Blind Dates Project

News

29.11.2012

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Of Friends and Mentors…

What determines which individuals become companions and which serve as inspiration? That friends can offer the same insight over and over yet it takes a stranger’s assertion before one hears the validity of the words? Individuals who trust in strength beyond their own limitations carry that passion forward into their own endeavors. We admire them for this and give them our attention in return. Sometimes affection clouds the boundaries of that admiration; we are after all human – beings who care – but that is a longer, more complicated discussion. What I recognize today is a subtle (un)silencing: the permission …no, the imperative to speak!

I recently participated in a conference in Yerevan, Armenia that addressed strategies of uncovering repressed histories, triggering tensions among the conference participants themselves. The final panel discussion ended in a heated debate over the legitimacy of narrating a story – who has the right to speak of suffering? Can the fiction-writing novelist relay a history that s/he has not directly experienced? Or, on the other hand, does the personal experience of one have any relevancy to the broader perspective of many? The argument became so contested that I thought it might end in blows when the essayist and novelist Amitav Ghosh stood and said calmly: …from tension comes creativity!

by Kathleen MacQueen

Click here to read the full text.

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20.10.2012

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The award-winning author speaks with Emily Mkrtichian about why he loves to write fiction and talk politics, and how nationalism fuels climate change.

In October, international novelist and essayist Amitav Ghosh, whose works include The Hungry TideSea of Poppies, and Incendiary Circumstances, delivered the keynote address at a conference in Yerevan, Armenia. The event was put on by the Blind Dates project, a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary curatorial project examining the modern formations and remains of what was once the Ottoman Empire. Surprisingly, Ghosh’s current work fits nicely into this topic; the author is translating the memoirs of two Indian soldiers who were prisoners in Ottoman lands during WWI. As Ghosh explains, he was drawn to these texts both because of their obscurity as well as their lucid predictions of our current environmental and political moment. For Ghosh, these texts open up the question of nationalism in a way that is even more important 100 years later. In our interview, he traces this legacy of nationalism from the prison camps of WWI, to the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent, to the current violence in Syria, and finally to what he sees as the largest threat to ever face the human race: climate change.
Emily Mkrtichian for Guernica

Click here to read the interview.

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25.10.2012

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Internationally renowned novelist Amitav Ghosh, talks about the value of writing and reflects on environmental concerns. The famous novelist is the keynote speaker for the Strategies of (Un)silencing Conference held in Yerevan, Armenia on October 26-27.

Source

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 25.10.2012

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Writer and time

The appeal of the modern literature to readers is discussed with the guest of the program – the modern Indian writer Amitav Ghosh.

Click to listen

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27.10.2012

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 «Ժամանակակից հերոսը հակահերոսն է»

Հայերիս համար Հնդկաստանը, թերևս, նախ` հնդկական փիլիսոփայությունն է, ապա` 1913թ. գրականության Նոբելյան մրցանակակիր Ռաբինդրանատ Թագորը ևգ հնդկական ֆիլմերը: Ժամանակակից հնդիկ գրողների մասին պատկերացում գրեթե չունենք, քանի որ նրանց գործերը հայերենով թարգմանված չեն:

Այս օրերին Երևանում է միջազգային համբավ ունեցող հնդիկ գրող Ամիտավ Գոշը: Նրա ամենահայտնի գործերից են «Կակաչների ծովը» և «Ծխի գետը», որոնք արժանացել են միջազգային գրական մրցանակների Հնդկաստանում, Գերմանիայում, ԱՄՆ-ում, Մեծ Բրիտանիայում, Ֆրանսիայում: Ամիտավ Գոշըբնակվում է ԱՄՆ-ում և գրում է անգլերեն լեզվով:

Կարդալ շարունակությունն այստեղ

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17.10.2012

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Blind Dates Project presents STRATEGIES OF (UN)SILENCING

SoUS seeks to explore the intersections among artistic practice, literature, and ethics/law. By identifying overarching themes that have been marginalized across time and place, the aim is to loosen the knots of repressed memories, silenced (hi)stories, and unresolved sentiments/perceptions associated with dominant narratives that are sustained by oppositional paradigms. As continuation of a series of discussions that began in context of a New York–based curatorial undertaking titled Blind Dates: New Encounters from the Edges of a Former Empire, the conference will examine what ‘remains’ of the human geography that once constituted the vast Ottoman territory. While also inviting comparisons/contrasts in tackling the ‘residues’ of similar or parallel ruptures, including those involving the Soviet regime and the Cold War. New discursive cartographies based on shared affinities among the incongruent or the fragmented will be considered, as well as accounts of unities that do not resort to uniformity.

