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Visualizing Time: Raheleh Minoosh Zomorodinia

September 1, 2018

Portrait of Raheleh Minoosh Zomorodinia, image courtesy of the artist


Raheleh Minoosh Zomorodinia is a San Francisco based multimedia artist working across several platforms of time and space. Zomorodinia earned her B.A. in photography and M.A. in graphic design from the Art and Architecture Azad University in Tehron before receiving her M.F.A. in new genres from San Francisco Art Institute. Her work often deploys complex visualizations of light, humor, and time, as she has experienced them while moving through space.


A lot of Zomoridinia's works are derived from her past experiences working with and documenting the pieces created by the art collective Open Five, a group of environmental artists based in Iran traveling between different cities and art festivals. 


When asked about her experience working with the Open Five collective, Zomorodinia reflects on the different types and levels of accessibility offered by both Iran and the United States. Open Five being a traveling group, they would often spontaneously pull off to the side of the road when driving and venture off into whichever spot of land caught their eye to use as the setting for a project. Currently in residency at The Headlands Center for the Arts, which is nested upon federal land and highly protected by preservation laws, this difference in approaches to one's interaction with natural land provoked Zomorodinia to contemplate the difference between personal freedom, as offered by the United States, and freedom of access to land, as offered by Iran, poking into the debate of public versus private. As her awareness about environmental impact grew, Zomorodinia began to wonder about the long-term implications of the art on the natural landscape, asking "are you an environmental artist when destroying nature?" 


In response to this question, Zomorodinia began to turn towards video in an effort to be less harmful to nature. Using the landscape as her studio, Zomorodinia eventually built off the idea of the human element in photography to experiment with performance and projection mapping. Never formally taught, Zomorodinia learned simply through the practice of doing. 


Install shot of Colonial Walks, image courtesy of the artist


One of her more recent works include Colonial Walks, an ongoing two-year long project, uses various mapping technologies to create wildly intersecting laser cut and 3D printed sculptures of the spaces she has occupied. Part of the artist's daily routine includes a walk in nature, which she considers as a spiritual experience. This reminded the artist of the Muslim tradition to make a pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Ka'ba in Mecca and walk around it seven times.  After making this connection, the artist went on to consider what it means to reveal oneself to nature and vice versa. 



Sculptures from the series Colonial Walks, images courtesy of the artist



While making this series, there was one, main thing on the artist's mind - the idea of a house, of a home. As an immigrant coming to a new country, she was largely concerned with making a better and a new life for herself. So, she made her own colony, she made herself a house out of her walks. Zomorodinia questions ownership of land through art making by creating abstracted imaginary spaces that could potentially sell on the market for future ownership. With the aid of such technologies as projection mapping, Zomorodinia offers a trip to impossible landscapes. 


 Sculpture and projection mapping piece from Colonial Walks, image courtesy of the artist


These pieces suspend places in created spaces. They allow for the change of existence both with and without light. They are tangible, sellable objects born out of experience - they have been made visible from something as invisible as time.



Another recent work  by Zomorodinia is Decolonial Atlas, a recent innovation built off the Colonial Walks series. This series allows for viewers to interact with flags of imaginary places to reclaim an area of space and land for themselves - that is, until it is eventually reclaimed by someone else. 


 Close up of a flag from Decolonial Atlas, image courtesy of the artist

Performance shot of Memorial Lands, part of Decolonial Atlas, image courtesy of the artist 



This newer series asks "what is a place?" Through audience participation during the performance, viewers were able to claim Zomorodinia's imagined places through their own experience of simply living. Zomorodinia wanted to make her own atlas, to make a space solely for her personal use - a map of one's own. The role of the map here is to analyze how boundaries between city, state, and country limits are made. How is this power of definition between ownerships of land determined and applied? Money, wealth and power play strong roles in establishing such geographic boundaries. Here, Zomorodinia is utilizing the power of technology, and her phone, to make her own geographies. 






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