Cultural heritage of Armenian diaspora explored in Depo exhibition

Silvina Der-Meguerditchian (3rd L) poses for a group photo with some of the artists taking part in the exhibition “Grandchildren, New geographies of belonging” in this undated photograph. The exhibition continues until Nov. 1 at the Depo art center in İstanbul.
Silvina Der-Meguerditchian (3rd L) poses for a group photo with some of the artists taking part in the exhibition “Grandchildren, New geographies of belonging” in this undated photograph. The exhibition continues until Nov. 1 at the Depo art center in İstanbul.
In conjunction with this year’s 14th İstanbul Biennial, the Depo Art and Culture Center in İstanbul is currently hosting an exhibition titled “Grandchildren, New geographies of belonging,” bringing together works by artists from the Armenian diaspora that delve into subject matter such as cultural heritage, identity and displacement.
Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, the curator of the show, explains that the exhibition focuses on what is behind the common cultural inheritance, or what this inheritance gives to artists with Armenian affiliations living in different countries.
“Is this inheritance a choice or obligation? Do we have a choice? How should we deal with the cultural heritage including absences and traumata that our people had suffered within the last century? Which topics or ways to understand ‘life’ link them to each other beyond the cultural heritage of the Armenian nation/culture?” Der-Meguerditchian writes in the exhibition’s catalogue.
“Those born under the Soviet bloc experienced the disintegration of the USSR as a source of instability, which deepened a certain sense of lack and loss. Those coming from the Diaspora tended to rebel against the supremacy of an identity based in terms of the tension between home and periphery. The artists agreed to focus on the positive things that displacement brings to the individual: its influence on everyday life, thoughts and choices,” the curator adds.
Der-Meguerditchian invited artists to think about how the political and social changes taking place in Turkey and Armenia influence their attachments and affiliations. “Relations to the ‘old land’ and the ‘new’ Republic of Armenia play a crucial role in any constitution of ‘Armenianness.’ Both reference pillars the Republic of Turkey (almost empty of its Armenian population) and the former Soviet Armenia, have been going through large social transformations over the last 20 years. Both places constitute important ‘longing resources’ for the Armenian diaspora. Both geographic places have also become ‘real’ by becoming differently accessible. On one hand, the former Soviet Armenia somewhat stabilized the formation of a ‘healthy’ national identity. However, only for a few diaspora from the West did it represent a real alternative. After the collapse of the iron curtain and the establishment of independence, a growing number of the members of the diaspora made Armenia their home. Confronted with ‘reality,’ their dreams were crushed and they left the country again,” she explains.
“On the other hand, Turkey was the place of pain and void during the last nine decades. The country never stopped to drain even the last remnants of its Armenian population. At the same time it has been a projection screen for legends: the apricots were the sweetest and the sheep the fattest and the water the most crystalline. Together with the opening of EU accession talks, Turkey has also witnessed certain efforts in democratization. The situation has changed: suddenly the children and grandchildren of survivors can visit the birthplaces of their ancestors and have real contact with ‘Turks.’ Changes within Turkish society have also opened doors,” Der-Meguerditchian writes, pointing out that with this exhibition she wanted to develop a critical discourse that can offer an alternative to nationalistic, one-sided, superficial and unpromising thoughts on the issue.
Apart from artworks by Der-Meguerditchian herself, works by Achot Achot, Maria Bedoian, Talin Büyükkürkciyan, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Linda Ganjian, Archi Galentz, Karine Matsakyan, Mikayel Ohanjanyan, Ani Setyan, Arman Tadevosyan, Scout Tufankjian and Marie Zolamian are also featured. Organized with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Goethe-Institute İstanbul, “Grandchildren” will run through Nov. 1.

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