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Performance @ Soundwave Biennial ((7)), Aug 27th 2016

Shinichi Still01

Surabhi will be performing a new audio visual piece for Soundwave Biennial ((7)) on Aug 27th. The performance features movement by Shinichi Iova-Koga and words by Dorothy Santos. Please see more details below.

Soundwave ((7)) Architecture: Re-­structured Futures

For our very first partnership with Gray Area and utilizing their historic theater in the Mission District, musicians and visualists explore virtual and imagined architectures through sound, movement, and visual storytelling to dismantle our notions of both physical and digital space. As San Francisco is currently experiencing rapid transformations of our cityscape, artists Surabhi Saraf, Nonagon, Colin Evoy Sebestyen, and Drought Spa reinterpret how our constructs echo ourselves in our minds and our bodies – the interconnections between the communities and the spaces they inhabit, and transparent realms inbetween.

Saturday Aug 27, 2016
8:00 PM
Gray Area Art & Technology Theater
2665 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

Soundwave ((7)) Architecture explores sonic connections to our built environment which shape our lives as humans. This season commissions 30 new performances and works from over 50 dynamic artists to examine the rapidly transforming landscape of the San Francisco Bay Area and the world-at-large while considering the physical and phenomenological aspects of constructing, designing and inhabiting our built environments through sound. Daring artists will present projects that explore spatial acoustics, biological architecture, personal and communal site histories, urban somatic/acoustic fields, psychosomatic effects from architectural designs, ambisonics, architectural drawings as musical scores, and more. These works hope to inspire audiences to to listen beyond the surface, connect with each other and find innovative ways to see, hear, and interact with the environment around us.

Soundwave is San Francisco’s acclaimed biennial of innovative sound, art and music, now in it’s 7th Season. Every two years, MEDIATE Art Group launches a citywide summer-long, multi-venue experiential event series in San Francisco. Each season investigates a new idea through sound and invites diverse multidisciplinary artists and musicians to explore the season’s theme in new and innovative directions.



A+P+I Residency Exhibition Opens June 22nd 2016

Surabhi has been selected to participate in the Art + Process + Ideas(A+P+I) Residency Exhibition where she will be presenting new work along with fellow residents Carrie Hott and K.r.m Mooney.

Intensities, is a single channel video installation examines stillness as a way of being with our intensities, using them as a re-potentializing force. This work is a culmination of a six month residency through the A+P+I program at the Mills College Art Museum.

In addition to the video, Surabhi will be leading a workshop on Embodying Stillness, which also serves as the rehearsal for a performance on the opening night of the exhibition.

During the workshop participants will build a series of simple movements at an extremely slow pace, informed by their observations and reflections around the Mills College campus. The results will be choreographed into the final opening night performance. Some of the ideas we will be considering include ecologies of attention, stillness and action, and the iPhone.

Below is the schedule and more details:

WORKSHOP/REHEARSAL: Tuesday, June 21, 5:00–8:30pm

PRE-PERFORMANCE REHEARSAL: Wednesday, June 22, 4:00–6:00pm

PERFORMANCE: Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 pm


The Art + Process + Ideas Exhibition opens June 22nd from 6pm – 8pm
Dates: June 22nd – August 28th, 2016



Read: Essay by Himali Singh Soin on REMEDIES

The Factory of Feeling

Here, industry is intimate, sound is sinuous, the body, robotic. San Francisco based Surabhi Saraf journeys back to where she grew up, surrounded by the sights and sounds of her father’s pharmaceutical factory in Indore, re-creating the story of the medicine and the machine in the form of a series of multi channel audio-visual installations. What we experience is sound so primal that it might be mistaken for emanating from within the viewer, a dance between the maker and the thing made, simultaneously stoic and sensuous.

As a child, I wandered the factory premises, mesmerized by the machines, by the dazzling transformation of powder pressed into pills. This factory, made up of my father’s familiar face and his employees, who soon came to be adopted guardians and friends, was not the factory of filth or forbidden activity. It felt like a big house with many small rooms. Skittering between those long dimly lit corridors into the bright churning rooms, I loved bothering the workers with my childish curiosities! In 2012, while visiting our factory as a grown-up, I was amazed at how many of them still worked there, having become like an extended family, and how many machines were still in order. Their aged noise juxtaposed organically with newer more precise and quiet equipment. I wanted to capture all these elements—my memories, the machines, the men and women—and, having a history of making art with sound, that was where I began.

Though she strays from an overtly political narrative, at first drawing the eye to the aesthetics of color and sound in mechanistic processes, it is impossible not to view the work with a lens toward a post-industrial critique. In contrast to Marx or Benjamin—whose perspectives were unabashedly occidental—Saraf, distinguishes between labor and work, the one associated with banality, the other with meaning, offering a view of the factory that is not devoid of storytelling, a view of the factory not as vacant but as vibrant. It also presents the pharmacy, especially in rural India, as one that heals rather than harms. However, it is a vision that stems not from naiveté but actual embodiment: in the process of collaborating with actors, designers, cinematographers, Saraf’s artistic production came to mimic the processes of the factory itself. The theatre becomes therapeutic. It is in these collaborations with skilled and fairly paid work that she embeds her more utopian ideals.

The title of the show, Remedies, suggests a period of healing, and the necessary ritual of repetition requires for its undertaking. Repetition, as a structural device is a key to decoding Saraf’s work. The series comprises three parts: tablet, capsule and syrup- the first two are on view in this exhibition.

Each series includes a large central video projection and video box sculptures. The central video features a dozen performers in long, panoramic shots. The ambulatory pace of the camera and the light reflects the silently morphing mechanical flow of the substances depicted. The distinct processes and movements at the factory act as a score for choreographed interpretation and timing. Transformations, of solids into liquids and isolated chemicals into cohesive compounds become raw material for the sound installations and movement techniques.

In Tablet (2014), two multichannel video boxes feature a close-up of yellow pills and red pills moving as if on a conveyor belt, around the box. The circle, perfect and lit up, becomes a kind of spiritual or celestial end. The powder, first broken down, then decomposed, undergoes a variety of transformations. The medicine, once imbibed, heals the body, transforming it, much like the manner in which a character ‘dissolves’ within an actor, who is rendered transformed with each moment, each story. Much like the viewer is transformed by the art s/he intakes. The choreography follows an Aristotelian arc, with a beginning, middle and end, first crushing, grinding, then blending  and recomposing the tablets. In the middle, when the powder is pressed into form, the frenetic moment of varying syncopations climax into a real transformation, before the final calm, communal activity of packaging and boxing takes place, an appropriate ‘closing’ for the piece. The sound, sourced from field recordings from the factory’s granulator, shifter, octagonal blender, mass mixer and rotary, thrums with thrilling anticipation. The perpetual repetition of action and sound collapses time: a contemporary synthesizer smooths the edges of something old, something rusty.

Capsule (2014), contains a similar videobox of a chain of red and blue capsules in white plates moving in assembly, a white gloved finger, like a stage-hand, flicking the grid now and again. The sound begins to culminate, but releases before any sort of narrative forms. Simultaneously, on a large wall projection, performers in red shirts and blue latex gloves re-enact the workings of the pressure and force with which a thing is compressed into its container. Their motions are systematic, geometrical, robotic and yet there is child-like lightness in the play of primary colors, in the moment when we realize they are in sync but not dogmatically so, each bringing character and humanity to their individual cadence.

In Syrup (2014), the actors move as if in a room of wax, more fluidly but still in rigid motion. They move directionally, just as the sound too seems to transfer from one medium to another, from one time period to another, at first elemental, then electronic. The tension between rhythm and melody, between the harsh steely sounds and the softer aqueous ones mimics the tension between the repetitive nature of labor and the repetitive nature of breathing. She blurs the seemingly life-taking with the life-giving, likening the monotonous to meditation.

