The Power of Emptiness: Norayr Chahinian’s exhibition at ACCEA

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The Power of Emptiness

March 9, 2016 – March 26, 2016

The Power of Emptiness
Norair Chahinian
(Official press release)
The photographs taken in Turkey by Sao Paulo (Brazil) born photographer Norair Chahinian strike viewers in a number of different ways.

First through their witnessing of life in various regions of Anatolia ‘from the outside’, by someone who has come all the way from across the world, thousands of kilometers afar. But more importantly, through their depiction ‘from within’ of the return of an Armenian to his roots in Maraş, Urfa, İskenderun, as he visits the land of his family after a gigantic lapse of one hundred years.

“The Power of Emptiness” is an attempt to come to terms with the potentials and the impossibilities embodied at the heart of this return, this witnessing.

It is the story of a fourth-generation Armenian forcefully torn apart and banished from his lands showing the courage to look the past, present and future straight in the eye.

Norair Chahinian was born in Brazil as the child of a family that had fallen victim to the Committee of Union and Progress’ genocidal politics against Armenians during the final era of the Ottoman Empire.

His grandmothers and grandfathers had lost their families during those days of catastrophe, took refuge in Aleppo, Syria, under dire circumstances and had migrated to Brazil, South America from there, sharing the fate of Armenians who like themselves were dispersed to all corners of the world.

Chahinian was raised in an Armenian diaspora community and internalized all elements of this identity. Norair Chahinian, who knew his family history thoroughly, learned Armenian and believed that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide is not a matter of retribution but of justice, was familiar with Turkey and Turks through a narrative weaved with deaths and violence.

He experienced a turning point in his life the moment he decided to expand this narrative by personally coming into contact with Turks living today and the lands that once belonged to his own family. The photographs in “The Power of Emptiness” present us with the observations Chahinian made precisely at this turning point.

This quest brought the photographer to Turkey where he knew no one, did not speak the language; where he was familiar neither with the climate nor the ways of the people. But in no way as a tourist.

He came here determined to build a bridge between the past and present, as the last link of a family who was the victim and witness of the catastrophe experienced one hundred years ago but had managed to live, survive and build a new life on the other side of the ocean.

Ensuing from this past and determination, there is absence and emptiness as well as life and the perpetuity of living in the photographs Chahinian took in different cities of Turkey. The emptiness that remains from those who died, who were forced into exile and the power of this emptiness is undeniably reflected in each and every frame.

The rainbow over the derelict churches, children playing on deserted streets, slogans of the military coup era written across Armenian epigraphs, an aggrieved suitcase in an empty home waiting as though it was left there only yesterday. The power of emptiness, the emptiness of power…

These photographs, which were taken by a person rendered homeless and rootless; depicting the journey towards a land where his source lies in order to fully establish his coordinates on earth and to take roots again, also express a universal quest.

In going back to his roots, and towards the local, Chahinian treads on a more worldly ground and becomes universal.

Rober Koptaş

Shadows of Time: the photographic art of Gagik Harutyunyan, 1970-1995

Harutyunian-Gagik.-man-and-door-2.worked.small

Gagik Harutyunyan. Untitled. From the series ‘Gharabagh’, 1992.

Soviet photography remains one of the least known and explored legacies in the history of the medium. Helping to address this lack, ‘Shadows of Time’ presents the first retrospective of Gagik Harutyunyan, one of the major Soviet photographers of 1970d-90s.

Despite an exceptional career that spans three decades, numerous exhibitions and countless reproductions in his native country, Harutyunyan’s work has been largely forgotten today. Partially due to indifference from official and critical establishments in Armenia towards photography, Harutyunyan stopped his practice in early 2000s, destroying most of his vintage prints.

