KARST Graduate Residency 2017/18

Interview by Katherine Hall

Every year, KARST gallery provides studio space to one Fine Art graduate from Plymouth College of Art and one from Plymouth University. The 6-month long Graduate Residency allows early career artists to begin establishing themselves in a supportive, artist-led space, and culminates in a show in KARST’s exhibition space.

Katherine Hall catches up with this year’s Graduates, Louise and Zanna, after their exhibition.

Credit Dom Moore
Credit Dom Moore

Katherine Hall: First of all, congratulations for finishing everything, the exhibition was great. How does it feel to have completed the residency?

Zanna Markilie: It feels great, I feel relieved.

Louise Riou-Djukic: Yeah, I agree. But there’s also this moment where you ask yourself, what’s next?

KH: The opening was a really great success, Louise your performance In a China Shop had me completely enthralled. Can you tell me about how it felt to be standing there, in front of all those people in such a precarious position?

LR-D: It was terrifying! [laughs] Until the last minute I was telling myself: ‘I’m not doing this! I’m just not doing this!’ And it is difficult to realise I’ve done it. I was thinking this morning, I’ve done that… No? no I haven’t? like I don’t feel like I’ve done it, in a way?

ZM: It was all a bit surreal.

LR-D: Yeah, I was in another state. I remember just completely shutting down and concentrating on my feet and having Zanna there.

KH: How long were you up there in total?

LR-D: I think 5 minutes… It felt like 30 seconds.

KH: Mm… time went past quite quickly when you had Zanna there, but as soon as she moved away, everything seemed to just slow down: all I could see was the mirror wobbling and I was like [gasps]

LR-D: My ankles are now really sore, from being just tense… It’s real for my body at least! [laughs]

ZM: Yeah, I was quite fixated on your ankles, and your feet, because they were just shaking so much.

LR-D: At some points my knees were shaking as well, and that’s when I was thinking ‘oh my god I’ll try to stay a little bit more, but if I can’t I can’t, because what if my knees just leave me’. I felt like I had no control over this – it was so crazy to focus on it, but if you don’t think about it you can stay completely still.

KH: So how did you come about making the work? when did the idea come to you? You were already working with standing on the mirrors, and moving on them, during the crit in November…

LR-D: I started focusing on what’s important; what do I want to get from this performance? There was this idea of the tension, and the moment where the mirror could break. When we had the crit people got quite a rush when I stepped on the mirror and it broke. My first idea was to pull my weight up from the mirror and have the mirror suspended, and myself too, but because I had a wrist injury from work I couldn’t do it. So, I was like ‘ok what’s next?’ I had this idea in my head for a while, but I thought maybe it wouldn’t work. Maybe it would look too stable? Well… apparently not! [laughs]

KH: It looked incredibly wobbly!

Red Wave Rising – Plymouth Poppies. Credit Paul Gibbins

KH: Zanna, your work Temenos, it was made with the clay from your degree work, what’s the significance behind that?

ZM: Well, it’s about the clay as a material, I love that it can be reconstituted. I feel like creation and destruction is a full cycle… And I knew that I wanted to take the clay, the male torsos from my degree, I wanted to take them and make them into something else, but I didn’t know what that something else would be. I was intrigued to find out what form would come from the torsos, because there is a direct link; it’s the same clay. I wanted to make a safe place for my body.

KH: Like reclaiming the clay?

ZM: Yeah, because the clay male torsos were was an exploration of my sexual agency, which was important –

LR-D: It is important, but I don’t think its central, necessarily?

ZM: No.

KH: Yeah, it’s not the work in its entirety, but it is an important factor.

ZM: Yeah, there’s history.

KH: I can’t imagine it being the same work if you’d used new clay, it would have probably come across differently, because you have this pre-existing relationship with the material.

Red Wave Rising – Plymouth Poppies. Credit Paul Gibbins

KH: Fantastic, you led me into my next question! I would definitely like to see you 2 collaborating, I think you could come up with something very interesting.

ZM: Yeah it could be a real mix… There is this aspect of body and danger, and also care and safety…

LR-D: And fear and reassurance…

KH: You’ve got a lot of really interesting dichotomies in there to play around with. Zanna, one more question about your work, how does the Temenos relate to the video?

ZM: In the video there is footage of the clay reconstitution, and alongside the building of the Temenos there was an instinctual pull to the river, and to build this safe space. Being in the river felt transformative, there’s something primal about it. Also, the Temenos was drying out, and then there’s the film, which is very very wet. They’re both vital forces that hold the potential for regeneration. But also, someone said the film was like breaking water, you know when you give birth, and then you’ve got this yonic space. Someone else said the reconstitution was catching the essence of creativity before it takes on form, it’s like what we’re working with is this creative inspiration or instinct and then it takes a shape.

KH: Would you ever show them separately?

ZM: I wanted to show them separately. I wanted to show the Temenos in the studio because that’s where it was made. And so, at the end of the film I say something like “It’s like a tree, plants its roots and secures itself to the earth”, so the Temenos was my attempt to do that. The roots were severed in the moving of it and it broke.

Red Wave Rising – Plymouth Poppies. Credit Paul Gibbins

KH: Thank you! Finally, one last question, what’s next for the both of you?

LR-D: A big nap! [laughs]

ZM: Yeah sleep! [laughs] A big week-long nap!

KH: [laughs] You both definitely deserve that!

LR-D: We’re both applying to Masters.

KH: Oh fantastic, whereabouts are you thinking?

ZM: Well RCA, I just sent my application off today.

LR-D: Yeah, I’ve got a list. There’s RCA too, but first I want to apply to Oslo, I don’t necessarily want to stay in England. There’s Oslo, Copenhagen, Geneva, and for England there’s RCA and Glasgow.

ZM: I think for both of us it’s about challenging our practice. For me anyway it’s like where does my practice want to go? If I really want to challenge it.

LR-D: You have to change the space, like completely.

ZM: Because then you have a whole different context.

LR-D: You have new elements to work with, and new people as well. Maybe we will come back to Plymouth but for me I really need to be challenged by something completely new. That’s how I came to England, change my studies, go somewhere else, change something: I need this big slap of ‘This is all new, what are you going to do now?!’

KH: Bit too early to be settling down?

LR-D: Yeah, that’s true. As an artist you can’t make your whole life in one place.

ZM: My whole life I’ve moved around, Devon has been the longest place that I’ve settled in, and its nearly 10 years. As an artist there’s a hunger, and I want to experience as much as I can so that when I make work it’s really informed by a lot experience.
[to Louise] I reckon in like a months’ time, we should get together for a conflab.

LR-D: Yeah!

Louise is a French visual artist whose work is centred around the female body and feminism. Through endurance-based performance, she uses her body as art to incite conversation on what it means to be female in contemporary society.


Zanna’s work is inspired by her fascination with the origin of subjective consciousness. The locations for her work oscillate between the public and private. Using the body to orchestrate encounters in these venues, she explores the human condition and ritual.