Mana Mehrabian | Issue Eight Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

I am an Iranian artist, born and raised in Tehran. After middle school, I decided to go to

vocational school and study art; A decision that can be traced back to my childhood interest. I remember that there were still people out there who didn’t take art seriously as a major. But with the support of my parents, my interest led me to study art in an academic environment and earn my BA in Photography and an MA in Art Research from The School of Art and Architecture at Azad University in Tehran. A few years later in 2016, I decided to move to the United States to continue my studies. I received an MFA from Washington State University and for the time being, the main focus of my life is on my studio work and practices. Although I am trained as a photographer I currently work mostly in video and video installation, but always referencing photography--its artifice, theories, concepts, and its interrelationship with other media that I engage. It’s better to say I create photographic video and installations.

What set you off as an artist?

My background and my interest in this field, and also maybe a feeling of detachment to realize my own ideas and turn them to an artistic form pushed me to transform my thoughts into artwork. Although my work usually references general concepts and is created for a general audience, my work is not apart from my life, my experiences and the world around us.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

My work engages the world of images and their role in communication and visual consciousness. I think that images need far more attention in the digital world and have caused a major shift in our attention to the visual field. For this reason, my works deals explicitly with human vision and perception. I want to create a bodily interaction between the viewer and images, asking the viewer to be an active participant with their thoughts, attention and interaction. I engage different ideas, but they always reference several binaries such as public vs. private, inside vs. outside, far vs. near, attention vs. distraction, real vs. unreal, digital vs. analog, self vs. “the other”, etc. I use lens-based technologies, photography tools that include camera itself, photography characteristic, processes, and I treat photography, videography, and camera in general with both doubt and amazement. Overall, I am interested in calling attention to the difference between what a framed

and selective point of view of a camera can represent through projected light and pixels on a

two-dimensional surface of screens versus what the human eye can experience in reality.

What art do you most identify with? any specific influences or research areas?

I am interested is artworks that engage viewers thoughts and attention. Artworks that make me think or make me question and I am hoping that my work do the same for the viewers. In my research, I am influenced by theories and writings of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Susan Sontag, John Berger, Christian Metz, and many more as well as the work of contemporary artists who have inspired me directly or indirectly.

Is there something you couldnt live without in your studio? what is your most essential tool?

My camera, tripod, and my computer are three things that I always need. I also rely a lot on my sketch book. I am not a good drawer, but usually my ideas take form in there. Often, a sketch or an idea in my sketchbook that I thought was not developed enough to be continued comes back in another form and in a completely different project.

Tell us how you organize, plan, and prioritize your work

Making work and showing them regularly is important for me. But I cannot say I make work

every day. Sometimes the thinking process takes more time than making the actual piece. I am not sure where each inspiration exactly comes from, but research, daily experiences and

concerns, or even a movie, a simple conversation, anything can be an inspiration. I usually make some small sketches to shape my idea. The project usually starts with photograph. Then I experiment and most of the time my works ends up looking quite different from where it began. I care a lot about the presentation of my works and how they will look in the space in relation to each other and maybe that’s why I twist the work several times until the final presentation.

How do you navigate the art world?

I currently live in a small college city. Having access to shows and galleries is a bit limited and the art community is pretty small. Fortunately, I have been able to use a computer and the internet as a platform to navigate gallery and museum websites, to stay up to date, and to show my work to a global audience.

Describe the trajectory of your career as an artist so far

There were several stages in my artistic life for sure, that the whole combination has equally

shaped my career today. My MA thesis was a comparative study between Western and Iranian contemporary art and made me more eager to continue, explore, and present my ideas in multicultural platforms. I took part in several art history and critique classes in art institutes in Tehran that greatly influenced my approach to art. My Adjunct teaching experiences in Iran and the US were a motivation and at last the experience of studying and working in the new cultural environment, gave me the opportunity to become more familiar with the international art world and have the confidence to continue to make artwork professionally.

Professionally, what is your goal?

I want to keep growing in this field. I am sure of that. I want to keep making work, showing my work internationally, connecting with more diverse audiences, and traveling with my works to install and see them in different exhibitions. It’s very exciting!

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?

I’ve been busy lately. I recently had work in group exhibitions in New York, Seattle, Italy and

South Korea, as well as a couple two-person exhibitions in the US and publications. I am

currently working on a new project that is one of the first pieces that I engage my self-portrait. It plays with the the idea of time and motion in photography and video and employs dualities like self vs. the other and near vs. faraway. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to future opportunities to exhibit my recent works.

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