Journal of Embodied Research, Video-article by Nilüfer Gros
In this video-article published on the Journal of Embodied Research, Nilüfer Gros describes the artistic research that she undertook while making her performance Carrying her (2017); a video performance where she confronts the taboo history of the Armenian Genocide that reached its climax in 1915–16 in her homeland. Her journey begins in the ancient city of Mardin in the Syrian frontier of Turkey where she taught at Mardin Artuklu University between 2013-2017. As she excavates for indices of the region’s ‘secret’ geopolitical past, she seizes the absence of historical occupants. In her pursuit of these lost cultures, the phantoms of the past, she travels to the diaspora in France. Her inquiry in audiovisual archives and her encounters in the diaspora lead her to confront the genocide denied by the Turkish State.
What triggers the artist’s research is her experience living in a two-century old stone house in the ancient part of Mardin, a century after the genocide. She reconsiders the historical wound felt in the collective utterances of the region. Chants, lamentations, lullabies, testimonies, myths and tales guide her through the stratified history of Southeast Turkey where, once Armenians exiled, the Kurdish community would become the target of nationalistic identity ambitions. Her site-specific research, then, imposes her journey to France where she re-discovers the wound through sonorities of the Armenian diaspora. Her pregnancy opens a space to reflect upon women’s experience of the genocide, translating the corporal phenomenon of being pregnant to the reality of the exiled through the notion of carrying. The sonic universe reclaimed in the diaspora revives memories of the land in its lullabies. The original soundscape composed of sonorities of Southeast and East Anatolia serve to reclaim the diversity lost from her homeland while materializing her lament for the people exiled and massacred.
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Nilüfer Gros is a contemporary theatre, performance, video artist and an independent researcher. Based in France since 2017, she worked and produced works in New York, London, Istanbul and Mardin. Her work academic and artistic production crosses sensibilities of gender studies, performance studies, history, geopolitics, memory studies and performative practices. In 2013, she established Crossing Theatre Company in Mardin and created postdramatic plays with local actors based on testimonies that she gathered in the southeast region of Turkey. Currently she works on the gendered memory of exile and fugitivity in the near east.