Mariam Yakan was born in Cyprus. Lived there for seven years, then moved to Lebanon. Received her bachelor of fine arts (major: graphic design) from the American University of Beirut. Exhibited her fine art works at exhibition in the Roman Bath Gardens in Beirut, her graphic design work in Galerie Janine Rubeiz. Participated in a mural painting for La C.D Theque, Beirut. Worked with Iraqi playwright and director Jawad Al Assadi as a vocalist on set, script editor and designer in a workshop performance, The Cats of Renee Dik, dedicated to the actress Renee Dik, Beirut. She is currently working in Dubai as a digital graphic designer. She is devoted to the arts; the image, moving or paused, the characters, the music, the books and the mind for carrying it all together.
LR: Hi Mariam.
LR: So, what’s your favorite color?
MY: Hehe, the favourites’ question. Purple at most times. I don’t think I should get into the other times, right? Hahah. No, really it’s purple. But I usually like to have a nice mint next to it. Hmmm, I see where this is going and it’s not good! The last time I paired those colours, the ‘Ice Patch Queen’ wrote her story, sewed her ice-patch dress and left me hearing xylophone melodies all day, the pellet, and all!
LR: How do you describe your work?
MY: I try not to but I guess it depends on the phase. I always let the art form dictate itself, be it illustrative or musical or literary or, or, or…They all meet and discuss in my mind.
As for content, I’ve always loved faces and people. I can’t find anything as interesting as the human expressions and minds…I love characters. They seem to grow out of me. Stop!! There’s one coming right now!! (Imagine a little body protruding from a waist haha!) I love colours. My paintings feed on colours. Never let me stand in the coloured pencil area in the art shop. I swear I get a high!!!
Umm. I love floating bodies, angels, and fairies…(and their opponents when darkness caves in!!!) Add a soprano vocalist, some ting- a lings and I’m set to go. The act of creating worlds is a need I have …It’s the embodiment of all the art forms and is as flexible as it can get….Yeah I think that’s a big part of it J. Thank God for it being flexible because otherwise the art forms would keep fighting for attention in my head. Each one thinks it needs to be more important. When SONG comes along, HB feels ditched. And you don’t want to see an Em chord fighting with a pencil. Let’s just say it never ends well. So they’re all happily married now. The End J. For more information please call Mariam at 555 555. Please imagine appropriate computerized womanly voice!!
LR: You worked on a theatrical experimental stop motion project called “Dialogues on a Natural High”. Tell us a little about it.
MY: ‘Dialogues on a Natural high’ is a project that began as a final year project in university but I’ve dedicated my life to it. I’m serious: I signed the paper in my sketch book. No!! I’m kidding!! Actually I’m not! It’s part of the visuals for the print version of the dialogues.
Ok, back to subject: I’ve always had an obsession with the feeling of ‘floating’. I get it when I watch a certain kind of movie, or when two colours meet each other on the canvas and my eye is pleased or in that moment in singing when I forget everything around me and the void and sense of timelessness approach…I’ve always been curious about the physical sensation of floating. I even remember little characters in cartoons when I was young floating towards the source of the food. I guess some images stick around for years.
Dialogues on a Natural High is about discussing the notions of floating, elation, natural highs, exhilaration…mainly as part of the creative process…Of course, there will never be one kind of natural high that we all agree upon or know of; we experience it in different ways. But I wanted to get into those ways in detail and in doing so communicate the high I get by exploring such a topic. The process is essential in any one of the words that might be synonymous with the natural high. This might explain a little better:
Would ‘that kind’ of experience always trigger this physical sensation? Floating? Soaring? Ecstasy? Highness? Lightness? All of these must be relatives she thought. She needed to bring them together from their different homes. It was time for dialogue.
She needed to get to know each of them, ask others what they thought of them, and ask them if they knew of “that kind” of experience.
Ideas for Invites to the Dialogue
The whirling dervish.
The Automatic writer.
The Automatic Musician.
The Automatic Artist.
The OBE lucid dreamer.
Chemically Induced characters (as visitors)
The psychedelic artist.
The Mescaline Taker (Aldous Huxley).
The Mediator: The researcher
Concepts to be exchanged (keep adding):
Pure psychic automatism:
Out-of-body experience (OBE)
Experience of flow:
Possible ticket passes
-of a body which displaces its own weight of a fluid and therefore becomes weightless
-to move gently, to drift
a state of exhilaration, a state of euphoria, a state of intoxication by drugs or alcohol
-a feeling of intense delight
-a mental state, usually caused by intense religious experience, sexual pleasure, or drugs, in which somebody is so dominated by an emotion that self-control and sometimes consciousness are lost
-a feeling or activity characterized by its extreme intensity
the quality or state of being filled with joy or jubilation
-to fly or rise high in the air
-to rise to a higher, more intense, or exalted level
a feeling of well-being or elation
I think of Dialogues on a Natural High as an idea, as the content that can take many different forms. At this point last year, it fell into the shape of animated puppets in a set reminiscent of the theater. The Musician, the Playwright, Enchantment, and the Jester were all invited to the ‘Moving Circa-s’ to discuss the natural high which is way too broad to even be coined in one word. In that process they end up talking about other things. Enchantment sets her listeners floating as she explains what her high is. The playwright gets excited, gesticulating in a rapid manner and squeezing as many words as possible in a sentence as he seizes the stage, then finds himself in the shape of a ‘Virginia Woolf’ as his thoughts are never only his own. So in a way, it is all about the process of creative production, how the process, the sketches, the little comments here and there, and the edits are vital to reach that climax of a natural high. I documented that process and will continue to do so.
