• Amy Rossi

"Pure in existence, wild in form": an interview with Moira Ness

The featured image for August is by Moira Ness, a photo-based artist who recently was the artist-in-residence at Residency 108 in upstate New York. Her use of visual repetition is arresting, and her titles evoke an immediate sense of mood. Here, she discusses Nietzsche, visual and textual repetition, and her process for her latest project, "Cyclical."

"I Hit My Head and Everything Changed"

1. The August issue photo is gorgeous -- it immediately grabbed me. But the title combined with the image really blew me away; it was so unexpected. What is your titling process like?

Thank you so much! I actually use a text-based algorithm to help me name the pieces from this “Cyclical” series. I select passages from past personal social media platforms (Twitter, MSN Messenger chat logs, Blogger, etc.) and submit them into the algorithm. This algorithm selects, at random, text ranging from single words to four consecutive words. It deconstructs the inputted text in this pattern, providing a collection of disjointed paragraphs, which I then decipher. I select standout phrases/word patterns and use these as the base for creating my piece titles and accompanying writing. The end result is an entirely new interpretation of words I’ve written in the past, often producing profound statements and concise deliveries.

"Her Absence Fills the Spring"

2. What brought you to Split Lip? How does "I Saved Everything" speak to that?

As an emerging artist I am always searching for new ways to display and expose my art to the public. I had, over time, created a small list of online magazines/journals that I hoped to apply for. My goal with applying was to have the opportunity to present my newest work on a professional and clean platform and I felt that Split Lip was the perfect fit. When I applied to Split Lip I had just gotten back from a residency in Upstate NY and was really excited to share the whole new body of work ("Cyclical)" I had created there. The piece featured on the front page, "I Saved Everything," is only a few months old and has never been published on any other online magazine or journal-like platform, so it is an extra special presentation!

"Answer Your Own Question"

3. In "Cyclical," do you view the algorithm-based text as poems? Do you consider them separate works from the photographs, based on the same theory, or as works functioning in the context of each other?

I’d like to elaborate a little bit on the background of “Cyclical”, just for context. "Cyclical" explores Friedrich Nietzsche's doctrine of eternal recurrence/eternal return. Nietzsche believed that all events in cosmic history have repeated, and will continue to repeat, in an endless cycle. Imagine time moving on the outline of a flat circle; everything we have done or will do as individuals we will do again and again -- infinitely repeating, lifetime after lifetime.

In this series I experiment with the idea of eternal recurrence through forced visual and written repetition. I overlap sections of a photograph in a mirror-like style and then digitally manipulate them to blend seamlessly into the natural background. The limb of a tree is mirrored and then blended to match the opposite foliage. This is in an attempt to compress the time-based theory of eternal recurrence into a series of two-dimensional representations. I want to push the viewer to think about looking at a single landscape and imagining all the identical cycles that have previously occurred, including their own personal cycle.

I have chosen the natural landscape of Residency 108 to represent the visual base of my eternal return interpretation. Nature is pure in existence, wild in form, and seemingly random in occurrence, yet the theme of repetition within the theory still applies. The finished editing does not immediately stand out, but rather is discovered through the mind’s habitual recognition of subtle patterns, symmetry, and visual discrepancies.

I view all the tangents of Cyclical to fall, theme wise, within this theory. The photographic pieces lean towards a more visible/immediate form of repetition, while the written/algorithm works deal with repetition found at the root of the writing’s own creation, acting almost as a catalyst. While part of the written work’s DNA is based off of poetry I have created in the past, I wouldn’t consider the new algorithm pieces or titles to be poetry. I feel the new collection of words goes past the poetry aesthetic and moves towards a more utilitarian application. I’m using technology as a tool to repurpose personal information and view these written pieces more as discovered statements and observed truths.


All photos appear courtesy of Moira Ness. To learn more about Moira's work and forthcoming shows, visit

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