The Mosaic Rooms, London, are presenting the first UK solo exhibition by Hrair Sarkissian, featuring new video and previously unseen photographic work that reflect on concepts of place, conflict, and future. Overlapping with Tate Modern’s current group exhibition which includes Sarkissian’s work, this free exhibition will give audiences the chance to view the artist’s practice in greater depth, at a time when he is gaining increased critical recognition.
Imagined Futures showcases two projects, made seven years apart, that both deal with issues of temporality: one with a non-time, a suspended unrecognised present; the other constituting a projection from an envisioned future that threatens to rupture the present at any moment. Together these bodies of work visualise that which is out of time – histories, people and narratives that have yet to be realised, political spectres that intrude upon the present. These emotive and resonant works engage the viewer beyond the reductive reportage of immediate information media, and make seen what is unseeable, the prospects of time.
Front Line (2007) draws on the artist’s own Armenian identity to contemplate the uneasy predicament of a people and place with an unknown political destiny. They look at a war-torn enclave between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the self-proclaimed independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Throughout the centuries the claims over this territory have shifted, the borders been mapped and remapped, yet the repression of the region’s indigenous Armenians has persisted. Today, over a million of its Azeri and Armenian inhabitants remain displaced; last year saw some of the worst clashes for a decade, and Western powers are still trying to negotiate a long-term solution. The photographs portray both the landscape and those that fought during the 1988-1994 war. Through a sense of isolation, estrangement and haunting, the works raise questions about the price of war and the contradictions inherent within struggles for national independence.
The new two-screen video installation Homesick (2014) depicts the artist destroying an architecturally-precise, scaled replica of his parents’ home in Damascus. More than just a house, the building represents a space where he belongs, a container for his memories, and a place for his family’s collective identity. Through Homesick Sarkissian constructs a story that, in the current political situation of mass destruction and civil war, could very well take place. He contemplates what the consequences would be? What does it mean to expect the worst? Can we fast-forward the present, acknowledge loss and begin reshaping a collapsed history, even before the event?
Alongside the exhibition, The Mosaic Rooms will be launching Sarkissian’s first publication, Background. This book has been produced through the public support it gained from its selection to be showcased on the first Art Basel Crowdfunding Initiative in partnership with Kickstarter.
Hrair Sarkissian (b. 1973, Damascus, Syria) uses photography to re-evaluate larger historical, religious or socio-political narratives. Sarkissian has exhibited widely internationally in both group and solo shows including Tate Modern (London); New Museum (New York); Darat Al Funun (Amman); Mori Art Museum (Tokyo); SALT Beyoglu (Istanbul); Thessaloniki Biennale; Sharjah Biennial; Istanbul Biennial; Asia Pacific Triennial (Brisbane) among many others. In 2013 the artist won the Abraaj Group Art Prize. Hrair Sarkissian is represented by Kalfayan Galleries, Greece.