March 31, 2010

WOW present/ed at the ACLA conference

Annual Meeting

The American Comparative Literature Association

"Creoles, Diasporas, Cosmopolitanism"

April 1-4, 2010
New Orleans, LA

D2 Caucasian Crossroads: the Intersection of Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism?

Vieux Carre A, Bienville House

Organizer: Mary Evelynne Childs, U of Washington

Friday, April 2, 3:45PM-5:45PM


Ketevan Nadareishvili, Tbilisi Ivane Javakhishvili State U
“Cosmopolitism and Nationalism in Georgian Culture in Light of Interpreting Classical Heritage”

Jason Brooks, Penn State U
“Reconfiguring/Retranslating Medea: Space, Dialogue, and Gender on the Euripidean Stage”

Nestan Ratiani, Institute of Georgian Literature
“The Ambiguity of the Word “Arab” According to Georgian Folk Tales and The Knight in the Panther's Skin

Kathryn Schild, UC Berkeley
“Azerbaijani National Identities at the 1934 Congress of Soviet Writers”

Saturday, April 3, 3:45PM-5:45PM

Mary Childs, U of Washington
“Tengiz Abuladze’s Magdana’s lurja, and Another’s Children: Soviet Cosmopolitanism in Georgia?”

Hulya Sakarya, Temple U
“Liberal Multiculturalism Meets Dzveli Tiflis or Old Tbilisi: Revitalization Schemes in Post-Socialist Georgia”

Michael Pittman, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
“21st Century Reflections on G.I. Gurdjieff and Late 19th Century/Early 20th Century Cosmopolitanism in the Caucasus”

Lidia Zhigunova, Tulane U
“Re-Fashioning Circassian Identity: The Changing Identities of the Circassian Women in the North Caucasus”

March 29, 2010

March 26, 2010

ՀՀ ոստիկան… պաշտպա՞ն, թե բռնարա՞ր… (RA police officer... protector or perpetrator?)


http://www.womenofarmenia.org/blog
for ENGLISH VERSION read here

Մայիսի 9-ը մեր երկրի շատ-շատ բնակիչների համար տոն է, իսկ ինձ համար այդ օրվա հետ կապված հիշողությունները մինչև այսօր սարսուռ են առաջացնում մարմնումս: Այս դեպքի մասին որոշեցի գրել այն բանից հետո, երբ Սեռական Բռնության Ճգնաժամային Կենտրոնի PR արշավի շրջանակներում լսեցի բազմաթիվ բացասական արձագանքներ՝ թե «Ի՞նչ եք խառնվել իրար: Հայաստանում կանանց հանդեպ բռնություն չկա»: Մեղավորներից մեկը ես եմ... որ լռել եմ:

