Transcaucasian Identification. Territory of Intimacy

  • Verena Kyselka (Germany)
    video installation, c-prints

    Cross-cultural project organized by ACSL

    Modern Art Museum, Yerevan
    October 21-27, 2009

The term ‘identity’ is closely associated with the native country, the homeland. I understand by ‘territory’ a specific space, which is shaping us as individuals and reflecting our actions. It contains personal nuances, which are connected tohistory, nature, politics, domestic environment and childhood. My artistic investigations are associated with a work in progress, long-term project entitled “Territory of Intimacy” that I have been realizing during the years in different post-socialist and post-soviet count that deal with the impact of a long-standing dictatorship and heteronomy on personal identity, on ethnic shared existence and interpersonal relationships. Substantially for my artistic statement is the intercultural approach on the basis of international understanding within the comparison of the cultures.

In my research in Armenia the intense emotional aversion against the population of the bordering countries Turkey and Azerbaijan and the deep historical anchorage in patriarchal structures attracted my attention. Until now the country is traumatized by the mass destruction and mass expulsion in the beginning of 20th century, which directly affected about every second family. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union a peaceful communal shared existence between different ethnic groups was pretended under the cloak of the communist dictatorship. But the hostility emerged and broke out in conflicts after the striving of independence of the post-soviet states. The tension with Azeri and also Turkish neighbors escalated and led to a wave of refugees. Since then the borders between these countries are closed and sealed. A mutual approach seems to be difficult.

Also Armenia seems to me a country where keeping on patriarchal structures and traditions, visible in the role behavior of man and woman, form the life and the everyday routine in the country. It looks to Western Europeans misogynistic and out-dated. Therefore I suppose, maintaining the domestic roles of the traditional family model could be an indication of Armenian identity.
The two aspects, patriarchy and violence between the cultures seem to me close together. To follow this assumption I conducted in collaboration with the Armenian artist Mkrtich Tonoyan video interviews with Armenians refugees (mainly women), which have lived for several generations in a mono-cultural as well, as in a multicultural society in Azerbaijan. Our questions were focused to their origin, family, and (inter)cultural shared existence, circumstances of their deportation, suffering of violence, their arrival in Armenia and their hope. From the answers we found, it arises that search of identity and definitions of homeland become more evident with refugees and emigrants. During the interviews I realized a certain heroism and pathos that apparently is closely connected with their concept of native country or homeland. However also contradictions appeared: Although the interviewees are Armenians, many of them didn’t speak Armenian before their escape, but only Russian and Azeri.

The traumatic experience caused by the massacres remained has continued through several generations. Fast Solutions of conflicts in this region therefore by obstruct themselves. Maybe the search for alternatives for a peaceful multi-cultural shared existence in the Caucasus needs at least one more generation.

Later in June 2009, another work (public performance/video) “Apple of Bride” was realized by me in Armenia. The idea of this work directly connected to the Armenian wedding tradition. It refers to the fact that the families give away red apples to appreciate the virginity of the brides.
The body of exhibition embraced a video installation, where a video performance and summarized interviews will be juxtaposed with prints and textual descriptions.

Verena Kyselka