by Manu SharmaJun 25, 2021
A major factor in the success of the digital medium has, without a doubt, been the tendency for artistic inquiry into one of its subsets to integrate with others. Furthermore, digital practitioners hardly limit this to the digital realms per se, and many are becoming increasingly comfortable picking and choosing from the techniques and motifs of more traditional practices. Few artists exemplify this better than Marjan Moghaddam, who considers herself more of a 3D CGI (Common Gateway Interface) artist and animator, but also involves animation, video, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), print, sculpture and installation work in her practice. Discussing her work, Moghaddam tells STIR, “Since what I do is 3D, it’s really output independent, and my exhibited and commissioned AR art, such as my work for the Smithsonian Museum, was born out of my existing 3D CGI practice, as well as the original and unique style of figuration that I am known for, primarily as a fine arts digital artist.” The style of figuration the artist references is strongly informed by sculptural and humanistic ideas that have underpinned classical art for centuries, however Moghaddam does not merely welcome these, but also actively subverts them, chiefly through an aspect of motion, mutating them to create vivid, captivating and highly dynamic pieces in the process. She explains, “I call my original and unique approach to this style of figuration, chronometric sculpture, in the sense that it blends the posing of sculpture with animation. In my Baiser at Mary Boone in Glassish and Waxish, which went viral on top internet art channels, and gained millions of views, much of the posing and the colour are expressionistically conveying the feelings and sensations in an artistic manner. So, the posture and colour are always informed by concepts based on contemporary identities or other forms of expressionism in terms of experience and being.”
The artist views AR and VR arts practices as being different in the sense that AR is more ubiquitous. She feels as though features of social media platforms such as Filters and Lenses on Instagram and Snap have created a daily involvement between us and the craft. The same cannot be said for the everyman and VR; at least not at this juncture in time. Moghaddam tells STIR, “AR, by virtue of being closer to our mixed reality experience of the digital, naturally dominates. With VR it’s a bit different. Head Mounted VR has grown in recent years, but it’s still nowhere near as popular as many pundits had it. Meanwhile, online 3D metaverses, especially the tokenized worlds and NFTs have taken off.” The artist herself did many shows in the metaverse last year, and currently has a solo show on at the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art in Decentraland. Moghaddam mentions that she is pleasantly surprised that many of these virtual gatherings feel quite like “real” exhibitions and openings, and are often attended by many people. Underlining her latest endeavour in this regard, she tells STIR, “For my MOCDA opening and walkthrough there were so many people there in so many wild and varied avatars that I was surprised at how easily this can rival real openings on a social level.”
Discussing process, the artist tells STIR that she generally starts with modelling and motion capturing in order to generate base animation. She then works with what she has, adding pose to pose animation as well as procedurally generated animation, which is what creates the inimitable sense of physical mutation present in her work. She continues, “I may also add dynamics or simulation to the mix. I usually have some basic shaders set up as I am modelling, and then I refine, revise or change as I animate. The final stages are lighting, final shaders and animation refinement prior to rendering.” However, depending on format and site of deployment, Moghaddam will often mix and match techniques from her wide repertoire.
Moghaddam has always been committed to innovating, both, creatively and professionally. She tells STIR that this has been the primary driver behind her work. While she was creating pieces for exhibitions and galleries, she was also working as a commercial 3D CGI production artist for many years. However, she has since moved into academia, and is now a tenured, full professor of CGI and animation. Highlighting the link between digital and traditional arts practices, she explains, “On many levels, my practice has been a natural continuation of the fine arts dialog of art history, and more specifically the dialog of the Avant Garde, but with cutting edge technologies and ideas emerging out of the exigencies of our time. Conceptually, I have always been inspired by philosophy, so on many levels, the primary dialog in my pieces always have some philosophical underpinning.”
Moghaddam seems to have developed a strong interest in the crypto art world off late. She cites a sense of camaraderie between international digital artists working in the NFT art space as a major reason for this. She feels that, for the first time, digital art is being treated as seriously as more traditional practices in the wider commercial sphere. She tells STIR, “I am very excited about the possibilities in this space from collectible art, to the types of VR and metaverse exhibitions that I have been doing. I think in terms of my 3D CG art practice, I am moving into another R&D phase in which I hope to further innovate with my original and unique style. And finally in terms of AR, I think a lot of the spatial computing developments in the fields have me very excited about more gamified AR experiences in art.” Certainly, it will be fascinating to see where Moghaddam moves in the future, especially as her work may blend very well with AR applications that seek to create a gamified, collectible experience. For the time being, however, it will also be interesting to see VR work from the artist, as the lowered incidence of the craft should not, in and of itself, be a disqualifier from admission into the creative repertoire of artists such as Moghaddam. In any case, exploring this fascinating body of work makes one wonder: are all technologies moving towards a point where there is no longer any barrier between them? Or, to rephrase it, are all technologies becoming one technology?