Գիշերային հրավառությունը դիտելուց հետո ընկերոջս հետ դեպի տուն էինք քայլում Բաղրամյան փողոցով (երկուսս էլ +/-18 տարեկան): Մեր տան մոտակայքում գտնվող «Պուշկինի» (այժմյան «Սիրահարների») այգին վերջին տարիներին անուշադրության էր մատնվել քաղաքապետարանի կողմից. մինչև իսկ նստարանի փայտերը այրվել էր Երևանի ցուրտ բնակարաններից մեկում: Այգին՝ իր բազմաթիվ մութ ու ամայի ծակուծուկերով, շատ սիրահար զույգերի համար ժամանցի մշտական վայր էր դարձել: Մենք էլ երբեմն առանձնանալու համար գտնում էին այնտեղ մարդկանցից հեռու մեր անկյունը, ինչը և որոշեցինք անել հենց այդ օրը: Բուռն համբույրներն ու սիրախաղերն ընդհատվեցին ինչ որ մեկի ոտնաձայներով: Հանկարծ մթության մեջ ինչ որ մի երրորդ անձի բջջայինի լույսը բախվեց երեսիս: Համազգեստով տղամարդ էր՝ թաքցրած շոկոլադը հայտնաբերած երեխայի գոհ ժպիտը դեմքին: Բջջայինի լույսով ուսումնասիրելով մեր դեմքերն ու գոտկատեղից ցած գտնվող հատվածները՝ նրա ժպիտն էլ ավելի պայծառացավ, երբ նշմարեց իմ արձակված գոտին: «Ք**վում էի՞ք», - հնչեց լկտի քմծիծաղ: Մենք վախից սառել էինք: «Հիմա գազելը ընդեղ կանգնած ա: Լավ կլինի՞ լցնեմ մեջը տանեմ»: Այգու մոտակայքում տեսնելով «Պարեկային Ծառայություն» մեքենաներ՝ միշտ մտածում էի, թե ի՞նչն է նրանց դերը: Հիմա մտքումս արեցի եզրակացություն, որ թմրամոլների և հարբեցողների շարքին էին պատկանում նաև հասարակական վայրում սեռական հարաբերություններ ունեցող զույգերը: Մեզ սպասվում էր դժվարին խնդիր. համոզել համազգեստով աշխատակցին, որ այդպիսի բան տեղի չի ունեցել: Իհարկե չհավատալով՝ նա որոշեց ինքը համոզվել՝ փորձելով ձեռքի շարժումներով ստուգել իմ «մաքուր» լինելը: Միայն օրենքներն ու իմ իրավունքները թերի իմանալու պատճառով ես թույլ տվեցի նրան ընկերոջս աչքի առաջ նվաստացնել ինձ: Ընկերս շատ էր վախեցած... Միայն շարունակ պնդում էր, որ ոչինչ չի եղել: Իսկ ես, միայն պրոբլեմներից զերծ մնալու համար, ինձ ենթարկում էի նրա քմահաճույքներին: Իր անգրագիտությունից («հեղուկը կուսության բացակայության նշան է») համոզված, որ իր կասկածները տեղին էին, ասաց ընկերոջս, որ ուզում է ինձ հետ առանձին զրուցի: Տարավ ինձ մի քանի մետր հեռու: Ես համոզվեցի, որ ընկերս շատ հեռու չեր:

Եվս մի անգամ դիպչելով իմ մարմնի տարբեր մասերին, նույն լկտի ձայնով ասաց. «Սիրուն ջան, մենք էս հարցը կարանք շատ հեշտ լուծենք: Պռոստը ընգերդ պիտի չիմանա սրա մասին»: Մինչ ես փորձում էի հասկանալ, թե արդյոք ճիշտ եմ հասկանում նրա ասածը, նա շարունակեց. «Քո համար հաստատ լավ կլինի: Դու չես ուզում չէ, որ ծնողներդ իմանան, որ ք**նվել ես»: Ես ինձ վերջապես հավաքեցի այդ ապտակից հետո ու բացատրեցի այդ կենդանուն, որ ես ցիվիլ ընտանիքից եմ, ու ծնողներս ոչ մի կերպ չեն խառնվում իմ ու ընկերոջս հարաբերություններին: Հասկանալով, որ իր մտադրությունը ձախողվում է, նա ուղեկցեց ինձ ընկերոջս մոտ, բարի ապագա մաղթեց: «Ես վերևը տղեքին կասեմ, որ ձեզ բան չասեն: Ձեզ պետք ա՞ տուն ճանապարել»: Ու չքացավ: Արցունքները գետի պես հոսում էին աչքերիցս:

Մի քանի օր շարունակ մեր մեջ տիրում էր լռություն: Հիշելով ընկերոջս անօգնական հայացքը, երբեք չկարողացա պատմել նրան մեր խոսակցության էության մասին: Շուտով այգին փակեցին ու սկսեցին վերանորոգել: Շուրջ երեք տարի չպատմեցի ոչ ոքի: Ամաչում էի: Ամաչում էի, երբ ամոթալի ոչինչ չէի արել: Ամաչում էի, երբ պետք է ամաչեր «օրենքի ու կարգ ու կանոնի պահապանը»:

«Մայիսի 9-ը Գ.Կ.-ի օրագրում»

March 25, 2010

update: two years in correspondence

Սիրելի «Երկու տարվա նամակագրության» աջակիցներ,

Ներկայումս (ոչ բոլոր) նամակները հավաքելու և թարգմանելու գործընթացում ենք, և հույսով ենք մինչև հուլիսի 1-ն ավարտել բնագրի պատրաստումը: Գրքի ձևավորմանն ու դիզայնին գուցե կգնա մեկ ամիս ու օգոստոսի 1-ին այն կհանձնենք տպագրության: Սա իհարկե մեր նախնական պլանն է (և շատ բաներ գուցե փոխվեն ընթացքում): Ի վերջո (և գրքի «հետմահու կյանքում») կուզենանք, որ այն ստեղծի տարօրինակող (ու օտարացնող) էֆեկտ թե հայալեզու և թե անգլալեզու ընթերցողների համար, որպեսզի նրանք ի հայտ գան իրենց մշտածանոթ և «բնականացված» տարածքներից և մտնեն անծանոթ, ոգևորիչ ու ոչտնական աշխարհների հետ միշտ տարբերվող հարաբերության մեջ:

Dear Backers of “Two Years in Correspondence” --

We are currently in the process of compiling and translating (some of) the letters, and we hope to have the manuscript ready by July 1st. This is when we’ll start the design and layout of the book, and finally get it to the printer by August 1st. That’s the plan, anyway. In the end (and in its “afterlife”), we would like this book to have a queering (and foreignizing) effect on both the Armenian- and English-language readers, so that they may come out of their familiar and “naturalized” spaces and enter into a relationship with strange, exciting, and unhomely worlds that always differ.

March 24, 2010

...






March 22, 2010

a certain anthropologist, nelli sargsyan-pittman

2010 Northeastern University Graduate World History Conference
March 27-28, 2010


Sunday March 28
1:30–3:30 Session VII

Roundtable: Gendered Connections in World History
Nelli Sargsyan-Pittman, Department of Anthropology, State University of New York at Albany

Transnationally Rooted and Locally Routing: Queering within the Armenian Transnation

Unlike the concept of male gayness, female non-heterosexuality has been rejected a discursive space within the nationalist heteronormativity of the current Armenian society. In this paper I explore the identities that a group of Armenian lesbian, bisexual, and straight women artists invoke and produce in different spaces, through different languages historicizing queer presence and promoting their advocacy work for LGBT women on their online blog. More specifically, I analyze how a group of LGBT and straight Armenian women’s collective produces particular gender identities through a project called Queering Yerevan, a research-based initiative taking topography as a work of artistic symbolization and translation. I argue that although locally rooted, the Armenian queer artists (some of whom are repatriated Diasporan Armenians), nevertheless, imagine themselves as part of a global LGBT community — through individual and organizationally based transnational networks — that sustains their local struggles and advocacy in the Armenian society through various activist and art/literary projects. I suggest that along with utilizing their knowledge of theories on gender identity construction, the queer artists use techno- and mediascapes — sharing information and art on similar struggles and various solutions — in an attempt to remain rooted in their imagined global community and to route to the local as well as diasporic Armenian communities. This allows them to more meaningfully represent their queer identities among many other identities they articulate. At the same time, informed by their transnational experience, they complicate and queer the local constraints of heteronormativity.

March 21, 2010

from the desk of maral bavakan

Queer/Armenian, Split Identity: International Women’s Month 
I like to tell myself (and others) that I am queer because of where I come from and the way that my identity in a changing political economy was formed. There was always a split, beginning with the fact that I was born a female into a tradition that saw my great-grandmother’s birth as excessive and which led to her being called “Bavakan,” the Armenian name for “Enough.” This became her name because her parents wanted a boy but kept conceiving girls, Bavakan being the 8th.