After a long period of silence, the photographer has finally allowed for new prints to be made from his negatives under his direct supervision. Most of these works will be presented to the public for the first time in the exhibition ‘Shadows of Time’, organized collaboratively by ‘Lusadaran’ Armenian Photography Foundation and KulturDialog Armenien Foundation. Approximately 190 photographs have been assembled by curator Vigen Galstyan in what will be the first retrospective of the artist. A catalogue featuring an extensive new study about Harutyunyan will accompany the exhibition

‘Shadows of Time’ highlights Harutyunyan’s creative trajectory from epically inclined view of Armenia in the 1970s to the philosophically imbued and surreal vision that marked the end of his artistic career. Poetically dense and shaped by a rich expressionist aesthetic, Harutyunyan’s work captured a country and its people through a time of profound transformations and turmoil.

The exhibition reveals the breath of Harutyunyan’s oeuvre and his undeniable influence on younger Armenian photographers. It also fundamentally challenges ideas about the history of modern and contemporary Armenian art, from which photography has so far been written out.

‘Shadows of Time’ will take place from October 18 to November 7 at the House of Artists’ Union, Yerevan, Armenia.

Research Assistant Position

«Լուսադարան» հայկական լուսանկարչության հիմնադրամը
հրավիրում է երիտասարդ գիտաշխատողների` մասնակցելու հայ լուսանկարչության պատմությանը նվիրված մեծածավալ հետազոտական նախագծի իրականացմանը

ԱՇԽԱՏԱՆՔԻ ԲՆՈՒԹԱԳԻՐԸ

Աշխատատեղին զբաղեցնելու հավակնորդների պարտականությունների մեջ են մտնում.

Վեցամսյա ծրագրի շրջանակներում՝ նախագծի տնօրենի վերահսկողության ներքո, կատարել հետազոտական, հավաքչական, համակարգային, ինչպես նաև վերլուծական աշխատանքներ։

Գիտաշխատողի առաջադրանքներից և պատասխանատվություններից են՝

  • Հետազոտություններ անցկացնել արխիվներում, գրադարաններում և ինտերնետային կայքերում
  • Համակարգել և ճշտել փաստագրական տվյալներ մատենագրական և արխիվային նյութերի հիման վրա
  • Կատարել փաստագրական հարցումներ արվեստագետներից և նրանց ընտանիքներից
  • Կազմել համառոտ կենսագրական ակնարկներ և հոդվածներ
  • Համակարգել և համալրել նախագծի արխիվը
  • Պատասխանել նախագծի հետ կապված հարցումներին
  • Այցելել նախագծին առնչվող ցուցահանդեսներ, գիտաժողովներ և այլ միջոցառումներ
  • Կատարել վարչական բնույթի աշխատանքներ (օրինակ՝ վիզուալ նյութերի սքան, տպագրություն, համակարգում և այլն)

ՊԱՀԱՆՋՎՈՂ ԳԻՏԵԼԻՔՆԵՐ ԵՎ ՈՒՆԱԿՈՒԹՅՈՒՆՆԵՐ

  • Բակալավրի գիտական կոչում
  • Արվեստի պատմության իմացություն, արվեստաբանության ոլորտի մասին առնվազն տարրական գիտելիքներ
  • Հետազոտական աշխատանքի փորձ
  • Հայոց լեզվին լիարժեք տիրապետում
  • Անգլերենին լիարժեք կամ մասնակի տիրապետում (ռուսերենը ցանկալի է, բայց ոչ պարտադիր)
  • Համակարգչային ծրագրերի (word, excel, ցանկալի է նաև` photoshop) իմացություն
  • Մանրամասների և փաստերի հանդեպ ուշիմ վերաբերմունք
  • Ճշտապահություն և պատասխանատվության զգացում
  • Նախաձեռնողականություն և ինքնակազմակերպչական ձիրք

Աշխատանքը լինելու է պայմանագրային, շաբաթական քսան ժամվա կտրվածքով և ազատ գրաֆիկով։

Կարող եք ձեր հետաքրքրությունը հայտնել` ուղարկելով համառոտ կենսագրական/աշխատանքային փորձի նկարագրություն և կոնտակտային տվյալներ հետևյալ էլեկտրոնային հասցեով`

vigen@lusadaran.org

Դիմումներն ընդունվում են մինչև 2016 թ. հունվարի 20-ը:

The woman with tar: the tantalising puzzle of a cabinet portrait.

