“The Quarantine Cycles Triptych” part II

Art versus animation, virtual versus reality: Marjan Moghaddam’s anniversary NFT

Marjan Moghaddam celebrates her one-year anniversary on SuperRare with a special project, "The Quarantine Cycles Triptych."

Sep 30, 2021 Artist Statements

1 year ago

Internationally renowned and award-winning digital artist/animator Marjan Moghaddam is celebrating her one-year anniversary on SuperRare with a special project. The Quarantine Cycles Triptych combines three looped animations into a time-based Triptych. 

Moghaddam began making digital art in the 1980s. She joined Superrare last September with her genesis piece Taking the Knee with Gan Generated Paintings, derived from her viral and award-winning #arthack Net Art project, which she began in 2016. By Hacking her signature #digitalbodies into found and shot exhibition footage, Marjan sought to redefine form for Digital Art, while radicalizing curation and democratizing the exhibition space. Since then, she has created and sold seven Digital Art pieces as 3dCG-animated NFTs on SuperRare. Several of these pieces have been exhibited IRL, and in metaverse NFT exhibitions such as Ape Stage Capitalism: the 4156 Collection in Cryptovoxels, Graffitti Queens in Decentraland, Amalgamation by Accelerant Art and White Hot Magazine of International Art in Cryptovoxels, and most recently at the joint Vellum LA, SuperRare, and Standardvision LA Art Show in Los Angeles. 

In addition to creating and exhibiting fine arts pieces regularly in galleries and on the internet, Moghaddam worked as an animator and CG artist in various top production companies in NYC, where she built her substantial 3dCG and SFX skillset. With one of the longest running, prolific 3dCG and Digital Art practices in the world, she now is a professor of CG, XR and Animation at the Brooklyn campus of LIU. Known for her original and unique style of Chronometric Sculpture in 3dCG figuration and animation, much of her aesthetic and stylistic repertoire remains unparalleled in the CG oeuvre. 

Behind the scenes of “The Quarantine Cycles Triptych”

For her one-year anniversary on SuperRare, the artist revisited and expanded an existing Net Art piece she had created in the summer of 2020 right before joining SuperRare, titled The Quaratine Cycles, Waiting for the Afternote. The original explored the Quarantine experience as an artistic statement and has since been profiled in numerous publications for its subtle, yet inventive exploration of the global lockdown experience. “Many of my favorite art historical works were inspired by their moment,” she told SuperRare. “I’m inspired by meme culture like many digital artists, but I like to dig deeper, and use the format in a manner that reflects more profoundly on contemporary culture and the now, while still working with the timeless aspects.” With the Triptych she created three separate animations combined into one as part I, “Waiting for the Afternote,” part II, “Chaos,” and part III, “Transformation,” bundled into a single token. Each part is a seamless loop that can be played separately. “The way artists explore the watershed events of their time is a part of our sensemaking apparatus,” the artist explains.

Reflecting on all that has changed in this last year with the pandemic, such as the increasing migration to the digital and the metaverse, coupled with the explosion of the Blockchain, she realized that this was indeed a watershed period that had fundamentally altered the world with Defi and the Creator Economy. “We all spent so much time physically isolated in our homes last year, that I felt this was the only compositional approach that made sense”, she explains. Using a beautifully appointed contemporary interior defining a closed-in environment with a subtle, decorative suggestion of prison bars, she deliberately chose and worked with a hyper saturated color scheme. “I think when we’re trapped in a space for a very long time, the mundane aspects of that physical space develop a hyperreality, and that’s why I chose the yellow walls and fuchsia floor and reflective materials as a way of buzzing the space with color.” By lighting the scene like a surgical room, in a nod to Kubrick, and with over-saturated and reflective materials, she created a hyperreal space in which all the surfaces tint each other, altering the natural flesh tone of the lone female in a manner that is almost painterly.

In the original version of the “Quarantine Cycles,” the audio-synced glitch deformations unify the figure and her space, as a way of conveying the confinement and synesthesia. Marjan continues that dialogue further with the triptych which begins with the synching of the figure and her space via glitch animation. “I’ve been using audio-triggering since the late 1990s, but on this piece and many others, I deliberately don’t use any triggering, mostly for greater freedom in artistic ‘tweakability,’ and also because I like to dance around the beat, rather than hit it hard like a screensaver, which for me is about art versus automation.” A mask appears in each chapter, smothering the red stilettos with nowhere to go in one, flapping its wings like a bird as it passes through others. Moghaddam, who is a political refugee and an Iranian-American immigrant, borrows heavily from her ancestral traditions of metaphor and allegory in poetry and miniature art, layering her animations with sublime meaning and subtle and nuanced narratives.

In Part II of the animated Triptych, there is a sense of chaos, virtuality, and imagined or hallucinatory experiences against a background of Twitter Newsfeeds with various NFT luminaries flashing by, a fixture of her daily life in the last year, and an emoji swarm that leaps from her cereal bowl to her face and then the clock, like a swarm of experiences flocking to her and time itself. “I read a lot of digerati theory and in recent years I too have become aware of our shift from a Knowledge-based economy to an Imagination-based one as a result of virtualization, something that I have discussed in numerous public art talks. But with the pandemic there seems to have been an acceleration, to the point where our connection to any type of objective or empirical shared reality seems to have evaporated,” Marjan concludes. Figures in red and blue representing the political partisanship of the social media space run across the room, while a plaid pajama textured figure attempts to escape the pajama. Part II of this animated Triptych creates tension between physical confinement, memetic contagion via social media, and the expansion of virtual worlds into our mixed reality environments.

In Part III, Marjan employs one of her signature styles of deforming the static mesh, with iconic sculptural volumes and secondary soft body jiggles, as if a hardened physical sculpture or frozen pose develops the softness and malleability of the flesh through digital plasticity. Everything levitates in zero gravity with underwater sounds indicating the eerie otherworldliness of the unconscious. “As everything became virtualized in our physical confinement, the economy itself also disconnected from materiality, with the dramatic rise of NFTs and Crypto currencies.” Bitcoin and Ethereum continue to appear in both parts II & III, against the backdrop of the Quarantine Cycles.

“Remarkably, the Renaissance itself followed the Plague with a rebirth of Greek ideals and the rise of the merchant class who brought the knowledge of geometry, math, Euclidean perspective systems, science etc. from the Middle East and the Silk Road in Asia, back to Medieval Europe.”

 It is difficult to predict whether we are experiencing another iteration of the technology or a civilizational upgrade such as the “Renaissance with a Capital R” as Moghaddam likes to say. But for now, she wanted to capture this moment, charged up with all the potential that lies before us during this watershed era, in her Quarantine Cycles Triptych. “Ultimately, the civilizational upgrades are not just about the financial or technological aspects of disruption, but rather the confluence of many other watershed changes across culture, science, knowledge, and philosophy as well.” 

Marjan is currently closing two museum exhibitions this summer, the IRL and physical Proof of Art: History of Digital Art and NFT Art Exhibition in Linz, Austria, and her major solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art in Decentraland. Her Genesis Superare piece can be seen in the IRL museum exhibition, and the accompanying book, the first History of NFT, art book.

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