I was taught from early on to be ashamed, as if inhabiting a female body was a sin. My mother more than once shut down my questions, whispering secretively in the car with a male driver for me to not concern myself with questions about pregnancy, that there were certain struggles for women to undertake and separate struggles for men. I remember declaring that when I grew up I was going to be the president’s wife, already understanding from an early age that the world was set up in a way that excluded women from the position of presidency.
When my family immigrated to the United States in 1997, a whole new split was created in my identity. One thing that happened within my own family was the fear of this new world, especially for my parents who had grown up under Soviet rule and regarded much of “American” traditions/practices as foreign and therefore dangerous and suspect. As much as I assimilated outside of the home, inside I was still subject to the patriarchal, Armenian understanding of the world. My father always reminded me that “I was born Armenian and I was going to die Armenian.” This was hard for me to undertake because my world was so split between inside/outside, who I was taught to be according to where I was from and who I was becoming according to the English language and the NYC public school system. It wasn’t that I ever detested my Armenian roots or refused to speak the language, but somehow the Armenian words became replaced by the more easier and accessible English syllables and I found myself more and more involved in the melting-pot of NYC young adult life.
By the time I turned 15, it made sense for me to be attracted to a girlfriend of my age in the Tae Kwon Do school I attended. I knew all about why it was wrong and shameful to be gay, I had heard all the stereotypes about LGBT folks from the Armenian family who “eased” our transition from Armenia to NYC in the summer of 1997. They warned us of the bad neighborhoods, introduced us to all the stereotypes against Black and Latino people, and told us to watch out for the queers in the West 4th stop of the D line. Once when I was still in junior high school, one of the girls in my class accused me of being a lesbian and I had no idea where it came from, but I remember feeling so terrified that the term was being applied to me and so wrongfully, I thought! I started crying. Maybe I knew.
It didn’t matter.
By the time I was 16, I was cutting school to take the train to the West Village in search of some kind of home. I was now one of the “weird,” “shameful,” “wrong” gays of NYC and my gut told me to fight against this internalization. I was still the same old me. Why did this one slight change in what I desired or rather, was open to, mean that I would no longer be accepted?
I have been meeting gay Armenians both in Armenia and in the US and telling myself that my parents cannot use the excuse of my assimilation to American culture as the reason for my rejection of heterosexuality. But it always comes down to that. When I moved out my parents could not understand why I chose to do so even though I felt like I was going mad living at home and leading such a double life. I still live a double life, but there is less anxiety over trying to maintain a lie, a shameful secret, who I have chosen to be, who I have become in this mixture of immigration from Armenia to the United States, from heteronormativity to queerland, from proper, passive woman to activist, feminist, artist. Because I cannot exist in a bubble, I claim an identity as a queer Armenian woman, but those are also secondary.
I would rather not have to be face to face with a system that creates categories to separate people. I cannot choose where I was born and the impact the earth and air of that place has had on me, nor can I choose the effect that living in a female body has had on my spirit and mind, but I should not have to constantly prove how I am woman, or Armenian, or American, or queer, or straight, or artist, or activist, or spiritual. And there are so many of us, immigrants, exiles, who do not fit in a box or live our lives in a linear fashion. I believe we are the ones who can guard the future against decay, standing against its winds, with our very lives, resisting.

---
Reposted from Ianyan Magazine, an independent Armenian publication. 

March 19, 2010

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Queering Yerevan Open Call for Proposals 2010
The Women Oriented Women’s collective is pleased to announce its Summer 2010 open call for proposals. Individual and collaborating artists are welcome to submit proposals for work that engages with the theme of this year’s art intervention.

July 31 – August 1, 2010
Zarubyan 34, Yerevan

Contact: Arpi Adamyan
queeringyerevan@gmail.com

QUEERING TRANSLATION: AN ART INTERVENTION

Translation looms large among the cultural practices that at once join and separate us. We use intralingual translation to interpret verbal signs by means of other signs of the same language, we depend on interlingual translation to interpret the verbal signs of a foreign language, and we rely on intersemiotic translation to interpret verbal signs using signs of nonverbal sign systems. And yet, while other reflexes of thought are interrogated and revealed as situated knowledge, the assumption that cultural differences are bridged easily and transparently remains undisturbed. How can we critically engage with and pay more attention to the processes of such bridging? How can we problematize conceptions that render translation as objective and value-free? The effects of translation are felt both in the domestic and the foreign cultures, as, on the one hand, translation wields enormous power in the construction and representation of foreign entity, and on the other hand, translation enlists the foreign text in the development and revision of domestic values.

Because meaning is an effect of relations and differences among signifiers along a potentially endless chain in the Derridean sense, it is always differential and deferred, never present as an original unity. As a result, a translated text (cultural artifact) is the site of many different semantic possibilities that are fixed only provisionally in a certain translation based on varying cultural assumptions and interpretive choices, in specific social situations, in different historical periods.

Situating our inquiry in the crossings of the dominant post-Soviet culture in Armenia, queer spaces, and translation as a mode of subversion, we propose an examination of “foreign” or “queer” texts and cultural objects that violate, disrupt and revise dominant conceptual paradigms, research methodologies, and cultural practices in the parameters of the familiar, the habitual, or the homely. Coming from a slightly different angle, translation as a method of defamiliarization can be compared to the Butlerian conception of drag, which in its performativity complicates, parodies, and denaturalizes “reality” and its norms that standardize gender and sexuality. The purpose of such translation is to expose that what we come to understand to be “real,” “original,” or naturalized is, in fact, a changeable and revisable reality.

Deadline:
The deadline for submitted proposals is Monday, May 31, 2010.

