Identity, Belonging

  • Box, cross...

    Box, cross, dissmemberment, genocide

    Installation, performance, 1997

    The box is white and mysterious. It sits in the middle of the room. She opens the box reverentially. The ritual is not about mourning, but about discovery and revelation. The box opens and it becomes a cross. The cross carries a body, candles and papers. She empties the box and discovers the body. She lights the candles around it and rests for a moment. Then she takes the pieces apart and moves them to different directions. She plants seeds in the ground next to each piece. The candles keep burning...

    Shoushanig Lyric Image, Edward Mirzoyan
    Lord, open us the doors,
    arr. by R. Atayan, Lucine Zakarian, soprano
    Moxica and the horse,
    Text: excerpt from Arshile Gorky's letter to his sister Vartoush, February 25, 1941, New York
    Voice: Greg Thompson
    Sculpture: Simon Guevrekian and Alina Mnatsakanian

  • House on Wheels

    House on Wheels

    Video installation, 2000

    Every one goes from one place to another to get home. Some people who go from one place to another never get home. Some others get home, but always stay in exile.
    (An excerpt from the video taken from Hagop Karapentz, A man and a country and other short stories, Watertown: Blue CraneBooks, 76.)

    House on Wheels is a multi-media, interdisciplinary video installation addressing issues related to multi-cultural experiences.
    The physical structure of the installation is a basic wooden house structure on wheels, supporting the idea of mobility and travel. Four houses made from digital transparency and mounted on wood frames hang inside the main structure. Each one of the interior houses relates to one culture and has iconography related to that specific culture.

    The video component represents the idea of migration and the constant move from one place to another. It’s layered, constant layer being a repetitive walk. The begining audio is a superimposition of a phrase in four different languages. The languages are sometimes recognizable, but the general effect is a chaotic, repetitive sound, reflecting the confusion related to the multi-cultural existence. Other parts contain symbolic images of home, as well as images related to the four different cultures, combined with songs and narratives in the same languages.

    The viewer enters the gallery and interacts with the space. The semi-dark room, the large-scale video projection and the moving transparent houses create a whimsical atmosphere, complemented by narratives and songs from four countries. The viewer is transported to a place that might feel foreign. Armenian, Farsi, French and English words and music fill up the space.

    It's all about having to move from one place to another, feeling somewhat out of place and different. It's also about having the privilege of experiencing more than one heritage, sense of belonging to more than one culture.

  • I was born on...

    I was born on February 11th

    Performance, 2009

    I was born on February 11th. Nobody ever told me that it was a special day, except for my family of course. Nobody knew that 21 years later my birthday would become a very special day for the entire country of Iran. My 21st birthday coincided the day of the Iranian Islamic Revolution. What if I were born 21 years later? How would I be? Would I have a different life and a different set of rules? Would I look differently? Would I feel differently? Would I feel comfortable following all the rules and regulations?

    Before the revolution Iran was not the most democratic country in the world, but some basic liberties were granted to men and women. Women didn't have to cover themselves so perfectly to protect men from sexual excitement and men didn't have to follow a special dress code or a behavioral pattern.

    What is inside a covered woman? What does she hide? Isn't she the same person as before being covered? What happens to her “covered” identity? Is her identity the same for herself and not for the outside world? Would I be morally different if I had to cover my head as a little girl?

    At the opening of the exhibition, during a ritualistic performance, I wrap myself with fabric, while a recorded narrative, with my voice, expresses my feelings about the concept:

    I cover myself. Yes. I cover myself to protect men from committing errors. I cover myself because I'm a nice person. I cover myself because men cannot cover their eyes. It's not convenient. I cover myself to show others that I don't belong to them and I'm different and I'm humble. Others are not. I was not, when I wasn't covering my hair. My hair has an immense power. It attracts men and demons. My body attracts them too. So, I don't want to show it. I cover it with fabric. That saves me from the outside world. Others are open to outside...

    I was born on February 11th, Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana, California, 2009

  • Le Soufle

    Le Soufle (The Breath)

    Sound installation, Ø72x80cm, 2010

    Created for an exhibition in the botanical garden of the university of Neuchâtel in 2010, Le Souffle is an installation with the sound of a recorded long and deep breathing. Le Souffle is meant to add another layer, a human one, to the surrounding sounds of nature in the serene athmosphere of the garden, next to the pound.

    The installation was also shown at the courtyard of the Centro Arte Contemporanea Ticino (CACT) in Bellinzona.

  • Marks


    Automatic writing, visual alphabet, acrylic on canvas, acrylic and ink on paper, 2008-2014

    This is the progression of the Marks, started in 2006. The visual writing in this series has become more autonomus and instead of covering a layer of existing painting, it is structured by layers of marks, sometimes bold and sometime more playful and subtle.