Like a sponge, photographs suck in secrets with the passage of time. They lose their owners, become displaced, worn and damaged. Names and information associated with their making and their contents is often lost within only a few decades of creation. With time, photographs become objects of mystery despite their nature to be anything but that.

Lusadaran has many such photographs, but one of our recent acquisitions is a particularly delightful example of a 19th century photographic ‘whodunit’.

S. A. Borakchiev. Portrait of a woman with tar. 1890s-1900s.

It is a traditional cabinet portrait from the turn of the 20th century, probably made between 1895 and 1905. This is indicated not only by the subject’s clothes, but also the printing medium. An early form of gelatin silver paper was used for the print, common during this transitional period when photographers were switching from making albumen prints to using the more practical gelatin silver process.

The portrait is of a woman in her 30s, wearing a fashionable, albeit restrained Western dress, sitting cross-legged next to a coffee table with a tar (an ancient string instrument popular in Iran and the Caucasus) perched on her knee, ready to play. The photograph has reached us in quite a damaged state. At one period someone had visibly tried to destroy it as it has been broken in half in the middle. It was then glued back together with a large piece of paper. There were no visible inscriptions that would give us a clue as to the identity of the woman or the photographer.

19th century studio portraits rarely feature women holding anything other than babies or the hands of their husbands. Sometimes a woman or a young girl will appear with a certain prop found in the photographer’s atelier – a bicycle or more likely a book. In genre scenes, particularly those made to represent the ‘Orient’, women are often seen with household utensils, holding wine jars, hookahs or mirrors – objects of pleasure that signal their own status as objects pleasuring the predominantly male clientele of such images. Thus, it is quite unusual to see a photograph of a woman with an item that represents something other than her domestic status as daughter, wife or mother.

Hence this photograph immediately stands out from countless others since it features the woman with an object that stresses her status as a professional musician. Considering the fact that the photograph was made in the Caucasus at the end of the 19th century, this makes the image even more remarkable. Very few images of professional women living and working in the Caucasus in the 19th century have survived.

S. A. Borakchiev. Portrait of a woman with tar. Verso of the cabinet portrait after the removal of glued paper.

The back of a cabinet photograph often carries photographer’s studio stamp and its location. Hoping to find this information, it was decided to carefully remove the white piece of paper glued on the back of the card. The photographer’s backstamp appeared almost immediately. It is in Russian and says ‘Fotografiya S. A. Borakchieva / Akhaltsikh / Uvelechenie portretov’ [S. A. Borakchiev’s photography/ Akhaltsikh / Portrait enlargements].

The name of the photographer was unknown to us and it was the first time we had come across portraits from this studio. After searching on the Internet we were able to locate two more images from Borakchiev, held in the National Library of Georgia. Akhaltsikh (Akhaltskha in Armenian), where the studio was located, was predominantly an Armenian-populated city in Georgia’s southeast, close to the Turkish border. It had quite an affluent community famous for its production of jewelry and hand-woven lace. Akhaltsikh was also a major center of Armenian culture. It had a number of schools and colleges and was one of the first cities to have a permanent Armenian theatre, established in 1860. The city also attracted numerous musicians practicing traditional music. Many of the bards, such as Havasi, who lived and performed in Akhaltsikh have in time become icons of traditional music in Armenia and the Caucasus.

There were numerous photography studios in Akhaltsikh since at least the late 1860s. Practically all were run by Armenians and like jewelry making, photography was considered a family business, being passed from one generation to the next. Whether Borakchiev was an Armenian or not is not entirely clear. The surname stems from the Turkish word ‘börek’, which stands for a type of pastry made from thin, flaky dough. Hence, ‘Börak-chi’ means ‘börek-maker’ or simply, baker. The surname was russified with the addition of the suffix ‘iev’ – a popular trend amidst the photographers of the Caucasus trying to attract a multi-ethnic clientele.