Click here to read the full text.

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06.06.2011

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Kinships Past, Kinship’s Futures

Editor’s note: Versions of this paper were presented on November 13, 2010 at the Pratt Institute in New York during a panel organized by the Blind Dates Project, and on May 29, 2010 at the Hrant Dink Memorial Workshop in Istanbul.

As we gather here this weekend in Istanbul, at the “Hrant Dink Memorial Workshop,” we find ourselves balancing perilously between two meanings of the word “memorial”: first, the remembrance of a past, in this case a past that was rich and brilliant but that ended so violently; and second, the preservation of a memory for the future, a memory that we are asked to carry on, sustain, enliven, and reanimate so that it may live in ways we are in the very process of crafting this weekend, and presumably well beyond this weekend. This remembrance of a past and this memory for the future could be of Hrant Dink the man, as well as Hrant Dink the work, which were and continue to be at once political and textual. But we know too that this remembrance of a past and this memory for the future also reach farther back than Hrant Dink the man or Hrant Dink the work, and in turn that they gesture toward a future that also exceeds what he represents and how he represented it. Indeed, the workshop organizers describe their task here in just these terms: “While not trivializing historical and contemporary experiences of conflict and violence, Hrant Dink Memorial Workshops seek to explore untold or silenced stories as well as obscured structures of empathy, interaction, and interdependence…” [1] So, as participants in this year’s Memorial Workshop, as memorialists, we find ourselves balancing perilously between the remembrance of recent and not-so-recent violence, on the one hand, and the promise of a future that we are still struggling to imagine, on the other.

David Kazanjian
Associate Professor of English
Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory
University of Pennsylvania

Click here to read the full text.

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01.07.2011

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Blind encounters in the fault lines of an empire

Blind Dates: New Encounters from the Edges of a Former Empire is the title of an ongoing collaborative project literally based on blind-dating artists, architects and researchers with each other, all of whom have a background from societies that were violently estranged during the rise of nationalism in the territories of the tumbling Ottoman Empire. Too easily such forms of estrangement and hostility have been accepted as facts of history, while less attention has been paid to the status of these historical master narratives as abiding sources of estrangement and conflict today, and the possibility of overcoming them. The Blind Dates Project investigates how such narratives could possibly be revised to facilitate the overcoming of loss, and the rebuilding of destroyed community bonds. The process is based on experimental, imaginative and future-oriented ways of rethinking the past in the present – at times in terms of geography and archeological remains; other times by challenging inherited cultural stereotypes of identity and otherness.

Click here to read the full text.

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21.11.2011

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Director of “Blind Dates” Curatorial Project in Armenia: Redefining Armenian-Turkish Relations via Contemporary Art

Neery Melkonian, a New York-based curator, arts adviser and writer, has been in Armenia for the past four months laying the groundwork for two distinct projects. I caught up with her to discuss her ongoing work here in Yerevan.

One is called Blind Dates: New Encounters from the Edges of a Former Empire, an interdisciplinary and cross cultural curatorial undertaking that tackles the traces of the peoples, places and cultures that once constituted the diverse geography of the Ottoman Empire; while taking the subsequent formation of nation-states throughout the region as a point of departure, and focusing on contemporary lived experiences. It premiered at New York’s Pratt Manhattan Gallery last November.

Click here to read the full text.

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03.07.2011

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Profile of Blind Dates

Under the title Blind Dates: New Encounters from the Edges of a Former Empire, thirteen new collaborative artistic projects were launched at Pratt Manhattan Gallery in November 2010. The exhibition, together with a series of related public programs which began two years prior to its opening, provided a rare platform, particularly in the North American context, for both artists and non-artists, who were curatorially “match-made” to tackle what remains of the legacy and rupture of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923).

