lev-ers like tractors, they’ve got showerheads that is the exhausts and they have got dif-ferent cranks, all weird and wonderful shapes. And because the engine needs pro-tected, they are heavily painted in bitumen, and they have got little nooks and cran-nies so you can fix the engine.

So I have made my version with little nooks and crannies and I’m hopefully going to have little films going off in one area, and then one...

Katy: is it very big?

Katryn: Yeah it’s massive and it’s on legs.

Katy: Sorry I just have no idea.

Katryn: So there are little nooks and crannies I have made, so there is the little film area where we will have Nigel the fisherman saying his fishing words and the other part will be a sound piece which will be the engine starting up, and the engines are the really old tractor engines that go PA PA PA PAPA PAPAPAPA and I want to have that in the gallery but I also want to have it on the beach before the final show.

Jo: It seems weird for it to be in a gallery really...

Katryn: The thing I like about it being in a gallery or being in a boat or being in Deal College, I like this thing of being in and out of place so the idea of bringing the winch-box into a gallery space really brings it out.

Jack: A gallery really magnifies something doesn’t it?

Katryn: Yeah

Jack: It’s the kind of thing if there are winchboxes everywhere and then you see one in a gallery, you will probably look harder at winchboxes outside, it’s that glamour of a gallery space. If it’s here it must be significant.

Katy: And it’s a paradox as well.

Katryn: And it’s an overlooked object on the beach.

Jack: That’s the thing, galleries can be the most amazing spaces, if you believe in it. If you believe in it you can put anything in a white space and it’s really magical.

Katryn: It’s made really badly, that’s what I love, I don’t do perfection, it’s perfectly imperfect.

Jack: If something is made really badly you can work out the process of it better. It’s nice when you can see the joins and things.

Katryn: I was thinking I would like to do something with that on the beach, work with it or do something with it. Maybe you could bring the caravan there and we could have a conversation about it.

Jack: It’s also really good to think of this spot as a changeable space. If we could take the seats out, if you were trying to strip it a little and put an artwork in it how it changes the space.

Katryn: I like the idea as well that the winch box brings the boats in. That it’s the winchboxes that come onto the caravan.

Jo: Could it winch a caravan?

Katryn: If it was real it could, I could put an engine in it, I could do. But there are other winchers that could do it.

Come to Deal…

Katy: I think the caravan might get stuck.

Question: what about the future of your practice?

Katryn: I would like to see Underground Pearl working with the fishermen and the boats, expanding and developing more and more presence and activity in Deal. And I would like my practice to build, things like the winchbox and take it somewhere, take it to places. I do like the idea of touring with things. We had a lot of fun with Internal States and we met a lot of people. On the blog we had a gallery section where we put photographs of the people we met.

Katy: I think there is something really nice about the balance between being embed-ded somewhere, and then going off and having conversations and meeting other people, and seeing how people respond to your work in different places.

2017 update:

As it happens I can fit into the size 10 knickers now that were in the jar of optimism… haha
I have lost 3 stone, and my Art practice has merged into looking after people with Dementia, lots of dialogue and humour…


Place Specific












Place Specific