Zoya Sardashti

Creative Director & Founder 

Artist Statement

I am a performance ethnographer, live artist and cultural mediator working within the domain of socially engaged art. My work has manifested itself as devised theatre, dance, performance and performative interventions. I do not perform for people but with them. The parameters of my projects are set conceptually, a framework is in place, but each time I bring a performance or workshop in a new place the work is new because it engages a new community in a new environment. The body of the city has a relationship to the bodies of its citizens. I am not interested in making performances that privilege the performer’s body while audiences are required to sit silently. In the backdrop of our present day reality, some people are forced to sit in silence while others are allowed to move freely. I am against this ideology. I invite people for an opportunity for open expression that encourages other embodiments. The risk that my work exposes is not complex or extreme. It’s the risk we take everyday in exposing ourselves to each other and the world around us. In a time when we are encouraged to speak our minds, but not offered bodily protections, at a time when fundamental, basic rights are being undermined, I find it necessary to use my practice to support others.

Our body is the first place of inhabitation. Interacting with various landscapes creates memories and narratives are formed. Sites are affected by bodies and bodies are affected by sites. The more we move into ourselves, the more we move beyond ourselves into other places. Since identity is fluid, there is a need to go beyond representation and beyond identification, so participating with landscapes means provoking a new set of concerns. By engaging with diverse modes of performance practices and encounters (strategic, playful or disruptive), I consider the landscape of current cultural, political and societal developments and the possibility of confrontation and counteraction. I use the concept of performativity as a mode of inquiry to better articulate the ritualistic, theatrical, ordinary and interactive dimensions of culture and understand the dynamics of exchange and receptivity in performance. Throughout each process I question how performativity translates ways a person ‘performs culture’, ‘performs art’, and ‘performs politics’.

A Brief Biography

I grew up in the theatre.  It was where I learned to activate body and voice in ways that contribute to humanity. Born in Denver, Colorado to an American mother and an Iranian father, I spent most of my childhood in the southern part of the United States. In school, raising a hand to declare my family name, Sardashti, evoked an invisible mark of displacement. Estrangement was normal. However, theatre offred community. In this place a person’s ability to create dynamic movement and play with words held more significance than a name.

At Hendrix College, a liberal arts institution, I obtained a B.A. in Theatre Arts. From 2007 to 2008, I worked as an assistant director, dramaturge, and casting associate at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. In 2008 I attended the Lincoln Center’s International Director’s Lab as guest director. While living in Korea, I worked with Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts. Under the direction of Limb Hyoung-Taek, I participated in ensemble training: a hybrid of Viewpoints composition and Korean dance methodologies for devised theatre in addition to serving as an international collaboration liaison, director’s assistant and outreach associate. Around 2009 I co-founded Home Soil and spent the next three years producing five devised theatre/performance works.

I earned an MA from the University of Roehampton in Performance & Creative Research in 2014. Currently I am pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Art and Social Thought at The European Graduate School under the supervision of professor Judith Butler. Across the last nine years I have created performances in Seoul, London, Los Angeles, Glorenza, Venice, Florence, Bolzano, Milan and San Diego. I am concerned with how intersections of live art, performance ethnography and socially engaged art mediate cultural transformation. My artistic practice has moved through several mediums since starting actor training 23 years ago, but using art to pose questions, connect with others and shift perception has remained consistent. Theatre is an obsession that keeps me from pursuing a career in politics.

Ryan M. McKelvey, Founding Member 

A Brief Biography

Formative years in poetry and theatre brought me to collaboration, drag, and live art. My performances are usually one-to-one encounters or other, more public, explorations of intimacy. Alter egos occasionally get slipped on, too. I hold an MA in Performance & Visual Practices from the University of Brighton and a BA in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. From 2010-2013, while in Korea, I created ensemble theatre, developed narrative solo performances, and worked as a drag queen. It was during this time that Zoya and I came together to form Home Soil. Upon moving to England in 2013, I began experimenting with durational & installed work, as well with work that intervenes in public spaces. I also write poems and essays. Over the past eight years, I have performed in Seoul, Brighton, Bath, New York City, and Pittsburgh.