Gulizar and Other Love Stories

  • Rebecca Topakian (Paris, France)

    Exhibiion opening: June 20, 2018
    Duration: June 20-30

    AGBU Armenia Exhibition Space
    22/2 Paronyan str., Yerevan, Armenia

Project Statement by Rebecca Topakian and Susanna Gyulamiryan

Haig Topakian, my grandfather, arrived from Istanbul to Marseille in the 1920s, he never told his story nor the one of his family. Instead, the narrative that passed on through the generations was the love story of his parents, that is based on fairy tales and myth rather than reality. Hadji Garabed Kevork Topakian was the ‘king of basturma’ in Constantinople, while Gulizar was a princess. Her parents would not allow such a marriage, so in the middle of the night he kidnapped her on his horse. While the Armenian characters of my family story are mostly men present in photographs in many ways, Gulizar is a shadow figure with no apparent subjectivity.

Almost 100 years later, I came to Armenia, where my grandfather had never been. Wondering about identity of my family, our common traits and differences, I impersonate a new Gulizar, giving her subjectivity and combining the family love stories from the past with some imagined love stories from today’s Armenia.

‘Gulizar’ is an intimate work about desire: the desire of a fantasized ‘motherland’ that is more of a ‘fatherland’ in case of works of Rebecca Topakian, and also the desire for liberated eroticism of a woman. In art or elsewhere, the woman’s body has been presented and defined by men as an object of desire and beauty or – in opposite line of binary oppositions of women’s representation by men – unpleasant, ‘unrepresentative’ bodies when they are portrayed as the whole yet marginalized-by-the-dominant-discourse-of-pleasure bodies. Thus, the artist reverses the dominant male gaze: it is men who become the objects of female desire through the eyes of a new Gulizar owning her fantasies, her desire, and her body.

After two Bachelor degrees in Philosophy and Geography at the Sorbonne, Rebecca Topakian continued her research at the National Photography School of Arles (ENSP), France, graduating in 2015. Playing with the boundaries between artistic and documentary forms, her work aims to point at the possibility of representation of personal identity in its relation to groups, communities or collective history through intimacy, with a strong focus on bodies and their sensuality. She exhibited her work in several galleries and festivals in France and abroad (Biennale de l’Image Possible, Liège (BE), Photography Biennale in Mulhouse (FR), Art Centre of Villa Arson, Nice (FR), Festival Circulation(s), Rencontres d’Arles), and so on. Her book ‘Infra’ was recently published by Classe Moyenne Éditions. In Jericho, she is the co-founder of an artists, writers, and researchers residency called el-Atlal and will soon be artist-in-residence of the Cité Internationale des Arts de Paris (2018-2019). Topakian is a current artist-in residence at the ‘Art Commune’ International Artist-in-Residence Program.


This project has been developed in the frame of the ‘Art Commune’ International Artist-in-Residence Program and realized under the ‘Financial Support for Art Projects’ program of Armenia Art Foundation with partial financial funding from the European Cultural Foundation.

The exhibition was part of the ‘Francophonie Cultural Days’ in Armenia in partnership with AGBU Armenia.