The Blind Dates Project was conceived in 2006 by curators Defne Ayas and Neery Melkonian, who envision to expand its reach by opening it up to reformulations and inviting colleagues to pair additional artistic collaborators, as the exhibit begins its international travel later this year.

Nafas invited Ayas and Melkonian to reflect on their curatorial premise and the process of making the exhibition’s first installment in New York City where they met on a blind date during Performa 2005 through artist Melik Ohanian.

Click here to read the full text.

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02.09.2011

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Review of Blind Dates

Ararat Magazine/By Christopher Atamian

The wonderfully eclectic and thought-provoking show Blind Dates: New Encounters from the Edges of a Former Empire at the Pratt Gallery closes this Friday, February 11, 2011. It’s a show that everyone should catch, particularly people with a family past or interest in the Ottoman Empire and the nation states that formed in the wake of its collapse.

Through various forms of artistic expression and by “pairing” artists from, among others — Armenia, Bosnia, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, and the United States — the show tracks the traces and remains of this former empire. The concept of curatorial “matchmaking” was conceived when the co-curators of the exhibit, Defne Ayas and Neery Melkonian, met for the first time in the fall of 2005 and decided to bring together distanced peoples of the former empire through a series of artistic blind dates.

Click here to read the full text.

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01.01.2011

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Interview with Aram Jibilian

Whitehot Magazine/ By A. Moret

New York based photographer and Blind Dates participant Aram Jibilian is interviewed on his investigation of the late Arshile Gorky through the lens of the glass house, the artist’s final residence before his suicide in 1948 in his latest series of photographs “Gorky and the Glass House.”

Click here to read the interview in full.

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01.11.2010

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An interview with Blind Dates co-curator Defne Ayas about her curatorial research trip to Armenia.

What was the main motivation for your visit to Armenia?
The goal of this trip was to gain insight into Armenia’s artistic constellation of independent thinkers, among whom different ideas were interacting and motivating each other. I went to Armenia mainly as part of my research for the Blind Dates project I am co-curating with Neery Melkonian.  The project is a cultural undertaking to activate the artistic imagination within the nooks and crevices of the accepted history of the diverse geography of a collapsed empire, namely the Ottoman Empire. At its outset, the project started as an exploration of the Turkish-Armenian axis, but then it grew to encompass a larger territory. So our focus became the varied continuities and discontinuities since the breakup of the empire, and how artists and intellectuals reevaluate this particular history and its dominant narratives, how they highlight its long-lost, forgotten nuances, and distill it through an artistic vocabulary.

You can read more by clicking here

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8.11.2010

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A Review of Remains Connected: The Bridge at Ani

By Jorge Prado
Mirror-Spectator Staff Architects Silva Ajemian and Aslihan Demirtas presented “Remains Connected: The Bridge at Ani,” the latest proposal submitted to the Blind Dates Project (www.blinddatesproject.org). The public event, held at Pratt Institute in Manhattan, attracted over one hundred attendees, many of them members of New York City’s architecture community. Architectural theorist Lebbeus Woods acted as moderator, having co-hosted workshops of the project with Dr. Aleksandra Wagner of The New School.

In its simplest form, Remains Connected meditates on the reconstitution of the collapsed bridge across the Akhurian/Arpaçay River at the border between modern-day Armenia and Turkey in the historic city of Ani, once a cosmopolitan center and destination on the ancient Silk Road. As described by the presenters, “Ani exists in two worlds, at once as an important historic Armenian capital and as an archaeological ruin in Turkey at the border with Armenia. Ani is a disputed city. Ani is a ghost city.”
The architects outlined their project “as a series of structural and cartographic investigations to explore the lenticular existence of Ani and its disconnected bridge. What does it mean to exist in this binary reality?”
They adopted the lenticular process, where a grooved lens causes multiple images to appear to move or blend when seen from different angles, as a conceptual framework because it “brings together two images so closely together that they appear to be one image in oscillation but are always and infinitely distinct.” In effect, the lenticular process provokes connections between distinct images in the viewer.

