Augmented Humanism: The Digital Art of Marjan Moghaddam

Artist Marjan Moghaddam is many things, but bored isn’t one of them. A multi-disciplinary artist whose viral sensations, Glitched Goddesses, are propelling the artist toward phenomenal digital art visibility, Moghaddam is that rare artist whose formal stylings and conceptual acumen are equally stunning. Stemming from an #ArtHack Instagram project which the artist initiated in 2016 to disrupt and democratize the exhibition space, her glitch aesthetic permeates the oscillating female forms depicted in her Glitched Goddesses series. Buzz around the series has reached fever pitch, with over 3 million views of her works combined across Arts in Paris and Facebook. So far, her hacks have engaged in dialogue with exhibitions and events at locations ranging from Miami Art Basel to the Guggenheim, the New Museum and Mary Boone gallery – the last three, it is worth noting, were founded by women. “When my ArtBasel Miami hack went viral on Facebook, that’s when I realized the Internet has matured enough for serious, conceptual, thoughtful digital art to go viral and find an audience, ” Moghaddam explained. She now routinely receives collector inquiries on Instagram for work from her #ArtHack collection due to the ongoing social media demand for digital artworks.

“To See if I Still Feel At The Armory Show 2019” by Marjan Moghaddam, with Tonny Cragg Sculpture at Galerie Thadeus Ropac (image provided courtesy of the artist)

We sat down with the artist in the wake of her recent exhibitions for the Smithsonian and National Cathedral, commissioned by arts nonprofit Halcyon and digital art center Artechouse, for the 2018 #WeThePeople Festival. Moghaddam has also recently shown in high-profile exhibits with the Rowan University Art Gallery and Piramid Sanat Art Center in Istanbul. Discussing her upcoming exhibit, Re-Engineering Humanity, at 836m gallery in San Francisco this March, curated by lady Pheonix of Yes Universe, Moghaddam walked us through some of the key components of her practice, reflecting on what this sudden success means for her as an artist with decades of artistic creation behind her.

“Kavanaugh Haunted my Frieze London #Arthack” by Marjan Moghaddam , with original video taken from @mqtfas (image provided courtesy of the artist)

We kicked things off by questioning Moghaddam about the forms she uses. Why women’s figures, and why the glitch animation format digitally transforming this shiny amorphous substance into different women’s bodies? The artist points to her own evolution as an artist, watching as male artists have continually garnered the lion’s share of market value and attention in the press. She points to recent exhibits of women artists at major institutions – Sarah Lucas at the New Museum, and Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim, as evidence that while things are changing, there is still work to be done. “I set this #ArtHack (of these women’s exhibitions) to [the sounds of] PJ Harvey and Bjork screaming out the Rolling Stones’ “No Satisfaction” as a reminder of how far women and especially rebellious and outsider women artists still have left to go, in comparison to their male counterparts,” notes Moghaddam.

“To See if I Still Feel At The Armory Show 2019” by Marjan Moghaddam, Perrotin Gallery (image provided courtesy of the artist)

The artist focuses on women as the subject matter, shifting the lens toward the female gaze by celebrating and extolling the wonders of our own bodies. Extending this concept of equality and equanimity, the artist explains that she engages with advocacy in her artwork, remarking specifically that women deserve representation regardless of their abilities, appearance, age, etc. “The #GlitchedGoddesses glitch the concept that a woman can be a singular form as they shift from heavy to slender, buff, young, old and pregnant, this is how the digital can intervene to expand the conceptual and aesthetic possibilities in art,” she explains. She notes of the #GlitchedGoddesses that although they occur in dialogue with other artists’ work, they don’t solely translate to appropriation art. “Merely hacking is just transgressive, but to do so with social and political activism and as a critical dialogue, becomes transformative,” the artist concludes.

Scholars have taken notice, as these figures were were recently presented at Colloque international Jeptav2019 conference on Art, Intelligence, and Intuition. An Iranian-born creative living and working in the United States, political and social freedom have remained a mainstay in Moghaddam’s artistic practice. Last September, the artist embedded an angry Kavanaugh talking head, in a Vagina Vedanta from Happy Happy Leaf artist Rae-Yen Song for her Frieze London 2018 #ArtHack, in what she views as a type of collectively sourced artistic imagination on social media feeds. This expanded view of collaboration and intervention re-examines methods by which artists can engage both the art world and society on the whole in reckoning with the lack of women’s art being represented at major art world fairs and market events. 

“#GlitchGoddess with a Fractal Niche”, Print triggered- Augmented Reality app with Chronometric Digital sculpture, on exhibit at Enamored Armor, Rowan University Art Gallery “#GlitchGoddess with a Fractal Niche”, Print triggered- Augmented Reality app with Chronometric Digital sculpture by Marjan Moghaddam, on exhibit at Enamored Armor, Rowan University Art Gallery (image provided courtesy of the artist)

Moghaddam has never been someone to stay inside the box or play by the rules; since her early days as an artist on wildly creative scene at the Pyramid Club in the 1980s, where she also exhibited her very first computer animations (she remarks that these were created on a Commodore 64). In the 1990s, Moghaddam became the featured artist for the launch of DOTCOM Gallery and International Forum for the Digital Arts – the very first commercial NY art gallery based entirely on the Internet (Archived on Rhizome.org), with GIF animations of her 3D CG avatar and fractals. As a rebel and an artist, her work has often been positioned on the fringe: a place that has served to her advantage in the viral digital space that is social media. She cites various factors that have continually worked against her since she relocated to New York, to where she currently lives and works in Brooklyn. “Being a woman, doing cutting edge and disruptive technology art, being an immigrant from Iran, and not being wealthy or having any proximity to wealth and privilege [do seem to work against me],” reflects Moghaddam. She continues,  “I also think my rebellious nature is another strike against me, since that is usually celebrated in men but not women. But these barriers have also fed my practice and forced me to forge my own path.” Because of this persistence, her early virtual reality installation “The Box” went straight from Soho galleries to Internet pioneer Josh Harris’ executive office at Jupiter Communications, in what was then the heart of NYC’s 1990s Silicon Alley in the early internet era. Tech and art both find a voice in Moghaddam’s work, and her continued attention and acceptance from the tech community indicate how her work also embraces philosophies which are relevant outside of just the fine art community. 

The artist may march to the beat of her own drum but her work is firmly rooted in art theory and social critique. She cites influential post-war philosophers as crucial to her development of the #ArtHacks as a body of work. “A few [philosophers] that I would list are Norbert Weiner, Baudrillard, Sloterdijk and even Foucault whose ‘art of the museum spaces’ I have cited with my #ArtHacks as part of my art of the social media space.” Embedding these concepts within the depth and breadth of her digital artistic practice has proven critical to connecting with a new generation who is eager for art that speaks to their social moment, and teaches something of value through cutting-edge technological methods.

Additionally, her signature style and aesthetic innovation, a practice that she has termed Chronometric Sculpture, blends the ideals of sculpture with the aesthetics of animation. Social media has continually uplifted her work to viral status: as of 2019, her work is even shared by various digeratis and Futurists on Linkedin as a starting point on discussions about the future of art.

Previously her Baisser at Mary Boone in Glassish and Waxish had garnered over 2 million views on a single Instagram post, and another 1.7 million views on a Facebook post.

Autonomous, location-based, Chronometric Sculpture, Augmented Reality app by Marjan Moghaddam on exhibit at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, Washington DC (image provided courtesy of the artist)

With a multi-disciplinary practice spanning digital art, animation, painting, sculpture, and augmented and virtual reality among other disparate creative pursuits, Moghaddam is an unstoppable force in contemporary art, adapting to new formats and carving new paths ahead at the advent of cutting-edge technologies. In addition to “Re-engineering Humanity,” on view through Spring/Summer of 2019 at 836m gallery in San Francisco, the artist also has new animations available now on the Noow.art digital art collection platform, and an upcoming exhibition at Art Jed gallery. Future projects include another commissioned, site-specific public Augmented Reality art project with City Unseen projects, so stay tuned – knowing Marjan Moghaddam there is plenty more where that came from!

One thought on “Augmented Humanism: The Digital Art of Marjan Moghaddam

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s