Pursuing passion projects in addition to our jobs is a balance that many of us struggle with — and that’s even when the monotony of our jobs drive us to seek outside inspiration. But Ashleigh Kane already has what many would consider a dream job. Working as Arts & Culture editor at Dazed provides a lot of challenges and inspiration, but that doesn’t stop her from tackling new challanges beyond her hectic work schedule. “As an editor, I’m commissioning, but I’m still writing a lot,” Kane tells What We Seee. “I also do a lot of research and try to get out and meet people when I can. I also try to do interviews but time isn’t always on my side. There are also commercial projects that we get on board with as either Dazed or Dazed Studio (white label). It’s a lot of juggling.” And that’s before her curatorial projects come into the mix.
So how can someone get it all done? Well, Kane’s mindset is one we can all learn from — rather than panicking about a series of deadlines and looming projects, she focuses on tackling work in the moment. “Working in the creative industry, I’ll sometimes try to see further down my path – so like, where will this get me in ten years time? Then it freaks me out, so I counteract that by throwing myself into everything, saying yes, and building new skills whenever I can.” And that mentality has taken her pretty damn far.
Real World Consequences
Outside of Dazed, one of Kane’s most ambitious undertakings has been curating AM I MAKING SENSE, an immersive group exhibition, last November that was sponsored by Melissa. It wasn’t her first curatorial work — in 2016 she worked with New York’s Art Baby Gallery’s Grace Miceli to put on A New Sensation at Mother London, with 20 London-based artists including Campbell Addy, Ronan Mckenzie, and Polly Nor. AM I MAKING SENSE came a year later, her first solo show as a curator, featuring artists with a wide range of aesthetics and looking at spirituality and the power of affirmations.
“The inspiration from AM I MAKING SENSE came about because I’ve always been quite spiritual and I’ve believed in different energies being able to manifest themselves in various forms,” Kane explains. “So like, from someone’s thought process into real world. If I’ve put my mind to something, I tend to find a way towards it in some way or another. I liked the idea that affirmations can be made from nothing but your own brain and that they can have real world consequences. Whether it’s a placebo effect or not, I think everybody can do with believing a bit more.”
And the truth is, there’s no better time for a little bit of belief and positive energy. “Also, I’ve seen a lot of art that’s a reaction to negative things that happened in 2017, and even before,” she says, determined not to be lost in the relentless negativity of recent news cycles. “Brexit, Trump, etc. The works are powerful but often they left me feeling hopeless – like, what comes after this feeling of loss or shock? Are we just stuck with it? Being angry, or sad, or displaced? Positive thinking can be as much of a protest as a lot of other things… Someone out there will find something relatable in your struggle, and it might help them come into a better place quicker if they hear your story. I like the idea of passing on our experiences and building this kind of ‘how-to’ map for the next generations to come. Hopefully it will make someone’s journey a bit easier.” The result was a powerful, arresting exhibition — and what may be the start of many more solo curatorial projects.
The Truth Is, You Probably Can
Though her role as Art & Culture editor undoubtedly keeps her firmly in the art world, making the leap to curator can still seem like quite the undertaking — but Kane has embraced the power of saying yes. “The biggest lesson I learned was that most people are faking it to some degree,” she says. “Of course, don’t do something you are absolutely not qualified for – but I’m not talking about uni degrees and all that. If you feel like ‘why can’t I do what they’re doing?’ truth is, you probably can. Trust your confidence and common sense, then say yes and get going with it.”
And AM I MAKING SENSE seems to be one of many “yeses” for Kane, both in the visual arts and a number of other disciplines. “I want to do another art show – something photography-based, potentially with set design as well, but I want to explore soundscapes too,” she says. “I just want to keep making work that is real and relatable, but has a positive spin on it. I’m enjoying consulting for brands as well, so hopefully I’ll just keep building on relationships and knowledge. I want to throw a club night with a friend that is part art installation, as well. There’s a lot of ideas going, it’s just about funding them and finding the time to indulge.”
I’m Not Saving Lives — So How Bad Can It Get?
Damn, art really does cure you ?
— Ashleigh Kane (@ashleighkane) January 25, 2018
One of the most refreshing parts of Kane’s attitude is the ability to separate challenges from negativity. While still being realistic about the stress and challenges of balancing so many different projects, she doesn’t seem to indulge in the spiral of worrying. Or, if she does, she knows how to nip it in the bud. “I don’t think I find anything challenging in a negative way,” she explains. “Days are different and sometimes things can get on top of me, but I always think, ‘I’m not saving lives’ – so how bad can it get? I’m very lucky to be in a position where I love going to work and I see my colleagues as my family.” Seeing (and treating) people you work with as family seems to be crucial to her success. “In terms of advice, I’d say be nice to people and never let your ego get the better of you. Be humble and help other people along the way. It will all come back to you one day; perhaps sooner than you realise.”
Remarkably down to earth for someone with such a striking CV, her grounding is incredibly winning “In regards to my dreams, I just want to keep making work that makes me happy, and hopefully, makes other people feel happy,” she says. “ I’d quite like to do that somewhere near a beach too.” With what she’s accomplished so far, that sounds more than reasonable to us.
You can check out more from Ashleigh and her work here.