Read more here

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30.11.2010

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Talking Turkey

Artinfo/Modern Painters
By Berin Golonu

Blind Dates artist Elif Uras is featured in Modern Painters. Mention of her “Blind Dates” collaboration with Linda Ganjian on her sculptural installation titled “Navel Stone” (“Göbek Tasi”).

Read more here

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 07.01.2010

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Revisiting the Ottoman Legacy Through Art And Scholarship
The Armenian Mirror-Spectator

By Aram Arkun
Mirror-Spectator Staff

NEW YORK — Two artists teamed with two historians to tackle issues connected with the Ottoman legacy on June 15 at the Pratt Institute in Manhattan. Two of these speakers specifically dealt with Armenian topics, while the other two spoke on broader Ottoman issues. All four were descendants of peoples living in the Ottoman Empire. The plan was for a novel interdisciplinary approach bringing together intellectuals who often work in different spheres and may not even be aware of the value of approaches in other fields.
According to the formal announcement for the event, the speakers were to question “some of the myths or fixed narratives” of the “Ottoman legacy,” and examine the mechanisms of Ottoman imperial control, its relationship to Western colonization and its positive contributions to world culture. They were to discuss how the Ottoman Empire’s “abrupt and violent reformulation into a nation-state affected the linguistic, ethnic, religious, political and other ‘minorities’ in modern Turkey.” Finally, how do the artists involved deal with “the lingering effects of the Empire’s unresolved legacy on contemporary life”? An audience of more than 40 people was present on June 15 — not bad considering that schools were out of session (and most of the attendees were Turks).
The evening event was the third in a series of ongoing public discussions organized in conjunction with the Blind Dates curatorial project directed and co-curated by Neery Melkonian with Defne Ayas. Several years in the making, with a number of forthcoming public events and workshops, this project will culminate in an exhibition consisting of approximately 15 collaborations between Armenian and Turkish as well as other artists who come from the post-Ottoman lands and are matched up by the curators for the first time through actual encounters, hence the name BlindDates.

Click here to read the full text.

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KÜLTÜR-SANAT: Osmanlı tebasına çöpçatanlık yapan proje

Kültür-Sanat programımızda bu hafta Türk, Kürt, Ermeni, Rum, Boşnak, Yahudi yani bir zamanlar Osmanlı tebası olmuş halklardan gelen sanatçı ve akademisyenlere birlikte çalışmaları için çöpçatanlık yapan bir projeye kulak veriyoruz.
Serginin kuratörleri Defne Ayas ve Neery Melkonian
Konuğumuz, sergiye Neery Melkonian ile birlikte küratörlük yapan Defne Ayas.
Ayas özellikle Türkiye’de kurumsallaşmış olan meraksızlıktan sıyrılıp, cesurca toprağın zenginliğine sahip çıkacak bir proje geliştirmek istediklerini söylüyor.
Nüansların nasıl unutulduğunu anlamak, bilgi edinmek için yeni nesil akademisyen ve sanatçılara bir platform oluşturmak istediklerini belirtiyor.
Projenin ilk meyveleri, sonbaharda Manhattan’daki Pratt galerisinde sergilenecek. Sergi ardından ABD’nin çeşitli kentleri, Erivan ve İstanbul’a gidecek.
Kültür-Sanat’ta ikinci konumuz ise Batı’yı İslam hakkında bilgilendirme amacını taşıyan, iddialı bir belgesel: Mekke’ye Yolculuk…
Amerikalı yönetmen Bruce Neibaur’un dev ekran için özel kameralarla çektiği film, 13 milyon dolara mal olmuş.

Marco Polo’dan üç kat daha fazla yolculuk ettiği söylenen ünlü Faslı gezgin İbn-i Batuta’nın öyküsüyle başlıyor.
Ama film İbn-i Batuta’nın dönemindeki, 14. yüzyıldaki Hac deneyimini yeniden canlandırmakla kalmıyor, bugünün Hac manzaralarından nefes kesen görüntülere geçiyor.
Fakat bakalım insanları, özellikle de Batılı izleyiciyi 1.400 yıldır süren bu buluşma ve İslam hakkında bilgilendirme işlevini yerine getirebiliyor mu?
Empire dergisinin film eleştirmeni Angie Errigo ile tartıştık.

