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June 14, 2023

‘Time is a material like paint or stone’: Ida Sophia on enduring art

Our inaugural 40 Under 40 Artist in Residence, Ida Sophia, speaks about adapting her art for CityMag and travelling back in time for her Ramsay Art Prize-winning work, 'Witness'.

  • Interview: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Samuel Graves

How do you describe your practice?
I am a performance artist with a hybrid-media sculpture and installation practice. My work is characterised by conceptual examinations of shared uncomfortable human experiences, such as vain hope, regret, tension and relational strains. Ultimately though, I hope my work holds space for viewers to examine and consider their experiences by leaving them to act for their own personal and social harmony.


This conversation first appeared in CityMag’s 2023 40 Under 40 print edition, on streets now.
Find a copy

See our 40 Under 40 photographed in front of Ida’s work here.

Connect with Ida Sophia:

Where does this interest come from?
I feel that we live in a time where we say ‘I’m fine’ a lot and we continue on with things in polite society, and we don’t truly examine situations and experiences that happen to us in ways that can be positive in the end, really, if we look at them with a more considered eye, and take time to think about them and how they affect us in the long-term. I think that dealing with pain, dealing with things like tension and issues that happen relationally are so important to the general happiness of us across the span of our lives.

What’s the concept behind ‘Through Me, The Road’?
‘Through Me, The Road’ is an immense installation that has the effect of inducing an immediate bodily experience of awe. So it’s three metres tall, you lean back to take it in, your eyes open wide, your chest opens, through this series of nine successive pairs of doors which invite you to enter. They only open one way, and what’s beyond the doors is obscured. They have to be pushed open, and this is an intended, conscious action of choice.

‘Through Me, The Road’ is about making choices, even if it’s a difficult one. It’s better than doing nothing. And it feels like an appropriate work to photograph the 40 Under 40 in front of, because their courageous decision-making and ambition has led to some pretty incredible results that benefit our diverse community.

Ida sits in front of an adapted version of ‘Through Me, The Road’


You’re known for durational performance works. Why are you drawn to this type of artmaking?
Time, I feel, is a material just like paint or stone, and making durational performances allows me to work with the idea and let the meaning build on itself. And this is usually achieved through compound actions upon materials, and obviously bodily endurance. Time gives weight to an idea and allows space for viewers to process that idea, and it’s also beautifully immediate and acutely aware of itself, reflecting the social, economic and political period that it is used in.

How did it feel to be nominated in the Ramsay Art Prize this year?
So amazing. I feel like that opportunity to contribute to the contemporary dialogues the Art Gallery of South Australia is championing, and to show alongside such an epic lineup of artists, it’s a deeply humbling experience, which I’m so grateful for. And it’s also the debut of my performance-for-video work ‘Witness’, which I get to share with my incredible crew, who worked really hard to make it a reality for me. So yeah, it feels really exciting to be sharing this with them as well.


Ida was named the 2023 Ramsay Art Prize winner after we went to print.
Read our story on Ida’s win here.

A still from ‘Witness’. This picture: Thomas McCammon


Can you talk me through ‘Witness’?
‘Witness’ is a durational performance for film. It was filmed at the Pool of Siloam at Wirmalngrang Beachport, and it is inspired by an experience I had witnessing my father’s baptism when I was seven. At that time, I felt that I had lost my position as being his favourite to Christ, and in my vain hope of trying to win that back, I performed a faux-religiosity – praying and going to church, reading and going to bible camp – and this was all in hopes that I would regain this position that I had perceived that I had lost.

Even though I knew I wasn’t religious, even though I knew that this wouldn’t change anything, I did it anyway. And so the work is talking about these actions that we take every day, that are seemingly innocuous, but actually put up an ironic barrier to the thing that we really do want. So this work is about vain hope and addressing how that plays out in our lives.


The Ramsay Art Prize exhibition is on at the Art Gallery of South Australia until 27 August.
More info

What’s your connection to the Pool of Siloam?
My family had a shack there when I was young, so I learned to swim in this pool. It’s a salt lake, seven times saltier than the sea, very buoyant. And it was so beautiful when we went down there to shoot. I accidentally booked my family home, which was from the time period of this memory, that they sold after they divorced. It was so wild, to mentally prepare while being in that space.

Ida worked alongside artistic director Sharmonie Cockayne to adapt ‘Through Me, The Road’ for CityMag

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