Art Basel Miami Beach

Amir Baradaran Brings Interactive Virtual Reality Art Installation to Pulse Miami Beach

Artists are constantly immersed in their surroundings, creating work that's tied to the socio-political, economic, and cultural reality they inhabit. Iranian artists Amir Baradaran, however, is more interested in what he perceives will be the challenges and travails of the near future. Working in the medium of augmented reality (AR), Baradaran has spent more than a decade drawing attention to the ways technology and art intersect, with underground installations at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Louvre in Paris. This Basel season, he installed his first stand-alone work titled Man Na Manam + {AR}Ticulations of the Self! at Pulse Miami Beach, a project that culminates his journey ushering AR to the realms of high art. 

"[Pulse] contacted me to see if I was interested in working with them this year," explained Baradaran to New Times. "I'm much less interested in AR in and of itself, for me it's more about how it will affect the way we think about space, and the relationships between people."

Playing off that theme, Man Na Manam is composed of two large screens placed back-to-back with audio-visual recording devices. When a viewer comes up to the piece, they will be greeted by the an augmented image taken from the other terminal, and vice versa. As a fully interactive "data sculpture," the images will start to change as viewers engage with the pieces, bending form and sound in the process. 

Mediating the interaction between both viewers is Baradaran's piece, a statement on the often harsh and isolating effects of technology. Yet, despite the message, there's a lightheartedness to all of his works. For example, as you start to smile into the piece, the images will start to morph. 

Apart from his sense of humor, Baradaran is also inextricably linked to his cultural and historical past. As an Iranian immigrant, raised in Canada, his high futurist work is always stylistically tied to the rich landscapes and poetry of his homeland. Even the title of his current project is derived from the Sufi poet Shah Niyaz Ahmad, which roughly translates into "I am not, Yet, I am."

His latest endeavor comes after a long process working at the fringes of the art establishment to subvert traditional high-art institutions with his work. Back in 2010, he disrupted Marina Abramovic's MoMA retrospective, The Artists Is Present, with his own performance pieces. The next year, he installed one of his first AR pieces, Frenchising the Mona Lisa, at the Louvre as a way to protest then president Nicolas Sarkozy's banning of the Muslim hijab in public. 

Baradaran's current project marks his first stand alone work. "It's a new step for me, I wanted to have a piece that would be stable enough to be installed without be being there," said the artists. Though he has made a name for himself as a renegade, this new work could be his first entreaty into the art world, with a piece that can engage viewers in a more traditional art context. 

Man Na Manam + {AR}Ticulations of the Self!
Open to the public Tuesday, December 1, through Saturday, December 5, at Pulse Miami Beach, 4601 Collins Ave,, Miami Beach, on a set schedule throughout the week.
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Neil Vazquez is an arts and entertainment writer who works at the intersection of highbrow and lowbrow A Miami native and Northwestern University graduate, he usually can be found sipping overpriced coffee, walking his golden retriever, or doing yoga.
Contact: Neil Vazquez