Creative Spotlight | Natalie Tso

Published on 08 December 2021


Tell us a bit about who you are and what kind of creative work you make.
Hi I’m Natalie. I’m an artist that makes sculptures, performances and installations. My work is about how political and personal trauma cross and influence bodies. I created this new material that I call ‘skins’ and I’ve been creating participatory performances and installations by placing these ‘skins’ around a space. My works are extended metaphors for me to cleanse and heal from trauma. 


What creative project are you working on at the moment?
I feel like I always get too excited and step into too many projects at once! During lockdown, I wrote a memoir about some traumatic experiences during my first years in Australia. It’s dense and very cathartic for me to now name those incidents as racism. I wrote about learning English, whiteness in Hong Kong compared to whiteness in Australia and the overall experience of being confronted with assimilation. I am working to turn this into a performance, which I’m hoping to perform on 11/1/22, the 10-year anniversary of me immigrating to Australia. I’m barely a writer so this is new and not the usual approach I take in making performances.

Other than that, I’m collaborating with Riana Head-Toussaint and a few other creative movement makers to create a site-specific performance that will take place at PARI in late January. I’m also the director/caretaker/co-curator at The Waiting Room Project so there are a few shows I’m organising there too.

Are there any special processes, techniques or tools you use to make your creative work?


This is going to get nerdy and abstract. Conceptually I use the framework of hair, skin, flesh and bones to think about the convergence and co-existence of multiple layers of trauma within my body. I am constantly cutting my hair and using it in hair crochet sculptures or to embed into larger installations etc. Hair presents the first sign of gender and sexuality assumptions made upon my body, often carrying a sexist queerphobic gaze and I free my own hair to reclaim itself in my sculptures. Skin allows me to think through racial trauma, so I keep making these sculptures that I literally call ‘skins’.

Since writing the memoir, I keep sitting on the colour yellow. Flesh lies beneath hair and skin where trauma is barely visible, yet dictates my body. It symbolises the deeper trauma of cultural identity, and allows me to create space to grief the political trauma of Hong Kong. This materially keeps transforming. I was working with pepper, salt, bandages in response to police violence but now moving onto cheung fun, a Hong Kong food that I think looks a bit fleshy.

Lastly, bones symbolise intergenerational trauma and a silent connection to ancestors and descendants. Hair, skin, flesh and bones all pace at their own time. I’m trying to say that the political slips into the personal across all my intersecting experiences, and they influence each other in a collapsing time of past present and future all at once. 

Where can we find out more about your work and get in touch?


Instagram: @nataliequanyautso


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