Meet Marjan Moghaddam: The Artist who brings Art to life

Meet Marjan Moghaddam: The Artist who brings Art to life
ODD!TY Exclusive - Marjan Moghaddam
ODD!TY: Tell us about your foundations, how did you get started in your field?   
Marjan Swagger + Creativity + Thinking Outside the Box, multiplied by A Whole Lotta hard work.
ODD!TY What was your creative outlet before you started?
Marjan One of my first exhibited pieces was a computer animation made with the Commodore 64, in the East Village of the 1980s. Before that, I tried everything as a teenager, but couldn’t stick to anything. Settled on the computer and technology in my early 20s because I was good at it, and it clicked for me. I have never looked back since. 
ODD!TYWere you inspired by something/someone specific?
Marjan Different artists have inspired me over the years, the list can potentially be very long, I would say artists like Louise Bourgeois, Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, Dali, Sarah Lucas, Chapman Brothers, and Joan Semel, in addition to Persian miniatures, Renaissance and Netherlandish artists. Also filmmakers like Kubrick, Kurasawa, Tarkovsky, and my uncle Iranian filmmaker Jalal Moghaddam. Also, animators like Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, and digital animators like Chris Landreth, Can Büyükberber, and my good friend Patricia Hanoway who was the principal animator for Golem in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. But the biggest inspiration has always been and will continue to be my deceased brother Dr Baback Moghaddam, Machine Vision/Facial Recognition pioneer and JPL NASA scientist.
ODD!TY How did you take your first steps towards turning your passion into profit?
Marjan I worked for free in studios doing animation in my 20s, until they paid me. And even after getting paid as an animator, I would still stay late, work twice as hard as everyone else, and get paid less because I was a woman. But as a result I became highly skilled and became very good at animating fast, so I am grateful, there’s no way I would be able to do the art fair #arthacks I do on Instagram during the fairs in 2 days without these skills. 
ODD!TY Can you share some highlights from that journey to how you ended up where you are today? 
Marjan I shot bands in the 1980s to earn a livingand music videos while showing art in the East village. By the end of the 1980s I was working in CG production. I worked on animations for broadcast & corporate clients, and even had my own studio with 2 partners. I continued with gallery shows like Synaesthesia in 1995, one of the first major computer art exhibitions with my animations and early virtual reality installation, which eventually went straight into Internet Pioneer Josh Harris’ CEO office.  In 1996 I became the featured artist for launch of DOTCOM Gallery and International Forum for the Digital Arts (first internet based commercial gallery in NYC sponsored by Prodigy Inc, you can look it up at the archive). After that I became a fulltime faculty member at the Brooklyn campus of LIU, where I still work, when not making and showing art.

ODD!TYCan you share a specific challenge or failure you remember?

MarjanIt was harder for me to get shows as I got older, because most galleries want bleeding edge technology art from men or younger women. But I still had a lot to innovate and create, so in 2016, I decided why not hack my work into galleries and museums as part of my art practice with my conceptual #arthacks project on Instagram. They have since gone viral a few times. Now I gear my art practice for the #arthacks. And the beauty of net art is nobody knows or even cares what gender I am, or how old I am, whether I’m wealthy or not, or who I have schmoozed, because it’s all about the work. The internet can sometimes be the great equalizer that everything else is not. And the new attention economy has created a tremendous amount of hunger for creativity and art.

ODD!TYCan you share one of the best moments in your career so far (and why)?

MarjanIt’s a tie between 4 things: When my Augmented Reality Chronometric Sculpture, Autonomous, was exhibited in the original Smithsonian museum building last spring. When my Baisser at Mary Boone #arthack hit 2.2 million views on the Art Gates Instagram post. When I played live improvised animation on stage in a 500 seat theater for the Visual Music Marathon in 2009 funded by the Rockefeller Fund. And lastly, when I went viral in 1996 during the DOTCOM era, and my domain crashed from all the hits.

ODD!TYWhat is your strongest motivational force?

MarjanThe urge to make art that is a singularity, in every way.

ODD!TYHas your relation and reaction to your own work changed in any way since.

MarjanThe #arthacks are pushing my creativity in ways that almost nothing else that I’ve ever done has. Some of it is because of Instagram and the wave that comes back from social media. I notice it in other viral CG artists who do unique work on Instagram too, it’s like innovation on steroids with every gram. For the art fairs I do my #arthacks as the fairs are happening, so its 2-3 days from idea to posting. So the spontaneous, improvisational and aggregated nature of it, using videos found on Instagram alongside other elements, creates for a lot of unpredictable magic. But the best part has been incorporating social justice issues into them and finding a real audience for this type of provocative, radical and disruptive art. Galleries can’t always take the same risks that I routinely do, and that is what net art is for.

ODD!TYHow do you respond to criticism?

MarjanNot very well, but I have developed a thicker skin over the years with experience, so I let it go faster. The trick for me is to feel it and allow the hurt, but not dwell on it. I’ve learned to move on after feeling it.

ODD!TY: Have you had any challenges balancing work / private life? 

Marjan: Yesfor me they’re usually the same thing, so I gave up balancing them a long time ago, now I just accept its all art. But I also accept that art involves major down time, time spent in nature, navel gazing, leisure, doing nothing, socializing, fun, exercise, and self-nourishment, in addition to long hours of work. I find that if I don’t compartmentalize or ration out work/private life, and treat it all as part of the same art practice, it works better for me.

ODD!TYWhat is the most valuable lesson you wish to take with yourself in the rest of your creative journey?

MarjanRemember it took 14.3 billion years since the Big Bang for this moment to exist, cherish it!

ODD!TYDo you have a favorite piece of creative work and why?

MarjanSo hard to pick just one, because I have a few favorites for every decade, but I’m also always into the most recent work so I would say the most viral #arthacks that I have, which have each garnered several million views, Baisser at Mary Boone and the Glitch Goddess from Art Basel Miami 2018. The internet knows what to pick and it’s right!

ODD!TYOne key piece of advice you want to pass on to any aspiring creative?

MarjanIf you are willing to pull it out of your navel on your own terms, don’t be follower, or a stealer, do it, become the singularity that you’re meant to be, because the same 14.3-billion-year old universe was created so you could become what you are, as something that has never existed before. Your art should be as unique as your fingerprint, that’s true artistic agency imo, and just as irreplicable. That’s how everything advances and progresses, the purpose of our universe.

This ODD!TY Magazine online exclusive has been produced by

Artist: Marjan Moghaddam

Words by: Sam

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