by Gilda Davidian

Sarah Rara is a Los Angeles-based artist working collaboratively in sound and performance as one-half of Lucky Dragons (performances and recordings that are centered on the building up of “fragile networks held together by such light things as skin contact, unfamiliar language, temporary logic”); drawing and designing as Sumi Ink Club (a weekly collaborative drawing society); and other platforms such as Glaciers of Nice (a small press and internet community). Sarah is spectacular. But you don’t have to take my word for  it – keep reading.

Hi Sarah! What were you like when you were 12? A bookworm, and also a weirdo.  There was no one in my hometown that looked remotely like me (except my mother).  My family is very tall and statuesque, our ancestry is Danish/Dutch.  I grew up in a mostly Italian neighborhood and my best friend was Jamaican.  So I always stuck out like a sore thumb.  I had very little supervision — but I have to say I was pretty well behaved, since my favorite thing to do was read.  Don’t think I ever got into any trouble.  I was friends with a police officer who lived down the street, and he used to drive me around with the sirens on as a prank to confuse people, but we never fooled anyone since I was ridiculously quiet and studious.

What was your favorite band in high school? A tie between Nirvana and Patti Smith, those were the major musical influences of my teens.  But also Yoko Ono, Crass, Alice Coltrane, Ravi Shankar– my musical taste is nearly the same now as it was then, still love all of the above.

Tell us about something you’ve discovered recently that you think is pretty special. The work of artist James Lee Byars, and just read Groucho Marx’s autobiography Groucho and Me (hilarious).

Do you have any alternative career/occupation fantasies?I have a peculiar high pitched voice– i’ve often thought about becoming a voice actor and doing voice-over work for cartoons and cinema.

I never imagined my profession would be in the visual arts or music– that happened almost by accident and came out of the research I was doing in philosophy and the social sciences.   I always thought I would become a literary critic / writer / teacher as reading and writing are how I work through most questions and problems.  I studied Comparative Literature, and it’s still an exciting field that I love and may return to.

What is the last country you visited? How did you like it? I was just in France, in a small village where everything is publicly funded, and most people work for city hall.  Actually found it quite difficult to be there.  Everything worked like clockwork, all the city employees ate together for free at a cafeteria from 1-2 pm and everyone works from 9-5 pm including artists.  The gallery opened at 9 and closed at 5 and those were the only hours we could work on the exhibition  It was definitely a higher quality of life than most americans experience, but i found it pretty stifling there and oddly conservative. The whole time we were there, we were looking for one dissident, one punk, one person acting out– just anything sassy or disorderly and we couldn’t find it.  The best we came across was a young boy hitting a wall with a stick who seemed listless and bored.  I remember asking a gallery attendant “Can you help me move this table?”  and he said “no i don’t think it is possible to move the table, since it is there–we would need special permission.”  I remember staring at the table, and trying to understand why it would be impossible to move it or who even to ask for permission.  Eventually I just picked up the table and carried it to a different spot–and no one noticed or commented.  It’s complete confusion to me, but I think there was constantly a friction between what people in that village would define as possible, and what I would define as possible.  There was tension about everything, I was glad to come back to LA.

But I genuinely do love to travel, and part of me relishes even the most awkward and tense situations that arise during travel, the situations that are so enlightening, embarrassing, and hilarious all at once.  As an artist, I travel a lot– and am dropped into the strangest situations in such a wide range of places–often feeling like an alien from another planet coming to observe life on earth.  But its important to get immersed in a range of human experiences, different lifestyles and different values, and not just stick to a comfort zone.

What do you find yourself thinking about before you fall asleep? Lately I think about videos and songs to make.  Before I fall asleep, in the shower, and in the car — that’s when I get my best ideas.

Do you have any mantras, mottos, or sayings that you subscribe to? The motto of the week comes from my friend Cali, who said “I’m against everything, but still positive.”  I feel that very much, a desire to scrap everything and reorganize, mixed with the optimism that a better world is completely possible.  There’s a pervasive negativity that has the best intentions — to make way for something new.  I guess this is an essentially punk attitude, and very Los Angeles — Anti/Posi.

I turned on the radio the other day, to KPFK, just as a voice was saying “one life to live, womb to tomb, just do it” and I was completely floored.  Entering a conversation at this point is so beautiful: the crux, the thesis, the point.  Carpe Diem that is the best motto, even though its the most common.  Carpe Diem is real, need to keep moving.

Thank you, Sarah!

Rara Speaks –  Glaciers of Nice –  Lucky Dragons –  Sumi Ink Club