Gender Trouble. Platforms

  • Public talks, screening, discussion

    Artists: Arevik Arevshatyan (Armenia), Armine Hovhannisyan (Armenia), Raffie Davtian (Armenia and Iran), Verena Kyselka (Germany), Iz Oztat (Turkey), Ingrid Ung (Finland), Negar Tahsili Fahadan (Iran), Julie Upmeyer (USA)

    Curator: Susanna Gyulamiryan
    Coordinator: Raffie Davtian

    ‘The Club’ cafe-art gallery, Yerevan
    May 4-17, 2009

‘Gender Trouble. Platforms’ is the second edition of the ‘Gender Trouble’ biannual symposia. The symposia have, through exhibitions, workshops, public debates, seminars, and educational programs, been addressing gender- and feminism-related issues in artistic practices of the post-Soviet area, the West, and the Near East. ‘Gender Trouble. Platforms’ articulated the independent attitudes and positions of Armenian and international artists not only within deconstructive attempts of traditional gender modeling, but also with regard to the problem of queer identities, post-colonial and feminist studies, and subjectivity in relation to the ‘history of sex’s. The project problematized the idea of self-identification and the possibility of individual emotional mechanism of the Self when the latter is compelled to continuously deal with the system of limits, oppressions, sexual exclusions, and all other cultural and social taboos arising from them.

Artists from different countries presented their platforms on the above-mentioned issues concerning gender and feminism, stating the positions and attitudes they defend and articulate publicly as art practitioners, activists, initiators, and curators.

Ingrid Ung (Finland)

Тhe works of Ingrid Ung are a journey of exploration into the state of trans-sexualism. Instead of a simplistic male/female dualism, she tries to identify a third approach to the construction of identity, gender, and sexual orientation. The important thing in art would be to process one’s own state and situation critically, in this case the trans-sexuality of the artist, and to establish points of contact with the basic humanity without the ballast of sexuality, background or social status. Therefore, Ingrid Ung is not merely examining her own status, but she is also looking on a broader front at how identities and bodies are being continuously created by our awareness and our gaze. In her works, there is a tension between beauty and hardness, between the sensual and the everyday. The idea is to use ambivalence and opposites to mobilize the associative function of the mind and to visualize a world with multiple voices. The basis work that Ingrid Ung represented to the local audueince and which provoked wider public debates was her autobiographical video documentary.

Trans Am
video documentary, 13 mins, 2006
Ingrid Ung (director/author), Tomas Kulistak (editing), Pertti Venetjoki (sound)
A biographic video work depicting on an intimate level a transsexual gender change from male to female through issues like work, love, dreams and hopes, and how to find the own way and place in life. The video documnetary articulates the whole picture of the process, both comical and tragic. Trans Am is a biographic research into the constructions of gender, sexual orientation and identity. In the video the artist also stages/reflects stereotyped visual identification codes, which still are based on the determination of gender and sexual orientation with humor and self irony.

Negar Tahsili Fahadan (Iran)

Being a woman and trying to be or pretend to be a powerful person is an issue in the Islamic Republic of Iran where Negar Tahsili Fahadan lives. However, after the Islamic revolution, there was an increasing desire among women to show their power. They became more outgoing and tried their best to fight for their own freedom, seeking for as much liberty as men had at that time. Nowadays, around 65% of university students in Iran are women, and, after graduating, they need a good job and benefits. Thus, being well-educated, they want to work outside of their households and have the same rights and benefits as men have.

The documentary that Negar Tahsili Fahadan presented at ‘Gender Trouble. Platforms’ is named ‘WEE – MEN OR WOMEN?!’ (26 mins). ‘Wee’ is a Scottish preposition which means small, little. The documentary is about women in Iran and their separation from men in the society. Basically, it is about the rules of separation in Iran and how people deal with it.

Julie Upmeyer (USA)

Julie Upmeyer is an artist based in Istanbul. She works with everyday materials and space: paper, plastic, food, the internet, the home, and the street. Born in 1980 in Detroit, USA, her work as an artist has been highly influenced by this re-purposing of everyday materials, with an emphasis on interaction and process-based practice. Curiosity leads her to a three-year nomadic life – working in India, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, and Greece. After settling in Istanbul, she initiated Caravansarai, an independent project space and meeting point in Istanbul, an open exploration of the interactive and collaborative possibilities of food, space and the internet.

Sold in Istanbul
slideshow, narration, and tasting
A multi-sensory tour of consumer products in Istanbul – Turkish brands imitating foreign products, multinational corporations creating Turkish flavours, household products of all sorts: toothpaste, chips, bleach, ice cream, and tomato sauce. The key words of the presentation are personal identity, national identity, brand identity, urbanism, fetishism, idealism, domesticity, and hospitality.

Iz Oztat (Turkey)

Iz Oztat is an artist and co-founder of ‘Cura Bodrum’ artist residency in Turkey – an artist-led initiative to support transnational artistic and intellectual dialogue and production. Iz Oztat lives and works in Istanbul and London.

A Matter of Height and Depth
performative discourse and discussion
Iz Oztat’a presentation suggested a three-dimensional understanding of space and the phenomenon that reflects on the locatedness of our individual gaze. The artist initiated a performative discourse with the audience and touched upon ideas of memory, Diaspora, militarism, and freedom of speech, reflecting on gender figures into the articulation of these ideas. Iz Oztat also showed a 3-minute video as an integral part of the presentation.

Armine Hovhannisyan (Armenia)

Armine Hovhannisyan has graduated from the Department of Fine Arts, Armenian Open University. She has been mostly involved in collaborative group artistic projects. Her platform of presentations addressed the issue of ‘representation’ of women’s body and the absence of female protagonists in constructing public spaces.

The Red apple is for Eating
interactive installation, 2005
The installation reflects on the Armenian traditional ritual of the ‘red apple’ as a symbol of preserving virginity before official marriage. The artist makes a real subversion of that fatalistic symbol, emphasizing the red apple’s natural importance against its discriminatory symbolic use.

I am Here in the City
video-slide projections, sound improvisation, 3 mins, 2008
Armine Hovhannisyan dresses a woman with images of the city of Yerevan, referring to the current processes of re-urbanization and re-modernization of the city where women’s involvement is not simply subordinated, but is absolutely absent. This gesture seeks to ‘conquer’ the male verticals in urban planning where the masculine power has also been neutralizing the critical mass of the public space.

A Jump
a series of photographs, 2009
The photo series is a demonstration of the masculine power and ‘male-motivated’ abilities through parallels with the animal world. The basis of the work is the ironic presentation of the instincts, competition, and attractiveness as part of masculine rules.

Verena Kyselka (Gerrmany)

Verena Kyselka is an artist and curator of several cross-cultural projects. She is an active member of the feminist performance group Exterra XX (the group was active from 1986 to 1994). She is the co-founder of the Kunsthaus Erfurt (Women Artist House in Erfurt). Verena Kyselka lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Territory of intimacy // Confusion of Identity
screening of a series of videos combined with performative improvisation and talks, 2007

Exterra XX
5-channel video, 11 mins

Drinking and Drowning
video performance, 4 mins
Drinking and drowning, life and death that follows a novel about a female artist and her suicide.

Forbidden Kisses
video, 6 mins
Investigation and excavation in the Albanian film archives to lift up the films about intimacy and modes of its displaying in the narrative cinema of former socialist countries.

El Orgullo
video, 4 mins
Examination of macho behavior in Mexico, studying comparative intercultural aspects.

Raffie Davtian (Iran)

Raffie Davtian is an artist and the co-founder of ACSL. He was born in Isfahan (Iran) and lives in both Yerevan and Tehran. His most important artistic projects of the past several years concern the issues of the possessive subjectivity and the objected subalterns. The new dimension in understanding of these topics had arrived from that moment, when the post-Soviet situation had a possibility of penetration into debates on such topics like post-colonial, totalitarian, ethnic minorities, sexism, gender issues, feminism, and other notions that expand the thematic of identity with the following enrichment of subject-object inter-relations inside the local contexts, as well as in their inclusion in the discourse of the global processes.

We Can Dooo It
short film, 8 mins, 2008
The short film represents the woman’s desire to be equally introduced in the sphere of masculine. In the film, the attempt of the women to fully identify with men proved to be an unsuccessful attempt. The reasons are different: first of all, the desire of the heroine in the film is revealed as the result of her imagination’s flight, and one of the connotations raised before spectators is inefficiency of the ‘desire and dreams’ that Raffie Davtian ironically deconstructed taking on the range a notion ‘difference’ that echoes with feminist discourses.

Human Doors
multimedia installation, 11 mins
The basic issue addressed in the project ‘Human Doors’ succeeds one of the extremely characteristic features for the modern reality, that is: the interrelation between the sexes in general, and the certain panic or anxiety of gender identity, which is typical for the today’s world and for Armenia, arrived under the global influences, in particular. Today, the shattering of the fundamentals of patriarchal family leads to numerous uncertainties, which are accompanying that process with the loss of gender certainty, anxiety of interrelations between the sexes.

Arevik Arevshtyan (Armenia)

Arevik Arevshtyan is an artist and curator based in Yerevan, Armenia. Within the framework of the Platforms, she presented her activities from 1994 up to now. Based on her personal creative experience, she reflected on the new manifestations that had emerged in the Armenian art context during 1990s as part of the new economic and social situation in the country. The notion of ‘self-governed’ artistic activities was typical of that transitive period (one can call it ‘a period of short term freedom’), and it was one of the examples of modernization of the institutional system of art in Armenia. Arevik Arevshatyan presented two projects which she had curated and had actively participated in as an artist. She also discussed the exhibition ‘Mono Polis’ (1997) which she had curated, engaging women artists from Armenia.

Narine Zolyan (Armenia and Germany)

Narine Zolyan is an artist, independent curator, and the co-founder of the ‘Art Laboratory’ artistic collective which operates in Armenia. She lives and works in Germany. Her presentation was based on her psychological research which attempted to analyze and explore the process of creating her own works, bringing out gender problems present in her works, which had rather been addressed intuitively than on purpose. During the process of selecting works for the ‘Gender Trouble. Platforms’, Narine Zolyan had noticed individual, personal, and social motives behind her works. According to her, this process of selection became a psychogenic action, analysis, research, and re-activation of her self-realization on a personal as well as on a social level.

Illusions or Shock Treatment. Voluptuousness
photo series, 1999

Have you joint the terrorist?
photo series, 2002

Chelo-Vek (Чело-Век)
photo series, 2003

The Language of Silence
c-prints, 2005

A Dance or Panta Rea
video, 10 mins, 2006

This project was funded by IFA Gefordert durch das Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen aus Mitteln der Kulturabteilung des Auswartigen Amtes, Civilitas Foundation in Armenia, and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia.