Blind Dates Project

Public Programs

In conjunction to the making of the exhibition, and to inform the curatorial process, the following public discussions were organized at Pratt and other venues:

“What Image for the Death of the Witness?”

Thursday, February 3, 6:30 PM
A lecture by literary critic and cultural studies Professor Marc Nichanian, Sabanci University, Turkey
Pratt Manhattan Gallery
144 West 14th Street, 2nd Floor
Open and Free to the Public

What Image for the Death of the Witness?

Noted cultural thinker and literary critic Marc Nichanian is known for his incisive and thought-provoking views on Armenian literature, history and culture.  In his lecture at Pratt, Nichanian will analyze debates that have taken place in the last 35 years around the pos­sib­ility, legitimacy, and limits of “representation” as they relate to mass murders, con­centration camps and genocides.  The debates have been particularly harsh in France, where they have centered around filmmaker Claude Lanzmann’s (Shoah) seemingly iconoclastic views.   On this side of the Atlantic, Shoshona Felman shaped the expression “an event-without-a-witness,” and suggested that the image re-establishes the pos­sibility of witnessing, makes history pos­sible, and counters the will of the perpetrator. Others have more prudently argued that images have been circulating “in spite of all,” and require our attention. These debates provide us with a general background, an horizon of sorts. They cannot be understood without a jour­ney back to the core of the per­pe­trator’s will, without asking again and again: What remains of “us” once the witness has been killed in “us”? Is there any witnes­sing for the death of the witness? Are there images for that particular event?  It’s within this framework that we wonder: What then is an image? What image? Why images? Nichanian explores the passion for and fascination with the image, which are specific to the survivor. Image and survival are co-extensive and pave our way toward a comprehension of this strange exchange between “image” and “survival.”

Marc Nichanian was Professor of Armenian Studies at Columbia University from 1996 to 2007 and is currently Visiting Professor at Sabanci University, Istanbul, in the Department of Cultural Studies. As editor of the Armenian language series GAM, a philosophical review, he published six volumes from 1980 to 2005. His recent publications in French include La Perversion historiographique, Paris: Leo Scheer, 2006 (translated into English by Gil Anidjar, The Historiographic Perversion, New York: Columbia University, 2008), and a three-volume study, Entre l’art et le témoignage (Geneva: MétisPresse, 2006-2008), on Armenian literature in the 20th century, of which the first volume was already available in English: Writers of Disaster (London: Gomidas, 2002). He has translated Walter Benjamin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Jünger, Maurice Blanchot, Jean-Luc Nancy, among others, into Armenian.

Fifth in a series of public discussions “What Image for the Death of the Witness?” is organized in conjunction with the Blind Dates Project on view at Pratt Manhattan Gallery until February 12, 2011

Haunting (Hi)Stories

October 7, 2010, 6:30 to 8:30 PM
Alwan for the Arts
16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor (between Broad Street & Broadway)
Open and Free to the Public

What do the contemporary stories of forced circumcision and lost kinships within the intersecting histories of Armenians and Kurds; the intimate life of the Serb/Yugoslav epic poetry among some Slavic Muslims of Bosnia; the encounters with the ghost of an artist from Van who committed suicide in Connecticut, and the massive rescue efforts of an American philanthropic institution in the Near East have in common?

The end of the 20th century witnessed the collapse of three empires that was accompanied with the formation of new nation-states. The cases of Armenian catastrophe, Kurdish insurgence, and war in Bosnia provide us rich insights about the consequences of the violent collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the remnants of its vast human-geography.

This panel uncovers the sensory and/or imaginary attachments to the images, voices, and (hi)stories that do not neatly fit into the existing taxonomies of nation-states, art-historical canons, and definitions of identities they compel. It brings into light notions of belonging, modalities of remembering, and sense of displacement that exceed the regimes of truth or dominant modes of knowledge production, which existing grammar of politics leaves out. In other words, Haunting (Hi)Stories is an archipelago of sensibilities that nest at the verge of remembering and forgetting, truth and fiction, real and imaginary.

