Michael Moore interviews Tina Tahir

MM: Conceptual or representational?

TT: Conceptual.

MM: So, before getting started how about a brief description of your background…where from and what drove you to art, and, how long have you perceived of yourself as an artist?

TT: Well, I was born in Southern Germany and grew up in a place that doesn’t appear on maps (laughs). And, I don’t’ know, living in the middle of nowhere can sometime cause you to feel very isolated, far away from the hubbub, I also remember that I felt really bored as a child. Time seemed to stand still. I think that’s why I gravitated toward art, I started drawing. And from early on I felt a deep desire to live in big cities. So, I moved to London and became a fashion photographer. Things were going quite well for me but, at some point I was questioning my role in how women were being portrayed as objects of desire. I was aware of fashion theory at the time and the critiques of the fabrication of the female body and felt conflicted. So, I left my agency and enrolled in art school.

MM: Hmm, cool. A lot of times there’s a catalyst and that’s kinda fascinating…that trigger for you. Can you describe your practice, specifically, your creative process?

TT: My art practice is a research-based process. Some projects start with a specific interest, which I then thoroughly investigate. Other times this investigation is triggered by something random. Sometimes it’s sudden and quick, and other times, it’s tedious, long, and difficult to get through.

MM: Now, your art? What is it about specifically, and where and when did you begin to address the themes currently present in your work?

TT: My art is about impermanence. It’s also about space as a site for the chance encounter. I have been making these precarious tapestries comprised of temporary, non-fixed floor installations, or digital wallpapers. They usually disintegrate in one way or another as I’ve been investigating the idea of destruction in art, of art, and as art—art that in and of itself is slowly destroyed. I’m interested in how these pieces interact with the audience. For example, someone walks over a rug made of soil and carries the material off on their shoe soles which makes it almost impossible to encounter the piece the same way twice. To give these works an existential anchor, I use GPS coordinates as their titles. Most pieces are site specific, so I tend to look for material that relates to the space it occupies…and they are incredibly labor intensive! In a way, I make these pieces, only to watch them fall apart again. You could also read it an attempt against the “hands-off protocol” in galleries and museums.

Most pieces are site specific, so I tend to look for material that relate to the space it occupies…and they are incredibly labor intensive and fragile. So, in a way, I make these pieces, only to watch them fall apart again. You could also read it a push back against the “hands-off protocol” in galleries and museums

One example would be my recent installation at the Hyde Park Art Center. It was a large scale digital wallpaper-projection composed of opium poppies that reacted to the weather pattern in Kabul. The changes or reaction were programmed and set by an algorithm providing the data. Here, I wanted to make an artwork that was influenced by something as banal as the weather, because most things relate to the weather and temperature, your mood, socio-political conditions, relationships. The weather affects our lives on all sorts of levels.  If it rains, we might change our plans for the day.

MM: Do have a particular audience in mind when you work?

TT: One thing I’m concerned about is accessibility. I want the viewer to understand what my work and so the question then becomes, what does it mean to give the audience the license to destroy an object of appreciation? It also makes it a social experiment of sorts.

MM: Considering that your art deals with matters of temporality, how do you confront questions of impermanence in your work? Or, do you….

TT: I guess my works are precious in the sense that they are imbued with this inherent fear of being swept up, or walked off, at any given moment. The viewer is implicated in the piece because they represent a potential hazard to the integrity of the artwork. I also look at them, the artwork, as temporary dwellers. And then there’s this question of belonging and attachment. I guess as someone who has lived in under the similar conditions the question of belonging becomes pertinent.

MM: Have you ever considered the role of social media in relation to your art? Meaning, social media is if anything constituted by its fleeting yet conflictions of permanence and elements of trends and patterns so to speak…is social media something that you’ve considered when it comes to any of the above, audience, permanence of work, etc? It’s a long question, take your time : ).

TT: That’s an interesting idea, I‘m receptive to socio-political patterns and moods. But for now it’s not part of my research.

MM: Okay, going back a bit, there seems to be two elephants in your studio…do you have any thoughts towards the role of Art and Academia when it comes to artist today, yourself included, and/or art education?

TT: Some time ago, when I was still working in fashion, I had a conversation with an academic on that very topic. She told me about the importance of learning the vocabulary of art criticism and then going back into your studio and forgetting about it, that kind of thing. Of course, that doesn’t always work. Once your perspective has shifted there is no delete-button. Research definitely makes your work more interesting but not necessarily more creative, because you lose what Gombrich calls the “innocent eye.” 

MM: Hmm…good point. Does Chicago factor into your growth as an artist, if at all? Is there something provided by the city and its people that influence your work?

TT: Absolutely. I began making temporary installations as a grad student at the University of Illinois followed by my studies at The School of the Art Institute where I developed a more critical eye, so to speak, and furthered my conceptual approach. Right now, for example, my interest in ruins has lead to research surrounding the unbuilt Chicago Spire. It’s truly a reverse ruin, in the sense that it never materialized.

MM: Figurative or abstract?

TT: Both.

MM: Ok, closing out here…if not an artist, what would you be? Like, have you taken one of those questionnaires that determine your fit in the workplace…?

TT: I’d probably be a mathematician. I like if for everything that art isn’t.

MM: If you could have one thing on a plate, in a bowl, or cup…what would it be?

TT: You know what, I’d love to some Chicken Tikka Masala before going to an opening at the White Cube Gallery in London. My opening. (laughs)

One response to “Michael Moore interviews Tina Tahir

  1. Pingback: Michael Moore interviews Tina Tahir | kasia kay art projects

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