Matilda Aslizadeh is a media artist and art educator based in Vancouver, Canada, where she has resided for most of her life. Her video installations and photo-based works draw on film history, cartography and media archaeology to rethink narrative structures that persist in Western culture: specifically, the imperative to “pursue happiness ”in its recent neoliberal articulations. Her work has been shown internationally. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include participation in Art Souterrain Contemporary Art Festival, Montreal, Contact Photography Festival, Toronto, and the group exhibit ion, Believe, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto.
1. Tell us a little about your background and your trajectory as an artist/ scholar.
I was born in Iran (1975) and my family moved to Greece after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, before finally arriving in Vancouver, Canada in 1981. I feel like the turmoil of my early childhood,as well as being surrounded by the artifacts of different ancient and living cultures – Persian, Armenian, Greek, Coast Salish, Haida -continues to influence my interests and practice.
I knew from an early age that I would do something creative but the medium changed from fictional writing to theatre to finally visual arts and painting in particular. I entered the BFA program at the University of British Columbia to study painting. At that time – early to mid-nineties – there was a very pointed critique of both painting and narrative in the academic institution, and this theoretical discourse both interested me and weighed on me. As a result, I found myself watching films – especially very painterly films – in order to meet an aesthetic/critical need that wasn ’t being fulfilled in my art studies, and video became my medium of choice.
The more ambitious projects within my current practice -for example, Resort completed in 2016 – could be described as “narrative video installation” and this approach allows me to engage with the many mediums which have interested me from childhood to the present: writing (I write the script) performance (I direct actors) painting (my installations evoke pre-renaissance painting or non-western painting) and film.
2. What are some of your main influences?
I like to identify a set of influences for each project. For example, in my most recently completed project, Moly and Kassandra, my reference points include classical mythology, theoretical text about the relationship between economics and subjectivity, economic charts, modernist opera, cinematic/theatrical sets, and fashion from the 1980s. More generally speaking I am influenced by visual artists that explore narrative in a gallery space, filmmakers that depart from traditional narrative forms, all non-perspectival representations of space, and technologies of vision.
In addition to this, I have a wonderful community of peers, including but not limited to the art/mamas collective, who continue to influence me through conversation and critique.
3. New Media is…….
New Media is a juncture of old and new technological forms that generates a new mode of thinking about, representing and producing lived experience.
4. What is your typical day like?
I don’t really have a typical day but juggle a variety of priorities I could categorize into three broad categories: personal projects, teaching, and taking care of my daughter. I’m not very structured or routine-oriented – I devote my attention to what is most urgently required at the moment.
5. What are you working on now? What’s next for you?
I am currently working on a large narrative video installation. This time I hope to incorporate sets, architecture and multiple mapped video projections to create an immersive experience akin to entering a film/film set. The story will revolve around a boom/bust mining town in the early 1980’s and will be told through the horror genre. I hope to finish all pre-production during a three-month residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn next summer.
6. Do you have a collaborative idea that you want to get off the ground?
I recently completed a collaborative scholarly project with Gabriela Aceves: we co-chaired an MNC sponsored panel at the CAA Annual conference this year. The panel sought to view immersion through a decolonial lens. I am currently interested in having more conversations about immersive practices and am eager to learn about artists who locate themselves within this term, as I do. I view this as a starting point towards future scholarly, curatorial or artistic collaborations.
7. What is the most recent thing you’ve learned?
I’ve been learning basic 3D modelling in order to visualize the sculptural aspects of the installation I’m working on.