  • Monument Ephémère

    Monument Ephémère - un mur, une nuit - one wall, one night, 100 nights...

    Centre d’art Contemporain Yverdon-les-bains (CACY) - 28 novembre 2015

    Un Monument Ephémère en voyage depuis mars 2015…
    Le “Monument Ephémère” est un geste de proteste et de commémoration. Un cri silencieux, pour dire que chaque personne décédée est importante et que personne n’a le droit de prendre une vie, ni deux, ni un million et demi, que chaque vie est précieuse. L’œuvre est dédiée aux victimes du génocide des Arméniens du début de 20ème siècle, mais pas seulement, car malheureusement l’homme continue à tuer des hommes, les gouvernements se donnent raison d’annihiler des êtres humains ou les enlever de leur terre d’origine et de les déraciner pour des raisons économiques et politiques.

    Le « Monument » a voyagé en Su
    isse (Berne, Neuchâtel, Bâle, Köniz, Genève, Martigny, Bellinzona, Bienne, Yverdon-les-bains...) et aussi aux Etats-Unis et au Canada. Le voyage a commencé à Berne le 4 mars 2015 et il continue… 172 jours pour l’instant !

    The "Ephemeral Monument" is traveling since March 2015...
    The "Ephemeral Monument" is a gesture of protest and commemoration. A silent shout, to say that every deceased person is important and that nobody has the right to take a life, or two, or a million and a half, that every life is precious. The work is dedicated to the victims of the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century, but not only, because unfortunately the man continues to kill. Governments give themselves the right to annihilate human beings or to remove them from their native lands and uproot them for economic and political reasons. The 'Monument' travelled in Switzerland (Bern, Neuchâtel, Basel, Köniz, Geneva, Martigny, Bellinzona, Bienne, Yverdon-les-bains...) and also in the United States and the Canada. The journey began in Bern March 4, 2015 and it continues... 172 days for now!

    MultipleSpacings gallery, Berne – 4 mars - 29 mai 2015
    Centre d’art Neuchâtel (CAN) – 23 avril
    Péristyle de l’Hôtel de Ville, Neuchâtel – 5 mai
    Garboushian gallery, Beverly Hills, Californie – 16 mai - 12 juin
    Projektraum M54, Bâle – 21 mai
    Château de Cormondrèche – 31 mai - 21 juin
    Proiectum, Köniz – 5 juin - 10 juillet
    Théâtre du Grütli, Genève – 25 juin
    Le Manoir de la Ville de Martigny – 24 juillet
    Centre d’art Contemporain Ticino (CACT) – 29 août - 8 novembre
    Université de Moncton, NB, Canada – 1 - 30 octobre
    Pasquart, Bienne - 29 octobre
    Galerie C, Neuchâtel – 5 novembre
    Centre d’art Contemporain Yverdon-les-bains (CACY) - 28 novembre
    EPFL Rolex learning center, Lausanne - 2 décembre

  • Nos histoires

    Nos Histoires

    Sound installation, 2009

    Installation sonore d'Alina Mnatsakanian

    Le Musée d'histoire de La Chaux-de-Fonds accueille, jusqu'au 30 septembre prochain, une installation sonore de l'artiste multimédia arménienne Alina Mnatsakanian. Cette création, intitulée «Our Stories» («Nos Histoires») est présentée dans le cadre de Neuchàtoi 2009.

    L'installation se présente sous la forme de cinq boîtes en bois croisé figurant des maisons, à l'intérieur desquels des hauts-parleurs diffusent des voix de jeunes gens et jeunes filles. Ils s'expriment chacun dans leur langue, ce qui plonge l'auditeur au cœur même de notre société pluriculturelle.

    «Our Stories» est la reprise sur territoire neuchâtelois d'un projet réalisé en 2003 en Californie. «J'ai travaillé avec des jeunes d'une école multiculturelle», explique l'artiste. «Je leur ai demandé d'expliquer d'où ils venaient, d'exprimer leurs désirs, en s'exprimant dans leur langue maternelle.»

    Dans le canton de Neuchâtel, le projet a pris une tournure un peu différente. Il a été réalisé en collaboration avec Elisabeth Reichen, de l'Eglise réformée évangélique (Eren).

    Les jeunes ont été recrutés dans tout le canton. Ceux qui ont bien voulu participer ont été interviewés. Ils devaient s'exprimer sur leur identité, dire où ils se sentent bien et parler des rituels qu'ils pratiquent.

    La documentation à disposition propose la traduction des paroles de ces jeunes, qui s'expriment chacun dans leur langue d'origine, soit le français, l'anglais, le russe, le chinois, le thaïlandais, le tamoul ou encore le suisse allemand.

