Sadaf H Nava was born in Iran, and immigrated to Toronto, Canada with her family at age 7. She got her bachelors at Concordia University in Montreal, double majoring in Studio Arts/Art History and Photography. Currently living in Brooklyn, New York, Sadaf is a multidisciplinary artist and performer. Her practices include experimental music, performance, video, photography, writing.
Exploding conventions with experimental performance art
Sadaf H Nava
I meet Sadaf at her South Williamsburg home one Saturday a few weeks ago. Following the directions on my phone, I end up outside an unassuming metal door that looks like it might open up into a warehouse or garage. There’s no doorbell. Outside the door, a woman stands smoking. “I’m looking for Sadaf, do you know her?” “Yes, just walk right in, her room is at the end of the back corridor.” Stepping inside, I enter a large concrete-floor room that could as well be an underground show space. This is the living room, I guess. I walk past a kitchen and a couple of nooks that have been converted into bed rooms, tapestries and wood paneling for walls. She greets me with a hug and we sit down to talk.
Like many other contemporary artists, Sadaf readily admits the illusory nature of the ‘material art object’; instead of putting objects on display, Sadaf invites you into her strange world through what could be described as sensory shock therapy. Her experimental music, immersive performances, and uncanny videos can be unsettling, but are always hilariously funny. For how confident and bold her work is, Sadaf is surprisingly soft-spoken and careful with her words.
What were some defining moments in you becoming an performance artist, musician and visual artist?
I was really into painting and sculpture growing up. All the more plastic studio arts. But after I graduated [from art school] I didn’t have the funds for a studio, storage, or materials to continue with that. I turned to performance partly for practical reasons, but also because it interested me politically. I liked that performance can do away with the material object; it is mobile so it can be taken anywhere. It’s also more immediate.
I got into music for similar reasons. I played violin for nine years but I gave it up when I was fifteen. I was able to let go of the anxiety surrounding the craft of being a good musician because I approached music as a performative act, as improvisation. I wrote a play with a close friend and there was a musical act in it. From then on I started performing music sets. It was a natural progression.
No Wave and other movements made it easier to assert oneself as a multidisciplinary artist, without the fear of being good enough. I was able to get into music without that much training, because I was confident in experimenting with different mediums.