Ontological Walkscapes / 11th International Istanbul biennal
What was the main purpose of my ‘infiltrating' the Department of Art History and Theory, Yerevan State University in 2002? It was during that period that I initiated a long-term research project on socio-political landscapes and their potential infiltration. It presupposed and presupposes networking as a mode of inquiry into omissions, losses, oversight and oblivion . In fact these problem-fraught routes could have passed through any region of Armenia. I decided to organize the works related to the discovery and documentation of the maps of these routes with local people; in other words, to constitute a sort of network of correspondents. In fact my activities were determined by a desire to accompany and identify with people in problem zones. The students of the Department geographically represent almost all the regions of Armenia . I had the inclination to examine another communicative node together with the students as well as to touch upon some educational issues. These facts played a key role in my decision to undertake ‘infiltration'.
In 2007, the paradigm of Armenian society drastically changed as a result of post-electoral political processes throughout the country. Overcoming their fear, the community rediscovered the political. Besides being a protest site for ten days (in protest against the manifestly rigged presidential elections), Azatutyan (Freedom) Square became a communicative node as well. When Azatutyan Square was taken over by the authorities and the opposition forcibly dispersed, the protest continued in a different format. It continued in the Northern Avenue in the neighborhood of Azatutyan Square . At a certain hour each day, politically active people merged with crowds of ordinary city-dwellers and took part in a specific 'political walk' . People just walked, discussed politics. In fact this activity was based on notions of invisibility and non-violent resistance , whose efficiency has been borne out over time. Given the space where this public ‘performance' was held and the reevaluation of that very space through the ‘performance', the authorities were constantly tempted to issue banning orders. Which is what eventually happened. The Northern Avenue was in turn closed to the participants of ‘political walks'. At present the walks take place in Saryan park . In principle, it is quite likely that in due time the authorities for this or that reason will close this space as well.
The constant wish of the authorities to have control over ‘the space' and the status of the walker , which I was and am identified with, directed my activities. Consequently, any space that might be revealed and observed automatically might be rearticulated as a ‘political walkscape' provided these activities are viewed as activities directed at the decentralization of space. The notion of ontological emerged when I started to ponder and pull apart the notion of ‘walking political' (‘political',‘walk',‘walker',‘space'). Thus “political walks', the initial name of the project, became ‘Ontological walks'. Soon there after, while discussing the issue with Stephen Wright ( n.e.w.s. post ), with whom I have collaborated on this project as well, he offered the name “Ontological Walkscapes,” which I found well adapted as it significantly emphasizes my understanding of the notion of ‘ontological'. It assumes the existence of particular, ‘regional' ontologies that are seen not as stable concepts but as events.
The University communicative node/net gathered around the project “Ontological Walkscapes”, which emerged from the five graduation dissertations I supervised in 2008. These were works related to the discovery, factography and bio-organization of ‘space', ‘landscape', where factography is seen not as a static concept but as praxis. The student-correspondents' group consists of Arevik Tadevosyan ( "Khachik", a village on the border with Azerbaijan), Ninel Melkonyan ( “Parakar”, in the outskirts of Yerevan), Ani Danielyan (“Nor Hachn”, a satellite town), Parandzem Yegoryan (“Hrazdan”, a satellite town), Ani Sargsyan (an archive). Tigran Sahradyan, the reviewer, and Narek Bakhtamyan were also included in the project. Another student Tsovinar Banuchyan (“ Yerevan ”) joined us this year. The decision to participate in the project was a choice to radically change one's status. Looking back, it can fairly be said that the transition to a ‘political walker' had a factual influence on the participants' lives – the sense of personal dignity, the sense of collective solidarity, the readiness to defend one's own position. The work we carried out was evaluated by the department as being a provocation against the discipline of art history. In 2009, I quit my job at the department.
The project is not confined to a certain period of time or to ‘correspondents'. The latter may get ‘into and out of' it. That is how new landscapes of observations may appear. To facilitate the process of factography and to make the works related to it continuous, it is necessary to restrict the field of observation to a certain extent by delving deeper into the already existing constructs and to keep these landscapes under permanent control, by returning ( Hrazdan ) and factographing them once again after a certain period of time, by documenting the changes, filling in the gaps, ‘harvesting' the right ‘crops'.
The duration of the films is determined by the corresponding numbers which later serve as a link to the films.