THE 15 MINUTES INTERVIEW
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 Photomontage.com 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.
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 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
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 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 photomontage.com to show my photomontages ... but somehow I never got around to it.
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 photomontage.com 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?
Photomontage.com 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.