Fourth in a series of public discussions Haunting (Hi)Stories is organized in conjunction with the Blind Dates Project. Co-curated by Defne Ayas and Neery Melkonian the exhibition opens at
Pratt Manhattan Gallery on November 19, 2010

Aram Jibilian
, photographer and Director of Photography Archives at Pace Gallery/Gorky and the Glass House: My Collaboration with a Ghost
Ruken Sengul, Cultural Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin/
Phallic Divinations
Halide Velioglu, Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin/
Captivating verses, quoted selves: the Serb/Yugoslav epic and Bosniak sentiments
Jean Marie Casbarian, artist and Chair of the Studio Arts Program at Transart Institute/ (Under) Mining the Landscape: Reimagining the Near East Relief Archives

A writer, poet and photographer Amir Parsa is Director of Creative Education Projects at MoMA and visiting Associate Professor at Pratt Institute

Aram Jibilian:
Gorky and the Glass House: My Collaboration with a Ghost
For this panel, I will be discussing my project for Blind Dates which revolves around Arshile Gorky‘s history at the Glass House, his home in Sherman, Connecticut. In a New York Times article published in 2003, the current owner and resident of the home, Martha Clarke, discussed how the ghost of Gorky continues to live with her. When I, my collaborator, Aaron Mattocks, and the curators of this project met Ms. Clarke, she again recounted numerous stories of when she and guests were visited by his ghost. These stories serve as the point of departure for my proposed series of photographs for Blind Dates. Playing with the idea of Gorky having lived his life in an in-between state of exile, I seek to capture what his current in-between state might be.

I will discuss the nature of my three main collaborations: with Mr. Mattocks, who portrays Gorky in the images, with Ms. Clarke, who denied and then granted access to certain elements of her home, and of course with Gorky whose haunting spirit is the driving force of the project. I will also give a brief presentation of my earlier works, and show how they formally and conceptually led me to working with Gorky. Gorky‘s paintings and persona were created and viewed through layers of hidden truths and memories of a traumatic past; this captivates me.

In my recent work, including the Blind Dates Project, I use one of Gorky’s well-known paintings, The Artist and His Mother, ca.1926-36, to create a mask that is worn by me, my partner, and others. The mask brings up questions about the nature of performance, covering, truth, deception, facade, and inner vs. outer worlds. It is a separation device and a defense mechanism, but also the point of connection as many viewers are familiar with this wonderfully haunting gaze. I will share images of other artists that also inspired me to create the mask for Gorky and to photograph staged moments of his life, real and imagined.

Ruken Sengul:
Phallic Divinations
When asked once if the Armenians had any issues with the Kurds for their role in the genocide, Hrant Dink responded: ―No. We have become kirve with the Kurds‖. Why claim a kinship idiom to settle scores with regards to a most painful past? Widely known throughout Eastern Anatolia and Southern Caucasus, kirvelik designated a complex institution of fictive kinship established though ritual exchanges related to circumcision, baptism or marriage. Not only had it developed through the cultural contiguity and osmosis among different ethno-religious communities of this border region, but it also provided an effective medium to facilitate cohabitation through the communal divide. The historical heteroglossia of kirvelik was violently destroyed during the past century of Turkish state making. First, non-Muslim histories of the institution were foreclosed by the reduction of its ritual base to the sponsoring of Islamic male circumcision and the enclosure of its cultural geography to a Turkified Eastern Anatolia. This newly unambiguous kirvelik -as circumcision sponsorship- was, then, systematically pursued by the Turkish republican bureaucracy as a kin-modality of citizen-making in the Kurdish region. In this process, the politico-cultural semantics of circumcision also transformed. It became a privileged marker of Turkish identity, patriotic loyalty and masculine competence, rendering an uncircumcised phallus ever the more abject –an ambiguous source of threat against social and symbolic security and order.

My presentation explores this conflict-ridden transformation of the semantics of kirvelik and circumcision in relation to the intersecting geographies of Armenian and Kurdish issues. I first look at the politics of kinship and circumcision that have involved in the making of Turkish nation-state sovereignty from the fin-de-siecle Armenian massacres up until the contemporary Kurdish rebellion. I, then, explore the recent public reclamations of the idiom of kirvelik by contemporary Armenians and Kurds, focusing on the lost or marginalized histories and knowledges of self, identity and belonging they claim vis-a-vis the past and the shared visions of future that they plea for.

Halide Veliogu:
Captivating verses, quoted selves: the Serb/Yugoslav epic and Bosniak sentiments
The role epic poetry and its mythicized history had been playing in the Serb national consciousness for ages and especially in the preceding decade of the recent war in the former Yugoslavia have been widely discussed. In my talk, I will draw on the underestimated and mundane life of the Serb/Yugoslav epic poetry among some Slavic Muslims of Bosnia (Bosniak) that has escaped scholarly attention. This case study of an unframed and un-narrated habitual attachment to the epic poetry will broach Bosniaks‘ residual yet still vibrant peculiar relationship with the Ottoman legacy, drama of constitutive otherness, and Yugoslav sensibilities.

Jean Marie Casbarian
(Under) Mining the Landscape: Reimagining the Near East Relief Archives
We look for clarity in the archive. In its storage bank of image and information, we dig for proof in what was possibly erased through the act of forgetting. We attempt to weave visual representations of the past with oral stories and accounts in the hopes to (re)create a truth. Memories are retold; photographs are recontextualized and reinterpreted. Recollections are diluted, storytellers die and truth (or fiction) as seen through the photograph and moving image, is suddenly up for debate.

For this talk, I will address my current project for the Blind Dates exhibition in which I explore the Near East Foundation (NEF), one of the first philanthropic organizations to enlist aid in the way of orphanages during the Armenian catastrophe of 1915—an archive housed at the Rockefeller Archive Center in New York. I have held a discreet curiosity towards the images of the orphans and the complicated relationship they endowed to the NEF. However, as my relationship grew with these photographs, I find most curious those images that are the most ambiguous, leaving a trail of questions that surround the underlying intention of one‘s rescue—both in terms of those that are being rescued as well as those that are so deemed heroic in their relief efforts.

Along with my collaborator and historian, Nazan Maksudyan, an Armenian-Jew born and raised in Istanbul, I have set out to further complicate these notions. The enigmatic images of the archive coupled with the fragmented text of Nazan‘s family mythology, creates a space that exists somewhere between what is remembered and what is forgotten. The repositories of fact and fiction that dictate the way we shape and mold our memory are solely based on the who and the when and the where of interpretation. ―History,‖ as Nazan states, ―is not about the past but about the present—we (inevitably) look back from where we stand—it‘s always about our today.‖

Participant Bios:
Jean-Marie Casbarian incorporates photography, film and video projections, sound, sculpture and performance into her artworks. She received her MFA from Milton Avery School of Art at Bard College in New York and along with a nomination for the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, she has received a number of awards and artist residencies. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Currently, Jean-Marie is Chair of the Studio Arts Program at Transart Institute, a low-residency MFA program based in Berlin and New York City where she also teaches and mentors graduate students.

Aram Jibilian arrived in New York in 1998 to pursue a Masters of Art at New York University‘s Steinhardt School of Art and Arts Education. Just after his master‘s thesis exhibition in the spring of 2000, Aram was invited to show at 80 Washington Square East Galleries along with other selected artists who had graduated from N.Y.U. in the past ten years. He was invited back again in 2005 for the exhibition, Art Noise, Steinhardt Alumni. In 2004, his work was selected by artists Jack Pierson and Cindy Sherman to be part of a group show of emerging artists that took place at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York City. This fall he will be exhibiting at the Pratt Manhattan Galleries as part of the Blind Dates Project. Aram currently works as the Director of Photography Archives at The Pace Gallery as he continues to exhibit throughout the city.

Amir Parsa is the author of Kobolierrot, Tractatüus Philosophiká-Poeticüus, the multilingual L’opéra minora, Feu L’encre – Fable, among other works. In 2006, Editions Caractères in Paris published three of his ‗atomic‘ books, Dîvân, Sil & anses and Erre, and Drive-by Cannibalism in the Baroque Tradition was published in NY. His literary oeuvre – written in English, French and Persian – constitutes a radical polyphonic enterprise that puts into question national, cultural and aesthetic attachments while fashioning new genres, forms and even species of literary artifacts. Works have been read, performed, presented and debated in galleries and museums, in streets and on rooftops, at festivals and gatherings, in hiding and in broad daylight. As an educator and art theorist/practitioner, he has developed and implemented programs for diverse audiences at MoMA, and has lectured on a wide range of topics in modern and contemporary art at MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other museums and institutions across North America and around the world. He is currently the Director of the MoMA Alzheimer‘s Project and a Visiting Associate Professor at Pratt Institute.

S. Ruken Sengul: Born in Diyarbakir, Turkey. After studying Political Science and International relations and Sociology in Turkey, she moved to the United States to extend her graduate studies in Cultural Anthropology. She joined the human rights movement in Turkey in the mid-1990 wherein she conducted extensive research and advocacy work on the Kurdish issue, forced displacement, freedom of expression and gendered violence. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, writing her dissertation tentatively entitled ―Broken Histories inside Restored Walls: The Social Life of Kurdishness in Urban Diyarbakir‖i.

Halide Velioglu: Born in Macedonia, Yugoslavia. Daughter of a Bosnian family which migrated to Turkey in 1966, Velioglu attended medical school (Marmara University) and studied Sociology (Bogazici University) in Istanbul. Former member of the Bogazici Women Group and one of the founding editors of the bimonthly literature and culture periodical, Hayalet Gemi she is a Doctoral candidate of Anthropology (University of Texas at Austin) and has done an ethnographic research on the public sentiments and daily lives of Bosniaks in Sarajevo.

Re-visiting the Ottoman Legacy

Tuesday June 15, 6:30 PM
Pratt Institute

A Seminar Free and Open to the Public
144 West 14th St. NYC
Ph: 212-647-7778

Hakan Topal, Building Blocks (detail), 2010

Xurban Collective
Building Block (detail) , 2010
Courtesy of the artist

Re-visiting the Ottoman Legacy
Third in a series of public discussions organized in conjunction with the making of the Blind Dates exhibition, which opens at Pratt Institute’s Manhattan Gallery in November 2010, this open seminar brings together two of the participating artists with two scholars to reflect upon the impact of the Ottoman Empire’s breakup on the peoples, cultures and places within a territory that once engulfed much of the Middle East and North Africa, the Black Sea and the Caucasus regions and parts of Europe. Focusing on what remains of the diversity within the Empire’s Anatolian region, this seminar aims to unpack the notion of the ‘Ottoman Legacy’ by questioning some of the myths or fixed narratives that come with even naming it as such. More specifically it contemplates the following topics: What were the principle mechanisms by which the empire governed and maintained control for more than six hundred years? Could the empire be considered as an informer of Western colonization to come in the region? What are some of the positive contributions it made to European or World culture? How has the Empire’s abrupt and violent reformulation into a nation-state affected the linguistic, ethnic, religious, political and other ‘minorities’ in modern Turkey? Can what remains of Ottoman times be re-imagined without resorting to nostalgia? How do Blind Dates artists mediate the lingering effects of the empire’s unresolved legacy on contemporary life?

Christine Philliou, Assistant Professor History Department, Columbia University
Ottoman Legacy in the Social and Political Imaginations of the 21st Century
I plan to provide some thoughts on the longevity and mutability of Ottoman governance, the place of “minorities” in the Ottoman power structure at different points in time, and the many ways the “Ottoman Legacy” does and does not fit the social and political imaginations of the 21st century. In trying to transcend the Orientalist paradigms that have dominated Ottoman studies in the past, I would also like to discuss the competing visions of violence/backwardness and tolerance/cosmopolitanism that come into play as we try to define the Ottoman past today. Finally, I would like to address the question of who “we” are–disinterested scholars and/or descendants of Ottoman subjects.

Lerna Ekmecioglu: Recent PhD, NYU History and Middle Eastern/Islamic Studies
Ottoman Armenians, Turkish Armenians: Re-fashioning of Self and Identification
This paper discusses the ways in which Armenians who have experienced the transformation from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic wrote about themselves within their newly found “Turkishness.” When did the Armenian “minority” community, as we understand it today, come into being and how did it transform itself during the Turkish republican history? In order to explore this question, I focus on a turn-of-the-century historical actor and a present day scholar. The former, Hayganoush Mark was a prominent Armenian feminist journalist who managed to uninterruptedly continue a woman’s journal, Hay Gin, from 1919 to 1933 in Bolis/Istanbul. My paper details Mark’s life story and especially her understanding and representation of “being Armenian in Turkey.” I will also reflect upon myself, a Turkish Armenian feminist who has devoted approximately one third of her life to study Armenian intellectuals in 1920s Turkey – a period where “those who stayed” despite all odds had to craft a novel communal ‘ethnic-minority’ identity. I will interweave the narratives of those who survived the genocide with those who experience its continued denial today.

Hakan Topal with Xurban Collective
Building Block , 2010
A geological survey in Anatolia

Any curious observer strolling through the Anatolian landscape may notice many “abandoned” villages. Without any historical data, it would be hard to guess the time-period of their occupation, the exact evacuation date, reasons why people left, how and where they went, what they did before and after. They are the silent testimonies to a troubled history, dating back centuries, or as recently as a decade, involving ancient residents of the land, namely Armenians, Greeks, Kurds, Arabs, and sometimes even Turkic-Muslim sects. The villages all have ancient names and histories that have been repressed and outright changed by the authorities, but nevertheless remembered vaguely by a living few, old enough to confuse myth with history. Through fog, the violence of being uprooted from homeland connotes a heroic instance for the new owner. Nobody wants to admit that their grandfathers were vicious butchers, a greedy bunch with their eyes on someone else’s land and property. This is what the nation-state is trained in, i.e. mobilizing the local mob and making accomplices out of people happy to accrue petty fame and financial gain by inciting nationalist-religious fervor. Xurban collective’s proposal for Blind Dates entails a geological survey based on the ‘cornerstones’ of homes found in Anatolian villages today. All these ruins, semi-infused to the earth, covered by plants, present a calming site with the endless chanting of bugs and birds. Now, these villages are left alone by themselves as they are not considered “archaeologically important” – decaying without a note, or any fence, like bastards of a historically important landscape [Mesopotamia-Anatolia-Balkans].

