Far Away from Where?

Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, 66 Fifth Ave, New York

February 16-March 5, 2017

March 2, 6-8pm
Artist talk: Hrair Sarkissian
the Bark Room, 2W13th St, room M101,
followed by reception

Featured artists:

In an old anecdote about two emigrants, one tells the other that he plans to migrate to Uruguay. He receives the surprised reaction of, “Oh, that’s far away!” The man responds: “Far away from where?”

In the “rhizomic” times of no-reference-points and diaspora, populated by migrants, exiles, refugees, and victims of willing and unwilling displacements, the question, “Far away from where?” gains importance in varied and consequential ways. Distance might be measured in social, emotional, or geographic terms. Returns, if at all possible, are never homecomings. And under these circumstances, settlers might find refuge in imagined sites as much as in the real; in a kind of reverse colonization, they transform real places into imaginary versions of home.

Migrations, displacements, and exile caused by political transitions, genocides, armed conflicts, and natural disasters — radically affect our landscapes: successive layers of destruction, reconstruction, resilience, de-familiarization, and re-domestication create wounded places.

The question “Far away from where?” also becomes a tool to navigate the process of personal expeditions through the wounded places: scarred by history and transitions. How close do we want to place ourselves vis-á-vis these wounds? How deeply can we understand them? How far should we position ourselves to build upon these places, to tame them and make them home?

Finally, the question is directed at viewers: how close can we actually get to places that are “far away” — unknown and impenetrable at first sight — but familiar in the disquieting conversations they evoke? How distant are we from places we only observe — seeing, yet not knowing? How deeply are they connected to our own journeys and place encounters? What do they reveal? Why would we turn our eyes away?

Far Away from Where? gathers artworks that constellate around the emotional, social, and geographical distances created by wounded places. The artists respond to the tension of seeing-and-knowing and the (in)ability to embrace historic legacies of places. They draw from these rich legacies, transforming these spaces through the work and through the engagement with viewers. Works include:

In Between, by Hrair Sarkissian. In this series of photographs a layer of snow covers Sarkissian’s Armenia, preventing the viewer from seeing the country’s complicated surface: a landscape struggling to recover from the Soviet system, and at the same time an image of the “Mother Armenia” the diaspora Armenians grew up with.

This is Not Beirut, by Jayce Salloum. This video confronts Beirut both before and after the civil war, but also explores the artist’s inability to access or represent the core of the city, and his necessarily helpless misrepresentation of Beirut.

Untitled part 3a: occupied territories by Jayce Salloum. Two personal stories about ‘home encountering’ after 29 years in exile, and about leaving home for exile, are at once intimate and universal narratives, relating to the symbolic and the tangible.

Other City, by Elżbieta Janicka and Wojtek Wilczyk. In this series of photographs of Warsaw, seemingly well composed urbanscapes gain different meaning once their captions reveal the layered historical configuration of the sites. They are physical witnesses to WWII, the Holocaust, the Communist regime, and the recent democratic market-oriented transitions.

Seven Hours Closer, by Yana Dimitrova. This piece examines the role of collective imagination in the production of common space, wondering about the possibilities in a cross cultural dialogue between children in exile and their parents and relatives. Dimitrova works with people from Kulata, Bulgaria, and the town’s diaspora in Brooklyn, NY.

Nuovi Rituali fun Golus, by Daniel Toretsky. This conceptual work explores different perspectives on locus in local identity of diasporic communities in order to propose new spatial “rituals” for Rome, Italy.

Helter Skelter, by Simona Prives. This series of collages focuses on the tension of decomposition/construction, growth/decay.

New York in a Minor Key— a site-specific project about New York, produced by Parsons students: Mackenzie Drummond, Integrated Design; James Hernandez, Photography; Larisa Karamchakova, Urban Design; Damien Karan, Photography.

Exhibition and symposium are organized in collaboration with Adam Mickiewicz Institute as a part of the Campus Project.

Organized thanks to the generous support of the Armenian General Benevolent Union and Arte East.