Photo & Film
Vartan Avakian - Volume 1: Arabic Home Interiors
Vartan Avakian continues his reflection on popular culture through video and photography installations that endeavor to make visible the formal and technical limitations of each medium. He dissects each of their production processes by bringing them into confrontation with other disciplines. "Volume 1: Arabic Home Interiors" is a constantly evolving video which the artist claims is strictly a work of photography. Inspired by the typological series focusing on certain communities through a private, predefined and often caricatured environment, Avakian investigates the interiors of Arab homes. This is a culturally committed project because private spaces are traditionally hidden in Arab cultures, with the mashrabiya of Islamic architecture and the high walls rising in the Gulf. That the photographer himself never sets foot in these houses can be seen as an aesthetic choice.
An outside observer, he compiles amateur videos found on the internet, many of them pornographic, but then removes all human presence from the images, keeping only what can be seen of the interior décor. He releases himself from the false promises of authenticity claimed by the series from which he takes his inspiration, the simple intrusion of the camera into a space transforming reality into fiction. Here, the camera is part of the original interior design and the images it records bear this additional quality. The technological environment provides an accurate portrait of the interior, and the low quality of the videos intensifies this sense of realism. The graininess of the footage guarantees the veracity and provides, paradoxically, more information than an HD video would. Like the Nouveau Réalistes, Avakian transforms existing objects into creative material, which helps reveal the “videoness” aspect of the work. The characteristics of video are defined by its technical limitations. Compression is such that the moving image would no longer be identifiable as a moving image if it were accentuated. Formally videographic, the work is nevertheless photographic because it is played in a perfect loop. The work removes the notion of time inherent to the progressive narrative of video to replace it with a concept of space characteristic of photography.
About the video, Hasan Khan wrote: "Mutually dependent dichotomies such as expectation and fulfillment, the hidden and the visible, the intimate and the banal are brought to a head in this taut structural piece."
"Cross-Time Stories" (performance inaugurale)
May 9 - June 9, 2012
Columbia University's Morningside Camapus
116th Street and Broadway
New York City