Hrayr Anmahouni Eulmessekian
Solemnity (detail), 2010
Courtesy of the artist

Hrayr Anmahouni Eulmessekian with Anahid Kassabian
Solemnity, 2010
Wall sculpture with video projection over mini speakers

Solemnity is an audio-visual critique of the elaborate re-creations of ‘trauma’ and ‘atrocity’ in documentary-like verisimilitude, or of an embellished sense of authenticity that pretends to foster fantasies of witnessing, of suffering in the present, and of understanding. In its resistance to a ‘documentary access’ to the past, and through the immediate or visceral illusions of re-presentations in the archive, rather than claiming to display the representation of trauma, Solemnity seeks to highlight the trauma of re-presentation itself when the past is in oblique ruins. Conceived specially for Blind Dates, the work aspires to create a new subject position where only ‘bare humanity’ can be recovered, and hence ‘mourned for’ in solemnity, in compassion, and “tebi gyank” (toward life), as writer/literary critic Vahe Oshagan had proposed.

Respondent: Nadia Awad, visual artist

Participant Bios:
Nadia Awad is a Brooklyn based visual artist whose work explores the way meaning is generated through language, especially in historical narratives, material culture, and news media. Recent work includes a video series – School, Court, and Demonstration. Shot in a cinema-verite style in Yaffa, Ramallah, and Petah Tikva, the series subtly underscores the theatrical and performative aspects of ‘citizenship’ within a state. This series can be viewed on vimeo at Her work has been shown at the Apache Café, Bushwick Open Studios, the Samuel J. Sacks Gallery, and Iraqi Civilian Memorial Project at the Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery. She grew up in Florida.

Hrayr Anmahouni Eulmessekian (b. Lebanon) a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, Eulmessakian employs film, video, silkscreen, photography and painting to interrogate the nature of representation, subjectivity, language, identity and history as constructs, For Blind Dates he is collaborating with Anahid Kassabian (U.S.) the James and Constance Alsop Chair of Music at the University of Liverpool, England. Her research, teaching and publication focus includes ubiquitous music, sound, and moving images; music and new technologies, especially games, virtual worlds, and pervasive computing, often drawing on feminist and postcolonial theories.

Lerna Ekmekcioglu has recently completed her PhD at NYU, joint program of History and Middle Eastern/Islamic Studies. Her dissertation is entitled “Improvising Turkishness: Being Armenian in Post-Ottoman Istanbul, 1918-1933.” Next year, she will be a Simone Manoogian postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, Armenian Studies Program. In 2006, together with Melissa Bilal she edited a book in Turkish, Bir Adalet Feryadı, Osmanlı’dan Cumhuriyet’e Beş Ermeni Feminist Yazar (1862-1933), [A Cry for Justice: Five Armenian Feminist Writers from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic (1862-1933)]. She is interested in empires, ethnic difference, questions of tolerance, nation-state and gendered conceptions and consequences of all of the above.

Christine Philliou is an assistant professor at the department of History at Columbia University. Philliou specializes in the political and social history of the Ottoman Empire, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her forthcoming book, Biography of an Empire: Governing Ottomans in an Age of Revolution (University of California Press, Fall 2010) examines the changes in Ottoman governance leading up to the Tanzimat reforms of the mid-nineteenth century, using the vantage point of Phanariots, an Orthodox Christian elite that was intimately involved in the day-to-day work of governance even though structurally excluded from the Ottoman state. She has also written on the Ottoman legacy in the Middle East and Balkans today.

Hakan Topal (aka Imam@xurban_collective) is an artist and scholar living and working in New York. As co founder of xurban_collective he works with Guven Incirlioglu (aka Pope). Since 2000, xurban_collective projects have taken the form of media projects and installations. Its mission is to instigate the questioning, examination, and discussion of contemporary politics, theory, and ideology utilizing documentary photography, video, and text. The collective focuses specifically on areas of regional conflicts, military spatial confinement, urban segregation and “neo-liberal” exclusion strategies. The collective has exhibited internationally including the 49th Venice Biennial (2001); 8th International Istanbul Biennial (2003); PS1/MoMA (2005); Apexart (2004); Exitart (2005) and ZKM – Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2004).

Remains Connected

Tuesday, May 11, 6:30
Pratt Manhattan Gallery
144 West 14th St.
(212) 647-7778

Remains Connected Panel

A conversation between architects Silva Ajemian and Aslihan Demirtas, moderated
by experimental architect and theorist Lebbeus Woods

At Ani, a bridge once connected the two banks of the Akhurian/Arpacay River. Today, of the now collapsed bridge, only the abutments on the two sides of the river remain, one in Turkey and the other in Armenia. As the remains of the bridge exist in two territories, Ani exists in two worlds, at once an important historic Armenian capital and an archeological ruin in a military zone in Turkey at the border with Armenia.