Guidelines for artists:
All artists (working with any media) who have shown or never shown their work are welcome to apply. We do not supply application forms. Please send us your application unaccompanied by any forms, including details on all the points listed below:

- short CV
- short description of the work you are proposing for submission
- from when to when you would like to come

New and emerging artists are welcome! We will try to provide artists with free housing, depending on availability. Please send all submissions and correspondence to Arpi Adamyan at queeringyerevan@gmail.com.

March 17, 2010

next time_now

video

we need each other: a report on "water and wine"

March 15, 2010

(Չ)պրոյեկտված պրոյեկտում

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(անտարբեր հյուրընկալողի ու անազատ հյուրընկալվողի միջև ապակու ճկման ամրության որոշումն ու հարցի պատասխանը, որ սպասվածից շատ ավելի է պատճենված ու որից հավանաբար կարելի է տպել բազում օրինակներ, քան ստուգված «այո»-ն կամ «ոչ»-ը)


(ոմանք պարունակելով նախկին ժամանակահատվածներից վերաբերված, վերադարձված էտյուդներ փոխարինողներ, որոնցից ապավարժվելու համար)

(միշտումիայն տեսնելու անկառավարելի «ինչպես»-ը և որն առանց սկզբի ընդմիջվում է թիթեղի ու բետոնի էրոտիկությամբ)

(շրջանցիկ փողոցը, որով պիտի անցնես ասելու համար, հանդիսավոր խոստումը, որ լռությամբ պիտի տաս)

(ամեն ինչ իրականում սկսվում է այստեղից)

(միջև ապակու ճկման ամրության որոշումն ու հարցի պատասխանը, որ սպասվածից շատ ավելի էր այլասերված, քան ստուգված այոն կամ ոչը)

(իսկ հաջորդ պահը հաջորդում է գալվանական միայնությանը)

(դու` 2:26ին արդեն լուսանկարված, ու հետևաբար սղված բնօրինակից, որ կրկնապատկվում է երկդիմությունիցդ)

(տանկերով ուրբանացված միջանցքներում, որտեղ կփնտրեն շղարշել արդի հրապարակայնությունն ու որտեղ գուցե և չլինենք, պիտի վարժվես գլասնոստի այս նոր լարվածության անդարմանելի)

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March 12, 2010

բարի գիշեր արփ


March 9, 2010

an interview with melissa boyajian

(excerpted from the artsite of the allegheny college art department)

In Between: (re)Negotiating Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality
Curated by Emily Yochim, Vika Gardner and Darren Miller
Artist's Talk by Zanele Muholi,
Exhibition Dates, 1/26 – 2/16/2010





Melissa Boyajian
Odalisque for Said, 2006
Image courtesy of the artist



Interview with MELISSA BOYAJIAN

Vika Gardner: Can you describe what you do?

Melissa Boyajian: In many cases I’m a performer, using irony and humor. My projects are designed to question gender, homophobia, and sexism. I also question established, academic discourses. In my photographs, I am both the subject and the artist, poking fun at the male artist’s gaze. I problematize the trope with gender ambiguity, masculine women and feminine men. I created the Odalisque for Said during my first year of graduate school. It is among the works I abandoned.

VG: Why?

MB: I was confused about what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to work on the things that I had been working on with photography. I wanted to use other mediums and subject matter. I was trying to decide on something so daunting, and I was feeling inexperienced. I didn’t know enough of the cannon of art history, theory, etc. I created subjects that were meaningful for further work, although I didn’t know it at the time; they turned out to be powerful.

VG: What are your influences?

MB: Said’s Orientalism was a major influence. My grandmother, Mary, had recently passed away. My family is Armenian; my grandparents emigrated from Anatolia, modern day Turkey. I became interested in representation of the Middle East, such as the Odalisque from 1814. Said borrows from Foucault’s contrast between the Occident and the Orient. It creates a misconception about the East or the Near East being feminine, docile, etc. I followed Ingres' Odalisque because of the idea of fantasy. The original was based on letters from the wife of the British ambassador to the Ottoman empire, Lady Whortley Montague. Ingres projects his own ideals based on his imagination from Lady Montague’s letters. This depicts people -- a fetishization -- based on her writing, even though the closest he ever came to the Middle East was Italy. I started thinking about my own identity and my parents coming from Anatolia. I had been questioning my gender identity as well. I began playing with ideas of female masculinity to confuse the gaze.

