Culture as the general expression of humanity and the expression of its creativity, is linked to meaning, talent, civilisation, and value, delivering positive effects and giving way to knowledge and development. Cultural awareness and expression through one’s language is the guarantor of the language’s and the people’s vitality and sustainability.
Culture-driven innovation in the use of the language and its proximity to themes and issues relevant to our times will not only ensure that the language can thrive but will also enhance innovation and creativity of thinking and acting.
արդ եւս|in view was launched in fall 2021 as the first and only Western Armenian culture grant in face of the great need to bring the language to the forefront of cultural contemporaneity and creativity.
The Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation received 63 applications in total, out of which ten projects were chosen to be awarded the grant in 2023.
The ten selected projects are:
Aleksander Varadian (Norway) for “Tamzara: an exploration of nationalism” — a play investigating how the absence of language complicates the Armenian identity amongst the younger generations of the Diaspora, told against the backdrop of the Second Nagorno Karabakh war. Written with an adaptive structure in order to fit the respective diaspora-homeland relationship of those staging it, content from the play will be produced in collaboration with artists from the Diaspora as a collaborative effort to tailor each version to its respective environment. The project will connect young writers to generate French, Western and Eastern Armenian versions of the script, as well as short audioplay excerpts of the story.
Alik Tamar Barsoumian (USA) for “Perennial” — a short documentary that tells the story of a group of Armenian monks on an island in the Venetian lagoon. As this small community fights to keep their cultural heritage alive, the role of their survival on foreign soil is brought into question. The Western Armenian language will lead the narrative of this untold story. The documentary will encourage dialogue within its diasporan audience by posing the fundamental question: is it possible to bring new values to an ancient cultural heritage without threatening its very existence?
Ara Madzounian (USA) for “The House on Tomarza Street” — a documentary centered around a filmmaker returning to his birthplace to reclaim his abruptly fragmented past. Blurring the boundaries of documentary and narrative conventions, the story transpires in present-day Bourj Hammoud, an endangered settlement on the outskirts of Beirut, predominantly inhabited by Armenians, where the language had become the property of a people searching for an identity marker to define them, a place where Western Armenian came to flourish in the dire need to communicate with each other and find refuge in its familiarity. After a self-imposed exile at the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, the filmmaker, a native of Bourj Hammoud, journeys back to tell his story of growing up in this once flourishing community, hailed as the heartbeat of the Armenian Diaspora.
Garine Boghossian (USA) for “These Ghostly Places We Call Home” — a project that traces indigenous Armenian neighborhoods, villages, and cities of what is today Turkey, as sites for Armenian futurities. Drawing on the vast collection of mental maps and photos from the early 20th century, as well as contemporary surveys and imagery, the project collates sites and stories, archival and present, towards a new reality where beyond violence and denial, Home is a site of joy and living. Through a process of unlearning and rediscovering, this drawing and writing work is centered on the Western Armenian language and, in some cases, the dialects used in the region, in an attempt to revive the relationship between language and place.
Gohar Sargsyan (Armenia) for “The Return of Western Armenian Poets” — a multimedia, interactive art installation consisting of audio/video installations and text drawings which will be displayed in the form of a solo exhibition at the National Library of Armenia. The aim is to show the audience the melodic and poetic aspects of the Western Armenian language and to enhance creativity while using it. The choice of Western Armenian as the main focus, and the use of contemporary art methods as a vehicle, will generate more interest in the language and create a dialogue between the poets and the audience. This in turn can create a platform for the discovery of new poets.
Haig Gragian (Switzerland) and Edward Roumoulian (Lebanon) for “Alik” — an open-source and sample-based music creation platform, designed to be accessible to all, allowing users to explore the beauty of the Western Armenian language while experimenting with sounds and music production tools, regardless of their musical background. The platform actively encourages community engagement, inviting users to contribute and expand the audio sample library by uploading recorded material in Western Armenian. In addition, “Alik” offers a wide range of instrumental and vocal sample packs, catering to the needs of music producers and professionals.
Kamee Abrahamian (Canada) for “Flesh Immemorial” — a project in the undoing of absence and super(im)position of queer/feminist Western Armenian icons onto their home-landscapes of origin. It will install colossal augmented reality monuments in locations from which they descend but may not no longer have access to. This project aims to creatively restore the relationships of indigenous Armenians with their ancestral landscapes by leaning into the complexities of indigeneity, belonging, and self-determination. A constellation of imprints that will be formed to generate ancestral healing, diasporic futurism, and creative reclamation. In relationship with the participants, these monuments will be generated by collaborating with the spirits, stories, flora and fauna of our homelands to generate large-scale, mixed media monuments.
Cercle des Amis de Krikor Beledian (France) for “The vowel in the image” — an artistic and multidisciplinary online exhibition that will present contemporary Armenian artist Asadour Bezdikian’s work in parallel to contemporary Armenian writer Krikor Beledian’s writings related to diasporic themes of displacement, erasure, cities, scattering… as well as their collective works in the form of illustrated books, exhibitions or publications. The exhibition will be accompanied by artistic and philosophical approaches in reference to these themes emphasizing the interaction of the domains of art and literature, and highlighting their creative connection. The exhibition will feature original music and video content.
Nvart Dalian and Sonia Sanan Kiledjian (Canada) for “Beyond the Veil” — a creative, artistic, multidisciplinary, cross-cultural collaborative experiment that aims to build a language and future between the two mediums of photography and poetry taken together. The poetic form expressed in language (Western Armenian) is brought together with the visual form expressed in photographs allowing for pathways to form from one medium to the other, making available ways of reading back and forth between both forms of art. The poetic lines step out from their usual format to become visible in the space created by the visual impact of the pictures. This is a reversible process, as the lines themselves also create a space where the images go beyond their own visible content.
Vartan Avakian (Lebanon/Germany) for “This Field Cannot Be Empty” — a carpet that is inscribed with hidden ciphers that serve as a map of a lost village. The village is Fendijak, one of many Armenian villages that were ethnically cleansed and decimated. The map in itself will also be an archive; a repository of the village’s flora, its fauna, its geography, its culture, and its almost forgotten dialect. The project includes research and an outreach component through lectures, talks, and workshops on art and archival practices, as well as exhibition participation.
Once these projects are completed, they will be presented to the public along with the previous year’s winners, in an online exhibition or presentation mounted by the Armenian Communities Department.
Illustration by Nooneh Khoodaverdyan.