LR: The discussions that these characters have, how do they fit within the concept of automatism? I mean, are these conversations themselves spontaneous, presented by the animator of the specific character, or were they spontaneously written?
MY: The conversations were edited though they might have been born through automatism, but not necessarily. Automatism within this project was one of the concepts that these characters discussed, just like free jazz improvisation or the experience of flow in writing…“AUTOMATISM AND AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS! LEAVE ME ALONE! I’M TRYING TO FOLLOW ONE TRAIN OF THOUGHT!!” So I think of Automatism as a character and many times he argued with authors like Susan Sontag who think the process of reediting can always make a piece better. I let the conversations come in the way that was most natural, sometimes through research, sometimes in a moment of elation…For one of them, I was sitting and I was reading and researching and then it came to me. I picked up the sound recorder and acted out a little skit and then wrote it out and then let it grow into what it wanted. The thing is the characters took a life of their own and they made their own conversations when they had studied all they needed to study J. Once I had made the puppets and made studies of the people I had based these characters on, the conversations just came and there was always more to say. Another thing I made a point, was to include all the edits in the script, all the research, making sure that the whole process is embodied in the work.
LR: The composition of the dialogue of these characters as a typed script in the animation is an interesting idea, as if you are reading the translation of a foreign movie, and to understand, you need a medium of translation.
MY: Ok, the stop motion lasts around 8 minutes. The beginning starts very slowly, the piano plays very slowly, just like the process of getting in a rush. First, self conscious. Slow. Then you start getting familiar with your surroundings (so in this case you would first find that the text on the screen requires a lot of concentration but then you forget that it is ‘type’ and see it as an extension of the setting). You start to get absorbed (like being in a play)…There is a lot that I could do with the written word as opposed to voiceover. Not that I didn’t have the battle in my head!!! But what I felt the written word gave me was a sense of enchantment, a certain amount of focus from the viewer and then absorption, which are all key factors in the world of the ‘natural high’.
Also with words appearing on the screen, I was able to highlight the parts that are cited or quoted in the script, so for example you see that the Playwright is saying an idea that he thinks he has come up with but in fact it’s a quote from a book by Aldous Huxley. I wanted a marriage of the written word with the image as I see them both to be equally important.
LR: You are also a painter, and you have integrated a number of your drawings as part of the project itself. It seems that these dialogues play a central theme in your work.
MY: Actually the project was conceived of in image and word format. The drawings which are in the stop motion were limited to the characters but outside the final product which was a movie, many drawings were made to develop their world. In this meeting I decided to bring them, introduce them in the simple settings, let the feelings be portrayed through lights, words, and music and of course through the power of a character that throws me away when it doesn’t need me anymore. Dialogues are a big part in my artwork but mainly I see things as mini worlds mini settings. So I have difficulty drawing a girl without a story forming in my head.
LR: What other project are you currently working on?
MY: Other than my job, I’m taking this year or two to let a couple of projects grow slowly, but in parallel to each other. I’m working on music, words, images, stories….A nice portion of this is also taking place in dialogues in my head!!! Should I be worried hehehe!!?
Anyway, so for example, in time I would like to have these works shared, mainly as travels and worlds. The first travel would be ‘dialogues on a natural high’ with the accompanying music, the videos, detailed illustrations, interactive envelopes and letters I wrote to the characters….Another is a game….i also just finished the sequence for a story about a music box and fairies….another one about Enchantment meeting someone from the digital world….I need the time to develop them!
LR: Any last words?
MY: Only thanks so much and sorry if I spoke a lot. But all the characters wanted a turn!! And it is a bit hard to explain the whole project, one of the things that I had quoted in the project is for a writer called Flannery O’ Connor and she says that you can’t tell someone ‘about’ a story. You have to let them read the story itself because each word in the story is essential to the embodied meaning. As we say in Arabic: Mariam, bala falsafi!!!! So yeah, I kind of had that struggle here heheh!! If no one noticed!!
LR: It was a pleasure Mariam. We’ll keep our news section updated with your newest.
MY: Thank you so Lebrecord. The digital world is amazing for things like this and not to mention wikipedia!! but of course I hope print never dies. Ok! I’ll be looking out for the sections too!!!
Mariam’s address on the web is: