SFU’s Katayoon Yousefbigloo awarded the Audain Travel Award

The MFA student plans on exploring the possibilities of virtual reality in her art

Yousefbigloo aims to create art that engages her audience. Courtesy of Nima Gholamipour

By: Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate

Intrigued by the adaptation of technology to create interactive art, multi-talented artist, musician, and MFA student Katayoon Yousefbigloo hopes to use the $7,500 Audain Travel Award she recently received to do just that. The award, which normally funds art students’ excursions to see art, will instead fund full-time students’ art projects to adhere to travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an interview with The Peak, Yousefbigloo expressed her gratitude for her award and her excitement for SFU’s MFA program. Due to the program’s interdisciplinary nature, she has the opportunity to explore different mediums and collaborate with other artists.

Yousefbigloo mentioned that she would like to learn more about virtual reality and adapt it to a gallery setting. She explained the innovative and interactive virtual reality project proposed in her application.

“I proposed a multi-channel video installation made up of four isolated videos that will be collaged together to make one immersive, augmented reality that can be viewed with a headset or on your phone.” 

Yousefbigloo’s project, while impressive, requires flexibility. She admitted that the project entails addressing and reducing the technological barriers of creating and experiencing the installation. 

The installation looks at how we historicize events through media by recreating an event pulled from John Brunner’s novel The Sheep Look Up in an immersive video experience. I’m exploring themes of transparency, digital authority, and how the fragmentation of time as a result of a constant access to a disembodied past has hindered our ability to clearly situate our current experience in historical terms.

Yousefbigloo contrasted virtual reality with other forms of traditional media and acknowledged virtual reality’s potential for the live performance component she is planning for her installation.

In contrast to traditional media that has “no sensory elements [and] no agency in it,” virtual reality is not confined to the same limits, enhancing artists’ creative freedom and audience interaction.

“The cool thing about augmented reality and immersive video is that there’s some kind of movement and some kind of interaction. That appeals more broadly in my practice [ . . . ] Having some kind of audience participation and having some kind of agency in the audience member [will help them] create a narrative and to create something of their own out of the art.”

Yousefbigloo takes a unique approach to art because she prefers to follow her interests by exploring different mediums. While she understands that there can be pressure for artists to pigeonhole themselves into one medium in order to corner a niche, she rejects the need for categories in her own work.

I don’t see myself as someone who fits into those institutional or the normal categories [ . . . ] that are made for artists [ . . . ] I think that if I want to leave one mark, it would be to [encourage others to] ‘Just [make] what you want and not what people want you to make.’