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Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, Letters from Lost Paradise, 2015

Installation view at Mekhitarist Monastery of San Lazzaro degli Armeni

56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

Armenity, the Republic of Armenia's pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale, is set on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni. As the headquarters of the 300-year-old Armenian Mekhitarist Order, the monastery has played a critical role in Armenian history and the preservation of Armenian culture abroad. This significance makes the monastic island an ideal crucible for the 100-year commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

Testimony and translation are recurring themes in the exhibition. The artists—all of whom are grandchildren of survivors of the genocide—attempt to find alternative strategies for depicting personal and collective history. In the library, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan connects Lord Byron's history on the island of San Lazzaro, where he learned the Armenian language, to the struggles of Armenians in Anatolia with the Turkish language. Her kinetic sculpture plays with the historic use of Armenian letters to form Ottoman Turkish words. It reads “Letters from Lost Paradise” in reference to Byron's claim that Armenian was “the language of Lost Paradise”.

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