Skammdegi series: Rina Sagoo

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“Living in a town surrounded by mountains has also been a deeply affecting experience as the sense of being closed in is not something I’ve experienced before or was even prepared for.” ~ Rina Sagoo

1.  Can you share with us your background and how it relates to your artistic practice?

I have a Masters in Digital Arts and prior to this several years’ experimentation working with sound and the body. I am fascinated by how our sense of self and perception of the world may change when we foreground listening over seeing and what this could mean in different situations. Through my Masters I was able to pursue this further in interactive installations, to play with what could happen if sound leads an experience of a space. The digital part of my practice comes in heavily in being able to generate sound in real time in response to a person although this isn’t the only form of interactivity I use or media.

2.  Can you tell us more about your work?

Currently my work is sound installation based, with different degrees of interactivity. Interactivity itself is still a relatively young medium within fine art, but can be understood through the lens of more established movements such as musique concrete, or live art – where non-traditional materials become the tools of art making.

In terms of creating, I work in programming languages, previously SuperCollider and Processing, currently Max as well as the more usual audio visual suspects. Sometimes it’s a case of using the best media for what I want to express but equally exploring materials, especially programming languages, will lead me in new directions. 

3.  Why did you decide to join the Skammdegi Festival?

I have wanted to spend a winter in north Iceland for a few years and the opportunity to do this as an arts residency seemed too good to pass up. I was particularly intrigued by the lack of light and what impact that would have on myself as an artist and my artistic concerns. 

4. Is Listhús your first residency?

I have also been an artist in residence at The Auxiliary in UK. Really it’s like comparing apples and oranges, a part of which comes from how embedded I felt already in the culture around me. The Auxiliary is based in a different part of UK than where I am from, but not a different country, whereas at Skammdegi even the banality of food shopping becomes an experience. In winter the town feels quite isolated so there is a strong sense of the residency and festival set up being quite DIY. In a large part making things happen relies upon personal connections made between yourself and people in the town, rather than any existing artist network.

5. Is Skammdegi Festival the first festival you participated in?

I have been part of the Reasons to be Creative showcase, a 3-day digital media conference at Brighton Dome (UK) which had 1000+ attendees, which felt big – it also had a focus on technology while Skammdegi in comparison is extremely intimate, and even fellow artists haven’t necessarily encountered work that uses interactivity before. This creates new challenges and questions in the process of what work I make here and how.

6. How do you feel after living in Ólafsfjörður/Iceland for a month (December) so far?

As a night time person generally I had no idea how the lack of light would affect me, but my experience of winter light has seeped into my being over time – I feel much more attuned to how light affects my mood and every day becomes based in part around the window of time to drink it in. Living in a town surrounded by mountains has also been a deeply affecting experience as the sense of being closed in is not something I’ve experienced before or was even prepared for. The sea, lake and mountains are beautiful, and my internal world sometimes aligns with this beauty and sometimes diverges wildly. This process has fed into my work whereby initially I wanted to respond in a way that was a reflection of the intensity I experienced from this environment, whereas now the work I will be presenting is in part a reaction almost against this, towards something more light and playful. In terms of my broader artistic concerns I’ve also found it interesting how light affects me not just visually but also on a more visceral level.

7.  What is your plan for the second half of Skammdegi, in January?

Working.

8. What are you going to create/present during Skammdegi Festival?

I am making a piece that will playfully juxtapose the act of walking up and down stairs with sound. The work will be situated in the Ólafsfjörður Culture House, and will also feature some contributions from the students of the music school there. 

9.  What is your plan for 2018?

The plan is to exhibit works in London later this year. I’m developing other pieces during the residency and I’m also looking to express the intensity of the darkness and isolation that I’ve experienced in my time here.

Rina Sagoo is a media artist from London who works in digital interactivity, installation and sound. Her work focuses on ideas around presence and sonic traces, seeking experiences of our common humanity.

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View her interview with N4 Sjónvarp (an Icelandic TV station) here.

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