    Le projet s'inscrit bien, estime l'artiste, dans la thématique intégrative de Neuchàtoi. Les spectateurs de son installation, écrit-elle, «expérimentent la différence et la possibilité de la coexistence dans un environnement donné.» /lby

    «Our Stories», Musée d'histoire de La Chaux-de-Fonds, jusqu'au 30 septembre 2009

    Source: L'Express/L'Impartial

  • One person died

    One person died

    Installation in diptych – evolving digital moving image and video, 2011

    One person died is an istallation in two parts that addresses human attrocities unpunished and unrecognized; acceptation of the crime being the only way of redemption.

    Every day, in the news, a large number of people are declared dead: 50 in an attack, 4000 in a massacre, 1.5 million in a Genocide... These victims are not simple numbers. Each one of them is a unique and valuable being, regardless of his place of origin. One person died is dedicated to each one of these victims, especially those of genocides, be it Rwandan, Kosovar, Khmer, Jewish, Indian or Armenian. The installation offers visitors a moment of reflection on a universal subject that speaks of life and its value.

    Video clip of the projection

    One person died – evolving digital image, indefinite time, 2011

    With the help of an algorithm, the phrase “One person died” repeats itself in different sizes and colors. The configuration changes constantly, but the phrase stays unchanged. A digital counter registers the number of repetition. Once the number reaches 1.5 million, the the counter restarts. 1.5 million is in reference to the number of victimes of the Armenian genocide of the beginning of the 20th century. Programming: Laurent Novac, HE-Arc ingénierie

    Puricifation – video, 3’ loop, 2011




  • Our Cyclopean Walls

    Our Cyclopean Walls

    Site specific insatallation, Ldjashen, Armenia, 2012
    Photos and digital images, 2013

    Our cyclopean walls is an art project, which proposes a reflection and an action on the prehistoric cyclopean walls in Armenia by correlating them with a contemporary question: waste management.

    Cyclopean walls take us to the traces of old civilizations. According to Greek mythology, only the Cyclops – giants with an eye in the middle of the forehead - had the force to move massive rocks to create the walls of Mycenae and Tiryns. Cyclopean walls exist also in Armenia. Is that the work of the Armenian Cyclops? In any case, in a country like Armenia, often called the country of the stones, the existence of cyclopean walls seems to be a normal phenomenon, with or without the intervention of the Cyclops.

    While observing the cyclopean walls and the landscapes of Ldjashen, in the shores of the lake Sevan, one moves away from the current reality and travels in a marvelous world of giant creatures. But while walking towards these historic structures, one awakens in front of the daily realities of the modern world, by discovering the urban waste thrown around carelessly: papers, packing materials, bottles etc. Here comes the confrontation of the two realities: on one hand historical walls pointing out the existence of a prehistoric civilization and on the other hand, waste related to our current lifestyles.

    Alina Mnatsakanian, with the collaboration of Sevak association, a non-profit organisation based in Switzerland, France and Armenia, proposed an art project, “Our cyclopean walls”, combining art and social action. A community building art that involved the inhabitants of the region and at the same time served as an educational tool for environmental issues and preservation of the cultural heritage. It’s about provoking the reaction of the inhabitants and visitors by creating a work of art with a strong symbolism.

    Mirroring the true vestiges of the cyclopean walls of Ldjachen Alina Mnatsakanian created a wall with the rubbish collected on this historic site. The art installation has the vocation to challenge the visitors on the historical past of Armenia as well as on the current situation of the country and the future generations.

    Collaborator: Sevak association
    Partially funded by
    SDC - Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
    City of Yerevan
    Eco Engineering

    Village of Ldjashen
    Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory (ACSL)



  • Our Stories

    Our Stories

    Sound Installation and video, 2003

    Our Stories is a multi-media audio installation created in collaboration with community youth. Stories are told by a group of culturally diverse high school students.

    Five small-scale white houses create the main visual structure of the installation; contrasted with black electrical cords that act as lifelines. The visual part is minimalistic and the concentration of the piece is on the voices, the diverse voices of youth, in their original languages.

    Each house has a sound system, which transmits a narrative in a specific language. Participating youth wrote stories about themselves, which they read in their native languages. Narratives were recorded and transmitted through the sound systems. A video of the students complements the installation as well as a wall with the printed stories as a visual component of the show.

    The viewer can hear the voices as a whole or individually, each time experiencing a different combination of languages. They may or may not understand all or some of the languages, but they will experience the differences and the possibility of their coexistence in an environment.

    Our Stories creates an atmosphere to showcase some of the languages spoken in our community, or in a more abstract way, to experience the sounds of various languages. Another idea of the project as a whole was to create an atmosphere for the youth to express themselves and learn about each other. During the workshops students interacted with one another and tried to be more accepting, something that is lacking in our society.

