Hrair Sarkissian’s work in photography, video and sculpture is marked by a stillness that enables reflection on conditions of trauma, a concern explored in three bodies of work for SB14. In Residue (2019), Sarkissian uses a silver gelatin negative of a woman’s portrait found in a shop in Damascus (ca. 1950s to 1970s), which bears characteristics of prior eras still prevalent today. Scanned with a 3D scanner, enlarged and then recreated in the same proportions as the negative, the resulting image is distorted, its imperfections representing the potential loss experienced by this woman and the deterioration of what has become of her world today.
In Final Flight (2018–2019), the artist explores the story of the endangered Northern Bald Ibis, the living descendants of birds depicted in the oldest Egyptian hieroglyphs. Although these birds were declared extinct in 1989, a surviving colony of seven was discovered in 2002 in the Syrian Desert near Palmyra. The 2011 onset of the war in Syria severely constrained the conservation programme, and the birds disappeared again around the time Palmyra was destroyed in 2014. Sarkissian employed new technologies and age-old techniques to create sculptures of the birds’ skulls. These works were produced through high-resolution photogrammetry 3D technology.
Horizon (2016) is a two-channel video that traces one of the shortest and most travelled sea routes used by refugees, from Kaş on the southwestern Turkish shore, across the Mycale Strait, to the island of Megisti on the edge of southeastern Greece. The artist depicts this route across the Mediterranean from above, capturing the danger of the surrounding water, the depths of the sea and its unpredictability. The horizon visualises the closeness of the future, where hopes and dreams are built, a refuge for escaping the darkness of the present while holding onto memories of the past.
Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber
Hrair Sarkissian’s photographs reflect on personal memories, using subjectivity as a way to navigate stories that official histories are unable to tell. Using traditional documentary techniques in large-scale works, he engages the viewer in a profound consideration of what lies behind the surface of the images, thereby re-evaluating larger historical or social narratives.