It was customary amidst the Armenians, particularly those from the Ottoman Empire to adopt surnames from Turkish descriptions of their profession and append the Armenian suffix ‘yan’. Many are still in use today. Nevertheless, searching for the surname ‘Borakchiev’ did not produce significant results. It does not figure either in Armenian, Turkish or Azerbaijani surnames currently in use. While it is possible that our photographer was of Turkish or Azeri origin, it would be highly unlikely. There are very known Turkish photographers in the 19th century and not a single Azerbaijani one since the profession was generally frowned upon by the Muslim population well into the 1920s. Regardless of the photographer’s puzzling background, his name and place of activity give us an insight into the richly multicultural milieu of the Caucasus in which various ethnic traditions mingled and influenced each other to produce a truly unique cultural landscape.

But what of the woman? Obviously from a middle class family, her facial features are quite

Iran. Unknown artist. Woman playing tar. 1800-1830s. Oil, canvas. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

clearly Armenian. Her upright pose and forceful gaze hint at a personality that is strong and independent. There is a certain sense of pride with which she wields this instrument. The tar was a favorite amidst Armenian and Azerbaijani bards but women did not generally play it in the 19th century, unlike the ‘Qanun’ for example (a type of Middle Eastern zither). However, numerous depictions of women playing the tar can be found in Persian art and literature and the practice seemed to have existed in Armenia as well, albeit kept in the private domain of the house. Indeed, very little research has been done on women who might have performed music publicly in the Caucasus in the 19th century. Although the theatre stage was replete with actresses and singers, we don’t know of many female musicians as such, let alone ones that played traditional instruments.

With her slightly disheveled hair, pocket watch, stern European clothing and make-up free face, the ‘tar player’ of our photograph is unquestionably an emancipated individual who is (consciously or not) making a stand against traditional representations of women. She is fully in control of her image – presenting herself as both a modern creature in step with the times and someone who embraces her cultural legacy as an essential part of her identity. We don’t know whether she performed publicly. But as it sat on a mantelpiece or in a family album, this photograph afforded her, like so many other women in the 19th century, an opportunity to express her individuality for others to see.

The back of the photograph holds one more fascinating puzzle piece. A barely legible word in Armenian, handwritten in red ink seems to spell ‘Mozart’. It was perhaps inscribed in recognition of this unknown woman’s talent whose only trace remains embalmed in this tantalizing photograph.

Vigen Galstyan, 2015

Lusadaran’s third exhibition ‘Trouble in Paradise: Photography and constructions of femininity’ opens in Yerevan

July 17-31
HayArt Cultural Centre,
7a, Mashtots Avenue
Monday-Saturday
Opening 7-9pm, July 17

Nvard Yerkanyan. From the installation 'Round Table' 2014

“The feminine is a troublemaker, truly situated on the margins of play… Just at the right moment, a shift. A flick of the finger, or the ‘fin mot’, the heart of the matter. Never the ‘mot de la fin’, the final word.” Julia Kristeva, 1998

The exhibition “Trouble in Paradise” looks at the current perceptions of femininity in contemporary Armenian photography, represented here by the works of Svetlana Antonyan (Okean), Anush Babajanyan, Anna Davtyan, Vehanush Topchyan, Nvard Yerkanian and Nazik Armenakyan. These are accompanied by examples of 19th and 20th century commercial photography, which give a partial overview of the historical as well as international developments in the visual constructions of the feminine.

Svetlana Antonyan (Oceana). Untitled 2. 2014

In post-feminist vision of society and power, the disquieting and ‘troublesome’ aspects of femininity are often oppressed or relegated to daytime soap operas. Mass medias continuously exploit normative, sexualised images of femininity as a vital part of the ‘consumer paradise’. In this regard, photography has always been the medium most responsible for both, the commodification and the subversion of femininity as an object of visual (masculine) pleasure.

Anna Davtyan. From the series 'The Book of the Fox', 2011-13

It is also the space that makes the dialogue between the participating artists possible. Coming from different professional backgrounds, these practitioners are interested in the tensions produced by disruptive, ambiguous and contradictory aspects of femininity. They view it not as an aesthetic or a critically devalued construct, but an activity which can become a constructive force. Employing this transgressive and contradictory power, the artists place hegemonies in a state of tension and anxiety by playing with ubiquitous imagery drawn from television, cinema, painting, mythology and commerce.

