Sara and Taja connected via G-chat to talk about their art practices, self-definition, moving beyond mediums, and the connection between art-making and social justice. Read on for more!
Taja Lindley – 10:09 AM
ok. i’m here
Sara Abdullah – 10:10 AM
Taja Lindley – 10:10 AM
sorry about that. my computer needs rest yeah, lets talk about what we wanna talk about
Sara Abdullah – 10:10 AM
Thanks for rescheduling
Taja Lindley – 10:10 AM
no problem. we can start by talking about our art practice and what ideas/themes/concepts it is engaging
Sara Abdullah – 10:12 AM
Sure that sounds like a good starting point
Taja Lindley – 10:12 AM
ok cool. remind me what you do for your art practice
Sara Abdullah – 10:13 AM
Performance art, theater, and playwriting
Taja Lindley – 10:14 AM
can you be more specific? do these have genres or particular approaches or influences?
Sara Abdullah – 10:19 AM
Sure, I generally create solo, site specific pieces around muslim identity, islamophobia, queer identity, immigration, and my own diasporic performance traditions. My playwriting work also revolves around similar themes in addition to stories around body positivity, forced cultural assimilation, and survival
Taja Lindley – 10:19 AM
so you create work from your identity and personal experiences primarily right?
Sara Abdullah – 10:21 AM
Exactly, my stories are informed by my lived experience and the mythologies of my ancestors Can you describe your artistic practice?
Taja Lindley – 10:22 AM
i prefer to say that i’m an “artist” it frustrates me to define by medium. but when i have to, i say visual and performance artist. i don’t like saying: “actor” “painter” etc because it feels so limiting
Sara Abdullah – 10:23 AM
Definitely, that really resonates with me
Taja Lindley – 10:23 AM
i’m less interested in mastering medium and more interested in mastering my self-expression and knowing my medium(s) well enough to know how to express myself through them.
talk more about that: why does that resonate with you? and then i’ll say a little bit more about my art practice
Sara Abdullah – 10:24 AM
I think that as I’ve grown in my creative capacity, I’ve realized that my interest and experimentation with various media has expanded. It feels like there is so much pressure to define oneself by the wider artistic community, funders, etc and it feels challenging to be feel validated around utilizing a media new to me and one in which I’m not formally trained.
Taja Lindley – 10:27 AM
exactly. i think the art world (as I know it thus far) is organized around these categories and there is an expectation that artists should desire or be required to be a master of a medium. which can lead to really awesome artwork… but i don’t think it’s a requirement. some of the best things people do is when they don’t understand how things are “supposed” to work… we can be more creative, create our own rules (without knowing it, we can be “breaking” rules) of a medium because our starting place was our desire to experiment with materials in a way that was unfamiliar. i recently went to home depot and got some materials that are primarily used for electrical boxes. i don’t know how people normally use these things… but I was attracted to it because of it’s texture and shape . i used it on a mixed media collage. i think folks who experiment or cross mediums get tagged “mixed media” “multi-media” or “interdisciplinary”… but what if we were less concerned about the medium and more concerned about the message, or the inventor? not that the medium wouldn’t be important, but it wouldn’t be our first or primary focus… some things i think about.
Sara Abdullah – 10:33 AM
That’s fantastic, yes I want to hear more about your practice
Taja Lindley – 10:34 AM
my visual art is a lot of things. lately i’ve been obsessed with drawing circles. i also paint and collage, and I use found or handmade objects. my visual art tends to be tactile: i like to make things you can touch and feel . my performance art includes being an MC (i rap) for Colored Girls Hustle… and it’s a lot of fun! and i also do ritual theater. an ensemble I was a part of, Body Ecology, has really informed my ritual theater practice and i like to infuse burlesque in there as well. my performance art is more related to my identity, my experiences and my politics. my visual art tends to be less identity based… at least right now. i’m more concerned about questions of infinity, place, outer and inner space, futurism, symbols, and ancient ways of understanding and navigating the world
Sara Abdullah – 10:40 AM
I love that. I feel that recovering the past and connecting with my ancestry is integral to developing a vision for possible futures
Taja Lindley – 10:42 AM
yeah, its all interconnected.
