We had the good fortune of connecting with Alya Kautsaranti and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alya, why did you pursue a creative career?
My journey to finding art as a part of my life was quite long and definitely not straightforward. I wish I can say that art has been something I do since I could start walking or something, but my father is an engineer and he hoped for me to become one when I was growing up. And the only artistic influence that I had was from my sister that loved to draw every time she had the chance to. She is 7 years older than me, so our childhood consisted a lot of her making toys for us to play with, and her using me as her little art experiment subject. But, due to the pressure back home in Indonesia where the “best” path is to become a doctor, engineer, or just anything science related, I never really tried tapping into my artistic side and focused a lot on just being academically successful in order to get into the science major in high school.
Looking back now however, I did always somehow find art to become a part of my life growing up. Maybe deep down I knew that I wasn’t happy pursuing that path and had to channel my creativity in some way. I was first drawn to dancing, because I watched a cartoon series with a ballerina protagonist, I begged for a ballet lesson but was not allowed to do it. Then I was lucky enough to get a chance throughout my junior high school to get to learn traditional Indonesian dances and performed many times at school events. I also joined the theater club throughout junior and senior high. I loved it, I loved the many months of practice, the costume fittings, the nerve of performing on stage, but it never occurred to me that I could do it professionally. Which is something that I still quite regret not pursuing until now. However, what finally made me decide to pursue art was because I saw the behind the scenes of Harry Potter. The classic story of people that ended up studying in the UK haha
The ability that people have to create a whole other world was very mesmerizing for me. At first I wanted to be the person that makes robots for film props (still trying to steer the engineering path to film related haha), but then realised that the magic started from the vision of the director, and since then wanted to become a film director instead. Took a while to convince my parents about this, but thankfully they supported me and I was sent to the UK to study film. During my foundation year, however, I realised that the environment of film production isn’t really for me and discovered the beauty of experimental film making after I saw Maya Deren’s work. I realised that what I love is to be able to express my visceral feelings into a visual language that helps me understand myself and my own emotions. I quickly got drawn even more to the thought of film as a medium, a tool to make art, and to be able to mix it with other mediums to convey my art. This is especially set in stone after the year 2018. It was a really tough year for me, and amidst all that pressure I started doodling and just painting to let my emotions out, and since then art has become more like a therapeutic process for me. And the more I make my art, the more people that I was able to connect to and it is the most fulfilling feeling for me. So, now, I really can’t imagine myself not practicing art as it has helped me during one of my darkest times and hopefully it can do too to many other people.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think for the longest time in my life, I have always been disappointed with reality and I think that’s what’s really drawn me into making immersive artworks. I love being able to create a space, however small, for people to be able to experience a little spark in their everyday life. I am most interested in mixing traditional and digital art in my work, as there is a certain aura that traditional art has where a human being has touch and interact closely with it, and bringing them into the digital world to be experienced in a different way is truly fascinating for me.
I think so far, I am most proud with my most recent work, “Downpour”, an interactive installation about facing a traumatic moment when someone dear left. I did a small private viewing for the work, and being able to see people interact with the art and having them tell me how the art made them feel was a moment that I still hold very closely to my heart. Being able to see my art become a bridge for conversations about people’s feeling is truly fulfilling for me.
I have just recently graduated, and I think I still haven’t really found the right balance of being an artist that can just make art, but also being able to pay the bills haha It is possible, but I think I’m still trying to figure out a lot of things. So, to all the other identity crisis people out there, you are not alone! Haha I think we just got so used to hearing or seeing people only when they are already successful and made the whole process to get there to just seems irrelevant, but it takes time. And it’s alright to be confused and not always feeling like being in the right place instantly, we just need to keep going!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I don’t know why but I just have a small obsession with Bath, UK. There is just something about that place that feels very peaceful and just everywhere you look, the buildings just look so lovely. The people there are also very friendly and there is this one fish and chips restaurant that is absolutely delicious! There are also so many beautiful little shops selling all kinds of different things, that really feeds into my joy of window shopping. And I think the fact that the city was once home for Jane Austen doesn’t help my imagination of living as a Jane Austen main character haha
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I think first and foremost would definitely be my sister, who is an artist as well, and without her I would definitely not find my love for art. My friend Kim So Won and foundation year tutor Kieran that pushed me to pursue experimental film making. My university tutor Jeremiah Ambrose, Anne Parisio, and Jim Smythes that believed in me and truly helped me to find my voice as an artist. And of course, my friends that have become my support pillars throughout my life and helped me get through the tough times, was there when I was crying and helped me laugh and found back my spirit. I think you all know who you are! And a personal thank you to the band Twenty One Pilots for their music that really helped me get through the toughest times.
And of course I would like to do a special shoutout to my fellow POC artists, Tyler Stemp, a beautiful human being creating amazing music, Marella Linzaga whose films and photographs I adore as she truly shows her love for her community, and Kouta Ishida, an amazing photographer creating delicate photographs that truly touches my heart.