GOING SOLO: Artist Interview with Mohamed Chamas

GOING SOLO is back tomorrow night!

The third session will be a conversation with Mohamed Chamas, a multidisciplinary artist, designer, game developer and poet based in Naarm (Melbourne). CAS volunteer Rachael spoke to Mohamed about the importance of new artists finding a medium that enables them to express their ideas and messages across to their full potential.

If you would like to hear more from Mohamed, make sure you register for GOING SOLO via our Google Form.

Rachael: Mohamed, thank you so much for joining me today, we’re really excited to have you as part of our GOING SOLO series!

Mohamed: It’s good to be here I’m super excited!

Rachael: To start off, I’m interested to know how you describe yourself as an artist?

Mohamed: There is a number of ways to answer that question when it comes to myself, and especially thinking about my art and thinking about how my art might be perceived. I guess I don’t really say ‘artist’ when I am introducing myself. I do say artist, but I say artist in a collection of things. There’s three staples that I go for which are ‘artist’, ‘game developer’, ‘poet’. But I’m still more things than that. I am a designer, I’ve done a significant amount of youth work and community arts work, and I’m also a researcher. I do research in my own independent way. And I think while this could sound like a lot of things to people new to the arts or new to tertiary study in the arts, all of those things are very deeply interconnected. So I think rather than an artist, I’m more like a network of creativity. 

Rachael: I know in your workshop you’ll be discussing the importance of finding the right medium. I’m interested to know if you have a favourite medium? 

Mohamed: This is actually going to be a very strange answer for me because it’s something that I’m yet to get into, but it is a form of art that I appreciate very deeply. And that would be music, or music production. A lot of the people I admire call themselves producers, and they mean by that word that they make music, but producer means so many things in so many of the circles I engage with, so I’m never sure if I should use that word. I really love aural and sonic forms of art and it’s something I’ve only done very little of, but I think it’s one of the most exciting things to me right now and I really believe that it’s such a powerful medium. But I guess my favourite in terms of the ones that I make are probably my games. All my interactive work encapsulates so much of the rest of what I do, which is design, visual/representational art, also poetry is featured in my games in a non-textual way but in a sub-textual way. Games are definitely my favourite in terms of what I’ve made.

Rachael: My next question is what does success as an artist mean to you? Or look like to you?

Mohamed: I like this question, especially as we are posing this series to people who are thinking about ‘going solo’, maybe doing freelance stuff, or just really pursuing the things that they love to do. Success is such a question on everyone’s minds when doing something like that. Something really important to consider is, what are we conditioned to believe success looks like? It’s often having lots of money or having a car blah blah blah. I think that when you’re doing something that you love there’s often this narrative that you won’t be coming into money as often, and you have to work really really really really hard to get there and to fulfil the life you want to live, and make a living off what you love to do. There is some truth to all of these things. Before I answer what personally success means to me, I want to acknowledge all of those struggles and those thoughts and those concerns. They’re all very valid. Will I make enough money? Will people like my art? Am I good enough? Huge, huge questions, and I guess it’s odd for me to be answering this because in many ways I am still finding my feet in terms of how to best support myself and maximise the success that I can achieve. That’s something still on my mind and I’m starting to think it won’t really ever go away. Even the people you look up to are always going to be thinking about what the next step is and always thinking, could I be doing this better? Am I spending too much time on this step of my process? I think all of these complications, worries and anxieties really just remind me that the success that I want from what I do is…I know it’s cliche, but it’s not material. It’s not necessarily non-physical or spiritual either. I think I make art because I feel I have to. That’s the truth that I haven’t been able to escape. I think the success that I really want, is feeling fulfilled, and based around if I feel heard and am making those ripples, and I’m hearing the echoes of that fabric of what makes me human. Success is just being happy and knowing that being happy doesn’t mean what you think it means. Being happy is what it means to you. It’s important to have a dialogue with yourself, and I think a lot of artists are really good at that, just admitting the truth of yourself and then from that identifying: What makes my heart sing? What makes me smile? What makes my spirit arise? What inspires me? What makes me feel good? What’s this scent on the horizon that I can’t quite make out, that excites me and scares me in a good way? That’s what you really want to be chasing that leads to success. By the time you actually do achieve conventional success you won’t even realise it. You’ll be like I was just having fun. I just followed what I needed to follow, and that’s your right as an artist – to just really listen to yourself.

Rachael: How do you feel that art enriches your life? Especially the mediums that you work with? 

Mohamed: I think the mediums that I work with are really important to me. My main medium is shadows. And I say that very conscious of the stereotype that an artist must always be in some sort of grievance to create work. I don’t like that stereotype, but I do also think that shadows, or one’s ‘shadow’ in a personal sense, is my main medium in terms of the essence of my work. The themes and concepts that are present in my work, are almost always related to the shadow, which denotes so many things, a boundless amount of things. But it’s always the fear of the other side, which I’m trying to reach and love and have romance with. I want to create a dialogue where I’m always trying to romance my shadow. I think that comes from a lot of living through trauma and really painful experiences and being in your own head, and the elation you feel when you’re no longer a stranger to yourself in overcoming those things and uncovering the secrets in your own body. The things that transform you.

Rachael: Can you tell you tell me a little bit about your GOING SOLO session? 

Mohamed: In my GOING SOLO session, I’m going to be discussing mediums, which is basically what form does your art take? Is it a video? Is it a game? Is it a painting? Is it a drawing? What is important to know about mediums? And how do you find the right one for you? I’m going to be talking about that because I’m someone who has definitely jumped from medium to medium. In the middle of my games degree I did a painting elective, which I absolutely loved. I do a lot of paper craft in my free time, which I rarely put into the work that I “publish”. I have done an honours degree so I’m a bit of a writer and poet as well, which I blame on my honours degree. I’ve been drawing and doodling since a very young age, and I make games. There’s so many things that your art can be, and I’m super excited to do a deep dive into how I came to use the mediums that I use. What’s important about using certain mediums? What’s important to know, and empowering yourself to try new medium as well. A lot of my peers were quite scared to venture into new mediums. 

Rachael: Lastly, what advice would you give your younger self? 

I think I would tell a younger version of myself, not to ‘not be afraid’, but to learn more about your fear, and then in the clearest of intention, run towards the fear and run through it. Because it does end, its not the endless abyss or void you think it is. Or perhaps it is, but even in voids and abysses we can find valuable keys and levers. I think as self-help and mystical as this sounds, it does still definitely apply to my arts practice. Game flow is not easy for me to grasp but the things that set me apart from a typical game designer and a typical artist are those particularities I have. My inability to settle in one space is what makes my art powerful. I source a lot of wisdom from a lot of places, and similarly my work cannot sit still in one discipline or one sphere or one viewership. I don’t feel like I truly belong in the games industry in Melbourne even though it is amazing, but I also don’t feel like I truly in Melbourne contemporary arts or community arts. In saying that I do feel like I’m part of all of them, in particular ways. Since I’m still an emerging artist this could be just needing to find my feet, and the best way to sustain myself. Or it’s something I should settle into – this consistent shifting. 

GOING SOLO is a free, six-part online conversation series designed to prepare new and emerging artist from their first solo exhibition. Read more and register for the series here.

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