born 1961 in Yerevan, lives and works in Paris
In Achot Achot’s spiritual binerf works photography is not only juxtaposed against and mixed with abstract painting: Achot Achot also reconciles two seemingly diverging views of life with each other and synthesises them. His photographs of young women with their palpable eroticism address as well as dissolve the separation of body and soul that is so inherent in Christian-Occidental history. The borderline between ‘The Self and the Known’ becomes irrelevant, the yearning for ‘The Infinite’ being the underlying goal. Merging abstraction and figuration, materiality and texture results in a different, spiritual and yet sensuous perception of the «self versus reality». Achot Achot relates in his work to Vedic knowledge: Disharmony of existence arises from ignorance: I do not understand, I am not understood. Mutual understanding between people at the highest level is impossible without knowledge which is transcendental in relation to human experience. Human experience is subject to error, because one’s senses and mind are imperfect and limited. For true perception of reality (without excluding subjective perception) the perfect spiritual knowledge is necessary. That is how Vedic knowledge is.
born 1970, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, lives and works in
London and New York
Emily Artinian recently became executor for and also one of the heirs of her deceased father’s estate. If inheritance can be reduced to precisely described objects (as legal and economic structures tend to emphasize), one would say that this consists of real estate and property investment companies. For thisPLACEd, in her new, compound role as artist and executor/property owner, Emily considers the more opaque aspects of inheritance. Having lived far from the estate’s location in Pennsylvania since she was an adolescent, she investigates her own relationship to this land and people. She takes the name Poppy Engels, a heteronym encoding her uncertainty about her father’s drive for extensive ownership of property, something she often questioned him about in his lifetime. One strong sense – speculative, but insistent – is that this obsession was not unconnected to his own parents’ loss of home, and homeland, when they were displaced to the United States as refugees. Dead Dad presents portraits of this property in a series of photographs. An accompanying artists book reprises and re-sites the photographs, and, incorporating discussions Emily and her father shared before he died, adds textual meditations on the intricate legacy of inheritance and the complex emotions and responsibilities embedded in ancestral history.
born in New York, lives and works in New York
“Who am I?” Nigoghos Sarafian asks repeatedly in his seminal 1947 poetic novella The Bois de Vincennes. For Sarafian this basic ontological question was intimately linked to the question of language. Born in Varna during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, Sarafian—like many of his Armenian contemporaries—settled in Paris where he lived as a political and intellectual refugee. He was educated in French schools and explains that when he wrote in Western Armenian as an adult, the language was already foreign to him. Sarafian’s writing is important in part because it attempts to incorporate the notion of exile into language itself. As a third generation descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors, I was fascinated by Sarafian’s fate. Born in New York City, I attended French school, learned English after French, and Armenian after nine other languages. My project attempts to examine the role that language plays in identity. By randomly projecting excerpts of The Bois de Vincennes in the original Western Armenian and in English (translation mine), I attempt ask whether the questions that faced an exiled Armenian diasporan in the late 1940’s are still relevant to the increasingly transglobal modern world of multi-linguistic and polyphonous transnations. I’d also like to suggest that language perhaps erects as many borders as it destroys, that it can be intensely revelatory but isolating as well.
Sarafian after all was doubly invisible—to other Armenians who no longer read their own language and to the world-at-large, which remains largely ignorant to this day of Armenian literature. What Babel has unleashed can perhaps never be put back together again. But as technology accelerates and pushes us towards either a future of peace or one of destruction, we should understand the role that language plays in creating and undermining identity.
born 1971 in Moskau, lives and works in Berlin
The series of objects titled Not Red Banners was begun in 2003 as a response to Marina Abramovich’s New Hero images. The banners, or flag pieces, do not symbolize a specific political doctrine, but certainly I was trying to “charge” them with a political suggestiveness, in order that they have appeal for at least a decade or so. They are made of wood, fabric and steel staples, and eschew the use of expensive new media. They are constructed as paintings to use the effect of temporarity. My attitude as an Armenian artist allows me to play with the interweaving of minimalistic form and lively surface. I use a specially woven silk and see-through orange and violet gauze as a mix of fine layers that changes colour depending on light and the angle of view. Viewers of contemporary art usually see these banner objects simply as red fields, and are likely to interpret them as signs of leftist activism. I do not mind this kind of misinterpretation.
born 1967 in Buenos Aires, lives and works in Berlin
Silvina Der-Meguerditchian ties a net. She connects the disparate, builds bridges between worlds apart or seeks a dialogue with the unknown. A recurrent theme of her work is the remembrance of the ethnic dislocation of the Armenian people and the genocide they suffered. She uses photographic memorabilia and official documents and merges them in her crochet collages into individual painful stories. Silvina Der-Meguerditchian’s work represents a type of mnemonics, namely the individual and collective art of commemoration. Her main focus is always on the actual process of joining and dissolving, constructing and deconstructing identity. In semantic fields she explores the space between the image and the written word, naming it, celebrating it, dissecting it into its smallest components. Paper - the primary support of the written word - is punctured by the materiality of wool or sewing thread. The words “we”, “love”, “place” are deconstructed in a thicket of fibers, becoming an enigma difficult to decipher. This “woolly encoding” with its soft, porous surface, speaks to the osmotic properties of language and the permeable limits between ideas and their signifiers.
Founded in 2004 by Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, Underconstruction was a communication platform for artists interested in issues of identity, transglobalization and the construction of both personal and groupconsciousness. Underconstruction is also interested in issues of concern to worldwide diasporas, including but not limited to the Armenian diaspora.