Naomi Vona a.k.a Mariko Koda – Interview

She describes herself as an “archival parasite, with no bad intentions”. Her works combines different interests like photography, collages and illustration. Her research is focused on altering vintage and contemporary found images, creating a new interpretation of the original shots.

She’s Mariko Koda and this is her interview.

Where does the name Mariko Koda come from?

It’s a funny one – this is my alter ego name that I used since I was a teenager online. A lot of my friends that I met on the internet know me as Mariko 🙂
I never changed it, so that’s why it’s still there. It’s now became my teenage memory that I don’t want to give up. Btw this alias is the combination of the name and the surname of two characters from a Japanese manga that I truly loved when I was a teenager (Mariko Nakasu and Mikako Koda, from Kokinjo Monogatari). 

Can you tell me a bit more about your passion for archives and vintage photography?

As a photography student I was always fascinated by analogue photography – during my academy years I always made research and art projects connected to this topic. These kinds of collages are the perfect mix between my passion for photography and design.

I have done collages for a long time, I started in 2003, but these kind of works are born in 2013 while I was in Ireland. Before moving from Italy to Ireland, I’ve bought lots of vintage photos and postcards from eBay because I’ve always loved to collect things like found stuff of any kind of material. 

Once I’ve had hundreds of vintage photos in my hands too, I just thought: why don’t put my collected stuff on them? So I started to play around collages. The result satisfied me so much, I felt really good and I didn’t want to stop anymore. 

Your work creates a time portal between the past and the future. Do you time-travel? 

In a certain way, yes! I have always been a big fan of sci-fi stories and time travel adventures – I believe it comes natural to talk about what I love in my art. Moreover, it makes sense to mention time travel while you work on vintage portraits, so I embraced the fantasy. I like to imagine that I have an imaginary portal that brings me into the past every time I desire, and my artworks are the visual proof of my time travel adventures. My very first love for time travel started watching the tv series Quantum Leap, I was obsessed as a kid! 

You title every single piece that you make. Its clear that you want to give your images a background story. What inspires you in your storytelling? 

I work on anonymous portraits, I have no background story about the subjects that I am working on. I think that creating an imaginary story will give me a sort of connection with them. It’s also a way to celebrate these “forgotten memories” in my own way, giving them back a new life and purpose. 

Workshops are a big part of your creative practice, can you describe your relationship with teaching?

I started in 2017 and it was quite a random experience to me. While living in London I was invited by an artist that I met in Dublin to do a workshop for the employers of a Company that she was working for. I didn’t have any background but I wanted to give it a go, the idea was fascinating. Since then, I pushed more and asked to brands or companies that were already doing workshops if I could work/collab with them. I was lucky enough to start making workshops for mt, a Japanese brand that makes the washi tape that I often use in my artworks, and after this experience I realised that was a great way to connect with the local community while you share and do what you love the most. After these collabs I also started to organise workshops on my own, working mostly in London. During covid the events moved online, but in a way I think that it was not that bad because I was able to connect to a wider international audience. Teaching it’s a learning process, and I am very happy that I made this decision to start this journey. Now I do live Zoom classes, while some of the events are available to download as recorded classes. 

You have a huge fanbase online. Can you tell me how it all started?

I am actually not sure if it’s that big – but I just started to share my art a long time ago. Before social media I used online platforms like Flickr, Deviant Art or blogs. I just patiently contacted art blogs and share the things that I was doing, and sometimes you get featured. It take a lot of patience and passion, but if you don’t give up, something gets in your way. In the meantime you also have to continue to develop your style and grow your art experience. Let’s say that creating a community around you comes as a secondary thing, and it’s usually an organic growth around your art research/development. 

Have you got any specific plan for the future?

I am not sure which my plans are – during these uncertain times I don’t think I can plan so much ahead. I am trying to embrace every possibility that the world is giving me, and I hope that things will get better soon. I want to enjoy the present as much as I can, so no plans for me 🙂

Saluti Dal Futuro 198, Pens, stickers, paper and washi tape on vintage postcard. Courtesy of the Artist
The Sailor, Pens and stickers on vintage portrait. Courtesy of the artist 
Floating Dreamers 006, Vintage photo and pens on handmade cotton rag paper. Courtesy of the Artist
Laughing At Patriarchy, collage. Courtesy of the Artist
Underline. Pens and stickers on vintage portrait. Courtesy of the Artist

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