Echoes in the Valley: In and around 38.84439, 46.14567

  • Rouzbeh Akhbari and Felix Kalmeson (Canada)

    social practices and modes of space-making between residents of nation states who live on either side of constructed borders

The collaborative artistic practice of Rouzbeh Akhbari and Felix Kalmenson is research-based and often engages complex readings of issues related to the role of infrastructure (interpreted in a wide sense) in manufacturing uneven power structures, troubled territorialities and neo-imperial expansion. Part of their ongoing work involves experimenting with research methodologies that facilitate the study of built structures and manufactured landscapes’ impact on political systems and how land is conceptualized, interpreted and consumed. In the past three years Akhbari and Kalmenson have collab-oratively engaged in field research in sites as varied as frontline desertified communities of China’s Gobi, Casablanca’s infamous French-led “Zone Sanitaire” and Abadan’s petroleum enclaves in south of Iran. The common thread in their collective research is the investigation of changing patterns of investment and industrial activity that leave networked landscapes of abandonment and historical traces of socio-political conundrums. This research is acti-vated both through exhibition-making and writing, as they both work towards a combination of visual, spatial and text-based outcomes that help them expand, and critically reflect, on the role of field research in their ongoing artistic practice.

The main objective in using the “Art Commune” International AIR Program’s (ACSL) facilities is to initiate a new project that engages with the borderlands between Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The landscape that the artists are particularly interested is in close to the Town of Agarak on the Armenian side, Nordooz on the adjacent Iranian border and the village of Kilit in Azerbaijan. This peculiar border formation in the shape of triangles is situated in the valleys separated by the Aras River, which has functioned as a geographic barrier contributing to the manufacturing of multiple nation states on either side for centuries. The perspective the artists are interested in bringing into their site visits is partially informed by the scholarly work of Joel Wainwright, who has written extensively about the arbitrary functioning of borderlands. He often uses the term “hybridspace” to unpack the heterogeneity of cultural, ideological and economic mechanisms that form the similarity of social practices and modes of space-making between residents of nation states who live on either side of constructed borders.
The final result of the research is a video/installation work that presents a view of stages actors in each nation from across the valley taken through a telephoto zoom lens.

The formal aspects of the work was loosely defined and developed once they experiment with the footage on-site. would be a video/installation work that presents a view of stages actors in each nation from across the valley taken through a telephoto zoom lens. The formal aspects of the work are currently loosely defined and would be developed further once we experiment with the footage on-site.


Rouzbeh Akhbari is an Iranian-Canadian installation and video artist whose practice is research-driven, often interventionist in approach and situated at the interdisciplinary nexus of postcolonial theory, political economies and critical architecture.

Felix Kalmenson is a Toronto-based artist with a practice in installation, video, photography, performance and sound art. His work is concerned with the mediation of histories and contemporary narratives by political, institutional and corporate bodies and how innovations in the field of communication serve to redefine publicness, sovereignty and power.