Lecture by Marc Nichanian, February 3, 2011

Pratt Manhattan Gallery and the Blind Dates Project Present
a Lecture by Marc Nichanian
Blind Dates exhibition at Pratt Manhattan Gallery through February 11

Please join us for a special lecture
organized in conjunction with the exhibition
“Blind Dates: New Encounters from the Edges of a Former Empire”

“What Image for the Death of the Witness?”
A lecture by literary critic and cultural studies Professor Marc Nichanian, Sabanci University, Turkey

Pratt Manhattan Gallery
144 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011
Free and open to the public

Amy Aronoff

Noted cultural thinker and literary critic Marc Nichanian is known for his incisive and thought-provoking views on Armenian literature, history and culture. In his lecture at Pratt, Nichanian will analyze debates that have taken place in the last 35 years around the pos¬sib¬ility, legitimacy, and limits of “representation” as they relate to mass murders, con¬centration camps and genocides. The debates have been particularly harsh in France, where they have centered around filmmaker Claude Lanzmann’s (Shoah) seemingly iconoclastic views. On this side of the Atlantic, Shoshona Felman shaped the expression “an event-without-a-witness,” and suggested that the image re-establishes the pos¬sibility of witnessing, makes history pos¬sible, and counters the will of the perpetrator. Others have more prudently argued that images have been circulating “in spite of all,” and require our attention. These debates provide us with a general background, an horizon of sorts. They cannot be understood without a jour¬ney back to the core of the per¬pe¬trator’s will, without asking again and again: What remains of “us” once the witness has been killed in “us”? Is there any witnes¬sing for the death of the witness? Are there images for that particular event? It’s within this framework that we wonder: What then is an image? What image? Why images? Nichanian explores the passion for and fascination with the image, which are specific to the survivor. Image and survival are co-extensive and pave our way toward a comprehension of this strange exchange between “image” and “survival.”

Nichanian’s lecture is part of and complements the curatorial premise of an exhibition, currently on view at Pratt Manhattan Gallery, entitled “Blind Dates: New Encounters from the Edges of a Former Empire.” Co-curated by Defne Ayas and Neery Melkonian the exhibition brings together over twenty six “match-made” artists, architects, dancers and scholars who produced research-based art works. The artists, many of whom have ties to countries such as Armenia, Bosnia, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, and Turkey, utilized the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent formation of nation states in the region as a point of departure to explore the effects of various forms of ruptures, gaps, erasures, and reconstructions. An underlying theme of the exhibition is formed by diasporas or transnational cultural cartographies that offer non-conventional temporal and spatial configurations, through the prism of contemporary lived experiences. Ayas and Melkonian developed the concept for the Blind Dates Project in 2006 and began a series of related public discussions in Fall 2009.

The thirteen collaboratively made works by the “Blind Dates” artists include: architectural drawings and models by Silva Ajemian and Aslihan Demitas that re-imagine the ruins of the ancient cultural capital of Ani; personal stories that map a peaceful protest against the demise of old architecture, public spaces, and the infringement of human rights in post-Soviet Armenia by Karen Andreassian with Citizen Walker Sergey; an audio-visual critique of recreations of “trauma” and “atrocity” through documentaries by Hrayr Anmahouni Eulmessekian with Anahid Kassabian; a whimsical video critique of Orientalism by Michael Blum and Damir Niksić; a sculpture in the shape of a platform found in Turkish baths that reconstructs the once interconnected histories of Iznik and Kütahya ceramic tile-making traditions by Linda Ganjian and Elif Uras; Archivalphotographs and an essay in three languages that explore the relation of objective truths and personal mythologies by Jean Marie Casbarian with Nazan Maksudyan; A poster that highlights and questions developments in the fields of museology, archaeology, and art education during the late Ottoman empire by Özge Ersoy with Taline Toutounjian; Color photographs that recapture the exiled Ottoman-Armenian artist Arshile Gorky as seen through the grids of his “glass house” in Connecticut by Aram Jibilian with Aaron Mattocks as Arshile Gorky’s ghost; An installation of legal documents detailing the exchange of letters in artist Nina Katchadourian and Ahmet Öğüt’snames for life; An animated video that explores the unchanging yet resilient role of women in Armenia by Karine Matsakian and Sona Abgarian; a documentary video based on performance workshops that trace the evolution of the Zeybekiko Greek folk-dance tradition to Turkman warriors by Stefanos Tsivopoulos with Ursula Eagly, CarlosFittante, and Christopher Williams; Photographs and a philosophical essay on how to resurrect traditions from ruptured pasts through translation by Jalal Toufic with Selim Kuru; A mixed-media installation by Xurban Collective that poses as an archeological/botanical survey from ruined villages within five different regions of Anatolia.

MARC NICHANIAN was Professor of Armenian Studies at Columbia University from 1996 to 2007 and is currently Visiting Professor at Sabanci University, Istanbul, in the Department of Cultural Studies. He edited and published the Armenian language philosophical review GAM (6 volumes) from 1980 to 2005. Recent publications include La Perversion historiographique, Paris: Leo Scheer, 2006 (translated into English by Gil Anidjar, The Historiographic Perversion, New York: Columbia University, 2008), and a 3-volume study, Entre l’art et le témoignage (Geneva: MétisPresse, 2006-2008), on Armenian literature in the 20th century, of which the first volume is already available in English: Writers of Disaster (London: Gomidas, 2002). He has translated Benjamin, Nietzsche, Jünger, Blanchot and Jean-Luc Nancy into Armenian.

DEFNE AYAS is a curator and educator specializing in new media and visual art performance. She is director of programs for Arthub Asia; teaches art history at New York University, Shanghai; and has been curator of PERFORMA in New York City-since 2004. NEERY MELKONIAN is a freelance art advisor, critic, curator, and educator based in New York City. She was formerly associate director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and director of visual arts programming at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe. She serves as the director of the Blind Dates Project and is the producer of its public programming.

For more information on “Blind Dates” please call 212-647-7778, email exhibits@pratt.edu, or visit www.pratt.edu/exhibitionsand http://blinddatesproject.org. For photos from the exhibit’s opening reception please visit Facebook by searching “Pratt Manhattan Gallery” and follow Pratt Exhibitions on Twitter at “PrattGallery.” For guided exhibition tours please call: 212-842-4868.

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Publish Date
January 30, 2011