Saraf worked extensively with her family for research and source materials, then with an entire production crew—from choreography to camera to lights, costumes, actors, editors and sound designers—in order to construct this theatre of complexity, multiplicity. Her ambition can be charted in her influences: Pina Bausch, Bill Viola, Chris Cunningham and Pamela Z, yet she voyages a step further. In returning to her childhood, in returning to India and ‘home’, she employs the past. In employing post-modern dance techniques, video and electronic sound, she catapults into the future. Remedies, in dissolving linear time, dissipates the hierarchies of those ‘born privileged’ and those who ‘have no future’. Time itself is transformed, becoming a capsule. It remedies.


          — Himali Singh Soin

(For REMEDIES exhibition @ Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai)

capsule hands



REMEDIES : Solo Exhibition @ Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai, Oct 27th – Dec 10th 2015

Tablets, 2014 -6

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

6:30 – 8:30 pm 7 pm – The artist in conversation with Sumesh Sharma, Curator, Clark House Initiative Bombay

Exhibition Dates: October 28 – December 10, 2015

Situated within the broader discourse on humanization and labour, Surabhi Saraf’s ‘Remedies’ is inspired by her family’s pharmaceutical factory in Indore. Workers at the factory produce tablets, capsules and syrups, using quasi-archaic machinery. Re-imagining the space through abstraction and performance, Saraf alludes to the immersive qualities of the mechanical and the monotonous.

Each installation comprises an independent video box, and a wall projection. The minimally constructed video boxes display, on four sleek peripheral monitors, close-ups of the assembly line. Colourful pills find their way into shimmery packages, the occasional human intervention breaking the monotony. The wall projections feature performers enacting a choreographed sequence to echo the motions of the equipment and the factory workers.

To quote Genevieve Quick in her article ‘Mechanized Bodies: Anxiety and Healing in a Global Economy’, “Surabhi Saraf’s two video installations poetically explore the mechanization of the body with teams of performers. The performers push carts, and sort and package pills. They also throw and sift powders, alluding to the raw materials in the processing of medicines. The activity creates clouds of dust with an almost mystical atmosphere. Saraf’s intense sound, choreography, and environment transform the robotic and alienated motions of manufacturing into a ritualized dance of healing.”

Surabhi Saraf was born in Indore, India, in 1983. She earned a BFA in Painting from the M.S. University in Baroda, and an MFA in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA.  Saraf has held solo exhibitions at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai (2012), and Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco (2014). Participations include among numerous others, ‘PLUS ONE’, Space@The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, USA (2015); Performance Festival, Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece (2015); ‘We Are Ours’, Khoj International Artist Association, New Delhi (2013); New World New Sequences, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, USA (2012); and ‘Synchrony: Contemporary Video’, Hunter Museum of American Art, Tennessee, USA (2012). Saraf is a recipient of the 2015 Eureka Fellowship Award. She lives and works in San Francisco.

ss portrait galarie m+s



PLUS ONE : Exhibition @ India In Focus, Sept 25th- Nov 22nd 2015

SPACE  @  The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust  

PLUS ONE , Sept 25th- Nov 22nd 2015

featuring Shilpa Gupta, Sumakshi Singh, Surabhi Saraf, and Avinash Veeraraghavan

While using contemporary technology and methods of art production in large scale video installations, sound works, prints and installations, the artists in “Plus One” also embrace aspects of traditional Indian visual culture: repetition and pattern making.

Home Sweet Home (video)

Avinash Veeraraghavan works as an artist and designer. He has also done stages at Studio Sowden and Studio Fronzoni in Milan, Italy. Avinash Veeraraghavan’s work reflects his interest in popular culture and in exploring a mix of visual media. His art is becoming increasingly well-known and has been shown at major exhibitions worldwide. He trained under and went on to collaborate with the Italian designer Andrea Anastasio.