In their works, archetypes of domestic, public, political, and natural spaces are disturbed and transformed into arenas of imagination, poetry, desire and play. Photography itself is fragmented in the process. It takes different forms (documentary, conceptual, performative, commercial and archival) that slip and spill out from conventional frameworks, while enabling novel ways of seeing and representing the real.

Anush Babajanyan. Tamara. 2008

Collectively, the close to fifty works exhibited here enter into an open-ended discussion regarding the performance of femininity and how it might be relevant to current thinking (by predominantly women artists) about identity, desire, gender and beyond.

“Trouble in Paradise” is the third exhibition organised in Armenia by the ‘Lusadaran’ Armenian Photography Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to the collection, study and preservation of Armenian as well as other marginal photographic histories. It also seeks to promote the medium within the sphere of contemporary arts in Armenia.

‘Trouble in Paradise: photography and constructions of femininity

This exhibition looks at the current perceptions of femininity in contemporary Armenian photography, represented here by the works of Svetlana Antonyan (Oceana), Anush Babajanyan, Anna Davtyan,Vehanush Topchyan, Nvard Yerkanian and Nazik Armenakyan. These are accompanied byexamples of 19th and 20th century commercial photography, which give a partial overview of the historical as well as international developments in the visual constructions of the feminine.

In post-feminist vision of society and power, the disquieting and ‘troublesome’ aspects of femininity are often oppressed or relegated to daytime soap operas. Mass medias continuously exploit normative, sexualised images of femininity as a vital part of the ‘consumer paradise’. In this regard, photography has always been the medium most responsible for both, the commodification and the subversion of femininity as an object of visual (masculine) pleasure.

Photography is also the space that makes the dialogue between the participating artists possible. Coming from different professional backgrounds, these practitioners are interested in the tensions produced by disruptive, ambiguous and contradictory facets of femininity. They view it not as an aesthetic or a critically devalued construct, but a transgressive activity which can become a constructive force.
Their works refer to ubiquitous imagery drawn from television, cinema, painting, fashion and commerce. Through various ‘feminine’ interventions, these archetypes of domestic, public, political, and natural spaces are disturbed and transformed into arenas of imagination, poetry and play.

Photography and femininity themselves become fragmented in the process, turning into multiple phenomena. Taking different forms they slip and spill out from conventional frameworks, while enabling novel ways of seeing and representing the real.
Collectively, the close to fifty works exhibited here enter into an open-ended discussion regarding the performance of femininities and how it might be relevant to current thinking (by predominantly women artists) about identity, desire, gender and beyond.
Vigen Galstyan
Curator
‘Lusadaran’ Armenian Photography Foundation

Samvel Saghatelyan’s ‘Transromance’

A BUTTERFLY DREAM

Can porn be innocent? Or sexual desire in general? And why do perverts dream of flowers? These are some of the questions that one encounters in Samvel Saghatelyan’s 2010-13 series Transromance. Each of the eleven mixed media ‘tableaux’ that make up the series, feature the artist clad in sadomasochistic leather gear and stockings, accompanied by a transgender person. The photographic image of this couple is printed, photocopied, collaged, drawn over by hand, pasted onto a cheap cardboard and then rubbed over for a patina effect.

Samvel Saghatelyan. From the series 'Transromance' 2012. Photocollage and mixed media

The sequence unfolds like a dream. The trans woman initially appears as a projection rising from the artist’s slumbering body. She then materialises as a more concrete being, posing alongside Saghatelyan as if in a family photo and finally helping him reach a firework-like climax. It’s a quasi-biblical narrative (which at one point takes place on the foot of Mount Ararat) seen through the unashamedly pornographic prism of phalocentric male narcissism. But the narrative here is problematised by its representation. Awkward and cartoonish, the childish execution undermines the troubling nature of sexuality which lies at the core of Transromance. Aggression dissipates under the layers of genteel flowers, rainbows, mountains, purple glitter and hearts. Taken as a whole, Transromance appears like pages from a middle-aged man’s wet dream in the form of a teenage girl’s personal diary.

