From silence to speech: tracing diasporic journeys through collective memory, visual culture and art practice
Within an interdisciplinary creative practice through artworks comprising of video and installations, this practice-led project’s purpose is to explore how a diaspora can represent itself through visual arts. I examine the Armenian diasporic experience as my model of investigation by studying its patterns of integration and cultural survival to offer a modest platform for its visual culture and new ways forward for the development of further research within visual arts and diaspora studies.\ud \ud Diasporas are crucial contributors to the current discourses examining globalisation and transnationalism, challenging the value system and homogeneity of the classic models of modern nation-states. Whilst there have been numerous historical studies in the case of the Armenians, one of the ‘involuntary’ diasporas of the early 20th century, research on the phenomenological aspect of their experience is scarce, explaining the severe lack of study on contemporary Armenian visual culture. The place of the Armenian diaspora is thus currently under-represented within transcultural and post-colonial studies.\ud \ud This practice-led research explores new possibilities for a critical aesthetics and poetics of an imagined place in diaspora by discussing the Armenian experience in relation to the current debates on transcultural discourses. Through the analysis of socially, politically, historically informed art practice, it seeks new ways by which a diaspora sees and represents itself with respect to historical archives and cultural practices within the public sphere and the host culture. Through the comparative analysis of a selection of artworks supported by critical theory, it examines the shifting modes of diasporic condition and its spatio-temporal aspects.\ud \ud Drawing on relations between the socio-political and the aesthetic, this thesis analyses oral history narratives, recorded as video testimonies during original field research in Turkey, Armenia, and the United States from 2006 to 2011. By delving into the space of collective memory, it explores the ways by which the traumatic effects of diaspora may be articulated verbally and visually through art. By giving voice to individuals’ silenced memories and enduring aspirations, it discusses the transgenerational affects of trauma on contemporary discourses and the ways in which they may provide an exemplary means investigating more universal issues of globalism and nomadism.\ud \ud By offering an original body of work including comparative study, critical discourse and thematic analysis supported by psychoanalytic, post-structural and post-colonial theory, this project argues that artistic intervention is indispensable to the semiotic and political imagination of diaspora.
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