FOLD, 2010 &  Tablets, 2014 (Video Installation)

Surabhi is a new media artist, composer and a performer who uses her background in experimental sound and Indian classical music to create audio and video works. She is particularly interested in creating multi-channel surround sound experiences in her performances and has created multiple 5.1 surround compositions for her videos and installations. With a diverse array of techniques such as repetition, fragmentation, and multiplication, Surabhi designs sequences of rhythmic movements, creating multi-layered structures of evolving patterns that slow down our perception of time.

I Keep Falling At You (multi-channel audio piece)

Shilpa Gupta lives and works in Mumbai, India where she studied sculpture at the Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts from 1992 to 1997. She has had solo shows at Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Museum voor Moderne Kunst in Arnhem, Arnolfini in Bristol, Castle Blandy in France, OK Center for Contemporary Art in Linz amongst other institutions. She has had gallery solos with Gallerie Yvon Lambert in Paris, Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai, Galleria Continua in San Gimignano, at the public gallery, Lalit Kala Akademie hosted Vadehra Gallery, New Delhi, and much more.

Waiting On This

Sumakshi Singh’s work constantly traverses the lines between metaphor, reality and illusion and ranges from plays on space-time theories to cultural, historic and physical critiques of place, done in paintings, interactive installations, sculpture, video and performance.

Venue Details

812 Liberty Avenue | Pittsburgh, PA | Directions

Gallery Hours:
Wednesday, Thursday: 11am-6pm
Friday, Saturday: 11am-8pm
Sunday: 11am-5pm



Grains @ India In Focus Festival, Sept 25th, 2015


Surabhi Saraf with Ian Smith-Heisters will perform “Grains” at the Peirce Studio at 10pm, on 9/25, admission is FREE.

GRAINS is an original audio-visual performance deals with expanding the sonic energy that resides in a single grain of sound. The performance explores the visual and sonic amplification of domestic food grains and their transformation into a collection of solid grains that flow like liquid as they multiply. Layering her vocals on top of the flowing grains, Surabhi Saraf weaves a rich tapestry of sounds, multiplied and fragmented, creating dynamic textures and immersive architectural soundscapes. It was first performed at the Asian Art Museum in May, 2013. In this collaboration with Ian Smith-Heisters, the visual space is transformed by projections that pulsate alongside the sound, magnifying the performance’s granular energy.

Credits for Grains:
Vocals + electronics: Surabhi Saraf
Visuals + custom software: Ian Smith-Heisters

Trust Arts Education Center
805-807 Liberty Avenue | Pittsburgh, PA | 15222 |
Pierce Studio
September 25th, 2015
10 pm




Remedies // LIVE @ SFEMF 2015, Sept 11th 8pm


The 16th Annual
San Francisco Electronic Music Festival

Friday, September 11th 8pm


Lawrence English and John Chantler
Surabhi Saraf


Brava Theater Center
2781 24th Street (at York)
San Francisco, CA

Full Line Up

Olivia Block
Charles Cohen
Alessandro Cortini
Thomas Dimuzio
Lawrence English and John Chantler
Kristin Grace Erickson
Doug Lynner
Robert Rich
Surabhi Saraf
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

Full Schedule 



Grains @ 4th Thessaloniki Performance Festival, Greece , July 6th 2015

The Thessaloniki Performance Festival, following the biennial rhythm of the Biennale, aspires to build and develop an open field of experimentation and a timely dialogue of communication and communion around the ephemeral practice of performance, by promoting and showcasing the latest body-based and experiential pursuits, helping establish the art of performance. The dialogue between artists and audiences, which has been a staple of all previous editions of the Festival, reveals the wide scope and interdisciplinary nature of the art of performance. On that basis, the works presented touch on a variety of issues and themes, reflect aesthetic diversity, record present-day socio-political issues and the personal conflicts of artists, take a critical look at the establishment and all forms of oppression, while also expressing the urgent necessity for the emergence of active and interventional communication. By stressing the interactive and subversive nature of performance and the great diversity of its disciplines, interpretations and approaches, artists are called upon to participate in a process of “live” exchange of views and ideas, articulating and sharing their experiences and stories. This convergence of the various disciplines, comprising performance’s conceptual substance, coexists with a declared desire to trace and investigate the role of performance artists and the essence of an art form that is shaped by and, in turn, helps shape socio-political processes.


