Living Room Sessions Ep. 3: Renee Coughlin

By Renee Coughlin

Published: 2020-05-08

1. What does the word “artist” mean to you and is that how you identify? Did it take you time to adopt that identity?
The word "artist" is one I’ve always had a funny relationship with. I love the word. I love the way of being in the world that it suggests. To me, an artist is someone who refuses the status quo, someone who uses beauty to provoke deeper thinking and engagement with life in ourselves and around us, and someone who has ideas to share, and conversations to spark. While I’ve always secretly viewed myself as an artist and serial creative, it’s taken me some time to own the title publicly. I think we’re all born artists. We’re all born with a desire to create, and I believe we’re quickly taught which creations are deemed valuable and which aren’t… and so we teach ourselves out of believing we are artists. This is just a theory, to which I’m sure there are many arguments. But today, this is how I feel about the word “artist.”

2. What does the word “technology” mean to you?
I associate the word technology with anything that is made with human intervention. Human beings make technology. I wonder if the word can be used to collectively categorize all the things we’ve made to try to enhance our human experience of the world. When I hear the word “technology” I think artificial intelligence on one end and I also think about my can opener. I think human made tools that we’ve created to try and add ease to our lives. Whether or not we’ve succeeded at that is a whole other question. Haha!

3. What role does technology play in your art?
I think technology has a huge role in what I create. The instruments I use, the recording equipment, and other physical tools. But also the internet! Perhaps the biggest role that technology has in my art is that with the internet, my sphere of influence is MASSIVE compared to what it might be without it. Technology allows me to interact with other people’s art and draw from a way bigger pool of inspiration. It also allows me to research and learn more about my practice and keep expanding on what I learn.

4. What role do you see art having on present global culture?
I hope that art can be a change maker in today’s global context. Art holds so much of what I believe it means to be human. It has the power to unarm people and pull them into spaces of empathy and hopefulness. It also creates space for pain, suffering, and loneliness that so many other parts of our human world try to cover up and gloss over. I think if we, as humans, can continue to make art and save the spaces that help to share that art publicly, it can keep much needed conversations going. Art is what helps us understand who we are as humans. When we engage with art as a viewer, it can show us ourselves. It can help us to know whether we are proud of who we are being or not and perhaps help us to consider what kind of changes we need to make in order to be better humans together.

5. In your opinion, can you separate art as distinct from artist? From the environment in which it was created? From its societal era? Why or why not
Great question. Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories come to mind. He says that once you’ve heard the story, “It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Cry over it. Get angry. Forget it. But don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.” I think what Thomas King teaches us here is that a story, or maybe any artwork, has a life of it’s own. Of course the creator of that artwork, and the place it was made in are essential to that story, but once that story is made, maybe it becomes its own entity? Something that breathes a life of its own and exists to be interpreted and experienced by the people and places it lands on next? I don’t think I believe that anything is truly distinct or separate from anything else, however I do believe that a viewer is experiencing art more through their own life experience than the life experience of the one who created it.


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