Five minutes with: Natasha Conland

By Alicia Hamilton

Interview with Natasha Conland, curator of the th Auckland Triennial, on MiNDFOOD.

How much travelling do you do for work/the Triennial? Where have you been in the past year?

It depends mostly on the research topic. For the 2010 Triennial, I had a specific interest in making a horizontal crossing from Asia to the Middle East. So I travelled through Singapore, China, Japan then on to Iran, Syria and Lebanon. I wanted to make a voyage that had a completely different orientation to most of our travel in New Zealand which sees us shooting straight across the world to Europe either via Asia or the US.

What is your favourite eco activity, retreat or experience?

Probably something quite straightforward like swimming in the sea – either surf or soft harbour water. Although, I do have a soft spot for spas, perhaps more the idea than the reality.

What is your favourite country to visit?

Don’t think I have a favourite country until I’ve been there. And usually I promise to return everywhere I’ve been. The most impressive experience of the last year was my visit to Iran, a whole different atmosphere to contend with – both politically and environmentally.

What travel item can you not leave home without?

Probably my phone now, compression socks are pretty handy for south pacific travellers and as much water as I can deal with.

What is your most memorable travel memory?

There are lots, although often they are arrival memories. Arriving in Norway into the main airport in Oslo after a 32-hour flight into what looked like a magic ski hut instead of an airport. Then in a completely different climate a very anxious taxi ride in from the airport in Tehran, with a newly wrapped headscarf, taking in the broadest golden landscape I’ve ever seen.

What has been your worst travel experience?

Thinking I had locked myself out of a friend’s apartment in Berlin on my day of departure, with all my luggage, passport and phone inside, and them in Switzerland. Fortunately, fatigue had blinded me and I was just on the wrong floor, but I’ve never broken out into such a sweat in five minutes.

Describe the most luxurious or interesting hotel you’ve ever stayed in.

A hotel in Syria modelled on what can only be described as an Oasis. Very confusing when you’re there on business. Eating a breakfast mezze plater beside a bright blue pool and under an equally blue sky.

What is your best travel tip?

Spend time getting organised in the morning, no matter how many times you pick up the same piece of paper in your jet-addled state.

Do you prefer to travel solo or with family/friends?

I haven’t had much experience of travelling with friends or family unfortunately, when it comes to work its tougher but probably better to be on your own, that way there’s lots of space for thought and solo-orientation.

At the end of a trip are you happy or sad to be going home?

Always happy, no matter how long or short the trip is, I’m usually ready to come home. But until then, I’m completely sustained wherever I am.

Where are you planning on travelling to next?

No idea, usually there are not many advance plans. For the sake of something a bit closer to home and without work in mind, I’d love to return to Samoa.


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