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Performa09, the third edition of the biennial of new visual art performance in New York City took place from November 1 – 22, 2009, showcasing new work by over 150 artists from all around the world.

Ahmet Öğüt’s performance, together with a blind painter in a dark Lower East side storefront, was a homage to Hrant Dink, the editor-in-chief of the Armenian-language weekly newspaper Agos in Turkey. On 19 January 2007, Hrant Dink was assassinated outside Agos’s offices in Istanbul.
Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, had been prosecuted several times, also in a case prompted by complaints from nationalists due to a series of articles he penned dealing with the collective memory of the Armenian massacres of 1915-17 under the Ottoman Empire. Dink was among the many writers who have been prosecuted in the past five years under controversial penal code provisions that criminalize statements deemed as insulting to the Turkish identity.
Öğüt’s work particularly referred to Dink’s article, titled “The Pigeon-like Unease of My Inner Spirit” published on January 10, 2007, nine days before Dink’s assassination.
Defne Ayas, curator of Performa, talks to Ahmet Öğüt about his profound homage to Hrant Dink, possibilities for art, and the act of memory-making by way of working with the medium of performance: Defne Ayas: What were your preliminary impressions of Hrant Dink? Did you ever meet him?
Ahmet Öğüt: Unfortunately, I didn’t have chance to meet him. I was mostly impressed by his way of storytelling, especially of Anatolian stories, and the way he learned from those stories. He was one of the most sincere, genuine and brave people who lived in that territory. He was the one who gave voice to the unsayable. I highly respected his gentlemanly behavior, politeness and honesty. And above all, he was one of the most important human rights defenders in Turkey.

DA: Can you describe the loss you experienced when he was murdered? What were your feelings as an artist as well as a human, and as a citizen?

AÖ: As an artist I felt desperate, as a citizen I was ashamed and as a human I felt sad, as if I lost someone from my family. My feeling of affliction rapidly became a feeling of unease. In fact, what happed was a terrible thing and we were all responsible for it. We didn’t look after Hrant Dink well enough. I had just moved from Istanbul to Amsterdam three weeks before the incident. I felt like nothing would be the same in Turkey after that. I heard that some young boys were going to streets and wearing the same white hat that the 17-year-old assassin was wearing. After the murder, I was worried that chauvinist, fanatical, nationalist mentality would spread out dangerously into the streets. Then I heard about the enormous crowd that gathered and walked at Dink’s funeral with respectful silence. Because I was in Amsterdam, I was not able to join the thousands of people who attended his funeral. But even from distance I could feel that this was a new era. Many people came together to express their repressed voice for Dink. That was a sign of a new honorable and collective movement. It meant to me that the public would not hesitate anymore to expose their reaction.

DA: What were your feelings towards your home base and its inner workings?

AÖ: To learn how to live together and to end discrimination, which Armenians, Kurds as well as other minorities have been subjected to, are urgent collective needs in Turkey. It is not any more the times of over night coup and organized assimilation. Today the biggest witness is the public. But there are still some steamrollers that want the elimination of differences in Turkey, which would create a violent society. We should prevent that with our awareness.

DA: Have you ever discussed this openly? Could you? Would you?

AÖ: To face history is important. But I think the most important thing is to face today’s reality. Today, our spirit, our word, our courage, our brother Dink was killed in the middle of the street in front of our eyes. Today we know that there are many Armenians living in Turkey who hide their identity because of social domination. I believe discussion should start from today’s reality.

DA: How is the artistic community in Istanbul embracing him? How easy or difficult has it been to claim him and his ideas?

