Interview Armenika Magazine
Athens, March 2016
originally published in Greek and Armenian: http://www.armenika.gr/synenteuxeis/207-texnes/725-2016-04-28-11-14-06
You are a dancer and choreographer. You are also a sociologist. How can those two features be combined? Is there a positive impact of one onto the other? Has this helped you throughout your artistic career?
It mostly has to do with the way I think and the way I approach dance. There are some things I see more from a sociological point of view. The topics I get interested in, often have a sociological aspect. I started dealing with the idea of the collective in dance which is also an important topic in Sociology. Connected to this, I got curious on how collectivity is created in (Armenian) folk dances for example.
For the work on my solo 'iz-le' I also included a sociological perspective. Although it is a research on my own family, I considered the wider context. For me it was important to know what kind of survival strategies and story telling people, not just my family, developed to deal with what they can maybe not talk about.
Also the way I try to connect politics and dance has something to do with it. I believe that there are different means to express something. Sometimes I like to use words or write a text, There are things that are better said through language, others better through movement. I see my work as well in finding the right means for different occasions. For me it is important to not think one ore the other means or format exclusively, but to believe in the variety and parallelity of them.
When and how started your query about your Armenian decent? What were the deeper motivations that guided you to this?
I wanted to find out more about the story of my grandfather. In 2011, I went together with my father on a journey on the traces of our family. My grandfather was Armenian and adopted by a Turkish family. How had he survived? What were the circumstances under which he lived? I also wanted to know how other people in my family in Turkey dealt with this fact. I documented our journey and the many interviews with the camera. We started in Kayseri, Talas and the small village Kiske where my grandparents grew up, then went to Istanbul, Feke (Vahka) and I continued on my own to Beirut, London, Berlin and Marseille.
I think what I was looking for kept on shifting throughout this journey. Sometimes I was only interested in my own family story, sometimes more in the wider aspects connected to this research. How had people survived, how different were the strategies in dealing with what had happened for other Armenians in Turkey and the diaspora? I also learned about the role that silence plays in all of this and how breaking it, seems to be a task and challenge for the third and fourth generation. I wanted to find out more details about things and stories, I could only suspect until then. Later on, I was also curious to know more about Armenian culture, language, music, and dance - a culture that I had not grown up with.
You are Turkish and Armenian at the same time. Has this ever resulted any confusing to you or to the way other Turks or Armenians react to you?
I always say I am German-Turkish-Armenian. This is often confusing for people. I say it like this because all these different cultures play a role in my biography. People like to draw lines and categorize. It makes things less complex, but also less interesting. Sometimes my background gives me the possibility to see things with a certain distance and sensibility at the same time. I feel a lot of understanding, not just for one side, and this can also be difficult for myself. In some moments I felt very strong the loss of not having grown up with the Armenian culture for example. But on the other hand I am very thankful for the experience to discover it bit by bit on my own. Although it can be difficult and tiring to look for traces, I would not want to miss anything that I experienced and learned on this journey. The cut that was made through 1915 was not successful in that sense.
What do you believe with regards to the meaning at the first place and the continuation of the hostility between those two nations? Could there be a civilised and fair solution?
Something can change when people meet. I really believe in the encounter of people. Only through this, understanding and also solutions can be found. Of course an official recognition of 1915 is important but besides that, change can only come from within the people. So when I was in Beirut for example, walking through Bourj Hammoud, I was thinking that it could change something if people from Turkey who believe that genocide is not true came and saw the situation there. It is like Nigol Bezjian, a Syrian-Armenian filmmaker, who showed me around in Beirut, put it: "People from Turkey who come here, always have this shock: If genocide is not true, if these things did not happen, then how come this person speaks Turkish but he is not Turkish, he is Armenian." So this confrontation opens up questions. On the other side I also thought it would be important for Armenians from there to go to Turkey and make the experience that not everyone denies genocide.
Have you performed in Armenia? How was your work received by Armenians?
I performed my solo 'iz-le' in October 2015 during a performance festival in Yerevan (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pd4VFunzog&feature=youtu.be) It was not an easy experience but an important one. 'iz-le' combines a video with interviews from my journey, with a live performance, my dance. The interviews are mainly in Turkish. Although they have English subtitles it was difficult for people to accept hearing Turkish. In 'iz-le' I do not have a lot of music, but I use some extracts of Turkish and Armenian music and this mix also created confusion. Some people left while I performed. On the other hand I also got a lot of positive reactions. In the end it is only the story of my journey that I am talking about. At the same time I tried to leave enough freedom and space for abstraction. But I realized how deep the feelings of rejection are. I think there is still a lot to do.
Have you got any plans for the near future? Any collaborations or new projects?
After the piece 'Mj'a sin-Verflechtungen' which was a collaboration with the visual artist Silvina Der-Meguerditchian in which we dealt with Armenian folk dances, I am continuing with the topic of collectivity. The new piece I am currently working on deals with house dance, a dance that developed in the clubs of New York, Chicago and Detroit. It is a dance that is based on exchange with a very positive energy. My idea is to cross the space of the theatre and the club and to investigate how togetherness can be created through a movement language that connects house and contemporary dance. The piece will premiere in December 2016 in Berlin.