Born in Syria, Hrair Sarkissian uses photography, installation, moving image and sound to reflect on the broader historical and social issues behind personal narratives. Nominated for The Other Side of Silence (2023), the first survey of his work in the Netherlands at Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, Sarkissian draws on his own memories and experiences, alongside extensive research, to uncover formerly excluded stories behind global conflicts and collective loss.
Joined by curator and writer Vali Mahlouji, Sarkissian will take us through the research process behind Last Seen (2018) and Deathscape (2020), the two bodies of work presented at The Photographers’ Gallery. He will also discuss the way his work moves beyond photography to make emotion tangible and sound material.
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Born and raised in Syria, the grandson of Armenian genocide refugees, much of Hrair Sarkissian’s work can be seen as an exploration of the hidden emotional nuances that permeate the lives of diverse diasporic communities. He started his training at his father’s photographic studio in Damascus and uses photography, moving image, sculpture, sound and installation, to create large scale exhibition environments. Sarkissian is on the Advisory Board of the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut. His 2020 exhibition at The Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth was the first solo exhibition of a Syrian artist in the United States. He has exhibited widely internationally, including at the British Art Show 9, the 14th Sharjah Biennial, the Brighton Photo Biennial, the Sursock Museum in Beirut, the Imperial War Museum in London, the Baltic Contemporary Art Centre in Newcastle, the 10th Bamako Encounters African Biennial of Photography and the Armenian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennial (awarded the Golden Lion).
Dr Vali Mahlouji is an art curator and historian, founder of Archaeology of the Final Decade, and director of Kaveh Golestan Estate.
Since 2010, his curatorial platform AOTFD has focused on excavating violated cultural histories. It recovers and recirculates cultural artefacts that have been subjected to censorship, banned, endangered or deliberately destroyed and has placed artworks in international collections, including Tate Modern, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, The British Museum, Smithsonian Institute, Victoria & Albert Museum, Musée du Grenoble and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Mahlouji’s Recreating the Citadel project produced the first room dedicated to an Iranian artist at Tate Modern (Kaveh Golestan) in 2017-18. His A Utopian Stage exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery (2015) was nominated for Best Exhibition by the Global Fine Arts Awards.
Mahlouji’s upcoming title Recreating the Citadel will be published by Hadje Kantz Gallery and Bloomsbury in 2024.
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