AÖ: Right after the assassination artistic and intellectual communities came together. Everybody wanted to express their reaction through not only individual maneuvers, but also through collective acts. Civil society initiatives such as Hrant ve Biz (Hrant and Us) and 19 Ocak (19 January) were the results of coming together at that time. From a distance (Amsterdam) I got involved with those groups. Hrant ve Biz collected more than 10,000 signatures of support during the first three months. One of the most important civil disobedience actions in Istanbul was by a group of artists and writers from 19 Ocak. They reported themselves to the office of the public prosecutor, saying that they agree with Hrant Dink’s words that caused him to be tried. Ten days after the assassination, Çıplak Ayaklar Kumpanyası / Bare Feet Company did a protest action with 80 participants lying on the ground covered with newspapers in front of Agos Newspaper office, where Dink was assassinated. Nowadays, a formation named Hrant icin adalet icin / for justice for Hrant has been gathering outside of the courthouse to follow up the Hrant Dink case. However, at the moment the public is not attending as much as they did right after the assassination. They also did a documentary called 19 Ocak’tan 19 Ocak’a and they continue their other actions such as Conscience Chain.

DA: How do you think your position as a visual artist will spread his ideas? Which ideas specifically are you concerned about? Lets talk specifically about your performance at Performa. How did you begin working on this work?

AÖ: Especially in the case of Dink, constantly “reminding” is important. But it is not just to illustrate and create a memorial you visit and feel sad and be passive. I would rather create an action, which everybody can take part in, and create various encounters. As I said in the beginning, I felt desperate as an artist in the case of Dink. I didn’t know what I could do really. Now, after more than two years, I found a way to do something with my performance project for Performa 09. I wanted to work with a blind painter to use his/her imagination so we could pay a tribute to Hrant Dink. Then I located Devorah Greenspan, a blind NY-based painter. Inspired by Dink’s last article, entitled The Pigeon-like Unease of My Inner Spirit, I shared with Devorah Dink’s philosophy, insights, apprehensions, dreams and genuine love for his country, and she portrayed him the way she imagined him. The result was a surprise. The first step was meeting with Devorah Greenspan. We spent three days to get to know each other and talk about Hrant Dink, listening to his voice and reading some of his articles together. In such a short time, I believe that I managed to create an emotional and mental connection in-between Devorah and Dink.

DA: During the performance Devorah started painted a portrait of Hrant Dink in this completely dark room.

AÖ: Yes, for the performance I wanted to create a completely dark room where visitors can only see the performance with small torches. It was a narrow and long room and Devorah’s easel, paints and brushes were located at the end of the room that looked like a theatrical stage with black curtain in the background. She wanted me to sit next to her and continue the conversation. We were whispering each other. We were not talking only about Hrant Dink, but also our daily life and our past. All the visitors entered the room holding small torches and encountered Devorah Greenspan. She kept painting in the dark.

DA: What was your perception of the audience?

AÖ: It was a tremendous experience to witness people coming in and out in a completely quiet manner, respecting the act and the moment. I also wrote a text on behalf of Hrant Dink as if he wrote it after he was shot. I tried to imagine something impossible and put together in words what he would have wrote. Instead of making an ordinary and brief introduction for the audience, I decided to use this fictional text as a poem for the performance.

DA: And you started actively engaging with memory-creation…

AÖ: My position was more like that of a navigator, a tool or a moderator, in order to create this meeting between Devorah Greenspan and Hrant Dink. I created an alternative encounter that would refresh our memory and lead us to discussions around his ideas. What are those ideas? His biggest concern was “learning how to live together” no matter what. He hated words like “revenge” or “ignorance.” He was completely against any kind of racism. He was willing to turn the place he lives from hell into a heaven. He wanted to have complete freedom of speech in his country.

DA: What was the painting process for Devorah like?

AÖ: Devorah had her own system for the paints and brushes. She knew exactly where she put each color and other things. She had an incredible sense to feel the colors and the surface of the canvas. Obviously she already finished the painting in her mind before she touched the canvas. So everything went very smooth. She started from the face and completed the background last. It took more or less 2 hours.

DA: How come you wanted to work with a blind painter? The act of working with a blind painter in a completely dark space was quite a courageous one.

