A Passage

  • Rouzbeh Akhbari (Canada/Iran)
    Felix Kalmenson (Canada)

    Producer: Garegin Hovhannisyan
    Curator: Susanna Gyulamiryan
    Sculptures and Stone Masonary: Hayk Mnacakanyan, Shahen Shahinyan, Arsen Ohanjanyan, Garegin Hovhannisyan
    Facilitator/Fixer: Vahe Sargsyan
    Actors: Agarak Children Choir, Vahe Sargsyan and Anush
    Special thanks to Razvan Denhavi, Eshrat Erfanian, Slavik Sargsyan and Paula Vool

    Hay Art Cultural Center
    7a Mashtots str., Yerevan, Armenia
    May 15-20, 2018

‘A Passage’ is a video and installation project produced in Agarak and Meghri. The project tackles the political economy and social ecology of border infrastructures in Southern Armenia. By focusing on two significant events that illustrate the dominant political shifts in the region, ‘A Passage’ looks at how processes of rapid militarization and neoliberalization have restructured these borders. These two events include the recent erasure of the historic Yerevan-Baku Railway; and the upcoming construction of an industrial Free Economic Zone (FEZ) planned precisely where the removed train infrastructure was housed. The scrapping of the railway symbolizes the socio-political adherence to maintaining strict mobility regimes for citizens, while the introduction of the FEZ signals how capital supersedes these bodily restrictions and borders.

The metaphor of ‘wind’ is a recurring thematic framework for examining complex socio-political dynamics in this project. The two channel video, Make Breeze, stitches together interior perspectives of Meghri’s abandoned airport with shots depicting two horsemen masked with mirrors enacting a ritual on the runway with windsocks in search of a breeze. The runway and the passenger halls have remained derelict for the past decade; inhabited only by a single security guard and a herd of wild horses who graze in the adjacent mountains. The horsemen’s quest is ultimately disrupted as the wild horses reclaim their space and occupy the main runway.

The thematic carries over in examinations of modes of mobility and obstruction as seen through the evacuated linkages of the discontinued Yerevan-Baku railway. Wait takes place in the empty tunnel that bridges the geopolitical boundary of Nakhchivan and Armenia, where the same horsemen ceremonially carry a banner with the ghost train’s image. As the riders proceed along the unlit tunnel, the second channel depicts Agarak’s theater, where the town’s children’s choir announces the major embarkation points on the former railroad.

Pejvak (PJVK) is the long-term collaboration between Felix Kalmenson and Rouzbeh Akhbari. Through their multivalent, intuitive approach to research and living they find themselves in a convergence and entanglement with likeminded collaborators, histories and various geographies.

Rouzbeh Akhbari is an artist working in video installation and film. His practice is research-driven and usually exists at the intersections of political economy, critical architecture and planning. Through a delicate examination of the violences and intimacies that occur at the boundaries of lived experience and constructed histories, Akhbari uncovers the minutiae of power that organizes and regiments the world around us.

Felix Kalmenson is an artist whose practice navigates installation, video and performance. Kalmenson’s work variably narrates the liminal space of a researcher’s and artist’s encounter with landscape and archive. By bearing witness to everyday life, and hardening the more fragile vestiges of private and collective histories through their work, Kalmenson gives themselves away to the cadence of a poem, always in flux.

Support and funding: Canada Council for the Arts (Conseil des arts Du Canada) and Ontario Arts Council (Conseil des arts de l’Ontario)

Host and support: Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory (ACSL) and its ‘Art Commune’ International Artist-in-Residence Program