S.M. Moalie, creator of

THE WEB has proven its value as a vehicle for news, entertainment, and commerce. But few have demonstrated its power as a fine art medium as convincingly as Shirin Kouladjie (formerly Shirin Moalie), creator of and other unabashedly non-commercial sites. In this exclusive interview, 15 Minutes persuades the reclusive artist to open up and talk about her work.


Your work has a tragic quality one almost never finds in this medium. Lots of sites now are well designed or well written, but few make us  feel. I get a sense that you've suffered.

I see lots of suffering and ugliness around me as well as beauty and happiness.
        There is a fundamental difference between art and design; in art you express content and the content dictates the form, in design you have to focus on the positive so you can package a product in the best possible way. In my artworks I express what I experience in my daily life.
        I don't think that I have necessarily suffered more than other people, although I have had my share of [suffering]. You just have to turn on the TV or read some stats from UNESCO and UN to put your personal suffering in perspective.

Can you talk a bit about nostalgia? Because you use a lot of old things as source imagery, and to me that creates a certain emotional depth.

I was born in Iran, and spent most of my adult life traveling through Europe and North America. I have never stayed in the same city for longer than five years. These travels introduced me to many new experiences, but I had to leave a lot behind, and that is where the feeling of nostalgia comes from.

Do you look for source materials to flesh out an idea you've already had? Do you just collect stuff and let the ideas come from the stuff? How do you work?

I know what I want to say, I just don't know how I want to say it. So I go on a hunt of images, for a few days.
        I find things along the way that change my perception or teach me things, and all along I am just making my visual vocabulary richer and richer. Every picture is a journey that makes my life worth living.
        Then at the end of this research period, I feel like there is so much I want to say and there are so few words.
        I feel responsible for all these pictures. I think that somebody has to give these images a voice. Make them mean something more than what they meant at the beginning, when the shutter opened and the light exposed the film.

I would assume your background is in fine art?

I have a chaotic educational background. I studied Mathematics in high school, followed by three years of Medical school in France. Then I decided to become an artist and that coincided with the time that we moved to Canada. Art College in Toronto was not very exciting until I found the film department and spent my whole third and fourth year working with film and video equipment and optical printers.

I'd guess Joseph Cornell was a big influence?

Joseph Cornell, Joseph Beuys, John Waters, David Lynch, Woody Allen, Almodovar, Pasolini, Hannah Hoche, Nan Golding, Boltanski and kia Rosatmie....
        These are all giants of this century. But there are so many others.

Do you do any conventional work on the web?

No, I have never done any design works. I work either in my studio or I am in front of my computer all day . I guess I am a non-conventional, full-time artist.

What brought you to the web? What made you see it as a good vehicle for your creative ideas?

I guess what brought me, or more like  pushed me toward the web was my lack of communication with the world around me. I was producing work after work and nobody was seeing any of it.
        I was getting more and more frustrated by the whole process. I think the " Art Scene" as we know it, did not have much tolerance for people like me, who are moving from one city to another every few years, and do not establish rapport with their environment as they should. I was starting to feel that I did not belong anywhere.
        But then the web came along and I found myself in familiar territories, as strange as that sounds. I now feel that the whole word is my showcase, and I do not need to be anywhere specific to show my work – there are no boundaries.

I agree. And what were you doing before that?

Before the web, I lived In New York City for three years, doing the same kind of work I am doing here. Drawing and making collages.

Do you work in other media as well?

I work all day on my collages and notebooks and photographs.

How does that work influence your web work, and vice-versa?

I got to show my photomontages ... but somehow I never got around to it.
        I opened Flash and it was such an amazing program that I lost myself in it for a few months. Then there were other programs: Photoshop for example, Director, AfterEffects...
        Life is too short for all these great softwares . Each one of them is like a new philosophy of life, a new way of thinking and reasoning. I love these languages. I am trying to learn C++, just to be able to understand the mother of all these languages, and see how they interrelate with each other.
        I think more than my art work influencing my web work, my web work is influencing my day to day life and art. It is making me a better, more tolerant person. Most of the time I am just in awe of all the talent that is out there and so available to us.

If the web did not exist, what would you be doing?

I was probably doing the same thing I am doing now; making collages and paintings. I think I would probably put more effort and focus on the art scene, and try to fit into their criteria of what is art and what is not. So I think the web was very positive for me, it liberated me and gave me more space to breathe.

Why did you decide to branch out from and create two new sites this year? Since all three are semi-abstract, fine art sites, can you explain how they differ, and why you felt you needed three? was getting too big, too fast, and I knew that people would get intimidated if they came to a site and there were too many choices.
        So I thought of making smaller sites, but a few of them, and linking them all together – each site focusing on one project.
        At the same time I needed more space to experiment; after you do one or two project on one site, the site gets a life and an identity of its own, and you are not as flexible with it as you were in the beginning. It starts to restrict itself and dictates what should be done next.
        I enjoy that restriction but I at the same time I cannot pin myself down to it.
        Each site should have its own purpose and end result, and each one should exist for a different experimentation. I still have a few more sites coming up in year 2000. I have not been able to get around doing all that I set myself to do with the web yet.

Shirin Shares:



© 1995 — 2001 Jeffrey Zeldman Presents        Credits