Artists: Márcio Carvalho, Victoria Gray, Jonas Kocher – Dafni Stefanou – Janosch Perler- Ruedy Schwyn, Mischa Kuball, Carlos Martiel, Medie Megas, Rhiannon Morgan, Surabhi Saraf, SUKA OFF, Ulay
Opening concert: Harry Elektron & Rosita
Tributes/exhibitions: Leda Papaconstantinou, Ulay
Workshop: Yorgos Bakalos
Video performances/screenings: Cyprus International Performance Art Festival, Videoplay, Sofia Underground International Performance Art Festival
One-day conference: Actions and re-actions in the Greek artistic field. Research and concerns about performance art in Greece
Scientific coordination: Alexandra Antoniadou
Keynote speakers: Alexandra Antoniadou, Christiana Galanopoulou, Glafki Gotsi, Foteini Kalle, Areti Leopoulou, Costis Stafylakis, Irini Yeroyianni



Read Mechanised Bodies on Art Practical

Mechanized Bodies: Anxiety and Healing in a Global Economy

By Genevieve Quick August 18, 2015

Locating Technology considers technology and artworks in rather broad terms, such as: mechanical objects, analog and digital photography and video, and computer and web-based work. Through these types of works, writers explore the evolution of technology and its effects on artists’ processes, disciplinarity, and the larger social context of media creation, dispersal, access and interactivity.

We tend to consider how technology and machines alter our bodies from the consumer’s end, as with our daily use of wearable or smart devices (watches, fitness trackers, phones, and more) and the more fantastic, cutting-edge neuroprosthetics and artificial organs. Our products and technologies, however, are made by individuals on assembly lines whose bodies are also imprinted by the manufacturing process. During the rise of industrialization in the U.S., Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) presciently satirized the way in which assembly-line work automates the body, such that the body is disoriented when removed from work. As our economies globalize, manufacturing not only expands to different regions, but also migrates from one region to another. When manufacturing exits an area, it leaves its trace on workers’ bodies. Jesse Sugarmann’s We Build Excitement (2013) and Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre’s Maquilapolis (City of Factories) (2006) explore the plight of unemployed American autoworkers and struggling Mexican factory workers. As their video and film projects feature collaborators miming their assembly-line jobs, they reveal the automation of the body and the void left in the global migration of manufacturing. While Surabhi Saraf’s Remedies: Capsules and Remedies: Tablets (both 2014) also use the physical gesture of assembly-line production, she transforms the manufacturing process into a ritual process of healing.

Each of these three films connects to Chaplin’s earlier critique of automation. The opening factory scene in Modern Times features Chaplin frantically and comically attempting to keep up with the assembly line while the factory bosses prod him to quicken his pace.  Consumed by his work, Chaplin becomes physically integrated into the machinery, his body twisting and turning within the conveyer belts and gears. Still focused on his task, Chaplin momentarily exits the factory and screws the bolts on a fire hydrant. When the line is halted at lunchtime, his spastic twitching signals his disorientation and loss of control of his body. With Chaplin physically and cognitively consumed by his labor, he faces an existential, yet comic, crisis in its absences as he shifts from machine back to man.

While Chaplin satirized the way that human action serves the machine, both literally and as a metaphor for capitalism, Western countries are now transitioning from manufacturing to service economies, leaving remaining factory workers anxious and many jobless. Sugarmann pays homage to the defunct Pontiac Motor Division in We Build Excitement (2013). In the project, Sugarmann created videos, makeshift sculptures of cars, and Pontiac Pontiac—his own dealership located in Pontiac, Michigan.1 Home to two assembly lines at various times, the city of Pontiac is both a suburb and a part of the supply and assembly network that constitutes Detroit’s automotive industry, which at one point was a model of American industrialization.

