Achot Achot
Karine Matsakian
Narek Avetissian
Archi Galentz

“Getting Closer – Vier Armenier suchen einen Ausweg” is the fifth show in the exhibition series “Nationalität / Identität”, which the ifa Gallery Berlin has been showing in loose succession since 2001 and which deals with global political, social and cultural changes of the last decade.

Conceived by Mika Hannula, Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki, the exhibition brings together artistic works that reflect both current interests and phenomena in Armenian art and the situation of the Armenian nation between genocide and occupation, past and present, both within the country and in the diaspora. It shows strategies of dealing with changed social conditions and the needs that arise from them. The focus is on questions of identity and nationality, and on the formal question of the critical revival of traditional artistic media.

Achot Achot, born in 1961, has lived in Paris since the mid-1990s, where he continues his artistic exploration of problems of national and gender identity. He thematizes the social coexistence of people and at the same time questions social values that have been shaken by a wide variety of influences and changes over time. The role of photography and video in his work is just as important as painting: he carefully dabs the paint onto the background using his fingers and self-made stamps. The images could continue into infinity and are limited only by the chosen format, which for him is also a metaphor for self-imposed boundaries, for self-circumscriptions that result from traditional and national developments.

Born in 1959, Karine Matsakian is one of the most important artistic voices in her generation. She works with issues of female identity in Armenia’s patriarchal society. Like many artists in Armenia, she works in the medium of painting as well as in performance and video. She addresses her own body as an expression of femininity and female self-image and has been creating actions and performances for years . After going through a pop phase in her painting, which was an expression of the then newly emerging consumerist thinking in Armenia and the loss of her own national identity, her subject matter has changed in recent years. Instead of working with her own body, she has turned to the male body and the male condition. In one series of paintings, she relentlessly shows details and glimpses of men’s bodies that appear innocuous, but in Armenian society represent a breach of a taboo.

Narek Avetissian, born in 1969, represented Armenia at the Venice Biennale in 1999 with the project “Post Factum – Earth, Space, Dream,” which he created for the Internet together with a group of young artists and programmers. He has a strong interest in artistic work with the computer. With its help he creates images that arise “by chance” through programming. These images are further abstracted, resulting in an infinite abundance of representations that are artificially generated but still seem organic. In a subtle way he asks questions about the role of the human being and the artist in an artificial, mechanized computer world.

Archi Galentz, born in 1971, was educated both in Yerevan and in Moscow as well as in Germany and thus grew up receiving various cultural influences. However, an awareness of the Armenian identity has always been important to him and has shaped his artistic work. For example, he works with maps he has invented, omitting Armenia as a national territory. At the center of his thoughts and reflections are questions about the state of Armenia and the post-Soviet resurgence of Armenian consciousness.

The exhibition presents essential aspects of Armenian art today: in addition to the question of nationality and identity, Armenian artists are primarily concerned with gender roles as well as questions of morality and ethics.