INTERVIEW | SAMIIR SAUNDERS SPEAKS TO US AHEAD OF HIS PERFORMANCE AT @DISTURBANCE FESTIVAL

Samiir Saun­ders at Super­nor­mal Fest­iv­al by Ant­o­nio Roberts @hellocatfood (2022)

Samiir Saun­ders is an artist whose work tran­scends con­ven­tion­al bound­ar­ies, blend­ing spoken word, altern­at­ive hip hop, and per­form­ance art to cre­ate deeply immers­ive and thought-pro­vok­ing exper­i­ences. Saun­ders’ approach is rooted in the belief that dif­fer­ent con­cepts need dis­tinct path­ways to come to life, allow­ing each medi­um to con­trib­ute uniquely to the over­all mes­sage. In this exclus­ive inter­view, con­duc­ted ahead of his per­form­ance at the renowned @Disturbance fest­iv­al, we delve into Saun­ders’ innov­at­ive mul­ti­me­dia poetry, the pro­found themes that influ­ence his work, and his com­mit­ment to access­ib­il­ity and inclus­iv­ity. We also get a sneak peek into Saun­ders’ upcom­ing pro­jects and his aspir­a­tions for fos­ter­ing curi­os­ity, com­pas­sion, and vul­ner­ab­il­ity with­in com­munit­ies. Join us as we explore the artistry of Samiir Saun­ders and his jour­ney towards inspir­ing rad­ic­al change through creativity.

Can you tell us more about your mul­ti­me­dia poetry and what inspired you to blend spoken word, altern­at­ive hip hop, and per­form­ance art?

I think that dif­fer­ent con­cepts need to come to life through dif­fer­ent path­ways in order to get the mes­sage across, so I try to explore, exper­i­ment, and let the dif­fer­ent media do some of the work. Spoken word is often a very min­im­al­ist way of present­ing lan­guage, which really draws atten­tion to the delib­er­ate word choice and poet­ic devices them­selves. Hip hop and rap carry a whole rad­ic­al leg­acy. They allow me to be rhythmic and play­ful and col­our­ful and let the audi­ence feel my words through music. Per­form­ance art draws atten­tion to the silences and tends to cre­ate really immers­ive and quiet moments with­in the per­form­ance space. All of these are tools. I try to keep a well-stocked toolkit!

How do the themes of grind cul­ture, isol­a­tion, shame, mis­com­mu­nic­a­tion, intim­acy, and the inter­net influ­ence your work, and what mes­sage do you hope to con­vey through them?

A friend of mine recently said, “The greatest gift that a poet can give is hope”. I think cap­it­al­ism devours our hope in order to sus­tain itself, so, many of us des­per­ately need our hope replen­ished. I think we absorb a lot of lies about money and pro­ductiv­ity being the keys to prove our worth and val­id­ate our exist­ence. I think many of us are barely scrap­ing by, we are over­worked, under­paid, and under-resourced, until our abil­ity to ima­gine a bet­ter world is suf­foc­ated by the need for sur­viv­al. I think a lot of us are lonely. I think a lot of us are motiv­ated by shame and fear rather than desire and joy, or we’re on auto­pi­lot. I think that, to heal all of these wounds, our souls, our rela­tion­ships, our com­munit­ies, and the world at large, requires rad­ic­al change. I believe that change first requires hope. I hope that by talk­ing about these top­ics with play­ful­ness, wit, hon­esty, and vul­ner­ab­il­ity, I am able to play a small part in the change that is to come.

@Disturbance is known for its com­mit­ment to access­ib­il­ity and inclus­iv­ity. How does this align with your own artist­ic val­ues and practices?

If my aim is to inspire hope and nur­ture rad­ic­al change, it is espe­cially import­ant that I am able to con­nect with those who are typ­ic­ally excluded from spaces and conversations.

Can you give us a sneak peek into the new work you will be present­ing at @Disturbance? What can the audi­ence expect from your performance?