VG: Do you see the work as revealing problems or solutions?

MB: More problems than solutions. I think that’s all art can really do, critique or reveal problems. It’s not good to forcefully change anything; it’s more democratic to present a problem.

VG: Why did you use a beard in this image and not a mustache?

MB: I don't know if I am being too simple saying that I was working with the idea of the 'bearded lady.' The beard did not signify anything religious or anything from Bear culture. The bearded lady, however, aside from being a subject of laughter, ridicule or "schizonphrenic" subject with "gender confusion" problems, is also an individual pushing the boundaries of gender and normality that is appreciated in the queer community. Such as circus entertainer, writer and bearded lady Jennifer Miller.

VG: Describe your day.

MB: I teach photography one day a week, and I have a job as a pastry chef since 2003. I don’t work in a way where I’m constantly producing. I might have a few months where I’m reading a lot. I read a ton and I’m really really super organized and anal. I have a million preliminary plans and go through a series of tests of the project before a final result. So it can be a year to a year and a half before a project is installed. For me the research component is important to the studio work.

VG: Do you see gender as binary?

MB: I see gender as performative and fluid, no binary at all.

VG: How does art enrich your life?

MB: I can’t imagine not doing art; life would be boring without being a kind of cultural producer. It’s fun -- it brings a lot of riches. Creative people in my life influence me in general.

VG: Do you think orientalism as a theory is over?

MB: It’s still really relevant, especially in wartime. People’s attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims are ridiculous. It’s about war and domination. There’s still work to be done.

VG: What’s your intellectual lineage?

MB: I have masters -- I studied art and theory. I see myself in the Western tradition of art and theory. I am also in dialogue with a sort of intellectual circle of international Armenian writers/activists/artists. Shushan Avagyan (writer and activist), Chris Atamian (writer and director), Mamikon Hovsepyan (gay right's activist), Arpi Adamyan (artist and activist), and Nancy Agabian (writer/professor), Arlene Avakian (activist/writer/professor), Adrineh Der-Boghossian (artist). My interest in social/political theory (Said, Foucault, bell hooks, Judith Butler and Benedict Anderson). 2. I am also shaped by Armenian history, both history books and stories from some of my family members that have passed on. 3. Other artists. To name a few: Anri Sala, Harun Farocki, Michael Rackowitz, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Joan Fontcuberta, Sharon Hayes, Walid Raad, Carrie Mae Weems, Adrian Piper, Cindy Sherman, Sergei Parajanov, Atom Egoyan, Shirin Neshat. 4. I am also influenced by Armenian music, food and dance.

VG: Do you work collaboratively?

MB: Yes, I’ve been working collaboratively since my second year of graduate school. I’m just drafting a solo project now, but everything else was collaborative. I enjoy how to have 2 minds meet and create something -- it’s challenging and democratic. One of my collaborators is Jesse Jagtiani; another is Valeria Lopez.

VG: Pop culture?

MB: I have other work that references TV and pop culture more. I have a piece critiquing tourism. I and a collaborator fabricated a town in Oklahoma, created a history with pamphlets, maps and a parody video, like Travel Channel stuff.

VG: Do you have a specific goal for your viewer?

MB: No, I don’t really from a simple picture. I hope it would raise questions about authoritative structures, questioning what’s true, what’s factual or fictitious.

VG: Why is the body art in this image here?

MB: It’s just queer. There was no reason to take it out. It’s more of an emphasis that it counters the expected gaze. If I were to make this image again, I would not change it, but I think that I would go about the way I made other images in the series differently and I would read more on the discourse and criticism of Orientalism and homosexuality and colonialism in the Middle East. I later realized that the photo has a certain likeness with other artists such as Yasumasa Morimura and Yinka Shonibare. How might I make my series a bit different?

VG: Given that this image is on some level based on a woman’s view of the Ottoman harem, did you consider a woman’s gaze in this image?

MB: I’ve read Lady Montague’s letters from Turkey; she was extremely impressed with the role of women. She thought they were freer than the women in England. There’s some speculation: she might not draw out problematic issues on gender, but there’s still lots of class distinction.

VG: Do you have a cultural/political lens?