AÖ: For sighted people it is almost impossible to imagine that a blind person can paint. Many would think it is a surreal or impossible attempt. When I heard about a blind painter for the first time, I thought it is very poetic and they must have incredible skill. Of course it was a very sensitive situation to decide to work with a blind painter. I was very lucky that I found Devorah, who was really interested in being involved from the very first moment. The second step was the idea of doing it in a completely dark room. The dark room wouldn’t be a test for the blind painter, on the contrary it was a test for the audience. Light was something that the audience, sighted people, would need. I took that need away from the audience; instead I gave them their own light sources to choose when and how long to see. I tried to point out that seeing the entire painting was not the reason to be there. Sharing a very deep and unrepeatable moment in the dark and seeing only a part of the painting for a moment gave all of us chance to use our imagination, just like Devorah used her imagination at that very moment.

DA: You had never met Devorah. How much time did you actually spend with Devorah?

AÖ: Right, I didn’t meet with Devorah in person until few days before the performance. Before I arrived to New York, we were communication via phone. I was really curious to meet her. Then finally we met 3 days before the performance. We had to be in action very soon, although we also took our time to introduce ourselves to each other.

DA: How much did you share with her from your personal background and from Hrant Dink’s background? How much of a bond of empathy could you form with a New Yorker painter? Were you as aware of your own emotions about Hrant and your upbringing?

AÖ: Our dialog developed very spontaneously. We were taking about our personal background and Hrant Dink’s background at the same time. Everything interfered with each other in a very random way. We talked about our daily life in the past and today. For Devorah, listening to Dink’s life from me who was standing next to her was a way to get closer and have insider information, rather than hearing about him in the news. She also listened Hrant Dink’s own voice, as well as his wife’s voice, recorded for interviews. During the whole process of thinking about the best possible way to describe him, I become much more aware of my own emotions.

DA: Those who came seemed a bit mystified by the murmurs in the darkened space of Bidoun. They could almost not hear you two. At the same time, they were transported by the darkened space and seemed to forget about listening in precisely. An audience member resembled the darkness to a deep well from a Haruki Murakami book Norwegian Wood as well as the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. What were your thoughts? What went through your mind when you turned off the room and started conversing with her? We were all somewhere between awake and dreaming, between history, memory, and nowhere.

AÖ: I am glad that the visitors’ encounter and the atmosphere of the space were exactly how I was imagining them before. I was thinking a lot about how we behave in a darkened space. I was reading The Strange Case of Mademoiselle P. by Brain O’Doherty. It is a mysterious novel taking place in eighteenth-century about a doctor and his patient, who’s an eighteen-year-old blind pianist. That book taught me how to understand the psychology of seeing in the darkness in a very touching way.

DA: Your earlier work comes to mind as a possible influence with the darkness. How did she react to your call?

AÖ: In fact, I did two other works in the past using darkness and light as a main element. One of them was a performance named Another Perfect Day from 2006-2008, where a hairdresser cuts someone’s hair in a basement with a motorcycle standing outside of the window as a light source. The other work was a video called Short Circuit where a group of kids plays football in a very dark street and a car is passing by back and forth through their game.

DA: Did you enjoy being part of your work live?

AÖ: Sure, I enjoyed being part of my work live, although I was there to only assist Devorah with a nice conversation.

DA: How does it feel to go from video, which you know so well, to doing live performances?

AÖ: Actually one of my early works was a performance where I was performing myself. Yes, performance is not a medium that I use often, however I really like the feeling of experiencing it only in that moment. That makes it very special.

DA: Do you watch a lot of performances? Are you constantly critiquing what you see and applying it to your performances?

AÖ: I do watch staged performances, but I like more to observe things as part of everyday life when it is something between performance and real life. Something becomes a performance just because you are passing by and witnessing it by coincidence.

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1.22.2010

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Victims’ Symptom

PTSD and Culture

Victims’ Symptom is a collection of interviews, essays, artists’ statements and glossary definitions, which was originally launched as a Web project (http://victims.labforculture.org). Produced in 2007, the project brought together cases related to past and current sites of conflict such as Srebrenica, Palestine, and Kosovo reporting from different (and sometimes conflicting) international viewpoints. The Victims Symptom Reader collects critical concepts in media victimology and addresses the representation of victims in economies of war.

http://victims.labforculture.org

http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/theoryondemand/titles/no-03-victims%E2%80%99-symptom-ptsd-and-culture/

Texts:
Sezgin Boynik, Adila Laidi Hanieh, Geert Lovink, Ana Peraica, Stevan Vukovic.