This bawdy tone is typical of Saghatelyan’s practice since the mid 1990s and has become more prominent since his move to Los Angeles in 2002. One of the works from the 1996-2013 series Body, for example, depicts ghost-like phalluses rising out of the windows and doors of the Ejmiatsin Cathedral – the holiest of Armenian religious sites. Such brazen attacks on institutionalised value systems are representative of an artist who emerged during the period of Armenia’s transition from a Soviet to an independent state between 1988 and 1991

Chief amongst the many things placed on the operating table in Transromance is male sexuality and desire. Its grotesque space of power and domination is lampooned as a kitsch, masturbatory act. Literally so in two of the last images, where the male figure, named ‘Armenian King’ urinates and then jerks off over his submissive fantasy mistress. However, despite their open sarcasm, Saghatelyan’s images rethink the post-modernist arsenal of pastiche and parody. The artist complicates the use of such devices through the emotive, tender tone that floods the works. ‘I was thinking of Sayat-Nova while working on the series. It related to the kind of trance-like state where the simultaneous presence of the opposites creates a vague space of in-betweenness in which sexuality, images, feelings and perception are all ‘trans’.’(1)

 

Samvel Saghatelyan. From the series 'Transromance' 2012. Photocollage and mixed media

The reference to the 18th century Armenian bard Sayat-Nova is telling as Transromance clearly gestures towards Sergey Paradjanov’s 1969 film Colour of the Pomegranates. In the film, the poet was played by an actress (Sofiko Tchaureli) who also personified his love interest and muse. This duality is shared by Saghatelyan’s hero. The trans-woman and the male figure are clearly a part of the same body, shown at times like Siamese twins.

Their liaison is further complicated as the transgender character is represented by different persons of South-East Asian origin. In this ambiguous body of desire, sexuality is made fluid and paradoxical. Hyper-masculinity, hyper-femininity as well as ethnic stereotypes can be provocatively indulged in, because ultimately they are shown to be nothing more than ridiculously sentimental and co-dependent garbs. Like in a 19th century photography studio, the fun lies in the exchange and the performance during which new poetics of identity can be developed. This aspect is yet again reinforced by the aesthetic of the works where the compositions are constantly repeated and only their painted surfaces change, like skins or costumes. What the artist seeks in this liminal, transitory condition is the possibility for guiltless enjoyment and exploration.

Transromance is symptomatic of the kind of contemporary art, exemplified by international artists such as Catherine Opie, Jeff Koons and Patt Brassington, that has digested the lessons of psychoanalysis, post-structuralism and queer theory to go beyond critique. With impressive effortlessness, the series weaves through these terrains to reach back to a point of pleasure and emotion. As theorist Judith Butler has noted ‘to operate within the matrix of power is not the same as to replicate uncritically relations of domination.’ (2) It is this ‘knowingness’ that allows Saghatelyan to fearlessly play with problematic symbols, clichés and meta-narratives.

What we see in Transromance is a self-aware theatre of appearances in which art, body and desire shift-shape and morph by assuming a variety of interchangeable masks. By synthesising the aesthetics of family photographs, folk and naïf art, Saghatelyan makes evident the nature of images, identity and gender as a socio-cultural construct. But rather than negate these confines, Saghatelyan unfolds his game within them normalising and domesticating that which is repressed and derided. Rather than being merely clever, the images acquire their strength on the basis of their honesty. Recalling critic Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the ‘carnivalesque’ (3), Transromance utilises humour, confession and burlesque to create a productive space in which homogeneity, power and ideology are dissolved to give way to the romance of transformation.

Transromance was presented as a one day happening-event, which took place at the private apartment of film historian Shahane Yuzbachyan in Yerevan, Armenia on September 12, 2013. The show was organised with the assistance of ‘Lusadaran’ Armenian Photography Foundation.

