Interview: Mitra Saboury

  Charlie Levine  

August 2015

Mitra Saboury / [still from] Stumbling Block (3) / 2013

Charlie Levine: As a curator one of my main points of interest and something that really influences my approach to practice is architecture, space, the history of a location and how it looks and feels. With Sluice__ we have tended to work in unusual venues, in particular this year The Bargehouse is all exposed old brickwork, uneven steps and a lot of character. It is a challenge for artists and galleries to site the work here. In addition we are a boothless fair so galleries seep into one another and there are no boarders particularly between the designated spaces. This is also something you are concerned with in your work. Can you tell us more about this and how you fill space and think about placement within architecture and even what that term means to you?

Mitra Saboury: I think a lot about how boundaries shape everyday movements -- how we walk where the pavement is, and navigate buildings as we’re dictated. I'm obsessed with the way space is intimately used and reused, as we move from house to house for example, or share a gallery floor. The way we feel or remember a space becomes a visceral, psychological experience.

CL: Can you tell us 'how' you explore space? And how you use yourself as a starting point - or seem to? It would also be great to know more about the materials you work with.

MS: My body has turned into a sort of tool to navigate the environment. I've become hyperaware of the functions of my brain in response to place... the transmitters that are released when I make myself comfortable somewhere, and how accessing memories of that place later mirrors those feelings. When I approach a space, generally I try to find the most unsettling part-- the moldy unkept corner of the room, the flesh-like holes in the pavement, the closet full of crap-- and make myself comfortable there, through my work. It's like torturing myself in a small way, to see if I can incite comfort through my practice for myself and for the audience.  Material-wise I am open, though generally I look to man-made construction material. In Cavities (a series of short videos developed on residence at Grand Union) I worked primarily with concrete. I found it everywhere within the city, often replacing or amending brick buildings, and wanted to use it in conjunction with my body. In other works I've used asphalt fresh from the street, charcoal, rubble, and walls from derelict houses. 

Mitra Saboury / Cavities (developed on residency at Grand Union) / 2015

CL: You mention your recent residency in Grand Union. How do you find working in England, Birmingham specifically, compared to LA? Did you find your work changed a lot, other than by using concrete? You lived in London before moving to LA where you're based now, has LA also influenced your work, have you seen a change?

MS: In the UK, without a car and with great public transportation, I was working from a pedestrian's point of view. I pushed myself against surfaces, and destroyed so many pairs of shoes! Birmingham specifically was great because I could walk the city in a day, and really came to understand it from my feet. I've carried that through my practice, dragging myself against a place to feel it. In LA, I'm in a car a lot more and experience things from a mind very aware of routes, traffic, skateboarders. I have to make an effort to experience the city from a walking perspective, but when I do it feels so fresh each time. Having access to landscape from beach to city to desert to mountain is so cool.

  CL: And where is next for you physically? Where would you like to go in the world and how would you like your work to reflect that place?

I'm really happy in LA now. I have room to experiment and the sun allows me to work outside. But I am always open to travel and look forward to more residencies, layering new experiences into my practice. I have a show coming up here in LA at Chin's Push early next year, and am preparing for my show next fall at Grand Union which will coincide with a screening at Millennium Point. s

  Mitra Saboury is currently showing in the London Open 2015 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.