Christopher Atamian recently sent a report into Yevrobatsi about one of AGLA NY’s recent events featuring 3 short films by Melissa Boyadjian and a brief talk on travelling to historic Armenia by Hadi Deeb.
On June 22nd at the LGBT Center in New York City, Nor Alik presented an innovative and diverse afternoon of Armenian culture. First Melissa Boyajian, a student at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts presented three short films, including “Tip of the Tongue Phenomenon” and “Conversational Armenian,” as well as a third film in development. Melissa noted that the last two films were meant as installation video pieces, so that viewing them as films on a screen distorted the intended effects. Still, everyone present was happy to have watched them in either form.
In “Tip of the Tongue Phenomenon,” a unseen hand wraps different material tubing (copper, string etc) around a close-up of a tongue inside an open mouth. The viewer sees the different wires being tied around the tongue over and over again until the mouth is overstuffed with wiring. The film is meant as a statement on the traditional Armenian tradition in which a woman had to keep silent for a year after getting married, but also on the general silencing of women in society, particularly in more conservative (and Armenian) societies. In “Conversational Armenian” Boyajian plays both a man and a woman on a split screen, both repeating remarkably sexist sentences reproduced verbatim from a conversational Armenian tape published a few years back in Beirut. Each lesson is interrupted by a clever riff on Armenian culture, until the last frames when the viewer is in for a little surprise…
After a short break, the 25 or so guests returned for an entirely different presentation, i.e. slides and commentary from Western Armenia, which lawyer Hadi Deeb took while on a trip with Armen Aroyan this Spring. The group that Deeb traveled with visited many historic cities, including Van, Musa Dagh and Hajin. The recurrent themes were of loss, sadness and of an inability to process both what had happened to the towns destroyed in 1915 or Turkish villagers’ ignorance or negligence of historic properties. Churches that have been turned into animal feeding areas, Armenian houses with lettering destroyed and used in re-built housing for new villagers brought over by the Turkish government from the Balkans or for local Kurds. There was also, surprisingly to me, an inability on the part of some audience members during the Q& A to understand that what the Turks have done with Western Armenia is no different from what happened, for example, to the Native Americans and other ethnicities around the world, not that this would justify the former, of course, or that political considerations have always trumped human rights and human justice. “Might makes right” is an adage that Armenians understandably repudiate given their history. There was also a desire expressed by many audience members to take part in the same trip in coming years.
The afternoon’s events were co-sponsored by Nor Alik, a leading Armenian cultural organization, and AGLA NY, which is part of a global network of Armenian gay and lesbian associations.
also see Unzipped: Gay Armenia