Two architects are seduced by the collapsed bridge. Their project consists of a series of visual, graphic and tectonic ‘conversations’ set up to investigate and interpret the multiple existences of Ani, the river and its disconnected bridge. These start by revealing the lenticular existence of the place which then interweave the resulting existences, references and projections. New York based architects and designers Silva Ajemian and Aslihan Demirtas offer us two stories, two forecasts. As they bridge from their respective approaches they seek to interleave insights and articulate nested architectural and geographic narratives to create illusions of simultaneity and unfold possible realities.

Remains Connected is the second in a series of public discussions organized in conjunction with the Blind Dates curatorial project which opens at Pratt Manhattan Gallery in November, 2010.

About the Participants:
Lebbeus Woods
(b. 1940 in Lansing, Michigan) has concentrated on theory and experimental work since 1976. He is the co-Founder and Scientific Director of, an institute devoted to the advancement of experimental architectural thought and practice. His most recent books are Radical Reconstruction (Princeton Architectural Press, 1997), The Storm and The Fall (Princeton Architectural Press, 2003), and System Wien (Hatje Cantz/MAK, 2005). He is a recipient of the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design and his works are in public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Cooper–Hewitt National Design Museum; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, Paris; the Austrian Museum of Applied Art, Vienna; the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Getty Research Institute for the Arts and Humanities. Lebbeus Woods holds the position that architecture and war are in a certain sense identical, and that architecture is inherently political. An explicitly political goal of his highly conceptual work is the instantiation of the conflict between past and future in shared spaces. One of the most striking examples of his work is his project on a possible future for the Korean De-militarized Zone. Conflict and crisis are the forces within which the architectural forms of Lebbeus Woods take shape. Lines and directions are traced out of a sheer will to create a new space from the broken forms that are left, for instance in the wake of the war in Bosnia.

Silva Ajemian grew up in Lebanon and moved to New York City in 1996. She holds a Master of Architecture degree and a Bachelor of Environmental Design Studies from Dalhousie University, Canada. She has been practicing Architecture since 1996 and has worked with Michael Sorkin and Vito Acconci. Recipient of the Rosetti Scholarship she documented the architecture of public markets in London, and with a CIDA travel grant she worked on low cost and sustainable housing projects for local communities in Tumaco, Colombia, published by Tuns Press. With her partner, Jorge Prado, she founded todo design in 2003, a multi disciplinary practice encompassing urban, architecture, furniture and graphic design Their approach is simple: treat each project as a provocation. The resulting expression in material, spatial and philosophical terms aims always for the same result, to raise awareness of our surroundings, our interactions with it and its impact on us. Silva has taught architectural design at Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute in Mumbai, and at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Currently she is an adjunct professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, School of Architecture and a visiting critic at Pratt Institute, NYIT and Cornell University.

Aslihan Demirtas holds a Master of Science in Architectural Studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Architecture from the Middle East Technical University, Turkey. She is a practicing architect since 1991 and has worked with I.M. Pei, as his lead designer for international projects such as the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha,Qatar. In 2007, she established her own practice in New York where she is working on local and international projects and has collaborated with IM Pei on a chapel project in Kyoto, Japan. As part of her research, Aslihan Demirtas has been studying architecture as a wider interdisciplinary understanding of building activity inclusive of landscape and infrastructure and ecology. Her research has been generously supported by the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture. She has published articles in journals and chapters in books by MIT Press, Bauhaus and Harvard Press. Aslihan Demirtas is currently teaching design studio at Parsons School of Constructed Environments where she runs collaborative design projects with non-profit community groups. She has taught at Fordham University and MIT and has lectured at GSD at Harvard University and Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany

Cultural Translatability

May 27-29, 2010
2010 Hrant Dink Memorial Workshop
Silenced but Resilient:
Language and Memory in Anatolia and Neighboring Regions
Sabancı University
 in collaboration with Anadolu Kültür

Chair: Hülya Adak (Sabancı University)
Discussant: Şenay Özden (Koç University)
Defne Ayas
(Blind Dates Project) Blind Dates: Challenges and Troves of a Curatorial Process;
David Kazanjian (University of Pennsylvania) Kinships Past, Kinship’s Futures;
Ruken Şengül (The University of Texas at Austin)- Lost in Translation, Or Found? Contesting Kinship, Community and State in the East through the Institution of Kirvelik

Becoming a Diasporic Cluster: Surviving the Legacy of a Catastrophe, Consolidating Utterances across Time and Space

Panel Moderator: Neery Melkonian, independent critic/curator, NYC
March 17-21, 2010
Brown University
Organized by Erik Ehn
Part of the Arts in the One World conference

Arts in the One World Banner Image

Panel Abstract:
In their critique of mainstream portrayal of Africa/Africans as an unending site/sign of victimhood contemporary artists and cultural producers – such as Clive van den Berg, Okwui Enwezor and Alfredo Jaar - continue to offer us counter narratives in hope of altering perceptions or reversing the repetitive affects of such representations.

