Marjan Moghaddam’s revolution began in 1980 when she had just left Iran as a political refugee. She “met with” a computer graphics program when she was at university and she fell madly in love with it. She then transferred a large part of her idealism and her hope in the possibilities offered to her by this futuristic and progressive technology, in reaction to the regressive forces which prevail in her native country.
Nicknamed the first lady of digital art, Marjan Moghaddam’s works of art are recognized for their original, unique, and influential style, 3d figurations, and animations such as #GlitchGoddess and #ArtHacks. Many of them have notably been exhibited at the Armory Show in New York and at Art Basel Miami.
What I like in the art of Marjan Moghaddam is the game of colors, movement, and the different digital techniques that she diverts to serve her own fight and her own story.
Marjan is not a sheep.
Marjan does not cut a strand of her hair to express her anger and disapproval in pursuit of a mind-numbing and ridiculous buzz.
Marjan creates. Marjan is.
Her weapons? These are her creativity and her talent.
She however admits that she was not prepared for the millions of views and comments that #GlitchGoddess of Art Basel Miami with Picasso & Wood aroused. “I had set it to a voiceover of women artists talking about inequality in the art world, as a feminist Digital art piece, and you don’t usually expect feminist work to perform that well metrically, but this clearly did. And most of the comments from women centered on the changing body of the #GlitchGoddess. She glitches the art’s historic convention of depicting a female in a singular form by morphing from slender to heavy, pregnant, old, young, stylized, and abstract. And women were commenting on both inequality and the changing body aspect of this piece, which I thought was interesting. .”
Via a modest and very traditional email, she answers my 3 questions with precision and conviction.
It was an incredible honor and privilege to win this first NFT Art prize from the Arab Bank Switzerland. The original call was for a piece that celebrated the Oriental and the Occidental, and as an Iranian American, it was very important for me to deliver this premise in a meaningful way. I was raised in Iran with an appreciation of Iranian, Middle Eastern, Asian Art, and Western Art, therefore, I wanted to make sure to celebrate both the visual and performing arts of the Orient mixed with elements from the Occident.
Art in our world today has a global aspect that aggregates cultural and historic influences in a fluid and creative way. And this Oriental and Occidental blending for the call was a perfect premise for me to work with as a digital artist.
The animated painting explores the ideals of Intaleqi or Arabic for freeing oneself, feminine, as a post-digital state of being, while aesthetically updating the sublime aspects of Oriental art with innovative technology and our moment. I work with Glitch in my art practice in two ways, as the digital equivalent of accidents in the studio that sparked entire art movements, and as Glitch being to the digital what mutation is to the biological. The bodies in flux is a signature style of animation that I have evolved over the decades, that defines posthumanist figuration. I further define this approach as Chronometric Sculpture, which combines the aesthetic ideals of sculpture with that of animation, as a new art form.
The main figure employs Mocap of Middle Eastern dance and my original and unique style of figuration and animation which combines pose-to-pose 3d CG animation with procedural/generative 3d deformations and simulations. The background uses Arabic-style architecture that is interpreted and remixed via Artificial Intelligence and is further glitched and voxelized in 3d CG. The doors also frame the figure as a niche, signifying the home and an intimate space she stands outside of. Other elements employ simulations and dynamics, the oscillated vase in the back has Persian poetry calligraphy. The textures reference traditional Arabic patterns alongside Geometric patterns inspired by European Modernism in a further blending of the East and West.
I wanted the piece to exemplify the Middle Eastern and North African metaphysical traditions of enlightenment and gnosis, through the lone figure’s dance evoking the serene experience and feeling of Intaleqi, or to free oneself.
What attracted you to digital art vs traditional art?
What initially attracted me to digital art is my origin story as an artist. I lived through the 1978 revolution in Iran, after I left the country, quite traumatized as a political refugee, in college I was introduced to the world’s first Computer Graphics programs. I fell in love with early Computer Graphics Imaging, transferring much of my idealism and hope to the possibilities of technology, futurism, and progressivism as a reaction against the regressive forces that had taken over my homeland. My first exhibited computer art piece was done on a Commodore 64 personal computer back in 1984, and I’ve continued to work with the technology since, creating many different collections of digital art. For me, it’s a way of life and being, as I find meaning and understanding through my art practice in ways that fit into our post-digital world.
Nietzsche considered Art to be the highest expression of life; do you agree with him?
Yes absolutely. If you look at infants and young children, it’s natural for them to create with whatever you give them, even with food they start to create designs on their plate. So, this is inherent to us, and while we can reproduce biologically, we are also compelled to create in other ways or to contribute mimetically as Richard Dawkins has argued, as a type of reproduction. And this urge defines the creator culture and economy of our time, as well.
But not everything is truly the highest expression of life. Much of the philosophy of art in the West, and the East, has centered on defining the levels of the expression of the feeling of the sublime as Schopenhauer once established. So, when we look at much of the creator content of our culture and the internet today, much of it is delivered for eyeballs, the attention economy, Hate Metrics, or the social media hijacking of the Limbic brain as Tristan Harris explains. Is this the highest expression of life? No. So that’s where art and more specifically the fine arts come in.
Art is an important part of our sensemaking apparatus, we also need the profound, the sublime, and the complex, as a way of arriving at meaning and understanding on a higher and more substantial level. So, the highest expression of life must also convey this higher level of sensemaking. For me, it is very important for these aspirations not to merely accompany work in lofty artists’ statements, as is often the case with much of traditional contemporary art, but to be self-evident aesthetically and visually in the work. And when you do internet work as I do, there is no artist’s statement or gallery assistants in hushed voices explaining the work, so the visuals must convey the meaning and the higher expression. And so, I have centered my digital art practice on these ideas, and this is what I aim to deliver in my art.
The winning work of the first NFT Prize by Marjan Moghaddam will be presented in Geneva this autumn, thanks to the Arab Bank Switzerland for which NFTs are not a craze, but a true revolution.
© Marjan Moghaddam, Still_ “Woman Life Freedom AI Arthack” Annka Kultys Gallery London (2023)
Marjan Moghaddam “GlitchGoddess” Outdoor Prints with AR Activation Public Art Vancouver (2022)
Marjan Moghaddam portrait
Marjan Moghaddam “Still 2 Woman Life Freedom”, Annka Kultys Gallery (2023)
Marjan Moghaddam, “Wall of GlitchGoddess” NFTs Artsy Exhibition at Vellum LA Gallery (2021)