‘Find Yourself’ is a new exhibition/event held at the Armenian Centre of Contemporary and Experimental Arts (ACCEA) in Yerevan, which presents over 70 photographic works by the cross-disciplinary practitioner Anna Khachatryan (b. 1994). An emerging talent, Khachatryan is representative of a new generation of young Armenian artists that work between mediums, never firmly locating themselves within any specific framework. A graduate of the media, advertising and film department of the Slavonic University in Yerevan, Khachatryan often terms herself as a ‘stylist’. Her work blends in both fashion and performance art, often rendered through the aesthetics of advertising art, contemporary dance and punk fashion of the 1980s.
In her exhibition manifesto Khachatryan cites the surrealists and particularly Breton among her influences. In certain respects her images of figures clad in blackly comic make-up and costumes dwell on the fragmentation of identity and the fluidity of the subconscious that recall the poetic randomness and accidentality of the ‘Exquisite corpse’ method. However, the theoretical profundities of the early modernists are replaced here by Khachatryan’s more instinctive, purposefully superficial modus operandi that points as much to Leigh Bowery as it does to Sergei Paradjanov.
Khachatryan’s primary thematic concern seems to be the subject of the mask. And while her photographs lack fully developed or particularly interesting conceptual ideas, the images attract by their sincerity, kaleidoscopic eclecticism and willingness to indulge in the absurdity of meaningless play. As such, the tropes of her creativity parallel those of children’s dress up games, where identity and psychology are not given but are in the process of construction and transmutation – a point made clear by the title of the exhibition.
The artist’s involvement with photography is notable for its directorial, distanced approach. Khachatryan styles her performers, creates the mise en scene, establishes the frame but uses a professional photographer to light and take the image. In this way, Khachatryan positions herself alongside conceptual photographers such as Tracy Moffatt, Cindy Sherman and Sharon Lockhart, whose oeuvre blurs the line between cinema, theatre, documentation and photography. The images themselves were not printed, but projected within the space and in some cases are ‘enacted’ by performers.
‘Find Yourself’ was held at ACCEA, Yerevan on February 23rd. Khachatryan also plans a sequel to this event in April.