Leah Bedrosian Peterson
Overall, all of my work addresses issues of culture and fantasy in our daily lives.
More specifically, my videos address the notion of identity and fantasy and how they play a role in my Armenian American family. There is a legacy of victimization, hate, and a fierce familial loyalty that is passed down in families that have been through genocide; this legacy is particularly prevalent in my family. Some of my videos deal with fantastical notions that force my family to address their personal politics and others deal with the reality of this legacy and how it has directly affected my life.
The Past Is Present (2015-current) www.leahbedrosian.com
The Past Is Present is comprised of video, photography, and animation that explore the history of the Armenian Genocide and its implications on the current generation of young Armenians. When cultural identity is synonymous with survival and genocide, one cannot distinguish between the origins of one’s own culture and the origins of a fractured identity. Loss of past, loss of generational influence, and loss of culture are all a part of the survivors’ experience, and, therefore, become an inherited experience. The photographs in The Past Is Present address the legacy of victimization and symbols that reference the poetics of survival and cultural identity. Each image represents an element within the stories that were passed down by my family related to their experiences during the Armenian Genocide or they are items that hold cultural value and directly impact they hybridity of my identity. Stories related to the genocide were revealed after I initiated the discussion of the past at a Christmas gathering in 1993. Prior to 1993, little to no conversation was had about the circumstances that my ancestors had to deal with. Genocide is not a topic that is favorable with many survivors in my family - it is preferable to speak in sweeping generalities rather than recount the specifics of horrors that were witnessed or experienced.
In The Location of Culture, Homi Bhaba eloquently states, “The borderline work of culture demands an encounter with ‘newness’ that is not part of the continuum of past and present. It creates a sense of the new as an insurgent act of cultural translation. Such art does not merely recall the past as social cause of aesthetic precedent; it renews the past, refiguring it as a contingent ‘in-between’ space, that innovates and interrupts the performance of the present. The ‘past-present’ becomes part of the necessity, not the nostalgia, of living”. The Past Is Present was created with the generous support of a Professional Development Grant awarded by Lycoming College.
Works Cited Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, Routledge, 1994, pg. 10
Inchbes es (2013) (loop) http://vimeo.com/79569649
Inchbes es (translates to “how are you?”) is a 3-channel video installation. The legacy that the Armenian Genocide has left for the current generation of Armenian-Americans is one where our culture and history are at the core of our identity. I have created two cinemagraphs and one standard video that are intended to represent my identity as an Armenian American. On the left, there is a cinemagraph of a pomegranate being pounded to expel the seeds. The pomegranate is included in many Armenian recipes and is the quintessential Middle Eastern fruit. The repetitious pounding and the splattering of the blood red seeds reference the violence that I know happened to my family and countless others during the Armenian Massacres.
The cinemagraph of the coffee being poured could either be Turkish or Armenian coffee (they are virtually identical). This never-ending pour is intended to reference the never-ending flood of questions that I have about why the massacres occurred and the experiences that my family members endured.
Of all the Armenian phrases I learned growing up (and after two years of Armenian school), there is only one phrase that I can remember- “Inchbes es?” which means, “How are you?”. I am always concerned with whether I am pronouncing it correctly or if I sound like the least ethnic Armenian on the planet.
May I Go Blind (2012-current) http://vimeo.com/83000475
May I Go Blind is based off of the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian who murdered the former Turkish Grand Vizir, Talaat Pasha on March 15, 1921. Tehlirian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide and subsequent member of a group of Armenian assassins called “Operation Nemesis”, held Taalat Pasha responsible for the deaths of his family because it was the Grand Vizir who decreed that all Armenians should be relocated and disposed of. In broad daylight and in front of many witnesses in Berlin, Tehlirian walked up to Taalat Pasha on a busy street and shot and killed him. Tehlirian was tried for murder, but was eventually acquitted by the German court (ironically this was the same year that Hitler became the leader of the Nazi Party and only 18 years before the genocide of the Jewish population during WWII).
The title, May I Go Blind, is a quote from the first day of trial when Tehlirian said that after being ordered to leave their home and put in a caravan of people, that they were attacked and robbed by Turkish soldiers and the Turkish population of Erzinga. His entire family was killed in front of him and at one point, his mother cried out “May I go blind”, when the Turkish gendarmes grabbed his sister intending to rape and kill her (which they did).
This animation attempts to illustrate specific moments that Tehlirian addressed in his testimony related to his personal experience as well as the overwhelmingly emotional nature associated with the experience of genocide, survival, revenge, and heroism.
The project, Erasure, is comprised of photographs and videos that were taken during my travels to South East Asia. I documented villages and cities of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam over a two-month period. The title, Erasure, references the changes in the local traditional culture and the changes to the landscape that are occurring as these third-world nations are being influenced by Western culture. It's the remnant of the traditional culture, architecture, and history that I'm intrigued by and chose to document for this project.
I think He knows (2009) https://vimeo.com/21552148
Without my father’s knowledge I entered into a relationship with a Turkish man who is from Istanbul. Throughout the relationship I had an intense fear that my father would find out and choose never to speak to me again. This piece shows my Turkish boyfriend, Altug, on one screen and my Armenian American father on another. My father is facing Altug and Altug is engaging the viewer creating a triangle that implicates the viewer in this “knowing”. The soundtrack is of the Turkish National Anthem and The Armenian National Anthem edited together into a frenetic soundscape to symbolize the tension between our two cultures.
Yeah, I Noticed You (2009-current) http://vimeo.com/21556308
Yeah, I Noticed You is a series of images and videos taken with a portable surveillance camera that I carried with me over the course of a few months. The project is a reference to www.Craigslist.org /Missed Connections where people post the details of missed encounters with strangers or past loves. Through the use of surveillance I’ve decided to document the various missed encounters that I’ve witnessed or experienced myself. The installation of the work is intended to have footage from the project played on a surveillance monitor and stills from the videos both in sequence an as individual images are printed out as large photographs.
Armenian Online Dating (2004-2006) www.leahbedrosian.com
The project, Armenian Online Dating, is two-part. The first part, Armeniandate.net was a fictitious yet functioning dating website of characters loosely based on actual profiles that I found online. The profiles on the site are intended to raise questions about why it is important to some people that they date primarily within one ethnic group and also to investigate the politics of ethnic communities. The site addresses the concerns of a cultural heritage and how individuals may choose to embrace or ignore characteristics that link them to that culture. The second part of the project are large-scale images of the characters on the website. They are photographed in situations and environments that I imagined them in after creating their profiles. These photographs are about confronting one's imagination and recognizing the potential realities of personalities and lifestyles. The scenarios that these characters are in range from someone reading a book in Armenian while eating Mini Wheats, to a rebel warrior outfitted in the outskirts of a city, to a man who claims to be a wine connoisseur, yet he drinks from a jug of wine. If you have ever looked at online dating websites, you may have recognized that there is a gap between the imagined and the real. This gap allows for both humor and the serious examination of ethnic politics to exist simultaneously.
My Life As Fiction (2004-2006) 6:23 min http://vimeo.com/21552191
My family role-plays and engages in a conversation about how they would interact with me if they found out that my mother hid the secret that I was not only adopted, but of Turkish decent.
The Turkish Coffee Maker (2004-2006) 4:24 min http://vimeo.com/21552172
In this video I go through the process of making Turkish Coffee while telling you the story of my first friendship with a Turkish girl and it’s effect on my Armenian family.
Talking About Turkish Coffee http://vimeo.com/50472170