For the fourth volume of “Voices of Change”, The Phoenix spoke to artist and UBCO alumni Moozhan Fallah Ahmadzadegan, whose work explores themes of personal identity and activism.
1. Briefly tell us about you and the ethos behind your work.
My name is Moozhan Fallah Ahmadzadegan and I’m an emerging artist born and raised in the Okanagan. I received my BFA from UBCO in 2019 with a Major in Visual Arts and a Minor in Art History and Visual Culture. My artistic practice is primarily based in painting and screen-printing. While both mediums vary in results, they often share a unified underlying objective. I use my platform as an artist as a means of personal inquiry and social commentary. I am interested in navigating my understanding of socio-political topics through visual materials. Oftentimes, my work involves exploring themes of identity, activism, cultural hybridity, queerness, diaspora, resistance, and accessibility. My practice is a way for me to learn more about these topics myself, and to participate within the wider dialogues that surround them. Through conceptual themes, visual presence, and creative intervention, I attempt to foster contemplative thinking and dialogue.
2. What are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on an ongoing body of work for a while now that attempts to navigate the complex intersections of race, culture, and nationality. This work inquires into the complicated implications of seemingly innocent questions, such as “where are you from?” when presented from strangers, which can be interpreted as microaggressions. This work is influenced by the ritual of this conversation; strangers will often ask me where I am from, noticing that I don’t look white, or that my name sounds very “ethnic”. I respond, as a second-generation Canadian, that I am from Canada. The follow-up question is almost always the same, “where are you really from?” I’m Persian and I grew up here, being asked where I’m from is not an uncommon question for the conservative, white culture of the Okanagan. I've been developing this work over the last few years, trying out a few different things for an upcoming exhibition I have.
3. How does your personal identity influence your work?
Like I said, I grew up here and it hasn’t been a very accepting place for non-white and non-straight people. Being Persian and queer made me very much “other” in this community, which I think had a lasting effect on me. I was forced to think more about my identity in these ways, so these themes have always circulated my mind. When I was in university, I began implementing these themes into my work, and as I paid more attention to social and political issues, it felt more urgent to use my voice and share my experiences. Artists are usually influenced by their experiences, so it’s only natural that topics surrounding identity would find their way into my work.
4. How have the recent widespread protests and discourses surrounding race/culture affected you/your work or both?
If anything, recent events have reminded me of the urgency of this type of artwork (and work). I'm being reminded about the work that I, personally, have to do. It’s definitely a difficult and upsetting time, but at the same time, it’s inspiring to see widespread action and interest. My only wish is that it is sustained. But I do see people who otherwise turned a blind eye before being educated, which I think is a good thing. I’m also being reminded to acknowledge my white-passing privilege and the space that I take up. Even though I have faced oppression myself, it does not mean that I don’t have important learning and unlearning to do in regard to BIPOC solidarity.
5. What changes would you like to see at UBCO/in Kelowna in regard to racism/discrimination against minorities?
Over the last few years, I’ve definitely seen more diversity in the Okanagan, and yet the culture here does not seem to reflect that. My wish is to see more critical and creative education in the community to hopefully create a more inclusive space for people of colour and queer people. We are here, but there isn’t much representation or space. If I’m being honest, I want all the white people here to check their privilege, as cliché as that is to say. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