    More than 50 students, in Glendale, California, participated in workshops conducted for Our Stories. The outcome of the workshops was stories, sound recordings in 11 languages (Armenian, English, Farsi, French, Goujrati, Korean, Russian, Portuguese, Sinhalese, Spanish and Urdu) and artworks. All stories are translated in English, Spanish and Armenian.

    This project is made possible, in part, by a grant from the California Council for the Humanities as part of the Council’s statewide California Stories Initiative. The COUNCIL is an independent non-profit organization and a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information on the Council and the California Stories Initiative, visit

  • Self Portrait

    Self Portrait

    Installation, 1997: digital images, 2009

    Containers that hold our internal belongings, our values, our fears… A container holds a physical portrait; another one holds fragments of a culture: letters, home, etc., and the other one holds soil, the base of any living creature. There are also the unknowns.










  • SOS


    42 bouteilles en verre, papier, encre, dimensions variables, 2015

    Quand la violence s’exerce autour de nous, il ne nous reste plus que de jeter une bouteille à la mer. Que dira le message dans la bouteille ?

    Le monde se remplit de violences. Des monuments historiques sont détruits, car ils ne conviennent pas aux idéologies dominantes. L’histoire est déformée et niée et la mémoire est effacée, afin de créer le chaos et la zizanie pour mieux régner. Il n’y a pas de logique ni de raison humaine. La religion est un prétexte pour juger les identités et les comportements et de condamner ceux qui ne correspondent pas aux “normes”.

    “SOS” est une invitation – à travers des « témoignages » et des références – à réfléchir à la détresse universelle qui envahit l’humanité. Le public est encouragé à partager ces pensées en écrivant des messages à son tour.




  • The journey

    The journey

    Installation, 1997

    When we travel we use boxes to transport our belongings. There's also the emotional bagage that we carry with us.


  • The mountain...

    The mountain comes to me installationThe mountain comes to me

    5 DVDs, mobile maquette and a robot, 2007

    [...Alina Mnatsakanian, an Iranian with Armenian roots, uses video installation (The Mountain Comes to Me) to speculate what might happen if countries, instead of trading cultural icons or diplomats, would exchange their highest mountains like Switzerland's Mont Blanc for Turkey's Mount Ararat. In her mind such exchanges might dissolve borders and end perennial questions of belonging, and the sense of longing for places that have become more of an inner vision than viable destination of return…]           
    — Daniella Walsh, Art Ltd

    Funded by l’Office fédéral de la culture sitemapping/mediaprojects

     for traveling exhibitions

    The mountain that I address in my installation has an important role in my consciousness. Unlike the Swiss mountains, I haven't lived in the vicinity of this mountain, but my origins and my identity are somehow connected to it.

    The mountain comes to me"The mountain comes to me" is about mount Ararat, this heroic mountain sitting still in the South East corner of Turkey.
    This ancient volcanic mountain has a long history of belonging. Armenians are one of the first "hosts" of this mountain, dating back to 3-rd millennium BC. Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey took turns in adopting Ararat. Last time Ararat was part of Armenia from 1918 to 1920. One can see mount Ararat through windows of any house in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, but it's just a view and a one sided one. The other side of the mountain can only be seen from Turkey. Borders have moved around Ararat for centuries, with the desire of including this natural icon in the boundaries of different countries.

    Besides its long love affair with Armenians, some think of Ararat as the landing ground of the legendary Noah's arc and consider it a holly mountain. So, in a way, Ararat has a universal appeal.

    Instead of presenting the romantic/enigmatic view of the mount Ararat, this installation proposes a temporary loan of this holly mountain for a tour of the world, a virtual move with the promise of return to its actual location at the end of the journey of course.

  • Verb-images


    Pigmented print on canvas, 40x30 cm, limited edition of 3, 2015


  • When I woke up...

    When I woke up the sun had moved, San Francisco Art Institute, 2011When I woke up the sun had moved

    Robotic performance with 9 robots, sound and projected digital moving image, 2011

    View a video

    We go from one place to another and adapt to the new environment. Movement means life. We move, therefore we are alive. The heart palpitates; it pumps blood to the veins and creates life. We go from one place to another to save or to better our lives.

    When I woke up, the sun had moved is an installation in the minimalist spirit, and it's about movement, created by robots. Movement has always interested visual artists and has resulted in a description, such as with futurists, or the mechanical movement, such as with kinetic artists. Minimal and post-minimal sculptors have also dealt with movement, by using fragmentation and repetition of forms in the space. As an evolution towards movement and freedom, post-minimal sculptors proposed free forms and dispersion in the exhibition space, an allusion to movement.

    9 small, wheeled robots move around and follow choreography. They dance to the sound of a soundtrack and sometimes interact with each other. They resemble post minimal sculptures, but they move in real time. They create a visual performance to be seen by the viewer, on a purely formal level, where colors and shapes move and create different compositions.

    When I woke up the sun had moved, 2011, San Francisco Art Institute

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