Moving the Mountain

  • Asheer Dustin Akram (USA)
    sculpture (steel, synthetic enamel paint – 300x150x400)

    Modern Art Museum, Yerevan
    April-July, 2010

The objects, and images, that Asheer AkramI creates change and evolve following time and experience. When working, he feels engulfed in a state of constant flux; he strives to imbue objects and drawings with the essence of his experiences. He is constantly searching, feeling; both physically and mentally, for the next action, form or thought. The artist allows his surroundings to help define and influence his creations. An intriguing concept for his recent work has been the development of a society, exploring the cultural evolution of thought, class structure, and the role of the artist. This social development was especially prominent in Armenia and is affecting the cultural and social structure as well as the daily lives of Armenians far into the future.

Cultural identity of Asheer Dustin Akram is American of Pakistani and European origin. Recently, he has been creating sculptures and drawings employing Arabic calligraphy, creating a hybrid; taking elements of traditional Islamic art, tying in strings of American culture and contemporary art to create a final object. The work ‘Moving the Mountain’ is commentary on effects of globalization in relation to the original untainted culture. The artist reflects the effects of sociocultural evolution and development. Entering a culture, in this case Armenian, he tries to discover aspects that define the fabric of the community, thought and historical identity. Integrating these aspects into the Armenian sculpture brings them into new light and helps them to be recognized, and respected, for their real cultural significance. Using this approach the artist was able to address the broader issues, as well as the specific circumstances that hinder or help development in a particular community. Being the product of an ever more intertwined world system, the artist feels obligated to create works that addresses the world in a wider context. They highlight elements from different cultures helping those, both local and international; recognize the importance of cultural identity untainted by globalization.

The sculpture entitled ‘Moving the Mountain’ is an embodiment of the artist’s outlook on contemporary Armenia. He has chosen to use the imagery of Sis and Masis, the two peaks of Mount Ararat, as a vehicle to convey his concept because every Armenian, geography and generation aside, can relate to it. This question of generational continuity is an important aspect of this work. The subject matter of these mountains is not commonly approached, if at all, by contemporary artists. The imagery has become very commercialized and can commonly be seen clad to the sides of trucks, on billboards and flashing across the television screen. Attempting to elevate the deep cultural and historical identity the mountain holds to a more contemporary level; the artist was lifting imagery from the cliché paintings, found at the Vernissage into a contemporary context. He was questioning what elements from Armenian cultural history the next generation will find significant.

On a physical level the sculpture is fabricated steel and weights around one ton. The unfinished look is a reflection of the development now underway specifically in Yerevan. The looseness of the smaller rods reminds the artist of the rebar silhouettes, sticking from the top of construction sites at dusk. The flat black color that is commonly seen on the cars of wealthy and powerful Armenians. This social group is one aspect infecting Armenia’s growth which could potentially be devastating as development progresses. The text on the sculpture is a historical map of the Armenian language. The oldest form of written Armenian can be found at the top or ‘peaks’ of the sculpture, descending down, the text becomes more contemporary. Overall the sculpture is a positive outlook on the development of Armenia both politically and culturally. Armenia has a culture and a history that has survived through unthinkable odds and triumphed over adversity. Asheer Akram believes his work can be a part of a significant public dialog; in order for that to take place his work must be accessible to a wider audience.

Asheer Akram (b. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA, 1984) is an emerging artist that currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri. He completed his BFA in sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute in 2007. He has recently been producing public sculpture that brings about questions of social-cultural evolution and development in regards to the globalization of developing countries. Asheer has moved beyond commentary of his own cultural background in attempts to address these issues in a wider context.

The public sculpture was created in Armenia for Armenia within the 4-month (April-July, 2010) residency program at the ‘Art Commune’ (ACSL). The sculpture was granted to the Modern Art Museum by the artist and it is currently a part of the museum collection.

The project was funded by the Kansas City Artists’ Coalition/Linda Lightion Foundation.