Just as Chaplin continued going through the motions even when removed from the production line, laid-off autoworkers pantomime their jobs in Sugarmann’s We Build Excitement (Assembly Dance) (2013). The workers seamlessly enact their jobs with expressionless faces as if on an imaginary assembly line. In the parking lot of Pontiac Pontiac, workers gesture as if turning wrenches, lifting wheels, replacing windshield wipers, and more; without the machinery present, it is difficult to parse what precisely their actions represent, rendering their actions suggestive, like dance. Lacking visible purpose, these movements speak to automated and ultimately displaced labor.

In addition to low wages and lenient enforcement of labor and environmental laws, in the 1960s the Mexican government began establishing free-trade zones to entice foreign companies to relocate. Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre’s film Maquilapolis (City of Factories) (2006) documents industrialized labor in the Tijuana factories where workers regularly endure exposure to toxic chemicals, dust, and contaminated water in their workplaces and nearby homes.2 Operating just outside of the U.S. border, the predominantly female labor force assembles a host of products from furniture to electronics for internationally recognized brands like Panasonic, Sony, Sanyo, and Samsung.

The workers in Maquilapolis face conditions similar to those of Sugarmann’s laid-off autoworkers. Just as U.S. autoworkers are laid off because manufacturing has migrated outside the U.S., Mexican factory workers scramble to find employment as production relocates overseas.3 The film opens with a line of women dressed in blue work shirts outside the factories. As a group, they uniformly and repetitively gesture with their arms as they mimic the labor they have performed. The filmmakers intersperse sequences of the women displaying the products they assemble and their heads rotating as if products on a display unit while the manufacturers’ names appear in text. As Chaplin’s body became mechanized as producer and part of the assembly line, these women’s bodies have also become imprinted by industrial production as products within the manufacturing system.

Moving overseas, manufacturing is now firmly entrenched in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), which many speculate to be the next economic superpowers; their workers are also subject to the same process of mechanization, health hazards, and displacement as those in We Build Excitement and Maquilapolis. Surabhi Saraf’s two video installations, Remedies: Capsules and Remedies: Tablets (both 2014), poetically explore the mechanization of the body with teams of performers in her family’s pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in India.

With her title Remedies, Saraf suggests the ailing body and the healing process in the context of manufacturing medicines. Like We Build Excitement and Maquilapolis, Saraf’s performers enact various parts of the manufacturing process. The performers push carts, and sort and package pills. The performers also throw and sift powders, alluding to the raw materials in the processing of medicines. The activity creates clouds of dust with an almost mystical atmosphere. The pulsing and mesmerizing soundtrack and the larger-than-life video projections render the installation immersive. While performers oscillate between moving like teams in synchronized choreography and doing their own individual gestures, there is a general organization to the larger group activity, even if it isn’t as concrete as manufacturing. The flurry of activity and immersive qualities are trance inducing. While the factory workers’ bodies in We Build Excitement and Maquilapolis endure the trauma of manufacturing, Saraf has worked with performers who enter the factory space unscarred by industry. In this space of well being, they throw medicines, as powders, to mitigate pain or illness in their factory setting. Saraf’s intense sound, choreography, and environment transform the robotic and alienated motions of manufacturing into a ritualized dance of healing.

While the works by Chaplin, Sugarmann, Funari and De la Torres, and Saraf address the legacy of assembly-line production on workers’ bodies in their respective contexts, together they showcase the trajectory and casualties of globalization. The media occasionally runs stories about the cost of globalized manufacturing, such as the recent coverage of Foxconn—the Taiwanese multinational electronics manufacturer that assembles products, like iPhones, for major corporations and the U.S. market. As manufacturing becomes more distant from consumers, those who produce our goods are less visible. Whether in the U.S., Mexico, or India, workers endure the same cycle: becoming part of a larger network of production that can be disassembled and relocated, rendering them redundant. Assembly-line production has taken its toll on workers’ bodies since the beginning of industrialization, and its absence is also felt as a traumatic experience.