Art & Memory: Looking Back and Moving Forward on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide
Monday, November 9, 2015 – Friday, February 5, 2016
The Hagop Kevorkian Center, 255 Sullivan Street
November 9, 2015-February 5, 2016*
TreasuresSilvina Der Meguerditchian
Much of Silvina Der Meguerditchian's work as an artist has focused on concepts of the collective identity and cultural heritage of the Armenian people. Her installation Treasures continues her ongoing exploration of these themes and at the same time challenges any attempt to approach it in purely historical terms.
Treasures is based on a manuscript written in Turkish using the Armenian alphabet, a compilation of folk remedies the artist's great grandmother put down on paper in Buenos Aires more than seventy years ago. Drawing on additional texts, collages and objects to supplement and comment on this historical source, Der Meguerditchian takes it as a point of departure from which to explore the relationship between text and commentary in her artist's book and installation.
The artist's decision to incorporate the extant display cases and create a site-specific installation attests to the special significance the location holds for her. For Der Meguerditchian and the others at the school she attended as a girl, the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni was what Mount Ararat was for most other children in the Armenian community in Argentina: an almost mythical place of longing, particularly close to the heart and yet impossibly faraway. The title she has chosen for her installation points to the fact that the manuscript it is based on is much more than a document solely of interest to historians and possibly antique book dealers. Much like the fragment of a marble statue from Classical Antiquity, it is a treasure that stands – pars pro toto – for the collective identity of a people, a priceless artifact evoking an entire bygone era.
Of course, old books are bound to elicit associations of transience and impermanence. However, by overlaying, digitally processing and framing her historical sources and thus entering into a dialogue with them, Der Meguerditchian manages to transcend these associations and build a bridge between past and present. Suggestive of the delight children take in drawing and scribbling in books, the techniques she uses translate commentary into visual form. Since commentary is generally concerned with examining the authenticity of texts and placing them into a wider context, it often serves to detach us from the text itself.
Der Meguerditchian gives this familiar practice a surprising twist by harnessing it to the opposite effect: In using it to amplify their "whisper," she allows her sources to speak to us today and turns them into "treasures" whose significance goes beyond the purely historical.
This text, by Berthold Reiss, is excerpted from the catalogue of "Armenity," the Armenian Pavilion in the 56th Biennale Di Venezia, 2015
"1915" is a photography series examining the memory of the first genocide of the 20th century: the elimination of one and a half million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.
One century later, I returned to Armenia in search of those who had survived. After months of researching archives and traveling across the country, I discovered the stories of three survivors, all well over 100 years old. I traveled to Turkey to re-trace their steps and bring back a piece of their memory. Each survivor also asked me to fulfill a wish. Movses, from Musa Dagh, asked me to find his church and leave his portrait on the footsteps of what are now ruins. Yeprkasia, from Kars, asked me to find her older brother from whom she was separated after the genocide. Mariam, from Sason, requested a handful of Turkish soil for her to be buried in.
All these years later, upon seeing the image of their native land, the survivors grabbed on, as if by holding the image close they would be taken back to a place they called home many years ago. This is a story of home — everything they had, everything they lost. And what they have found again.
Exhibit Location: Richard Ettinghausen Library at the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies
255 Sullivan Street at Washington Square South
*Exhibit hours vary due to New York University holiday closures and class schedules, but generally will be open for viewing Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. In some cases, an appointment will be required. Please contact us to arrange your visit at 212.998.8877 or at Kevorkian.firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 9, 2015-December 15, 2015 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm)*
December 15-December 23 (By Appointment)
December 24-January 3 (NYU CLOSED)
January 4-January 22 (Monday-Friday by appointment, contact email@example.com or call 212.998.8877
January 25-February 5 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm)*