Platform for contemporary artists from the Armenian Diaspora
Platform for contemporary artists from the Armenian Diaspora

Armenia Now//: here

by Marc Wrasse

Here are six Armenian artists, all quite secular, in a famous Armenian monastery located beyond the shores of their home country, namely in Venice, Italy: while the world has got accustomed to peoples living in their home countries there are peoples who have to derive their self-awareness mainly from the loss of it.When contemplating this paradox thoughts tend to go either way: backward, thereby grieving and mourning the loss, or forward, claiming the lost identity back by dreaming up a kind of unity which allows for one’s own identity to be seamlessly interwoven with the collective one by merging both in a place to be named Armenian – flags, music, dignitaries and all. However, both strains of thought are a delusion: no one can grieve forever, and the beauty of the flag and music acts as camouflage for the violence that has always been associated with nationality. There is no nation without military, none without the humiliating imbalance between rich and poor, none that does not flex its muscles to punish those who challenge the might of its institutions and do not play by the rules – a vain endeavour. Thus, those Armenians who have nothing left but a dream or vanished hopes are looked upon by the world as the lucky ones. All that remains of the past and for the future is the narrow gauge of the here and now and the need to determine what exactly Armenian means – beyond all retroactive and future illusions. Art renders itself beautifully for this experiment: its mostly unviolent, playful nature unfolds not only as a dialogue between the artists but also as a dialogue with an unsuspecting audience.

The nowhere, the void, the blanks could be filled with all that was or could have been, had it not been for the all-destructive violence. Art can be such a void, and all those who allow themselves to be touched by art discover the nowhere that is at the root of their own existence. And in this context we can speak of an Armenia Now//:here. Like a vector this concept represents the interaction between the past and the future, the span in which our lives briefly unfold, if at all. Armenia Now//:here acts as a motor for reciprocal creativity.If we –like those three quarters of Armenians who do not have a land to call their own– ask ourselves what the essence of their existence is, if we look beyond grievance and illusion, or else if we virtuously consider identity to be something that can only be seen critically and in context with its formation, then the only likely answer is fruitful commemoration and historically evolving imagination. Armenia is the place where people pick up the threads to weave them into a carpet, the fuzzy pattern of which manifests their yearning for an existence without self-denial. Armenia is the place where the materiality and texture of such threads reflect all that could only be heard by the yearning voices of the grandparents: a love of unmistakable colour and taste.

The Armenian transnation as a never ending web

by Estela Schindel

Since the first great dispersion started after the year 1045, the Armenian people have gone through multiple and varied forms of migration and exile. The diversity of words used in the Armenian language to name the diaspora, according to Khachich Tölölyan, is a testimony to and a result of this plurality of experiences. Spurk, arderkir, tz’ronk, gharib, gaghut -suggestively related to the Hebrew term galut- are each related to different moments and modes of life in foreign lands. The lexical proliferation is a mark of this complex and multilayered history. A plurality to be associated not so much with lack and longing, but with the vitality and dynamism of the diasporic condition. A dispersion, as any other dissemination, acquires through language a fecund meaning. As if spreading seeds, migration allows the expansion of cultural artefacts and values and turns the diaspora into a fertile space. The word, this portative treasure able to extend, adapt, and be fruitful in remote places, enabled those moments of great cultural development that Armenian communities enjoyed around the world. Thus, the first newspaper written in Armenian language, published in Madras, India in 1794, is a sign of this vitality and shows how common shared culture offered spaces to recreate itself and, hence, symbolic realms to inhabit. This permanent recreation of Armenian existence in the diaspora, together with the increasing discrediting of the concepts of “nation” and “identity”, nowadays displaced by notions such as global deterritorialization and cultural hybridity, led to the current turn to the idea of Armenia as a transnation. The diaspora can be no longer viewed as exile and orphanhood, a peripheric missing of the distant homeland, but rather as a net which includes, but exceeds, the physical Armenian territory; not a geographically located place, but the collective weaving of an endless web. Not a promise projected to the future but a permanent construction today.
 

