Opening: 6.12.16, 7pm
Cuarted by: Stefano Riba
This project is called ‘Eden’, just like the garden the first man was banished from, like the lost heaven in which John Milton’s fallen angel says: “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”. The Eden that Anush and Vittorio depict is set in Agarak and it’s closer to the Miltonian hell than the biblical paradise.
Agarak is the last Armenian village before the Iranian border. An anonymous place of transit, a place where thousands of drivers pass through on trucks loaded with oil extracted in Iran, drugs produced in Afghanistan, molybdenum dug out locally and then driven to Russia where it’s used in the military industry. But for the 4900 inhabitants this is the place in which they spend their entire life. Besides natives (old ultra-nationalists, who never left the village and experienced the war with Azerbaijan and the everlasting tensions with Turkey, and younger generations who are constantly dreaming of escaping), Agarak hosts miners (occupied in the molybdenum mines), Russian soldiers (who patrol the other close border with Azerbaijan), illegal liquor vendors and prostitutes (whose customers are truck drivers, soldiers, miners and Iranian men in search of a weekend without any strict rules).
This series of works (a large format video installation of three screens, a single channel video and ten large format photographs) has been made by the artists to reflect the need to rebuild origins, family stories, borders and people expelled from their territories for different reasons. The decision of setting the project in Agarak is due to the fact that it represents the closest spot to Iran that Anush, who was conceived in 1979 in the Iranian town of Tabriz, can reach. 36 years after his birth Anush still can’t cross the border because of his father political activities during the Komenei ascent. In March 2014 Anush and Vittorio decided to get the closest they could to the country where everything started but where he can not go. For the first time, the two could see Iran everyday, its mountains, the Aras River and a road that climbs up to the city of Tabriz where everything started.
Far from being a mere autobiographical project Anush and Vittorio stayed in Agarak for over a month and studied their way of living with the community for quite a long time in order to be able to depict it as close as reality can be expressed through photos and videos. During this residency they focused on the very actual idea of confines (places) and confined (people). During their residency two artists asked the Agarak inhabitants three questions: Why do people move? Why do people stay? And how do you imagine paradise? The answers were filmed and edited to create a narration you can see in the three channel video. They are pervaded by the impressions of being surrounded by hostile nations, an encirclement which generates isolation and claustrophobia but also, on the other hand, the will to escape the barriers imposed by politics, conflicts and national identity.
In this context the garden par excellence, Eden, goes back to its antique meaning which the etymology finds in the indogermanic gairdan, which gave origin to the word garden, originally meaning to encircle, to enclose. This explains the oxymoron created by Eden, the title of the project which usually refers to a bucolic and immaculate scenario, but which, in this case, addresses the issue of an existence spent in a garden surrounded by bars.
Anush Hamzehian (Padova 1980, lives and works in Paris) is an Italo-Iranian film director. His last documentaries are: Après (2014), L’Académie de la Folie (2014), Les Enfants de l’Odyssée (2012), Le Jardin des Merveilles (2011), La main et la voix (2009). In 2014 Hamzehian won the grant “Louis Lumière” promoted by the Institut Français of Parigi.
Vittorio Mortarotti (Savigliano 1982, lives and work in Torino) had his first solo show in 2008, an exhibition held in the frame of Krakow Photomonth Festival (PL). The same year his work is selected for the collective “Behind Walls” at Fries Museum in Leeuwarden (NL). In 2010 he’s shortlisted by Laura Serani in the volume “Italian Emerging Photography” which is launched at Mois de la Photo in Parigi. In 2012 he participates to a residency supported by Manifesta 12 in Genk (BE), for the occasion he creates a new work presented in the show “Hidden Places and Identities”. In 2013 Van Der gallery helds his first solo show in Italy. In 2014 he wins the 1st Prize at Photodays in Rovinj (CR), while in 2015 “The first day of good weather” is held at Museum Arsenal in Metz (FR) and the book of the same name is selected for “The First Book Award 2015 – MACK” and later is published by Skinnerboox.
Hamzehian and Mortarotti duo project “Eden” was so far exhibited in Spain (Blueproject FOundation), Italy (Art Verona) e Svizzera (Images Vevey). The project recently won the “Leica Prize” al Festival Images di Vevey. They are currently working on two project: one in Japan (Mr. Kubota) and one in New Mexico (Most were silent).