who is Lara Baladi? | inside-act profile

Oum El Dounia detail. Lara Baladi Oum el Dounia, (‘The Mother of the World’). Photo collage. Commissioned by and courtesy of the collection La Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris. Lara Baladi. Egypt, 2000.

ACT Students asked faculty and lecturers questions about their life and research– what is artistic research? why ACT?
Read on to get inside-act.

Egyptian-Lebanese artist Lara Baladi is internationally recognized for her multidisciplinary work, which weaves personal and socio-political narratives into mutable and non-linear expressions of cultural memory. In her investigations into myth, archives and personal histories, Baladi makes use of a wide range of mediums including architecture, installations, photography, collage, tapestry, perfume and sculpture.

This semester, Baladi will teach 4.341/2 | Introduction to Photography and Related Media and 4.344/5 | Advanced Photography and Related Media

When and how did you decide to become an artist?

I believe that becoming an artist is not a decision one makes. It is a state of mind. I was always creative as a child. I played the piano, I built worlds and told my stories with the images and toys I collected. It was later in my life that I became aware that I could channel my creativity more consciously and that there was such a thing as an art world.

What is your background or training?

I am self-taught. I was studying business administration in London. During the first summer vacation, I fell in love with a camera, which I found while visiting New York city.

The next semester, I signed up for a photography class as one of my electives, and the next semester for another one… When I graduated, I knew the basics of photography but nothing about art. The only certitude I had was that I wanted to “create” images.

What does ACT offer or allow that you wish you had when you were a student?

As part of the unique environment, which is MIT, ACT offers not only extra ordinary facilities for students to explore a vast array of artistic techniques but also and most of all, the possibility to be creative and in a multi-disciplinary context.

What could you not live or work without?

Making art!

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Sharing what I love and hopefully helping students find their own creative voice.

In your own words, what is the Art, Culture, and Technology program? Similarly, what does “Art, Culture and Technology” mean to you?

It sums up what life is about when it is at its best. One’s world and culture combined with technologies available to us in a creative way.

What role can or should ACT play within the greater MIT community.

ACT could be a catalyst for everything MIT has to offer. It could be the place where new ideas, new technologies and discoveries made across MIT are applied to art and challenged by students in the most creative and unexpected ways.

Whose work, artists, writers, scientists, or otherwise has influenced or inspired you?

The pyramids of Gizeh, Ramses Wissa Wassef’s tapestries, the nympheas of Claude Monet, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Diane Arbus, the medieval tapestry, La Dame a la Licorne, Werner, James Turell to list a few…

How does your own work relate to or differ from the traditions of art production at MIT beginning with György Kepes and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies in the 60’s?

Through the use of multicultural popular and mythological iconography, my work emphasizes personal and socio-political narratives, almost the opposite of Gyorgy Kepes’ work in terms of visual language.

In your words, what does “artistic research” mean? How is it similar or different from “scientific research?”

Artistic research is the journey to making an artwork. There are no rules for how to go about it, unlike scientific research. My artistic research often consists of building an archive, finding iconic ideas/elements to later create links between them.

Do you have any hobbies?

Mainly outdoor sports and dance.

Have you had any project disasters or crises? What Happened?

Yes of course. Working is always full of surprises. I have had very difficult situations while making my works. One example from my very early works was a car accident in the desert while shooting a photo collage titled Oum El Dounia.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I am reading books related to my artist residency at MIT and the project I am undertaking which deals with the Internet and big data. I am also revisiting the history of photography and images in preparation to lecture at ACT.

What book/film/album should every MIT student read/see/hear, and why?

I don’t believe any one ‘should’ do anything but since MIT is all about projecting ourselves in the future of technology, these films and books can be a great source of inspiration: The Trip to the Moon, by Melies, Metropolis, by Fritz Lang, 1984, by George Orwell and more contemporary, the TV series, Black Mirror.

This semester, Lara Baladi will teach 4.341/2 | Introduction to Photography and Related Media and 4.344/5 | Advanced Photography and Related Media

Check out Lara Baladi’s recent exhibition on view at the Sackler: