Creative Relationships Encouraging Armenian-Turkish Exchange

Creative Relationships Encouraging Armenian-Turkish Exchange
A Curatorial Visual Arts Exhibition Project: Blind Date

Mission Statement
The mission of C.R.E.A.T.E. is to initiate and encourage Armenian and Turkish artists and cultural producers to come together in a creative environment to foster mutual recognition and understanding between their distanced people in order to overcome historical and political obstacles that prevent reconciliation and respect. Inspired by ongoing reconciliatory actions at several troubled regions of our globe, this project hopes to serve as a model to be replicated in attempts of carving peace in the future.

Project Organizer
C.R.E.A.T.E. is conceived and facilitated by a Steering Committee that comprises concerned individuals from different walks of life and various professional backgrounds who took upon themselves the task of re-engaging Armenian and Turkish communities both at home and abroad. Our guiding principle is the belief that the arts and the artists have a crucial role to play in the future relations between Armenian and Turkish communities.  Although initial founders were Dr. Ani Kalayjian and Christopher Atamian, Dr Kalayjian and ATOP, with the support of AASSSG (Armenian American Society for Studies in Stress & Genocide) has continued the project.

Project Description
Just as the past may be imagined, written about and made into images, so can the future. Towards this end, the Steering Committee has adopted a curatorial visual arts exhibition project entitled C.R.E.A.T.E.: Creative Relationships Encouraging Armenian-Turkish Exchange.

C.R.E.A.T.E. aims to bring together established as well as emerging Turkish and Armenian artists to the American public in a visual arts exhibition. The co-curators will select the artists from the Republic of Armenia, Republic of Turkey and their respective communities living abroad. The exhibited artworks will be the outcome of deliberations and dialogues between the curators and the artists surrounding a range of issues from multiple perspectives. The visual arts exhibition, together with corresponding public outreach and educational programming, is the first such undertaking to address the topic in an international context.

Sponsoring Organization:
Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention (ATOP) promotes the advancement of knowledge about the immediate and long-term human consequences of traumatic events and promotes effective methods of prevention, relief and restoration to those treating traumatized populations. This goal is accomplished through the recognition of achievement in the advancement of knowledge in the area and through dissemination of knowledge through discussion, education, training, networking, support of professionals, and collaboration with other trauma organizations in the area, and the use of knowledge transfer media.  Since its founding in 1989, ATOP has conducted Mental Health Outreach Projects in over 25 countries; conducted Armenian-Turkish reconciliation groups for over a decade; invited Turkish and Armenian scholars to debate and process feelings; assisted war torn countries into health and rehabilitation; assisted post terrorism NYC communities into health and forgiveness; assist Lebanon post Israel and Hezbollah war; and most recently assisted Sierra Leone, West Africa and Haiti.

Project Details

Title of Exhibition: “Shot by Shot” Blind Date

Co-Curators: Defne Ayas and Neery Melkonian

Projected Date: November 2010, Pratt Institute

Project Venue:
We have approached various not-for-profit venues including university centers in New York City to host the exhibit. It is intended to travel to additional venues within the US and abroad. Preference will be given to institutions of higher education.  Pratt Institute has agreed and we will have the first exhibit there in Nov 2010, with goals of following up in Istanbul, Yerevan and other countries and cities in the US.

Exhibition Description

Shot by Shot- is an interdisciplinary exhibition project that seeks answers to the question: Who are the “the others” in a quest for a self-identity in the 21st century?

Based on the premise that established beliefs and practices keep the transformation of contemporary Armenian and Turkish identities at bay the exhibition explores artistic production itself as a place where such processes are challenged. While revealing the contradictions between homogeneous and multiple identities Shot by Shot highlights the fluidity of creative capital through a number of artist positions and case studies [i].

Proposing that imagining new communities is contingent upon locating the interstices of the past-present experiences of distanced neighbors, topics under consideration include but are not limited to the following: notions of homeland/guestland; exile, displacement and diasporas; narratives of nation building and the rhetoric of state formation; migratory cultural geographies; railways, pipelines and commodities for exchange, and alternative routes for travel or rites of passage.

The curators’ selection will be based on artist proposals that are interdisciplinary in nature, connecting visual arts, performance, and new media to other fields including music, literature, cuisine, architecture/public space, science, religion, history etc.

The exhibit will be accompanied by a full color publication including essays by the curators and leading cultural thinkers/critics as well as artist bios and an exhibition checklist.

Community Outreach: 
In an attempt to build bridges between the two communities and the world at large a series of lectures, panel discussions, public education programs and workshops will be planned in cooperation with the host institution(s).

Steering Committee:

Contact persons and co-chair:
Dr. Ani Kalayjian
Mobile: (201) 723-9578
Home: (201) 941-2266

Dr. Kumru Toktamis is an adjunct professor of Cultural History at the Pratt Institute. She is sociologist and social historian with a background in human rights research and ethnic conflicts in the Middle East.

Dr. Ani Kalayjian is a Professor of Psychology at Fordham University, President of the Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention, Board member of the United Nations NGO Committee on Human Rights, and has worked on reconciliation, conflict transformation, and peace building for over twenty years.  She has conducted dialogue groups, workshops, and Mental Health Outreach programs in over 16 countries such as: Armenian, Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan, Palestine, Puerto Rica, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, as well as the US. Dr. Kalayjian has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, CNBC, NY1, MSNBC, CNN Turk, TRT (Turkish Radio and Television), Pakistan TV, Armenian TV, Japan TV, Korean TV, etc, and sited in the newspapers as well as appeared on radio interviews.  She is the author of renowned book Disaster & Mass Trauma, is editing an International book on Forgiveness: Pathways for Conflict Resolution and Peace Building published by Springer Publishing in 2007, and editing a book on International Trauma Outreach & Prevention.

Defne Ayas is the Associate Curator at PERFORMA, and currently a lecturer on contemporary art at NYU-Shanghai. Prior to joining PERFORMA, Ayas worked as the Education and New Media Programs Coordinator at the New Museum where she co-organized numerous new media-related artist presentations, performances and exhibitions including Airborne, New Museum, NYC, 2005; Public Execution, Exit Art, NYC, 2004, and Is Democracy Fun?, White Box, NYC, 2004 (with Michele Thursz and Anne Ellegood). Her actions have been reviewed by publications including New York Times, Art in America, Frieze, and Time Out. Ayas completed De Appel Curatorial Program in Amsterdam, received her Masters from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, and is on the Advisory Board of CCA in Kabul.

Aramazt K. Kalayjian is a multi-faceted artist.  He blurs the boundaries, simultaneously being a painter, designer and photographer.  He recently received his BFA in Communications Design from Pratt Institute and has exhibited his works in such prestigious venues as the Puck Building, the Society of Illustrators, and Alwan for the Arts.  Aramazt Kalayjian continues to create and exhibit his work and has interned as a graphic designer at the Guggenheim Museum.  Currently he is working at the Liberty Science Museum in Jersey City

Karen Hakobyan is a musician, researcher and a human rights activist from Armenia.  He is the president of Hujs (Hope), a human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) promoting a culture of participatory democracy for over 13 years. “Hujs” initiates public discussions, demonstrations, press conferences, and advocacy campaigns to bring attention to human rights issues.  Karen has used his expertise to participate in policy making at government level (National Assembly and Government) in Armenia and international organizations such as UNDP Armenia and USAID.  He worked with several NGOs in Armenia, and in the Caucasus.  He is the author of a manual for trainers on “advocacy for public policy making” published for NGOs in Armenia. He was invited to New York by the International Center for Tolerance Education to implement a project for human rights protection of soldiers experiencing brutality in the Armenian army.  Within this year he had several public presentations and talks in New York related to contemporary issues in politics and art. Recently his work concerning new-colonization and conflicts in Caucasus was a part of the book called “Recipes for an Encounter” published by Western Front (Canada).
Neery Melkonian is an independent critic and curator based in New York City. As Associate Director of the Center for Curatorial Studies Museum at Bard College, and the Director of Visual Arts programming at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, Melkonian has organized over twenty solo exhibitions and two traveling group-exhibits. She has contributed reviews/interviews to publications such as Afterimage, AIM, Al-Jadid, Art Papers and ARARAT. She has talked on topics related to aesthetics of displacement, globalization and trans-cultural geographies.

Harry Alan Milian is a community activist, an Armenian folk dancer, a choir member, and a chef written up in the New York Times.  Milian grew up in Paris and graduated from Pace University in International business with expertise in the supply chain of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.  He is the Vice President of the Armenian American Society for Studies on Stress & Genocide, and involved in aspects of Armenian community.

Kaan Nazli is a coordinator at the Moon and Stars Project, a New York-based 501c3 organization dedicated to highlight Turkish arts and culture and establish bridges between Turkey and the United States. Growing out of MayFest, a month-long festival first started in May 1999, the Moon and Stars Project is now an organization that presents year-round programs including the annual New York Turkish Film Festival, which has reached its eight year this month. Kaan Nazli is also a director for emerging markets at Medley Global Advisors, a policy research and advisory firm, and has written in the past for the Financial Times, National Interest, Caspian Investor, Russia/Eurasia Executive Guide, Turkish Policy Quarterly and EurasiaNet. Currently a Ph.D. candidate in Government/Russian and Eurasian Studies at Georgetown University, he holds an MA in Political Economy from New York University.

Joyce Reilly was born in New York City in the 1950’s, and grew up in a multi-lingual, ethnically diverse environment that fostered a love for language and a celebration of difference. Trained as a psychotherapist and Waldorf School Curative teacher and administrator, Joyce founded Gheel House, a therapeutic community in Pennsylvania now celebrating its 22nd anniversary. Joyce has been involved in the international alternatives movement in mental health, and in recent years has been a Masters Degree candidate at the School for International Training in Brattleboro Vermont and a Doctoral candidate at Drew University in Holocaust/Genocide Studies. Joyce has done extensive volunteering, serving on the boards of the House of Peace, a refugee center north of Boston, for thirteen years as their mental health consultant; and the Drew University Holocaust / Genocide Study Center, where she is their representative to the New Jersey Responds to the Crisis in Darfur Coalition and is a state-wide coordinator. Joyce is currently working with One by One, an association of the children of Holocaust survivors and Nazi perpetrators and bystanders, and preparing for their 2006 International Conference in NYC.

Good intentions are no longer enough. I wanted to support humanity in my own way. Meaningful World was a natural way for me to help the victims of tsunami.

So many systems have failed us and as we transition from failed models, attitudes and behaviors that are polarizing, destructive and failing all around us I could not just sit back, be overwhelmed and do nothing… I am doing something with Meaningful World.

Meaningful World cultivates well-being, relatedness, a deep awareness and understanding how to elevate some of the world's suffering. Our choices impact all living systems and I choose to be an agent of good.