Rachel TonThat

Artist and Writer

How would you explain to a child what kind of work you do?

I build worlds, both physical and imaginary, often using stories that can function as parables to this or other realities.

Who or what inspires you?

Hidden stories, new discoveries, finding connections between events or systems around us. That moment in traveling when you are en route and in motion, when you are momentarily suspended on the verge of potentiality.

In what kind do you collaborate with others?

Though my installation practice is usually done alone, collaboration plays a huge part in my work. It's both a way to go beyond my own capabilities to create something new and unexpected as well as a way to experience a kind of creative synergy. I often collaborate with friends because I enjoy the way their minds work the most and know that we can handle any of the (inevitable) rocky moments of long term projects because of mutual care and trust.

Where would you like to be present or represented?

For the last nine years I've lived mostly outside the US. Four of those years were in Vietnam and nearly three have been in Switzerland. Each home has had different qualities. I appreciate the US more than ever for its efforts towards inclusivity and for the ongoing and mostly open conversation around race. I love Vietnam for the headiness of possibility as the country rapidly modernizes, something you can feel in reflected in the art scene. And I respect the history of art in Switzerland and the education I've received here. I do believe that the meaning or impact of my work changes in each environment, and I think I have specific messages for each audience based on my knowledge and experience of the place, so at the moment I'm working towards being present in all three.

How would you define success for yourself?

This question has come up so often post graduation, and while I might have gotten lost along the way, this year I've tried to root down into my core values and what I believe makes life meaningful. At the moment, I define success as living a full life, which for me means traveling and having new experiences often, spending quality time with family and friends, and enjoying the process and challenges of artmaking and writing. It also means working to address topics that are important to me as a way to effect change, and to meaningfully contribute to the communities I'm connected to.