Image from Cosy Household by Tara Fatehi Irani
Ahead of her performance at PUG at Tyneside Irish Centre on Friday 27th January, we caught up with multi-disciplinary artist Tara Fatehi Irani, to find out more about the work she’ll be showcasing as part of this mixed arts, alternative variety night.
What influences both you and your work?
There are several things that influence me and consequently my work. Perhaps the overarching ones are the geopolitical conditions of living and ways of subverting them, the everyday and everyday activism and the traces of time on memory, body and sites. Perhaps it all comes together in the word ‘traces’: I think I navigate myself and my work through the ways in which history, society and geography leave traces on us and our environment and the, at times precarious, human element that connects all these traces.
What does your work being shown at PUG mean to you?
Alternative performance platforms like PUG are a great place for new discoveries for both artists and audiences. I think supporting and being part of a locally accessible platform like PUG will help keep the performance scene and experimentation spirit alive. I also hope to meet new people and really enjoy exposing my work to new audiences and hearing (or sensing) their feedback. I am looking forward to seeing the other performances and having good chats and dances. I think a lot comes out of the social element of these events and the community centre can be a great place for these new encounters. Also, I have never been to Newcastle or performed in the North of England so that’s very exciting.
Where do you want to take your work next?
In case of Cosy Household, I’m planning to show it in Iran this spring along with some other projects I am working on around the theme of manipulating documents and found material. I have two other performances that I will be performing through the year, details have yet to be announced.
Why were the themes on show here so important to you?
I have been working on unconventional and non-preservational ways of engaging with archives, specifically non-institutional archives, for a while. I am interested in generating new or never-told-before narratives from existing material. I think this is an exercise, for myself and my audience, that encourages multiple readings of history, news and media. Coming from a rather controversial part of the globe, shaking up the typical understandings of geopolitical histories is important to me. I am trying to frame this in a mostly playful and hopefully non-exotic way. It is more like creating a clash between documents/objects and how they are traditionally interpreted that I’m interested in.
Your work at PUG uses spoken text and video and you often use several different mediums in your work. Is your background in one specific discipline? Or have you always been learning how to work with different mediums alongside each other?
My background is in theatre and music (as a flautist and vocalist). But even when I was working in theatre, I was experimenting with text, dance, videos, visual arts, puppets, music and sound recordings. And somehow the experimentations took over theatre itself. I find qualities in all of these disciplines that can influence and inform the others and at their intersection enable new formal and conceptual explorations in my performance practice. I hope that as much as the curiosities and unpredictability of an interdisciplinary making process excites me, the results can enable multiple trajectories of meaning and enquiries for the audience.
You’re currently engaged in a larger research project about Personal Archives how does this performance fit into that research? Is this the first time anyone will see Cosy Household?
In my research and in this performance, I am interested in manipulating, fragmenting and deconstructing archives as tools for (hi)story-telling. This performance along with other performative and written experiments on my personal archive are all part of this larger research. In Cosy Household, I am particularly working on blurring the place-time line by mixing personal and found experiences and drawing on a collective cinematic memory which can trigger a sense of remembrance or ownership of memories. I am interested in keeping the ‘Oh I know this one’ and ‘hmmm what actually happened?’ questions alive through the show. The performance has been shown in London but there will be some changes and additions this time. Different places of performance PUG takes place in a community centre rather than a theatre.
You often work in non-theatre spaces. Is thinking about where the performance will take place a way for you to make work?
Yes. I usually make my work specifically in response to the site of the performance and have a period of site-research (online, physical and social) before and through the making process. I have been working on an ongoing site-responsive performance titled Meridian Rhubarb with sound artist Pouya Ehsaei where the whole process is about finding where our personal histories collide with those of the site we’re performing on and responding to this in a live act of experimental electronic music, spoken word, video and dance. We have so far done this project in Iran and around the UK at a BDSM club, an abandoned house, a former police station, a former African church (and current wedding dress shop) and a gym. Each of these sites and their histories have inspired a new chapter in our performance. I think the community centre can add new layers to my performance at PUG.
In Cosy Household you use found video and personal memories spliced with fictional family circumstances to make art about intimacy and violence. Is this a new theme you are exploring in your work?
I have worked with recounting socio-political violence through family archives before but this is the first time I’m specifically working on those moments in family life when it just gets too complicated or the moments in a child’s life that another child should be prohibited from seeing. I think family is a very challenging site for human interaction. From arguing which TV channel to watch in the evening to escaping into the sea with your child – many weird things can happen. I have experimented with several new ways of making and writing but it is difficult to separate what here is a continuation of my previous works and what is entirely new in this one.
And finally, what do you have planned for 2017 as a whole?
I am working on a few projects around re-purposing personal archives and performance ephemera: Mirror, Mirror On The Wall is a participatory performance that I’ll be showing in spring and summer, some creative and discursive writings are always in the agenda for my PhD, and on the 1st of January, I started a one year performance project called Mishandled Archive which will continue for a year. Everyday, I leave a personal item (photographs, objects, clothes, writings, …) at a public space. I then devise a dance and perform it on-site for the new placement and document this action and score the dance on a label that I leave with the item. There is so far 17 of these (one a day). It feels like so much has happened – you can see documentations of each day on my Instagram (@tarafteh) – but there is a lot more to do. And I’ll continue working with DARC Collective, the Live Art Development Agency and Roehampton University. So in a nutshell: make new works, tour existing works, meet new people and make new connections.