MB: With my family history and her upbringing, I’m aware of and sensitive to oppression. I think I’m more open-minded because of that. I also volunteer and participate in activism. So I’m fairly political inside and outside of art. There are other issues I try to address in some of my other work, which stem from some of my family members who escaped the massacres in Turkey from 1895-1915 and my own personal relationship to the Armenian community being only a halfsie, such as collective memory, cultural erasure and cultural belonging. My dad and his brothers were raised in Watertown, MA (the former little Armenia before Glendale, CA) and they were initially forced to go to Armenian school when they were children (my brother and I also went for a time). They hated it and wanted to be as American as possible so they would crawl out the bathroom window at school until their parents eventually gave up on making them go. My father being the youngest of the boys retained the least amount of the Armenian language and therefore it was not passed down to me. The passing of customs and language in Armenian is usually done by the mother. My grandmother and uncle taught me a small amount of the language and I have learned quite a bit on my own from language tapes and visiting Armenia with my uncle. Part of my other work ("Basic Conversational Armenian," video) addresses the irony of trying to learn the Western Armenian language (spoken by Armenians of the Diaspora) and negotiate with gender codes and sexism in the lessons. There are also issues of collective and personal memory present in my work. How does a group of people remember a traumatic event and how does it change over time? How do I remember it and is part of the memory pieces that I have improvised? I am interested in how cultures retain and hybridize traditions as well.

VG: Would you do the same kind of gender boundary crossing today?

MB: I’m not sure if I would do it differently. Since then I have been reading about post-colonial feminism. It’s another layer that’s not quite a critique. Perhaps some of the orientalists were visiting the East to explore homosexual desires, a fetishization in a way Said did not explore. I now see this as something adding another layer; I didn’t know this when I made this picture. . . . it’s an article in a book by Reina Lewis and Sara Mills [Worldcat says: Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader / Reina Lewis, 2001]. The position of the artist in the past has been linked to ethnographers and anthropologists, and I want to look more at the possibility of homoerotic vacations.

VG: Is there anything more that you want to tell me?

MB: There’s a different for me between being openly queer with friends and family versus those in the Armenia culture. It’s quite different. I came out to my close family when I was 22, but not to others in the Armenian community. I came out to my Armenian family only 2 weeks ago. My grandmother who died in 2003, and I never had that conversation with her, although we were close. When I told my Armenian family, they were okay, but visiting other family, there were strict rules. I could not be visibly gay in any way there. But I have a group of gay friends in Armenia anyway. So I have different identities for different cultures. I go to Armenia every few years. My work also deals with this -- with the sexism and homophobia in Armenian culture.

VG: Do you speak Armenian?

MB: Just at a very very basic level. My grandmother taught me a little; my father and his brothers speak a little.

March 5, 2010

/(Հ)ագ/ հիմքի ստուգաբանությունը

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(հետզհետէ քանի կը մօտենայինք, իրականութիւնը կը խուսափէր կարծես)

(կոռուպտացված «ես»-ի, և այլն)

(եկար այո, օպտիմիզմի որսի ելած ու պրկված շուրթերովդ տեղահանեցիր վարիացիաները, հեռացրեցիր քո այդ մեթոդով, բայց երբ չկա ինքնություն, ամեն ինչ դառնում է անճանաչելի, երբ չկա նույնականություն)

(ու տեղի ունեցող քննարկումները շարունակում են հագուրդ չտալ, բայց ոչ որովհետև մասնակիցներն անընդմեջ վիճում են Վարդանովի ՎԳԻԿ-ի ավարտման տարեթվերի շուրջ, այլ որովհետև հակված չեն հերմետիկորեն փակված այրվող նյութերի ծավալների պարագծերից ավելիին, անցմանը, ու որովհետև գեղարվեստականորեն մեկուսացված են ու ինքնապարփակ, ազգային նեղ)

(հավատացնելով ունկնդիրներին, թե առաջին դեմքով խոսելն ինչ-որ կերպ կթույլատրի, որ ճշմարտությունը բառերի կառույցից «խույս տա»)

(բայց տես, թե ինչպես է վերայուրացվում քաղաքային լանդշաֆտը)

(թող չարտասանվի, չմեկնաբանվի դեռ, որպեսզի բնակեցնի ինքն իրեն, որպեսզի ինքն իրենից տարբերվելով դառնա)

(ոչ այն, ինչ սրանից առաջ էր, ու ոչ էլ այն ինչ կլինի սրանից հետո, մի փորձաշրջան, Օրեստես)