The Immigrant Artist Biennial: Nazanin Noroozi

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Nazanin Noroozi, The Rip Tide, 2020. Cyanotype, pastel and ink on paper, 20 x 28 inches, photo courtesy the artist

The Immigrant Artist Biennial (TIAB) is a volunteer, female-led, artist-run project. TIAB 2020 launched in March in New York City at Brooklyn Museum, and continued in September through December at EFA Project Space, Greenwood Cemetery, and virtually, presenting 60+ artists. This interview series features 10 participating artists.

Nazanin Noroozi works predominantly in the medium of printmaking, but also incorporates moving images and alternative photography processes exploring new ways to represent the notions of collective memory, displacement and diaspora. Noroozi’s work has been widely exhibited in both Iran and the United States, including the Museum of Russian Art, Noyes Museum of Art, NY Live Arts, Prizm Art Fair, and Columbia University. She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from , Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NYFA IAP 2018, Mass MoCA Residency, North Adams, MA and Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts Residency, Ithaca, NY and the winner of “Selection of A New Generation” competition. She is an editor-at-large of Kaarnamaa, a Journal of Art History and Criticism. Noroozi completed her MFA in painting and drawing from Pratt Institute in 2015. Her works have been featured in various publications including Elephant Magazine, Financial Times, and Brooklyn Rail.

Do artists have political responsibilities at this moment, if so, what are they? 

Artists have the same political responsibility as any other citizen. However, artists function as a catalyst; we take in everything that happens around us – on a personal and public level, domestic and international, and give it back to the world in the form of artwork. The process is unique to the practice of art and therefore different from political activism. These days it is vital for artists to stay sharp because I am sure this surreal lived experience reflected in their work will be important in the future.

Reflect on an encounter of displacement, becoming, belonging, trauma, healing, or simply comic relief from your journey of immigration. 

I always felt like “the other” back home since the way I thought of politics and culture differed from the norm. Therefore, my experience of loss and belonging starts before my physical move to the U.S. To be honest, in some ways I feel much more at home here in the U.S than my homeland, although I don’t feel I belong either. For me home the conventional sense does not exist anymore. I am in constant “in between-ness,” which is a situation that I welcome and explore conceptually and technically in my works. My experimental handmade films address longing, loss, and the fragile states of being and ideas of “home” that never materialize.

In an odd and unpleasant way, the anxieties that people around the world are feeling as a cause of the pandemic feel like a familiar place. As an Iranian artist who’s had to deal with extreme social and political upheavals for years, the sudden disappearance of “normalcy” (or what appeared to be normal) was not a new feeling. The apocalyptic aspects of COVID-19, the fact that a simple birthday party – these little humble moments of joy – can no longer take place, are a testimony to everyday life marked by loss and uncertainty. Even though I have experienced it before, I am still affected by how the world has changed in what feels like a short moment.

A painting on the wall

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Nazanin Noroozi, Self Portrait, 2020. Silver gelatin print on aluminum, cyanotype on paper. cardboard and collage. Dimensions 15 x 17 inches, photo courtesy the artist

How has the turn toward the digital and virtual affected your artistic practice?

Showing work virtually is a completely new for me and I am still learning and adjusting to the lack of physical space. Although the digital space is more democratic, which is what we desperately need in the art world, I find it problematic not being able to experience a piece in an actual space. However, showing with TIAB virtual was a good experience and I hope to continue to develop within the digital sphere.

Tell us about the work you are exhibiting in The Immigrant Artist Biennial.

The body of work I am showing at TIAB is a series of works on paper (collectively titled The Rip Tide) and two videos, Elite 1984, and Purl. I am interested in the archeology of technology and personal archives, expressed through using alternative photographic processes, printmaking, and handmade cinema. This series navigates between still and moving images, the tactile quality of art objects, and transient moments of films to explore fragile states of being and ideas of home that never materialize.

A picture containing cat, sitting, bed, water

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Nazanin Noroozi, The ridge, 2020. Cyanotype, collage, ink and acrylic on paper. 22 x 30 inches, photo courtesy the artist

Please share a piece of advice or a resource that may be useful to an immigrant artist. 

We all know how exhausting and mentally challenging the experience of immigration can be, especially in the recent years and decades. I can only say that make sure to either create or join an art community. Community is all we have and all that keeps us sane and protected. And then stay alert and let the experience of displacement and unknown beginnings sink in. Take notes and make visual sketches about your feeling and experiences, It may not be reflected on your works right away, but one day it will bloom in an organic and developed way in your works, and that is the magic of art making.

The Immigrant Artist Biennial’s virtual exhibitions are open through December 18th 2020, visit them here and a list of their ongoing events here.

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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is a New York-based Swedish/Guyanese independent curator and the founding editor-in-chief of Cultbytes, an online art publication focusing on interdisciplinary and non-hierarchical art criticism. Alongside an all-female volunteer team, she currently serves as an advisor and co-curator for the inaugural “The Immigrant Artist Biennial.”