Similarly, in their attempt to unpack the complex web of writing the (art) history of Lebanon in the aftermath of a protracted civil war, the works of Jallal Toufic and Walid Raad remind us of the failure inherent within linear models or the fault-lines of neo-liberal aspirations.

But what if one’s group identification has disappeared from headlines for generations and no longer appears in mainstream or alternative discourses? Do invisibility and smallness then become a curse or a blessing, say, in dealing with the politics of (genocide) denial/recognition and the trappings of negation/affirmation? Could there be some merits to slow-time and deferral or, is it too late to counteract illimitable loss, particularly in dispersion? What are some of the blind-spots of post colonial critiques? How does one address a blank or the illegibility of the other? When excavating pasts is not a given-enterprise what links them to the present, without hyper-marginalization or hyper-visibility? Since the current transnational moment requires reconfiguration of traditional paradigms, and constructs such as house/home/homelands, how does one formulate consequential articulations or carve out critical space that bypass individual concerns and collective clichés?

Becoming a Diasporic Cluster explores issues outlined above as they relate to contemporary Armenian identity, culture, artistic practice and building communities.

Panel Presentations and Participants:
Waiting for Tables
Nancy Agabian, Writer/Poet

Post Contextual Abstraction: Life after hyper contextualization
Hrayr Anmahouni Eulmessekian, Artist

Remains Connected
Silva Ajemian and Aslihan Demirtas, Architects/Designers

Public Memory/Private Memory: Sifting through the invisible
Jean Marie Casbarian, Artist

Dorit Cypis, Artist based in Los Angeles; Director, Foreign Exchanges; Chair, Mediators Beyond Borders: Middle East Initiative

With Brooklyn based artist/filmmaker Nadia Awaad

Loss and Melancholic Possibilities:
Challenging the Interdiction of Mourning through Art

Blind Dates Inaugural Panel Program
Friday, November 13, 2009
Pratt Manhattan
6:30 to 8:30 PM

Video Recordings of Blind Dates Inaugural Panel

Loss and Melancholic Possibilities Opening Remarks
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Loss and Melancholic Possibilities:
Challenging the Interdiction of Mourning through Art

If melancholia names an active and ongoing relationship to illimitable loss—rather than a compulsive, polemical repetition of the familiar—then how might that relationship prompt us today to unprecedented encounters? If catastrophe estranges us from what we thought we knew of ourselves, then how might self-estrangement become an occasion to face—rather than to repress, suppress, assimilate, or annihilate—the other? If the past is in ruins, how might those ruins occasion a transformation of terrain rather than a tragic reparation or a romantic restoration? If the interdiction of mourning persists, what kind of loss is at risk? If shame and guilt have no pause, how can art intervene? If visibility breaks silence, what affect might invisibility promise?

6:30 – 6:45:
Welcoming Remarks
Nick Battis, Artist, Director of Exhibitions, Pratt Manhattan

Neery Melkonian and Defne Ayas, Co-curators of Blind Dates

6:45 – 8:00:
Linda Ganjian with Elif Uras, Visual Artists, New York and Istanbul
Untitled: Fountain

Ahmet Ogut with Nina Katchadourian, Conceptual Artists, Amsterdam and New York

Ayse Gul Altinay, Anthropologist, Sabanci University, Istanbul
Postnational Melancholic Exchanges in Contemporary Turkey

David Kazanjian, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania
Kinships Past, Kinship’s Futures

Aleksandra Wagner, Psychoanalyst and Professor of Sociology, The New School, New York
Word Matters

8:00 – 8:30:
Discussion followed by Q&A

Participant Bios:
Ayşe Gül Altınay received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University and has been teaching at Sabancı University since 2001. Her research and writing have focused on militarism, nationalism, violence, gender, and sexuality. She is the author of The Myth of the Military-Nation: Militarism, Gender and Education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); co-author of Violence Against Women in Turkey: A Nationwide Survey (with Yeşim Arat, Punto, 2009; işte böyle güzelim… (based on women’s narratives of sexualities, with Hülya Adak, Esin Düzel and Nilgün Bayraktar, Sel, 2008), and Torunlar (based on Muslim grandchildren’s narratives of their converted Armenian grandparents, with Fethiye Çetin, Metis, 2009); and editor of Vatan, Millet, Kadınlar (Iletişim, 2000/2004) and Ebru: Reflections on Cultural Diversity in Turkey, a photography project by Attila Durak (Metis, 2007.  Her co-authored book with Yeşim Arat, Türkiye’de Kadına Yönelik Şiddet (Violence Against Women in Turkey) was awarded the 2008 PEN Duygu Asena Award.

