OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Mira Burack

from the bed to the mountain
installation variable

MIRA BURACK depicts an intimacy with direct experience. Through photo-collage and installation, she heightens our awareness of the overlooked objects, environments and sensual experiences that we sometimes forget to notice. Images of rumpled comforters, repeated, become mountain ranges, while plants gathered from the land surrounding her home are paired with their own portraits, collapsing the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional. Mira earned a BA in Studio Art and Psychology from Pepperdine University and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Muskegon Art Museum, Cranbrook Art Museum, Media Knox Gallery in Slovenia, Art Gallery of Windsor in Canada, and Kunstverin Wolfsburg in Germany. Her most recent solo exhibition was from the bed to the mountain (2015) at CUE Art Foundation in New York. Mira is working on an upcoming collaborative exhibition with Kate Daughdrill titled Earth Sky Bed Table (fall 2016) at Center Galleries, College for Creative Studies (Detroit). Mira lives and works in foothills of the Ortiz Mountains of New Mexico.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Collage has been a foundational process in your work for years. Could you talk generally about what you love about collage, both as a process and conceptually?  

Mira Burack: I am excited by layering, connecting and resuscitating the material, the content of the photographs. Collage is an alive space that moves between two and three dimensions; the more pieces and the more layers, the more depth. It's an interwoven construction, like a textile.

Sleep Position "Spoon"
Photography Collage
76" x 57"

OPP: Your work also depends on the process of collecting, whether that is gathering natural objects from the landscape or photographing laundry and sheets in your home. What’s your methodology of collecting both objects and images?

MB: Hunting and gathering is an old thing. It is a part my daily life, survival, learning, adapting. The matter I live with and encounter is like a gathering of experience. Collecting is a phenomenology for me. The ability to study our conscious life and the objects we engage with couldn’t be more satisfying. It is an investigation of our intentions and the many aspects of our direct experience of things: from perception, thoughts, memories, imagination, emotions and desire to awareness of our body, social engagement and language.

OPP: Does organization of your collected objects and images play a role in creating your work?

MB: Yes! Organizing the objects and photographs is key to activating the material and creating a space. Repetition, layering, positioning and the building of a “landscape” or space is a process that allows me to spend more time getting to know the material, perceiving it it from many angles and hopefully getting closer to its essence.

from the bed to the mountain

OPP: In your recent show, from the bed to the mountain (2015), at CUE Art Foundation, photographs of found mushrooms, plants, pine cones, wood and feathers interact with those original objects. How do you think about this synthesis of tangible object with its own representation?

MB: It's about consciousness, mirroring and our ability to sense and perceive what's around us in new ways.

OPP: I’m so curious about your talk "Self-Care as Activism," which accompanied from the bed to the mountain at CUE. Would you give us a summarized version?

MB: This workshop was the true “opening” of the exhibition. It was incredible to collaborate and learn from my friend, Dr. Florian Birkmayer, psychiatrist and aromatherapist. We led a group of 30-40 people through an experience of the senses.

Since many of the objects in the exhibition included the plants and trees that I live around in the high desert mountains of New Mexico, participants had the experience of smelling, tasting and feeling—through spraying directly on the face—plant hydrosols made from broom snakeweed, chamisa, sage, cottonwood and others. We sat in a circle around a long table of botanicals/collages, and for each hydrosol encounter, we’d experience the plant for five minutes in silence and then participants shared any responses that came to mind from that plant, from memories to physical descriptions. They actually didn’t know what plant it was until after the sharing.

The responses were phenomenal! New Yorkers were connecting to their animal instincts and baring themselves with many strangers in such a quiet, intimate way. Through the plants, we were all connecting with ourselves and each other in a caring, safe environment. It seemed like a deep, meaningful exchange—as far as public city experiences go—and the smell in the room afterwards was intoxicating! The title “Self-Care as Activism” came to me because I feel like we live in a time where we are truly in need of remembering how to really care for ourselves and each other. I feel so strongly about us not losing touch with this instinctual, pre-language knowledge/way of being that it seemed necessary to call it “activism.” I am learning this from where I live. The workshop was a call to action.

Moon (mother)
from installation from the bed to the mountain

OPP: The void is a repeated visual motif that shows up in the Houseplants, the Beds and from the bed to the mountain. In all cases, the voids are framed by collaged imagery that turns them into potential portals. What do these voids mean to you?

MB: The void represents a resting place, a place of entry for the mind and contemplation.

Sleeping is like Flying (detail)
Photography collage
Dimensions variable

OPP: You’ve done several collaborative projects over the years: Edible Hut (2013), a collaboration with Kate Daughdrill and the Osborn community in Detroit, and The Economist (2007-2012), a series of collage drawings with Narine Kchikian. What’s the underlying thread that connects these collaborations to your solo projects?

MB: Relationships are very important to me. They are some of the most precious things in life. Whether the relationship is with a person, a living plant or the bed I sleep in, it's about connection with and learning from what and who is around me.

Collaborating—especially with a community or group—amplifies an experience. It can be rich and exhilarating and yet incredibly hard work too. It's a balance. I really like moving between meaningful shared experiences and solitary experiences. I want both in my life/work. Working collaboratively is an experience of deepening—deepening my understanding of others, myself and my making.

To see more of Mira's work, please visit matterology.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.