I’ll be per­form­ing a seg­ment of a fic­tion­al gameshow, play­ing both the host and the con­test­ants through a mix of live per­form­ance and pre-recor­ded video. It’s going to be intim­ate, silly, camp, and inter­rog­at­ive of power dynamics.

Your work has been fea­tured in vari­ous pres­ti­gi­ous ven­ues and fest­ivals. How does per­form­ing at @Disturbance com­pare to your pre­vi­ous experiences?

I am excited to integ­rate the access­ib­il­ity tools and inter­ac­tion with pre-recor­ded video into my work. This res­id­ency has giv­en me a lot of space to exper­i­ment and take risks.

How do you approach the integ­ra­tion of cap­tion­ing, audio descrip­tion, and BSL trans­la­tion in your per­form­ances? Has this influ­enced your cre­at­ive pro­cess in any way?

Yeah, it’s influ­enced my cre­at­ive pro­cess in the way I have writ­ten the dia­logue, essen­tially giv­ing image descrip­tions in char­ac­ter. I’m also try­ing to be inten­tion­al with my word choice so that mean­ings can be trans­lated as smoothly as pos­sible into BSL.

As an artist who often addresses con­tem­por­ary issues, how do you feel your work res­on­ates with audi­ences in today’s digit­al age?

I men­tioned before that I think a lot of us are lonely. It’s been said a mil­lion times already, but I think the digit­al age comes with its own unique fla­vour of para­dox­ic­ally hyper­con­nec­ted loneli­ness. I try to res­on­ate with people by speak­ing to the spe­cif­ic numb­ness that comes with the cycle of burn­ing out and then zon­ing out.

I try to speak to the inau­thenti­city we adopt to sur­vive a world that isn’t built for us to thrive in. I share my embod­ied exper­i­ence of that very present pain, but also my dreams of a more intim­ate and authen­tic­ally con­nec­ted future.

Can you talk about your upcom­ing EP, and what else we can look for­ward to with your music?

My upcom­ing EP is called “after­noon, off­line”, it’s going to be anoth­er self-pub­lished pro­ject. It will be a col­lec­tion of punk/glitch-hop/spoken word tracks which will explore themes of com­munity, tech­no­logy, and res­ist­ance. I’ve been the only vocal­ist on most of my pre­vi­ous releases, so for this one I’ve been reach­ing out to oth­er artists to lend their voices. It’s cur­rently still in the works but I’m really excited to share it when it’s done!

Look­ing for­ward, what are your aspir­a­tions for your artist­ic prac­tice, and how do you envi­sion your role in fos­ter­ing curi­os­ity, com­pas­sion, and vul­ner­ab­il­ity in communities?

I want to work dir­ectly with com­munit­ies by meet­ing people where they are – i.e. in lib­rar­ies, parks, com­munity centres etc. I also want to meet people where they are vir­tu­ally, through things like social media, Zoom, and You­Tube. I want to meet people in any space that they feel safe enough to self-reflect. I’d like to foster curi­os­ity, com­pas­sion, and vul­ner­ab­il­ity by dis­play­ing these qual­it­ies in my per­form­ances, but also by dir­ectly nur­tur­ing them in work­shops. I’d like to do more cre­at­ive writ­ing and access rider work­shops, as these have provided very tan­gible tools that people can use.

Ugly Duck Ber­mond­sey is excited to announce the first ever sum­mer edi­tion of @Disturbance, tak­ing place on Sat­urday June 22 & Sunday June 23. Fol­low­ing the suc­cess of pre­vi­ous pro­grammes cham­pi­on­ing LGB­TQIA+ per­form­ance, video and digit­al artists, @Disturbance makes max­im­um use of Ugly Duck’s Tan­ner Street loc­a­tion, a former Vic­tori­an fact­ory with mul­tiple spaces. A sur­real out­door party will lead to an inter­act­ive indoor set, full of won­der and the unexpected.

Pur­chase Tick­ets HERE.

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.