April 24, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, an event that will be commemorated at the 2015 Venice Biennale. From May 6–October 18th, 2015, the work of Gallatin Professor Nina Katchadourian, along with that of seventeen other artists from Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, will be exhibited in the Biennale’s Armenian Pavilion. Held at in a former Armenian monastery on the Island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, the exhibition will showcase the work of artists from different generations. On May 9, it was announced that the exhibition won the Biennale's 2015 Golden Lion Award for best national pavilion.
Katchadourian is an American-born artist whose family lineage is Armenian and Finnish. “Accent Elimination,” her video installation for the exhibition follows her work with a New York with an accent coach who taught the artist to speak with each of her parent’s accents and taught her parents how to speak with a so-called “standard American accent.” “My piece talks about diaspora by way of talking about accents and their origin,” she says.
For those who want to see Katchadourian's work a bit closer to home, she will soon have pieces on display in New York’s Central Park, as well as projects at MoMA and the Met.
For her commissioned work for Creative Time’s Central Park exhibition “Drifting in Daylight: Art in Central Park,” which will run from May 15 through June 20, she imagined a bird species that lives in the park and makes nests in the lampposts. “These imagined birds of mine build nests in the streetlights and they pick over all the human sports activities in the park for materials they use in their nests,” says Katchadourian. “You can see things like tennis balls, soccer balls, and running shoes. My nests are based real nests made by bird species like the Sociable Weaver and the Oropendola, and are a part of my thinking about where the lives of human and non-human animals intersect in urban spaces.”
For MoMA’s Artist Experiments series, Katchadourian spent four months in conversation with various employees of the museum—from curators to guards to facilities staff—and found what most interested her at the museum was something more ephemeral than the art on display or the space in which its housed. “One day when I was there, I noticed a ledge with an incredible amount of dust—a really strange sight in the pristine world of MoMA—and that became the focus of the piece. Dust is cosmic and mundane all at once. It allows me to speak about conservation, about how to protect artworks, how MoMA’s air is filtered through five different systems, and about visitors to the museum.” Katchadourian’s project will be an audio tour that will be available to the public in late June.
In all of her work, Katchadourian reveals her love of hybridized forms, language, and the unexpected that lies within the everyday, and she challenges her audience to consider more carefully the things that we see every day but often overlook.