Sara Pathirane (born in 1985) works with video, installation and painting. She is agraduate of the Academy of Fine Arts, and her works often engage with the tradition of landscape painting. We discussed future projects, fictions of places, and the search for a lost connection.
Forces of nature
We meet in Lauttasaari, where Sara Pathirane currently resides, and settle on the rocky shore of Koirakivenniemi to conduct this interview. The location is fitting, seeing as Pathirane’s works often deal with a viewer’s relationship to a landscape. She has lately been conducting investigations of her immediate surroundings, and how the local waters of Lauttasaari experience the effects of being so close to the Helsinki West Harbour and its traffic.
These observations will feature in Pathirane’s current work-in-progress. “Waves from the cruise ships can be sudden and very strong, but always carry only a certain distance to a set point, their effects contained to a specific area. I’m collaborating with a tight-rope walker, and want to investigate her movement in relation to these waves. I’m interested in what the existence of the harbour means over here. Walking the tight rope, the movement causes a wave-like effect on the rope as it readjusts itself. The effect of the action ripples in its wake.”
In a number of Pathirane’s works, a person is engaging with a view by gesturally acting out an impossible connection. They invite the viewer to think of not only of our own presence in relation to a landscape, but also how the image makes the gesture differently real in the digital space:
“I’m more interested in the awareness of how your physical actions exist in digital spaces than in the digital spaces themselves. Just how the existence of the digital emerges in these flashes, momentarily becoming real through gesture in this physical space. I extend my hand, because I’m already thinking of my hand in the digital space. And how in digital spaces, there are pictures that repeat the same movements, over and over again, because of this awareness.”
A place, a view
Pathirane’s works are also examinations of our fictitious connections with places, of finding yourself somewhere that is new but also familiar.
“I explore the idea of a type of shared image, a shared mindset. I’m interested in images and notions that people have in their minds of places that they’ve never seen firsthand or experienced. I’m interested in the idea that there exists a relationship with a place already, prior to actually visiting it. And how the encounter with the place happens in a kind of fiction. When you finally find yourself there, you jump into that waterfall, as if that’s how you’ve always jumped into a waterfall.”
Pathirane credits the inception of these ideas to her year-long around-the-world trip she took when she was eighteen. “I had a strong impression of travelling in a landscape, the massive flow of people there just to get from one view to the next. I thought of how a person could be feeling disconnected from nature, and disconnected from the view, but still continuing to search for that connection.”
In Pathirane’s video work Chasing Waterfalls (2016), a woman and a group of nuns observe a waterfall, backs facing the camera. “The people in the video are very different, but they’re all sharing the experience of the waterfall. I try to catch these moments when they happen, they’re not planned. I just wait, and then film when I feel like I need to record something. This is the kind of organisation of the place and the reality that I engage in. Just observing life, and then the so-called script will suddenly unfold. My friend was there, also filming, but in her footage, there are only the nuns.”
The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Let us return to the waters surrounding Lauttasaari; the work-in-progress to be realised here is part of a larger series called The Ground Beneath Her Feet where Pathirane deals with the relationship between a woman and natural forces. The first work belonging to the series was exhibited in Italy this past May.
“The performers in this series are all artists. I’m also trying to apprehend the power with which artists create, how there’s always a new wave of ideas, of inspiration. I’m trying to understand how others navigate this, and how the relationship with creative forces starts to take shape.”
The work for this series will happen in collaboration with artists from different disciplines. In ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’, Pathirane worked with dancers who improvised different movements in relation to a number of videos she had shot in nature.
“There are videos of things like a frozen swamp, a river, a lava field. But they weren’t visible to the performers while we were filming, they were only responding to the descriptions of the videos. I added the nature footage in post-production. The internal image and the external image became connected, then.”