Blind Dates Project

In Progress

Blind Dates Yerevan<>Istanbul Editions

Intended to migrate to other destinations, the next installment of the Blind Dates exhibition is projected to open during the summer/fall of 2013 in Yerevan and Istanbul respectively (pending funding). In order to better understand the complexities at hand, these reformulated editions will ‘unpack’ regional concerns as proposed by the expanded exhibition team members – Harutyun Alpetyan and Erden Kosova – who in turn will pair additional Blind Dates artistic couples.

Blind Dates: Undoing of Boundaries

Submitted by Harut Alpetyan and Erden Kosova
February 2012

Blind Dates, a continuous exhibition project which was initiated by Neery Melkonian and Defne Ayas four years ago proposed a model of artistic matchmaking in which artists and intellectuals, who do not previously know each other, are invited to meet, communicate and produce collaborative works. An earlier formulation of the project aimed at reinforcing mainly the interaction between artists from Turkish and Armenian backgrounds but later its address was expanded to the contemporary ‘traces’ of a broader cultural geography, namely the territory that was occupied by the Ottoman Empire and the pre-nationalist cohabitation of ethnic cultures that had existed on this territory up until 19th century.

The next phase of Blind Dates which will be held both in Yerevan and Istanbul aims at linking this historical reference with other similar accounts from Eastern Europe and Eurasia or by exploring such accounts within the mobility experienced during the imperial cosmopolitanisms of the Habsburg, Romanov and Qajar dynasties, and later under Soviet rule.

The heterogeneity of the urban populace in terms of ethnicity and the relative ease in migration within the state jurisdiction of the imperial structures were disrupted by the expansion of nationalist ideology at the second half of the 19th century, the nation-building processes in the early 20th century and strict border closures as a consequence of the Cold War politics.

The collapse of the state socialism in Eastern Europe released a plethora of human energies, most intensively around the Black Sea basin: migrations, reunification of long forgotten relatives, luggage commerce, arranged marriages, prostitution, drug traffic… Yet, this political rupture has not always been experienced as a full emancipation.

Paradoxically, some ethnic tensions that have been frozen during the Cold War years resurface and composed a new political landscape of re-defined enmities and alliances. Additionally, the initial euphoria characterizing the nineties and the transversal interaction reinforced by the mediation of Western institutions have faded away with the mistrustful climate created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack and along the political and economic crisis of the EU. Although borders are much more permissive than previous decades nowadays there is a growing/urgent need for human investment and perseverance in undoing of boundaries — physical and psychological.

Matchmaking, the characteristic methodology of the Blind Dates project is about taking the initiative to stimulate a discourse on cultural contiguities and social affinities that exist between neighboring geographies, and also to reformulate the conditions for existence or non-existence of such a discourse. The reference to pre-nationalist systems is by no means intended to reinforce the recent tendency towards romanticization and exoneration of imperial pasts. Being aware of ethnic, religious and class asymmetries that existed in these systems, as well as the predominance of an incomplete freedom from territorial constraints combined with the recent neo-imperialist aspirations, the Blind Dates project strives for highlighting the cultural fertility of the human experience on these geographies including not only common values in cuisine, linguistics and music that have been inherited from the perennial cohabitation, or memories that still need to be reworked, but also shared experiences of the present such as the devastating consequences of rapid implantation of neo-liberal economies and European politics related to exploiting natural resources. In summary, the moment is ripe to critically address the strategic cultivation of a state of pseudo-democracy or ‘’democracy-in-progress’’ and authoritarian mindsets.

Proposals with comparisons between the contexts outlined above, and are critical of the reproduction of fixed identities, or offer an escape from them, will be supplemented by panels and discussions to be held in conjunction with the Blind Dates Yerevan<>Istanbul exhibitions.

Biographies

Harutyun Alpetyan an independent art curator based in Yerevan. Co-founder of AJZ space (aninformal non-commercial art space in Yerevan, founded in 2009). Co-initiatorof various collective projects essentially focused on motivating and triggeringof the curatorial practices on local art scene. Co-initiator of numerous civilactivist movements against gentrification and demolishing of architecturalmonuments, and activities concerning public space and urban environmentissues. Participant and coordinator of several performing arts platforms andinitiatives of local and international kind. Currently working at the Institute ofContemporary art in Yerevan as project lab coordinator. One of the recentprojects, namely Economy of Hope is accomplished in the frames of 8-thGyumri Biennial of Contemporary Art in 2012.

Erden Kosova is an art critic based in Istanbul. He contributes to the e-journal project ‘red-thread.org’ as an editor. Kosova is co-writer of the book ‘Abseits aber Tor’ (with Vasıf Kortun, Walther Koenig, 2004), a conversation about the main dynamics of the contemporary art scene in Turkey. He also wrote monographic books on two artists: Aydan Mürtezaoğlu and Esra Ersen (Yapı Kredi, 2011 and 2012). Kosova is member of the Istanbul-based project ‘ortak müfredat’, which investigates possibilities for alternative modes of education within the field of contemporary art. He is also a contributor to the conception and production of the next edition of the Blind Dates Project exhibition which will open in Yerevan and Istanbul in 2013.

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