“On the other hand, the rampant privatization of intellectual content, along with online marketing and commodification, also enable piracy and appropriation; it gives rise to the circulation of poor images.”– Hito Steyerl, In Defense of the Poor Image
In Re-Engineering Humanity curated by Lady PheOnix (sic) and organized by yesuniverse, at 836M gallery in San Francisco, art on view aspires to “take a closer look at the social engineering that organizes human thought.” Nowhere is this premise better brought into focus than in the artistic practice of pioneer digital artist Marjan Moghaddam. A prestigious member of the selective Adobe Augmented Reality artists in residence cohort, Moghaddam’s work has recently gone viral across social media amassing several million views across Instagram and Facebook. She has worked to spearhead the use of AR in contemporary art and animation throughout the course of her established artistic practice. An award-winning artist unafraid to address the intersection of humanism and capitalism, Moghaddam takes on the commercialism of the art fair from a generative, femme-forward lens in her triad comprising the #GlitchGoddess series—on view as one of the key works driving Re-Engineering Humanity: Phase II, on view as one of the key works driving Re-Engineering Humanity: Phase II presented in early September at 836M gallery.
Moghaddam explores the space of rampant consumerism and commercialism of the art fair space in the series, featuring such works as “Glitched Goddess” and “Glitched Fae”. As art fairs continue to proliferate across attendees’ social media channels, the experience of the fairs expand outward from the real, physical experience of the space out into the digital archive. Visitors capture onsite footage spanning the offerings at key art fairs, such as Miami Art Basel or Frieze, circulating these site captures across Instagram and Facebook. Moghaddam re-purposes these recycled images to create a unique intervention into these ubiquitous spaces to juxtapose the creative prowess of the artist against the staid capitalist aspirations of art dealers at these fairs. Moghaddam foregrounds the genesis of creativity, contrasting the monotony of the art fair set up against the power of the human spirit. She regards her subversive creations as a testament to humanity’s ability to create. “The story of art is the story of human imagination. The virtual technologies of the imagination have great potential for sharing meaningful and transformational experiences,” reflects Moghaddam.
Glitched Fae, the young maiden version of the Glitched Goddess’ lifespan, represents a youthful, inquisitive approach to society. This allegorical figure morphs and transcends an identifiable form, mediating the space separating contentment and anxiety, digital and real. Her idealistic nature and ambition refers to Lady Liberty, even hearkening back at points in her transformation to ancient Ziggurats. This 3-D printed sculpture taps into our contemporary zeitgeist in which identity remains fluid, yet rooted within individual perceptions of self. Propelled by her proprietary technique of Chronometric Sculpture, Moghaddam powerfully combines the visual mutation of this youthful figure with the voices of young women reflecting on their hopes and fears for the future. Glitched Fae thus merges the tangible with the inconclusive: real opinions voiced by women approaching adulthood form a foundation for the figure to emerge as a virtual transfiguration of the actual.
“Glitched Goddess” is the original concept of the artist, invading art fairs on an international scale since Moghaddam takes on the commercial aspects of the art world in this project, emerging from the original #arthack project to become a digital culture phenomenon. Attracting over 4 million views after being shared across various social media channels, “Glitched Goddess” re-energized AR and digital interventions as an art form. Moghaddam notes that her aim has never been views for the mere notoriety; rather, her goal in creating these #arthacks moves in the direction of sociopolitical awareness. “Merely hacking is just transgressive, but to do so with social and political activism and as a critical dialog, becomes transformative.” Through the plasticity of a constantly evolving body, Glitched Goddess doesn’t embody a single figure or body type: expanding instead to aspire to translate the experience of every woman through the figures she embodies. Her path traverses various booths at Miami Art Basel, until in London’s Frieze Art Fair in 2018 Glitched Goddess emerges in the artwork, “Kavanaugh Haunted my Frieze London #ArtHack.” Moghaddam remains unapologetically political, bringing to bear the social struggle that women of all backgrounds encounter through identity politics and social strata whether they seek equanimity in the workplace or equal representation in the art market.
Marjan Moghaddam’s works bring to bear the social justice underpinnings forming the foundation of Re-Engineering Humanity. The exhibition, organized with the subtext “a cautionary tale for the twenty-first century”, dwells in the multi-dimensional narratives constructed by societal dissonances and investigating the existing perceptions that persistently frame our worldview. Through September 13th, Moghaddam’s works form a prescient aspect of an exhibition that fearlessly questions where society is headed by examining what remains from the systems that consistently determine how we hold ourselves back.
Audra Lambert is a freelance arts contributor and independent curator based in New York City. Her articles can be found in Whitehot Mag, Art Nerd NY, Artefuse, Examiner and more. The author focuses on participatory and public art projects with an emphasis on emerging and established female artists. She is co-founder of alt_break art fair, a nonprofit art fair fostering dialogue between community-based social justice nonprofits and the arts. Currently completing a Master’s thesis in Modern/Contemporary Art at City College of New York, her curated projects and ongoing coverage of interdisciplinary art projects can be found on ANTE. (www.antecedentprojects.com), an online art platform showcasing contemporary arts and culture, which may or may not be secretly run by llamas on Mars.