Seen in broad terms, the metamorphosis of borders, the narratives of displacement or exile appear not only as (or even the) major historical phenomenon of our century, affecting millions of people, but as a focal point for reflections about individual and cultural identity, which in turn, is bound to the statehood, nationalism, racism, war, and globalization of the world.
Most of us know the sensation of separation from our origins. It manifests as a physical state and a state of mind, entailing both: the loss (of homeland, continuity, tradition) and gain (of new experiences, new ideas, new languages). The moment when it seems that the homeland shifts under one's feet, when the sky above is different; this is when one confronts the ongoing geographical and cultural metamorphosis. Emerges, exiles, expatriates, refugees, nomads, cosmopolitans—the meanings of those words vary as do the connotations. But in the XXI century, such definitions do not only apply to those who had to leave their homeland behind. In the globalized world, the societies embracing the influx of displaced people, also experience a cultural displacement, even if without the geographic shift.Behind all the news, political conversations, news and rumors about the refugees, asylum seekers, the internally displaced, and the stateless, there are real people with tales of life experiences, hopes and ambitions.
To invite a conversation about the complexities of globalization and its effects on contemporary cultural, social and political landscapes, to see beyond the issues that divide, three artists Eva Harut, Mariana Smith, and Stephanie Luening, propose an international project titled:“Metamorphosis. The Human Stories”. Their projects present dissolved identities and disappearing borders not only as the plight of individual exiles, but also as a shared humanitarian crisis, a global challenge to our sense of humanity.The project is exploratory, not a catalogue, or an inventory of differences. The variety of perspectives in the terms of discipline, temporal scope, geographical extensions and rhetorical mode attempt to bring together the common threads in the human experiences. For example,the project will explore the universal attributes like our five senses: shared by all, without considerations for gender, race, or religion, but also carrying the preferences conditioned by one’s culture, socio economic position or national loyalties.
During the 2016-2017 the project will tie together a series of lectures, round table discussions, academic workshops, exhibitions, and performances in three countries: Germany, Armenia, and USA. These three locations will provide an opportunity to explore of the histories of migration, exile, and dislocations. At each stage, the project development will be connected with the support and audience from an institution of higher learning: Fine Art Academy in Dresden, Fine Art Academy in Gyumri, Stockton University, Dennison University, and Columbus College of Art and Design in USA. Thus, providing not only the scholarly platform for the multifaceted dialogue, but also connecting different generations and populations. Additionally, abovementioned institutions will form a foundation for the future student-centered, interdisciplinary, collaborative opportunities.
As the projects develop, they will address the specific historical and cultural aspects of each location. For example, Germany during the most recent migration wave had encountered an unprecedented influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East. This country’s negotiation of such crisis high lights the global scale of cultural displacements and manifests the magnitude of German society humanitarian and human potential.
Armenia had faced the early XX century mass displacements during the Armenian Genocide. Then, the people who loved their homeland with every fiber of their being were forced to leave Armenia to avoid the mass killings and forced religious conversion. The later Soviet Era repressions presented free thinking members of society with a choice between the exile and the one way trip to Siberian GULAG. Various aspects of the project “Metamorphosis. The Human Stories” will address the cultural metamorphosis narratives from the early XX century to the present times.
United States of America is a unique society largely built by immigrants. It had encountered a number of migration waves throughout its history which started around 1600 and continue to this day. Each one had its own successes and controversies and each one had contributed to the ever-changing flux of American cultural landscape. The current debate about the migration dynamic at US southern borders and the ongoing Middle East refugee crisis reflects the metamorphosis of the contemporary American cultural identity.
Therefore, addressing the differences and the common threads, this proposed project presents a series of components, connected to these three locations and experienced through the five common senses. The projects will include a series of lectures, round table discussions, films, photographs, interactive archives, fine art printmaking portfolio, artist book, and a national cuisine vernissage. As the participants engage with the events and take part in conversations, the alternation between the public and private spaces presents an opportunity to asses one’s own journeys, one’s own stories and to think about the humanist tradition, the consideration for the humanity as a whole—the only thing that can sustain the integrity of this global cultural metamorphosis. Feodor Dostoyevsky wrote: “if you want to conquer the world, conquer yourself first”. It is precisely while understanding and accepting our own personal and cultural differences, and yet seeing ourselves as an integral part of the greater whole, we can begin to see the possibility of peaceful global continuity.