To acknowledge the creative potential implicit in the diaspora does not mean to ignore the destructive force displayed in it by persecution and extermination. The memory of the genocide is, as well as the word, a fundamental trace in the permanent weaving of the transnation. Along with the diasporic experience and the key role of the lettered tradition, this shows the affinity between the Armenian and the Jewish peoples. As in the legacy of the Shoah, the duty to remember parallels the challenge of recreating the collective identity beyond the evocation of the death, of finding positive ways to bind the sense of cultural belonging. The curatorial work of “Under construction” takes care of this rich and complex heritage in a responsible and loving manner. The artists' commitment, initiated already as an exchange platform on the web - a powerful resource and altogether a metaphor for this rhizomatic construction of the transnation - proposes images which do not claim the univocity and solidity of national symbols, but aim to be like strings composing a plot. Their work could not have found a better shelter than the walls of a monastery which was the site of flourishing Armenian cultural life. And not a better place than Venice, a port which was hospitable to a prosperous community in accordance with its mercantile lineage and its character of exchange knot between distant worlds. For as the water city, collective identity does not rely on firm ground, but on a copious archipelago, crossed by numerous canals like bonds weaving a never ending web.To acknowledge the creative potential implicit in the diaspora does not mean to ignore the destructive force displayed in it by persecution and extermination. The memory of the genocide is, as well as the word, a fundamental trace in the permanent weaving of the transnation. Along with the diasporic experience and the key role of the lettered tradition, this shows the affinity between the Armenian and the Jewish peoples. As in the legacy of the Shoah, the duty to remember parallels the challenge of recreating the collective identity beyond the evocation of the death, of finding positive ways to bind the sense of cultural belonging. The curatorial work of “Under construction” takes care of this rich and complex heritage in a responsible and loving manner. The artists' commitment, initiated already as an exchange platform on the web - a powerful resource and altogether a metaphor for this rhizomatic construction of the transnation - proposes images which do not claim the univocity and solidity of national symbols, but aim to be like strings composing a plot. Their work could not have found a better shelter than the walls of a monastery which was the site of flourishing Armenian cultural life. And not a better place than Venice, a port which was hospitable to a prosperous community in accordance with its mercantile lineage and its character of exchange knot between distant worlds. For as the water city, collective identity does not rely on firm ground, but on a copious archipelago, crossed by numerous canals like bonds weaving a never ending web.
 

Trans-Individuation und Desidentifikation

Ali Akay

The identity of the individual is a central problem of our time. We have inherited this situation from the creation of the nation-state, and also, before it, the creation of kingdoms in Europe. The European Enlightenment is one of the factors through which the individual has come to be seen as a person who belongs to a collectivity. This was a moment in history when we ceased to speak of “geography, latitudes and longitudes”, and began to speak of politics in new terms, in which the subject, the people, became a central element. We have been using the idea of “citizenship” since the creation of the nation-state, and it has become a very positive formulation, with strong connotations of freedom. Hobbes placement “people” before the notion of “citizenship”, eliminating the concept of a multitude, something that is very relevant to us today, with respect to contemporary sociological use of the terms . The legacy of the nation-state is for us a serious problem because of the many crimes this entity was responsible for during its history, a history that we are still experiencing and from which we must absolutely exit, if we are to move forward into our new situation and the creation of new kinds of multitudes. The historical development of the idea of the individual belonging to a collective community possesses a number of bifurcations. The French sociologist Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904) interpreted the subject of the individual in terms of Leibniz’ ideas of the monad. Tarde added to the Leibnizien monad the concept of open doors and windows. It means that Leibniz’s cabinet has ni door neither windows. It is a closed monad whereas the individual of Tarde is a poreuse one and not closed to itself. This is a trans-individuality, the poreuse one and for that reason we can call that crossing individual situation of the person as a desidentification in itself because of the open relationship to the whole possibility of the global individuation.

This is a moment in the history of philosophy when we see the notion of the individual as an integrated person, as an indivisible subject of consciousness. This development of the indivisibility of the person makes one person belong to himself. Sociology has further developed the difference between society and the individual as a long process of the separation of the individual from the societal (social). Later, at the beginning of the 20th century, in Durkheim’s work, the individual was separated from the collective and exists as a part of the society. In our current approach to sociology, in part because of the influence of the positions of Durkheim, society and the individual are not able to understand, I think, the position of the individual today. During the last two decades the notion of multiculturalism has begun to have a central role in the debate in the social sciences and in the arts. But unfortunately this has been only, in the main, in the context of the contentious subject of immigration. Immigrants have the possibility of creating new kinds of culture in the societies in which they are involved, and they can choose to accept assimilation or the differences of the cultures (a new demand of young citizens, especially from post-colonial countries). We can call this the culture of immigrants. On this point the idea of “a people” is very problematic because what we call people according to Hobbes are those who belong to a nation-state. How we can talk about “a people” when immigrants are only immigrants and not citizens? To have citizenship demands a naturalization of the individual coming from another culture. In Europe it is possible to be a member of a nation only if one has citizenship of the nation.