Linda Ganjian, with a family originally from Turkey, is an Armenian American artist who specializes in multimedia works, particularly sculptural installations. Her work blends Western and West Asian aesthetics to create vivid images that appear couched in childhood experience and decorative exuberance. Ganjian was born in 1970 in Brighton, Massachusetts, and raised in the suburbs of Boston. She received her B.A. (with a major in painting) from Bard College in 1992 and her M.F.A. from Hunter College CUNY in 1998.

David Kazanjian received his Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, his M.A. from the University of Sussex, and his B.A. from Stanford University. His area of specialization is transnational American literary and historical studies through the nineteenth century. His additional fields of research are political philosophy, continental philosophy, colonial discourse studies, and Armenian diaspora studies. His book The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America (Minnesota, 2003) offers a comparative study of colonial and antebellum, racial and national formations, and a critique of the formal egalitarianism that animated early U.S. citizenship. He has co-edited (with David L. Eng) Loss: The Politics of Mourning (California, 2003), as well as (with Shay Brawn, Bonnie Dow, Lisa Maria Hogeland, Mary Klages, Deb Meem, and Rhonda Pettit) The Aunt Lute Anthology of U.S. Women Writers, Volume One: Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries (Aunt Lute Books, 2004). He has also published widely (with Anahid Kassabian) on the cultural politics of the North American-Armenian diaspora. He is currently working on The Brink of Freedom, a study of social movements at the edges of the early U.S. empire.

Nina Katchadourian is an artist of Swedish-Finnish and Turkish- Armenian-Lebanese heritage who engages issues of geography and identity in her artworks. Nina Katchadourian’s wide-ranging, inventive conceptual practice encompasses sculpture, photography, video, sound, and public projects in which she highlights and  alters familiar systems with unlikely observations, interventions  and “improvements,” resulting in irreverent, memorable works that  are at once philosophical and accessible.  Katchadourian was born in Stanford, California, and lives and works in Brooklyn. She received a BA from Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island (1989); an MFA from the University of California, San Diego (1993); and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program (1996).

Born in 1981, Ahmet Ogut currently lives and works between Istanbul and Amsterdam.  Until the age of 17, Ogut had not ventured beyond the region surrounding Diyarbakir in the East of Turkey, the city of his birth. It was only then that he traveled to Ankara to study painting and illustration for four years at Hacettepe University.  Ahmet Ogut uses his candid irony to reference specific issues important to him as a Kurd living and working in Turkey, while at the same time picking up on similar ambiguities present at any threshold which exists between two cultures. Ogut’s diverse practice in various media also consists of collaborations with other artists. The most successful of these has been Coloring Book, produced with Sener Ozmen in 2004. The book contains a series of line drawn scenes adapted from childhood memory. Each one references complex topics mainly related to the Kurdish, Turkish relationship such as religion, small town mentality, immigration and the image of Ataturk as a national symbol. These pages perhaps best represent Ogut’s practice literally –because although images, scenes and thoughts are out- lined in the work, Drawing Book is essentially a blank canvas, gamely waiting to be colored in, added to, modified, or scribbled out.

Born in Ankara, Turkey, and educated in the northeastern United States, the painter Elif Uras has recently seized on the buzzword Occidentalism — a retort to Edward Said’s Orientalism. Her new  ceramics combine scenes of Western upper-class leisure with the nature-inspired motifs of Ottoman art. Her vases are produced in Turkey with the help of artists at the Iznik Foundation, and exude a mysterious hybrid of Eastern and Western sensuality.

Aleksandra Wagner received her BA in Musicology and BA in Literature and Philosophy from the University of Sarajevo, a PhD in Sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center, and psychoanalytic training from the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, New York City. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at The New School and works as a psychoanalyst in private practice. A member of the Editorial Board of The Psychoanalytic Review and an Editorial Reader for The International Forum for Psychoanalysis, Aleksandra has been a columnist for the cultural magazine Razgledi, Ljubljana, Slovenia, and for the architectural journal, Covjek I Prostor, Zagreb, Croatia. She was an Executive Editor for the Edinburgh International Encyclopaedia of Psychoanalysis (Edinburgh University Press, 2006), editor of the special issue of Cabinet, on shame (2008), and of the book, Considering Forgiveness, publication of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School (with Carin Kuoni, 2009). She is the translator of War and Architecture (by Lebbeus Woods, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993), and of Sarajevo Survival Guide (by Miroslav Prstojevic, FAMA, 1994).

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