Kasra Goodarznezhad uses artificial intelligence in his maps and memory projects to trace routes from his previous life in Iran. Goodarznezhad studied graphic design in Tehran before moving to Toronto. He enrolled at the Ontario College of Art and Design University and graduated with awards from their integrated media program. Since embarking on a career as an artist and curator, he has worked in photography, video, digital arts, lighting design, and installation, and founded two Ontario-based QTBIPOC collectives.
After leaving the country where he was born, Goodarznezhad admits to flirting with feelings of nostalgia and regret. His transition from Iran, where most art was propagandistic, to Canada, where the art world revolves around pop culture and a Western narrative, was jarring. His failure to fit into either environment prompted him to create a “counter-cartography” influenced by punk and the Situationists to address his layered identity and the existentialism of his generation.
Goodarznezhad’s project Naapoli-2018 is a booklet of visual poetry and photography on themes of nostalgia and alienation created during a residency in Italy. He is expanding his counter-cartographic range to include a series of maps made by training an artificial intelligence deep learning system. Exploring themes of displacement, utopia, futurism, and border mobility, the installation will consist of morphing AI-generated maps projected onto a giant screen in a warehouse space.
Kasra Goodarznezhad: Artist Bio
Kasra Goodarznezhad is a new media artist based out of Oakville and Toronto, Canada. His main focus is Lighting Design and Installation. After studying Graphic Design in Tehran, Iran, he came to Toronto to continue his studies at OCAD University and graduated from the Integrated Media program, winning his major’s medal award. He started his career as a New Media artist around 2011. Since then, he’s done numerous projects in photography, video, lighting design and installation, and digital arts. Throughout his career as a new media artist, Kasra has participated in various research and results based residencies, and has managed to secure grants for his solo and collective projects. Kasra is the founder of two Ontario based QTBIPOC collectives, Komite and Displaced collective, and throughout their three years of operation, he has curated, promoted and showcased works by different artists as well as his own work.
Kasra Goodarznezhad: Artist Statement
Reflecting on growing up in Iran and immigrating to Canada in 2015, Kasra’s work deals with concepts of displacement, repression, memory, and censorship. In his work, Kasra looks to explore the subjective complexities of being an individual living in a society that forces you to behave in ways sanctioned by those who hold power. Through this practice, Kasra has worked with the themes of displacement, border mobility, alienation, melancholia, and nostalgia. Kasra is currently interested in mapping and counter-cartography. In his current works, he looks to bring audience attention to the sides of history that have been deliberately erased by the Western mainstream media.
Kasra Goodarznezhad: Grant Submission Work
For this residency I decided to work with maps and memory […] this residency for me is a start of what seems to be a long research project. An attempt to map memories and places that I am not able to walk on anymore, or even if I can, trying to map its relevance with the passage of time. I continue on my journey of making useless art in an attempt to find meaning in some aspects of it. Maps are always made and used for a reason.
The user of the maps, activates the maps by passing through/over the places that those maps show. But what is a map good for if you can’t use it? What does a map do if it is not accurate at all, and it is incomplete? What do a series of incomplete and inaccurate maps do when they are overlaid on top of one another? I have been trying to pose these questions in my research and find some answers for them, and it has been very tough, and at points unfair, to find an answer to these questions.
A printed booklet of visual poetry and photography, made throughout my residency for OCADu’s Global Experience Project with Maria Thereza Alves in Naples, Italy. This booklet has poems in the theme of displacement, border mobility, alienation, nostalgia and melancholia. This was exhibited at Ada Slaight Gallery in February 2019 in a group exhibition titled: “gestures: life in the shadow of a volcano”, curated by Chiedza Pasipanodya. This Global Experience Project was led by Min Sook Lee.
A visual poem I wrote throughout my residency with ArtEngine and EnMasse (titled “Collab-19”) in Toronto, Ontario last year. This was in response to my research about the town Port Hope in Ontario that was the main supplier of nuclear weapons for Hiroshima nuclear bombing by US. This work will be released this year digitally in the shape of a website.
Using RGB lighting and posters designed with white, red, and green colors (the colors of Iran’s flag), I am manipulating light and the relationships established by color theory to demonstrate performative censorship. Written in my own handwriting, the posters have poems and writings that are significant to the collective cultural memory of Iran. The LED light component of the work activates and manipulates the colors of the posters to conceal or reveal the different layers of the messaging.
Different areas of the posters will respond differently to the light that shines on it. As an example, when green light shines on the poster, the areas of red on the poster disappear, leaving only areas of green visible; when red light shines on the poster, areas of green disappear, leaving only areas of red parts visible. The use of Blue light cancels both red and green of the poster, leaving only white areas visible. The posters are effectively censoring themselves.
I won OCAD University's Integrated Media – BFA major medal with this work.
This photo, titled “Sore,” is from my series, The Beach Beneath, that shows abandoned places without a human presence. This work was exhibited at Toronto Art Fair in 2020 and will be published in Volume III of the Cool Customer publication in winter 2021.
All artworks published with permission of the artist. Some content has been edited for length and clarity. Our Artist of the Day series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100s of grant applications we receive. The NOT REAL ART grant is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists. Find out more about our grant program here.