Marianna Hovhannisyan

In the field of the visual culture, there is a considerable tendency to ‘decolonize’ and disentangle collections, archives and histories through exhibition/project making. To some extent, this is due to the crisis of representation, the unevenness of geographies and the proliferation of political conflicts. These processes aim to shift, chart and retrieve spatial-cultural narratives as investigative markers examining geopolitics as an evental space of intentions and causalities.

I want to reflect on Geopolitics by proposing the term ‘event’ linked with a set of philosophical notions that might offer insights into the performative character of the ‘event’, as well as into its interconnection with geography.

In 1988 Alain Badiou (2005, pp.1-9) already stated that the century had become “the site of events” —collapsing into multiple events and turning into inception and deployment. Badiou’s ‘event’ generates chronological or foundational multiples, which is similar to the conception of actualization by Gilles Deleuze. He also coins (2003, pp.170-71) the counter-actualization—the performance of an event as such [via non/human actors]. Even if disastrous, the counter-actualization is directed towards the opening to the counter-side of the ‘event’—the processual, ontological becoming, revealing the possible differentiation. In these implications, my interest concerns how the ‘event’ opens up the potential of the radical imagination connecting between site/geography, performativity and ‘being situated otherwise.’

More contemporary renderings of the ‘event’ depart from the ontological aspect of it and propose a direct junction with geography. Ian G.R. Shaw discusses the world as an evental geography, a geo-event, i.e. a geographic thinking, thus, a preeminent condition “where events are already localized within objects themselves” (2012, pp.613-16). Barbara Harlow (2012) proposes an alternate by working with the demarcation of geography and event by bringing in the PLO and ANC as a relevant case study for geopolitics. She argues (2012, p.14) for an important transition regarding the place of the event—the emergence of the international law as a site—for two seemingly disconnected ‘apartheid/s.’ The transformation is “from an age of ‘resistance’ to ‘rights regimes,’” where even this new place is also “geographized or temporized” (Harlow, 2012, p.14).

My collaboration with SALT provides a specific vantage point to work through a catastrophic meta-event by revisiting an exhaustive archive (‘mapping’ the Ottoman Empire.) This repository unintentionally bears witness to the Armenian and Greek communities formerly living in the Empire but vanished from its geopolitical boundaries. The enquiries motivating me to think about the ‘event’ for the Geopolitics evolve around the questions of how through this specific work with SALT, I can touch upon that counter-actualization of the ‘event’ [the imaginable opening to the disaster] and how a contemporary art institution is able to embody a temporal site of geopolitics instead of [political] aesthetics and to perform a creative production as a geo-event.