A diverse and inclusive art world in the making
by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
by Manu SharmaPublished on : Sep 27, 2022
Orkhan Mammadov is an Azerbaijani new media artist who is deeply immersed within his desire to regenerate history, society and national identity through a practice that makes AI-art relatable to a new generation of youth. His practice is strongly research-based, and his striking works put front and centre the significance of Azerbaijani and Middle Eastern tradition, history and legacy; both, of the tangible and intangible variety. The media artist’s creative oeuvre spreads outward from a multifaceted focal point: one where he explores the complex relations between cultural heritage, society, science and human interaction, and within which he positions himself as a conversation starter of such discourse. Mammadov continues to focus on the intricate and often breathtaking patterns found within the Middle East along with Kilim motifs that are traditional to nations which were formerly part of the Persian empire. Rather than settling upon popular and common leitmotifs, he emerges to create many official and unofficial emblems that represent the diversity of cultures from historically near-east countries. Mammadov’s individual works are presented as part of a larger series that explore and highlight his areas of interests, while also blurring the lines between his many preoccupations such as history, humanity and the social sciences.
The digital artist tells STIR, “I was born and raised until the age of 18 in Azerbaijan’s culturally rich Ganja city. I studied Computer Science in Baku from 2008 to 2010, but later decided to pivot in my education towards visual communication from 2012 to 2014, which I undertook in Istanbul. After that, I pursued Fine Arts and Experimental Media in Prague from 2014 to 2016, and then Innovation Entrepreneurship in Amsterdam from 2020 to 2021. Over time, I have gathered several influences, but chief among my many inspirations are the likes of Ryoji Ikeda, Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell, Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama. These artists’ vision helped shape my life and career.”
Mammadov is also a creative director, who focuses on the representation of eastern cultures through innovative art-making methods. He keeps his finger on the global pulse of new media art practices, and mentions that he remains fascinated by local youth subcultures from all over the world, viewing them as vectors to investigate the redemption of history. He tells STIR that he closely examines new paradigms of cultural perception within our day and age: one that is increasingly driven by technologically advanced realities. In particular, the channels and methods by which cultural and historical codes integrate virtual reality into contemporary lives have become a core focus of both, his creative direction and personal practice. “My multi-layered work blurs a range of ornaments and digital artefacts, all the while working in interactive methods through the artistic production of conceptual moving images, heavy new media installations, and technical forensics applications,” says the visual artist.
The artist’s latest art exhibition Revival of Aesthetics creates a new visual language of rugs that hitherto did not exist, by combining a data painting technique he developed, with patterns, threads, colours and symbolism that all speak to his cultural heritage. While honouring the term “pattern” in a traditional sense, Mammadov expands its meaning to serve computing systems that recognise the regularities in data sets. Formally, this data becomes a new set of “threads”, for a new carpet design. He says, “Revival of Aesthetics approaches digital co-cultures and the entropy of contemporary data with a critical eye in the era of global nomadism: if heritage is a raw data set, can it be compromised by uneven cultural diffusion, interpretative depletion, and by the use and abuse of history in the rise of ethnic nationalisms?” Mammadov’s exhibition also documents the historical sources of the ornaments meticulously, making the artist a researcher of sorts, and the exhibition, a library of his own making. He adds, “The old and the new unite to reinvent each other. I have attempted to open up a space for a dialogue between fragile, rapidly vanishing cultural heritage, and the proliferation of digital cultures. The goal here is not only to document the carpets, but to also reproduce and preserve the vast cultural memory of the weaving tradition and store it on the NFT Blockchain.”
However, one should note that Mammadov does not even stop at the brilliantly intricate realm of Middle Eastern influences in his digital rugmaking work. For example, take his piece from this series that was shown at Miami Art Basel in 2021 - the work possesses an unmistakably Van Gogh-ian quality to it; all roiling swirls that meld into each other. Or, consider Waves of Orient, which feels almost as though one is looking at a stained-glass mosaic that forms a top-down map of landforms interacting with oceanic forces. Some of the artist’s earlier works from 2019 also feel similar to what was presented in Miami, and it is this vibrant blend of influences and technology that makes Mammadov’s oeuvre one that is absolutely essential for lovers of digital art to engage with. No sooner has one digested the beauty of a single piece, convinced that this is certainly the most stunning work created by him, that they are likely to view another, even more breath-taking visual tapestry.
It is interesting to consider that something that initially started out from a desire to experiment, play with creative tech, and above all, learn and connect with his history has borne such a stunning series of pieces by Mammadov. The artist’s desire to illustrate and animate cultural history has now led him to the world of Non-fungible tokens. As mentioned above, he stores his works on the blockchain technology, which effectively places him among the other masterful digital practitioners that are bringing a great deal of repute to the creative selections available on NFT marketplaces. Currently, the artist continues to provide his audiences with a broader perspective on global trends, and a stronger cognitive framework to understand the intertwined history and creative motifs of the Middle Eastern world. Mammadov continues to masterfully weave together sociological pressures, historical significance and cutting-edge creative tech; all the while shifting fluidly between re-documenting contemporary visual anthropology and presenting himself as a utopianist creator.
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