Vigen Galstyan
curator, 2013

i) Conversation with the artist, Yerevan, 09.09.2013
ii) Judith Butler, Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, Routledge, New York, London, 1990, p 40
iii) See Mikhail Bakhtin, Rebelais and his world (1940), Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2009

This essay originally appeared in the booklet accompanying the exhibition.

Samvel Saghatelyan’s ‘Transromance’ takes on the domestic space in Yerevan

Sex and pornography are not innocent, but can they at least pretend to be so? These and other everyday questions are addressed in Samvel Saghatelyan’s exhibition ‘Transromance’, curated by Vigen Galstyan and opened at a private apartment in Yerevan on September 12, 2013 as a one-day event.

Composed of 11 mixed media photo-collages and one photocopy-collage, the series depicts the birth and development of a supra-male sexual fantasy.

Regarding body, gender and sexual desire as a cultural and political phenomenon, Saghatelyan attempts to find a small platform of pleasure and enjoyment in the cross-section of these issues. At this ambigous, liminal point, the abscence of clear positions and answers itself becomes a kind of a solution.

In the carnavalesque space of ‘Transromance’ power relations and sexual politics become masks – at once laughable, mutating, in a sense naive and in this particular game, always equal.

Referring to the underground and private apartment exhibitionս of the 1970s-80s Soviet period, the one-day presentation of ‘Transromance’ took place in a two bedroom flat in downtown Yerevan. Utilising this living environment, the exhibition transforms an ordinary domestic habitat into a laboratory of sexual myths.

The evening developed into a ‘happening’ as the over 100 visitors flooded in an out of the appartment until four am in the morning. Arthur Manukyan performed his renditions of Sayat-Nova on the guitar, conceptual artists put on impromptu performances and intellectuals took on the floor to give talks while guests debated the questions and ideas provoked by the show.

Սեքսն ու պոռնոգրաֆիան անմեղ չեն, բայց կարող են դրանք գոնե այդպես ձևանալ? Այս և այլ առօրյա հարցերին է անդրադառնում Սամվել Սաղաթելյանի ‘Տրանսռոմանս’ ցուցահանդեսը: Համադրված Վիգեն Գալստյանի կողմից, այն ներկայացվեց որպես մեկօրյա իրադարձություն, 2013 թվականի, սեպտեմբերի 12-ին, Երևանյան մի մասնավոր բնակարանում:

Կազմված իննը խառը տեխնիկայով արված ֆոտոկոլաժներից, շարքը պատկերում է գերտղամարդկային սեքսուալ մի ֆանտազմի զարգացումը:

Դիտարկելով մարմինը, գենդերը և սեռական ցանկության ‘ծնունդը’ որպես մշակույթային և քաղաքական երևույթ, Սաղաթելյանը փորձում է տվյալ խնդիրների հատման կետում գտնել հաճույքի և ազատության մի փոքրիկ հարթակ: Այս անորոշ, ապակողմնորշված և միջանկյալ կետում, հստակ դիրքորոշումների և պատասխանների բացակայությունը ինքնին ներկայանում է որպես լուծում: ‘Տրանսռոմանսի’ կառնավալային տարածության մեջ ուժային հարաբերությունները և սեռական քաղականությունը վերածված են դիմակների` միաժամանակ ծիծաղելի, փոփոխվող, ինչ որ առումով միամիտ և տվյալ խաղում` ընդմիշտ հավասարազոր:

Ակնարկելով սովետական շրջանի 1970-80 ականների ‘բնակարանային’, ընդհատակյա ցուցահանդեսները, ‘Տրանսռոմանսի’ մեկ օրյա ներկայացումը տեղի ունեցավ մասնավոր բնակարանում: Գործածելով այս ‘ապրող’ միջավայրը, ցուցահանդեսը վերծանում է կենցաղային տարածքը որպես սեքսուալ միֆերի լաբորատորիա:

Anna Khachatryan’s exhibition-event at ACCEA (NPAK), Yerevan

‘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.

VG