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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

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.

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

‘Industrial Symphony’ exhibition closes in Yerevan

Hayrapetian Anahit. Corridor. 'Metsamor' nuclear station. 2011. Winner of Lusadaran's 1st prize

Opening on the 3rd of December 2011, Lusadaran’s inaugural exhibition ‘Industrial symphony: photography and the post-industrial age’ has finished its run on the 27th of January 2012 at the Armenian Centre of Contemporary Experimental Arts in Yerevan.  Comprised of over 70 works by 19 contemporary Armenian photographers, the exhibition presented an overview of how perceptions and ideas about industry and labour have changed and evolved in the post-Soviet landscape through the medium of photography. A small selection of works by a classic of Armenian industrial photography, Hakob Hekekian, gave a retrospective and elucidating historical context to the images created in the last few years. Purposefully varied and expansive, the different trajectories and approaches  present in the show, also gave a rare insight into the multifarious state of contemporary Armenian photography.

The exhibition served as an opportunity to present Lusadaran’s first award for contemporary photography. Generously sponsored by the Armenian entrepreneur Vachagan Petrosyan, the main prize, to the value of 200 000 drams (approx. US $530) was presented to the work ‘Corridor. Metsamor nuclear station’ 2011 by Anahit Hayrapetyan. This acquisitive prize is one of the ways that Lusadaran aims to encourage contemporary art photography in Armenia and ensures that it is properly represented in the foundation’s collections. A second, non-acquisitive prize, was kindly initiated by the creator of the www.photo.am site, Art Ghazaryan. Valued at 100 000 drams, the prize was awarded to one of the youngest participants of the exhibition, the 23 year old Irina Grigoryan.

Critic, art historian Vardan Azatyan (Armenia) and film historian Chaga Yuzbachyan (France) presided over the jury. According to Mr Azatyan, the choice of a winner was extremely difficult due to the variety of approaches and general strength of all of the works. The selection of Anahit Hayrapetyan’s photograph was cemented by its dispassionately documentary yet conceptually rich and unexpected treatment of the subject matter. Ms Yuzbachyan also noted that they were impressed by the freshness and originality of Irina Grigoryan’s series ‘Gortsaranayin’, which stood out from the overall exhibition with its lyrical sensibility and vivid imagination.

A catalogue with an extensive essay and entries on all the participants is currently in preparation. The exhibition was also accompanied by a special film program called ‘The Dreaming Machine’ which looked at the theme of industry in cinema as it evolved from Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ (1925) to Duncan Jonse’s ‘Moon’ (2009). The program screened at ‘The Club’ café throughout December and was supported by Yerevan’s longest-running unofficial ‘cinematheque’ Art Film Gallery and its creator, Melik Karapetyan. ‘Industrial Symphony’ was generously sponsored by financial contributions from Vachagan Nazaryan and Hakob Grigoryan (Australia).

A first personal exhibition for Irina Grigoryan

A selection of works by the talented young photographer Irina Grigoryan will appear at a small group show in Yerevan ‘A Very Simple Exhibition’. The other participants of the show are printmakers Mariam Hakhnazaryan and Lilith Arshakyan who will exhibit graphic works.

Irina was one of the youngest photographers to be included in ‘Industrial Symphony: photography and the post-industrial age’ exhibition which is currently on view at ACCEA (NPAK) in Yerevan until January the 28th. Her series of small black and white photographs called ‘Gortsaranayin’, impressed the jury of this show, who awarded it the second prize given by ‘Lusadaran’ foundation of Armenian photography.

Grigoryan’s work has a special place in contemporary Armenian photography as she is one of the very few current practitioners who works with analog formats, printing all her work in the darkroom on gelatin silver paper. Typically for Grigoryan, the photographs included in ‘A Very Simple Exhibition’ explore ideas of childhood, femininity and memory.

The exhibition opened on the 27th of December at ‘Yellow Street’, Tumanyan 40-63 and will close on Friday, the 29th.

Kamo Nigaryan 1950-2011: The tragic demise of one of Armenia’s greatest contemporary artists.

Kamo Nigaryan, one of the pre-eminent contemporary artists working in Armenia passed away in Yerevan on December 23rd, 2011. The artist has been unwell for over a year but was on his way to recovery after an emergency surgery a month ago. His unexpected death was a severe blow not only to his family and friends but also the entire art world in Armenia where he was almost unanimously accepted as one of the great masters of post-Soviet Armenian art.

Nigaryan was mainly known for his disturbing neo-expressionist canvases that delved into the depths of human condition with a novelistic scale worthy of Kafka, Bulgakov and Dostoevsky. His photographic work, created during a short period in the 1990s and 2000s was a well kept secret and it was only in 2011 that Nigaryan agreed to exhibit these works at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan.

© Vigen Galstyan 2008

A tireless innovator, Nigaryan brought his unique brand of philosophical transcendence, conceptual rigour and ‘politicised’ aesthetics to the photographic image, constantly pushing and transforming the photograph beyond the limitations of the medium. Interested equally in the social and art historical dimensions of photography, Nigaryan sought to synthesise seemingly incompatible polarities between painting, photography and graphic design, in the same way he broached the artistic heritage of Western and Eastern worlds.

While he remained somewhat outside of the contemporary ‘scene’, Nigaryan was fully engaged with current movements and ideas, ensuring that his art was always immediate, relevant yet unflinching, objective and dispassionate. 

Lusadaran is currently planning a full retrospective of Nigaryan’s photographic works that will travel to a number of major international venues between 2013 and 2014.


Studio Osep: chronicler of Turkey’s pop culture

Studio Osep Book CoverThe life and work of one of Turkey’s most foremost photographers, Osep Minasoglu (Hovsep Minasyan) has become the subject of a major Turkish-English bilingual book published by Aras Publishing House in 2009. As a studio portraitist and stills photographer, Hovsep Minasyan’s work has a special place in the annals of Middle Eastern photography. Much like Van Leo in Cairo, Minasyan was able to articulate in visual terms the rapidly developing image of Turkish (or Istanbul) post-war popular culture. While the other great Turkish-Armenian photographer, Ara Guller focused on a Turkey that was quickly sinking into the past, Minasyan’s joyful and flamboyant imagery embraces the shifting context of Istanbul’s youth culture, music, cinema and increasingly westernised attitude to life.

Following is the press release from author Tayfun Serttaş’s website.

Advertising Still for a Turkish FilmStüdyo Osep brings into sharp relief Osep Minasoğlu’s 80 years long life and history of photography, one of the oldest living studio and set photographers of Turkey. As a product of almost ten years of research, undertaken by Tayfun Serttaş at Osep Minasoğlu’s archives, the book can also be read as the photographic encyclopaedia of Turkish republican history, with more than four hundred photographs it brings into light.

This work that reproduces Osep Minasoğlu’s 80 years of life memory and 60 years of work memory, is composed of three sections; Biography, Retrospective and Witness. A total of 406 visuals have been used in the book; 253 in the Biography section, and 153 in the Retrospective section. Apart from instances where a source is cited, all visuals are from the Osep Minasoğlu archive. All statements by Osep Minasoğlu in the biographical texts are quoted from the oral history work and transcripts from interviews carried out by the author of the book.

Publishing House : Aras Yayınclık
Book Languages : Turkish – English
ISBN : 978-605-5753-08-5
Edition Date : 344 pages, 1st edition, October 2009

The book is available for purchase from http://www.arasyayincilik.com/