Interviews by:
Ana Peraica (with Enrique Arroyo, Noam Chomsky, Agricola da Cologne, Anur Hadziomerspahic, Joseph de Lappe) Marko Stamenkovic (with Peter Fuchs, Jonas Staal, Carlos Motta, Neery Melkonian and Tomas Tomilinas)

Artists’ statements:
Mauricio Arango, Alejandro Duque, Andreja Kuluncic, Marko Peljhan and Martha Rosler

Download the free pdf:

http://networkcultures.org/_uploads/tod/TOD3_victimsymptom.pdf

Editor: Ana Peraica
Copy editing: Vicky Anning, Michael Dieter
Image on the front-page and project design: MANNSCHAFT
Glossary: Tihana Jendricko and Tina Peraica
Commissioned by: Lab for Culture, Amsterdam, 2008.
Design: Katja van Stiphout.
Printer: ‘Print on Demand’.
Publisher: Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam 2009.

ISBN: 978-90-78146-11-7

Institute of Network Cultures
info@networkcultures.org
http://www.networkcultures.org

________________________________________________________________________

12.30.2009

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Left: Nina Katchadourian, Self-portrait of the artist as an artist, 2002, color photograph, 40 x 30″. Right: A photograph of Ahmet Ögüt in 1999 from his personal archive. (Both images are not related to AH-HA.)

As part of Neery Melkonian and Defne Ayas’s cross-cultural curatorial project, Blind Dates, artists Ahmet Ögüt, of Turkish-Kurdish background, and Nina Katchadourian, of Armenian and Finnish descent, recently launched the project of transposing respective (and shared) letters in each other’s names. Aside from its legal and contractual performance, AH-HA constitutes an act of intimacy both literal and ideological between two artists who barely know each other but whose collaboration necessarily binds them to an ongoing rapport.

ALTHOUGH WE’VE ONLY been set up on a “blind date,” we have decided to use this opportunity to bind ourselves to each other for life. Our project AH-HA is centered on the act of exchanging letters in our names. Through a legalized transaction, we’ll trade the two letters that already overlap, namely, the shared h and a. We will trade one letter now (the a) and the other later, most likely on the event of one of our deaths.

The gesture might seem reminiscent of an organ donation or a blood transfusion. But the reciprocal nature of the exchange creates a different dynamic: one of barter, trade, or rebalancing, rather than of donating or salvaging. The fact that one letter is exchanged now binds us into a contract with each other in the present. The fact that we must wait until some unknown point in the future for the other letter (and only at that point is our piece complete) places the work in a kind of suspension.

Between ethnic groups or cultures that have been at odds, there is often the expectation that there will be a visible way to differentiate between them, when this is in fact very complicated and often untrue. The invisibility of the gesture is therefore central to this project, and at the center of the concept. Nina Katchadourian would become Nina KatchadourianAhmet Ögüt would become Ahmet Ögüt. But embedded in our names would be these “foreign,” and ultimately assimilated, letters. We become guardians of one of each other’s letters now but also promise to step up to this task in the future. We set this piece into motion in the present, but moving forward––by having exchanged one of the letters and then needing to wait for the other letter––the past and future will also always be “present.”

We will structure the letter exchange as a contract, based on the legal concept of “consideration,” meaning “something of value given by both parties to a contract that induces them to enter into the agreement to exchange mutual performances.” When something is merely gifted to someone else, it does not take on the structure of a contract. Perhaps paradoxically, we need each other’s letter as, in this case, to bind ourselves to each other such that we can exchange the letter hs later.

The exchange of the letter h would be based on the structure of a will. Both documents will be drawn up legally and will bear legitimate legal weight and responsibility. We have been in contact with several lawyers in different countries to determine the legal procedures. Part of the work’s next phase is probing how the “invisibility” of the exchange might be transferred to, or represented through, a legal discourse.

— As told to Ara H. Merjian

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