KI alum Ali Miharbi talks life post-grad school and exhibiting on an international scale

Ali Miharbi (MFA ’10) was the Kinetic Imaging program’s second MFA student and first international grad student, joining us from Turkey. Miharbi recently spoke with VCUarts about the appeals of VCU’s KI MFA program as an international artist and experiences with exhibiting on a global scale.
VCUarts: You attended VCU as an international student, coming from Turkey. What made you decide to come back to the US for grad school and what made you choose KI at VCU?
Miharbi: The way I heard about the program was a coincidence: I was in Mexico City attending a new media exhibition/conference, “Computer Art Congress”, and there I heard about the then newly opened KI MFA program from Semi Ryu from VCU, who was also showing her work and giving a talk at the conference. Later, I also had a chance to visit the campus and the department, so I had a good idea about the school and the program before I applied.
VCUarts: What has changed about your practice or the work that you make since you graduated from VCU?
Miharbi: It’s been a long time since I graduated and my interests did shift a bit, but in a way that it’s more like a smooth transition. Back then, the idea and relevance to current discussions on techno-culture was my main interest, later the themes I work on became more general and material, and medium itself became more important, for example I became more and more involved with sound; but this is really a generalization and my approach can vary from project to project.
“The Whisper,” by Ali Miharbi. Acoustic resonators, pneumatic equipment, custom electronics, 2016.
VCUarts: Having exhibited your work in Turkey, the US, and Mexico, to name a few places, how did you break into showing your work on an international scale? Can you speak some about your experiences with exhibiting your work internationally?
Miharbi: The way I first started to exhibit internationally was by applying to open calls and finding events where the themes of my work matched theirs. Later, as I showed more and more works, I started to get invitations to exhibitions abroad.
VCUarts: What’s something you’ve worked on recently that you’re particularly proud of?
Miharbi: That’s a difficult question because when I look back at previous work, I almost always find something that I could have done differently. That’s maybe a good thing since it shows that the way I work is slowly but continually evolving. Having said that, I can think of “Séance” (2011), a work which is not recent at all, but I still show it in different variations adapting it to the context and architecture of different venues. Also there have been works that helped me to break out of my comfort zone, such as the project “Wind Organ” (2017) which was an outdoor installation in the gardens of Horniman Museum, a museum that focuses on musical instruments, natural history and anthropology in South London, and gave me the opportunity to show work to an audience outside of the usual art scene, including children, so this was a very different and beneficial experience for me.
“Séance” by Ali Miharbi. Solenoids, custom hardware and software, Internet connection, 2011.
VCUarts: Do you have any advice for current KI students?
Miharbi: After graduation, the process of applying for open calls and residencies was frustrating for me because rejections can be demoralizing. My suggestion is not to get discouraged if rejected, even if they are many times in a sequence. By time, they will learn both how to present their work, what to include and emphasize in a specific application and also to recognize where to apply and where to avoid, and of course all of this while keeping to create more work and move forward.
Visit Miharbi’s website to view more of his work.