I Am Sick But I Am Alive

By Haig Aivazian

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Born in Beirut in 1980, the artist has participated in the 2009 Sharjah Biennial and was associate curator of the 2010 edition. He was a part of the Golden Lion winning Armenian pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennial, the 6th Marrakech and 14th Istanbul Biennials, and will soon be in the upcoming Montreal Biennial. A conceptual artist working across a wide range of media, Aivazian’s works delve into the various ways in which ideologies embed, affect and move people, objects and architecture. Departing from often known events, and weaving lesser known narratives into them, he has explored apparatuses of control and sovereignty as they are at work in sports, finance, museums and most recently music. , For each project, he utilizes the precise medium, whether it is drawing, sculpture, installation, performance or video, necessitated by the concept.
 
The gallery will show new works from the artist’s most recent project, Hastayim Yasiyorum (I am Sick but I am Alive). A project which includes sculpture, drawing, live performance and video. The works reflect on the history and contemporary state of modal “Oriental” music after the dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of nationalism amidst the regional drive towards modernity. It was in this period that ethnomusicologists collected and arranged pieces of rural folklores, to construct out of them musical repertoires that reflected pure national identities. Aivazian uses as starting point Turkish-Armenian oud master Udi Hrant Kenkulian (1901-1978), a significant contributor to Turk Sanat Muzigi (Turkish Art Music): a salon style music derived from Ottoman classics but incorporating influences from Western classical music – a hybrid style central to the new and so-called progressive republican identity.
 
In the late 1920’s - 30s, Turkey also began a development project to turn Taksim square into the center of the modern metropolis of Istanbul. In this process, the large defunct Pangalti Armenian cemetery, which covered the Taksim and Gezi areas, was destroyed. The marble slabs from the cemetery were dispersed around the city, integrated into its architecture. Core to the development of this area was Istanbul Radio, which sought to construct a new, cultured citizenry around the collective act of listening. Among the programs broadcast by the radio, was a segment dedicated to Art Music, where Kenkulian and his ensemble would eventually feature. The exhibition loosely follows in Kenkulian’s footsteps as well as those of the stones from the Pangalti cemetery, dispersed around the city and integrated into its architecture.
 
Aivazian creates a sensory experience of the particular textures, sounds, and images, which become the carriers of historical resonances, also contained in musicians’ bodies, the bellies of their instruments, and the materials of the buildings that house them. He seeks to capture these often inaudible resonances by reflecting on displacements and amnesias, as well as resiliencies and remembrances in the face of the many ailments that continue to flood the region today. By studying the historical intertwinement of the region’s musical traditions, I Am Sick But I Am Alive, reflects on the sheer violence exerted by borders on the one hand, and their perpetual incapacity to curb waves of sound and human migrancy.

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