a lot of people understand time and space as a linear thing… and it’s not. our past is intimately connected to our futures
Sara Abdullah – 10:45 AM
I’m working more recently on homegrown embodied practices that are trying to recover folk medicine and their performative nature, which requires the presence and cultivation of community. so through seasonal and lunar based ritual practices
Taja Lindley – 10:45 AM
hmmm. ritual is performance that makes sense
i was at an event at the human rights project at the urban justice center and one of the panelists, Paloma McGregor, was talking about the choreography of blackness (how we walk in the world), the choreography of violence (the impact of anti-black police violence) and the choreography of protest. there is choreography in how we navigate and move through the world… including the ritual practices and folks medicine that you’re talking about
Sara Abdullah – 10:50 AM
Yeah, definitely, I think extending the narrative of what constitutes performance enables us to more deeply understand identity creation and the systems that are constructed to define them, e.g. violence
Taja Lindley – 10:51 AM
mmm! Exactly. this is why i believe artists are integral to social justice movements
Sara Abdullah – 10:52 AM
Taja Lindley – 10:52 AM
our creative practice(s) have the potential to help us understand societal problems and also give us space to think of creative solutions/next steps
Sara Abdullah – 10:55 AM
I know that we both have to varying degrees over the development of our respective creative practices, linked to community based initiatives or social justice movements, so I was wondering if you could speak to how your work is integrated with community or social justice movements?
Taja Lindley – 10:58 AM
my creative practice has different levels. i’ve been discovering for myself that all of my work may not be, and doesn’t have to be, community based or through a social justice lens… that there is some work that i need to create because my imagination requires it. but of my work that is related to community and movement building . i’d have to say that my work with Body Ecology Performance Ensemble has been the most engaged with social justice, namely reproductive justice (RJ). we create performances rooted in our experiences as Black women to talk about reproductive health, abortion, and the history of violence committed against Black women’s bodies in the name of science. we took these performances to conferences and engaged with RJ activists around our work.
my Colored Girls Hustle Hard Mixtape is connected to social justice. we rap a lot about our authentic lived experiences as Black women and talk about a range of social issues impacting our community. we also celebrate how our community hustles for justice and our communities. celebration and imagination are important for our movements! how about you? how do you see your work engaging community and connected to social justice?
Sara Abdullah – 11:02 AM
I actually feel really similarly
My writing can’t be disconnected from my place in the world, but it definitely springs from my desire to create stories and imagine futurisms. Much of my performance work though is definitely connected to community. I am involved with The Forum Project and work on using embodied practices to initiate conversations and find creative solutions to dismantling power, privilege, and oppression. Also, more recently I am working on a collaboration with other self-identified artists to create an ongoing healing group for folks most affected by state violence where we are utilizing collective art making to heal, share stories and strategies in resisting state violence
Taja Lindley – 11:09 AM
that sounds awesome!
Sara Abdullah – 11:11 AM
Thanks for sharing a look into your practice. I am feeling really inspired to incorporate some found objects into my forays in visual art
And to play with tactility in visual media
Taja Lindley – 11:12 AM
go for it! looking forward to what you come up with. i think we should al pursue our desires and curiosities… our curiosity is an instruction. follow it
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Sara Abdullah is a multi-disciplinary performance artist, and has created solo and collaborative performance pieces for the past five years. She is formally trained as a theater artist and playwright, but is a firm believer in The Theater of the Oppressed pedagogy that stresses the inherent creative capacity of everyone regardless of formal ‘training.’ Read The LP interview with Sara here.
Taja Lindley is is a self-taught visual and performance artist, full-spectrum doula, writer and founder of Colored Girls Hustle. Her current projects and affiliations include: Echoing Ida, Body Ecology, The Doula Project, and the Colored Girls Hustle Hard Mixtape. Read The LP interview with Taja here.