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week 10 03.07.2003

Shirin Kouladjie


Photomontage.com is an intriguing web installation created by Vancouver digital artist Shirin Kouladjie that combines her astounding personal perceptions of mass media within the rich cultural heritage we encounter in everyday life. Fascinated with collecting all that she can, she frequently uses the human image as subject, but only indirectly. Since nearly all of the images are of *representations* of the face, the audience is partially distanced from the original model. "Using intentionally blurred focus, muted tones, and graphic styles which hearken *way* back to the twentieth century," she says with a smile, "I take pop culture and imbue it with a sense of melancholy and nostalgia. I reject the concept of perfection dictated to us." Themes of death, memory, and childhood--simultaneously intimate and removed--emerge in almost every one her evocative pieces.

Kouladjie describes her work as "abstract and fragmented, like our own childhood memories," but with a singular perspective: "I am interested in giving banal images a whole new meaning. I want the audience to take a step back and look at the way we, as people of the past century, have chosen to represent humanity." Shirin gathers what civilization leaves behind, deconstructs various textual and visual information offered in the surrounding debris of everyday life, from old photographs, magazines and instruction manuals, to wrapping papers and newspaper clippings found in places like flea markets and library archives. "I rearrange and juxtapose them with each other," Kouladjie explains, "reinterpreting and exploring the many facets of their meanings. I focus on a fictional reconstitution of my personal memories using elements gathered from our collective memories."

Photomontage.com consists of three parts: "Days of My Life," a haunting visual diary updated daily; "Projects," a distinctly interactive art incorporating visuals, sound, and computer programming; and "E-cards," a stylish collection of the artist's work that can be sent as individual e-card greetings. Throughout the site, Kouladjie's deconstructed debris demolishes preconceived meanings of the remains by means of rearrangements within new contexts in order to produce her nostalgia for childhood and rejection of the idealized perception of perfection and beauty. Her fascinating work focuses on a fictional reconstitution of personal memories using elements gathered from our collective thoughts. "What I build," she impresses, "is a collage, or an assemblage, of interrelated short art pieces that, although seemingly detached from each other, as a whole, express a complete concept or statement."
A pioneer in interactive web art, Kouladjie uses the Internet as a medium for creativity, as well as a platform to communicate with her audience. Her additional online work includes: N3xt <www.n3xt.com>, a collection of interactive loops, and 5hirin <www.5hirin.com>, digital galleries of visual art in more traditional forms. Everyday, Shirin Kouladjie collects and assembles, artistically constructing her websites as a dynamic work-in- progress.


In n3xt.com,a subdivision of photomontage.com, Vancouver digital artist Shirin Kouladjie experiments with repetition and randomness. "Loops," made up of a short sequence of images, frequently repeating the same action, are overlapped with sound-bits. The respective durations of the image sequence and sound are not exactly synchronized, so each time the loop starts over again the sound is superimposed on a slightly different frame, emphasizing a new and different image. The result suggests subtle nuances that often start to tell a brand-new story, creating a new loop filled with new details. "The overall effect has a spiral movement that reminds me of the everyday life we live," says Kouladjie, "waking up every morning and doing the same thing, yet completing each day on a slightly different note. Although it feels like we are progressively advancing in life--learning, experiencing, and living-- we sometimes end up where we started. Sometimes we know more, but have forgotten what we knew on the way."
In watching Shirin Kouladjie's loops we see a story being told within the relationship between the images and the sound. Although abstract and initially simple to grasp, the stories can be experienced through aesthetic cognition. "What I always experiment with is non-linear storytelling," she explains, "a new language, something different from what we see in mass media. We just have to develop the necessary 'vocabulary' to express it."
As an object gains new significance when it is separated from its context, a few frames of a movie take on a new life of their own when they are isolated from their usual environment and put in a new light. "With each piece I am learning how to allow the viewer enough space and freedom to recreate and visualize their own story with every loop," offers Shirin, and, from her perspective, new thoughts emerge from almost anything disseminated by mass media.

As Shirin Kouladjie's works with repetitious and random elements of images and sounds, certain motifs begin to emerge. "I am becoming increasingly aware that the viewer has the capacity to enjoy only a limited number of things at one time," Kouladjie says, "and when this amount has been exceeded one actually sees less rather than more. As a result, I am conscious of what I use in each composition, and recently find myself mostly deleting rather than adding."


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