23 janvier 2009

Published in ARMENIAN REPORTER : Saturday January 10, 2009


(To be read bottom to top)
Three Masks frozen in their voyeuristic agony
who follows in the footsteps of three old men
setting in motion the crazed hurly burly
The Big Sky that comes after the Eole
Pinocchio the gatekeeper to heaven
His crow-dog perched on his left shoulder
while the other craves paradise
when confronted by the hell of his car-mad world

Christs churches women children
mutilating without mercy
hacking away at anyone with the temerity to be born
they carry axes
a snake slithers among the innocents
In a frenzied Anatolia

Before the flesh, there’s
[Begin Here]

from Poteaubiographie
Akdual Arvesd, Yerevan, 2007

Allen Ginsburg howled it, Patti Smith screeched it, Jacob Riis photographed it. Denis Donikian both writes it and sculpts it. These magicians of the word, these voices in the wilderness, these brilliant, angry, poets are not content to sit back and let the most perverted ideologies and intolerance steamroll the world they live in.
Donikian belongs to what the French term “contestataire” artists or artists of protest. He is that rara avis in the contemporary world: a politically engaged intellectual, a writer and visual artist who is deeply involved in and committed to change on a global, local, and Armenian scale. Donikian has traveled the world, brimming with curiosity – an intellectual explorer and political activist who refuses to let seeping dogs lie. He studied in Soviet Armenia in 1969, and has since visited Vietnam, Egypt, India, and other parts of the world, always with an eye towards analyzing human society and denouncing all forms of corruption and inequality.
Donikian is also one of a small number of Diasporan-Armenians to openly denounce the corruption and mafia-like atmosphere that currently exist in the Republic of Armenia, as well as the deep gulf there between rich and poor. Donikian’s pen isn’t aimed solely at Armenia, however. He is equally incisive in his criticisms of the Armenian Diaspora and its inability, for example, to create new generations of armenophone writers and translators.
Donikian recently led a successful campaign to have Kenneth Foster removed from death row in Texas. On the dynamic website yevrobatsi.org, Donikian put together over 1,000 individual entries or “fiches” on the Armenian Genocide titled Petite Encyclopédie du Génocide Arménien or The Little Encyclopedia of the Armenian Genocide, which he plans to publish in book form in the coming year. The “encyclopedia” is a fascinating enterprise, divided into heterogeneous categories such as “Malatia,” “Dersim,” and “Ittihad ve Terakki,” and aimed in large part at educating the Turkish public about the events of 1915-1923.
Donikian has been a crucial link between intellectuals and artists in Armenia and the diaspora, along with people such as Marc Nichanian, and Inknagir editors Vahan Ishkhanian and Violet Grigorian. Donikian has published over a dozen books in Armenia, each time employing Armenian publishers, translators, and book artists such as Nvard Vartanian and Mkrtich Matevossian, usually through the publishing house Arvest Aysor (Art Today). In 2008, he published the bilingual Voyages Egarés/Moloroun jamportoutiounner, and the French-language Chemin de Crète, also in Yerevan. Without such projects, most of these cultural workers would be without work or employed wholly in other, more “practical” fields. Some of the titles to Donikian’s credit include Un Nôtre Pays (Our One Country), Hayoutioun, as well as the cleverly titled Le Peuple Haï, which plays on the French ambiguity or dual meaning of “haï,” and can alternately be understood as The Armenian People or The Hated People.
Donikian was also perceptive and brave enough to champion and publish a controversial and important book of aphorisms in French by Ara Baliozian titled Pertinentes Impertinences (Pertinent Impertinences). In this thin but important volume, the author takes a stark, funny, and much-needed look at many of the myths of Armenian culture and society. In a more classical vein, Donikian and Jean V. Guiréguian translated and published a beautifully illustrated version of three Hovaness Toumanian tales: The Dog and the Cat, The Idiot, and A Drop of Honey.
One of Donikian’s most original and compelling works is the 2007 Poteaubiographie (Totem-auto¬biography). The text is read backwards, that is to say, from bottom to top! This unusual art book’s six pages unfold some six feet and can be hung from the wall like a painting or calendar. Next to the text on the right is an image of Donikian’s stunning 15-foot totem pole, made up of discarded plastic and metal dolls, monsters, soldiers, and other children’s toys and found objects. The poem (in French on one side and Eastern-Armenian on the other) illustrates, complements, and supplements the image and vice versa.
The power of Donikian’s totem pole lies in its almost voodoo-like fetishistic power. Though many of the toys and dolls glued together are either bland (barbies), frightening (a whole host of monsters that I am at a loss to properly identify), or kitschy (almost all of them!), the amalgam takes on an almost supernatural power. The pieces form a three-dimensional collage that goes beyond the usual limits of art: Donikian’s creation is wicked, wonderful, innocent, guilty, transgressive, safe, solitary, multitudinous, powerful, and powerless. It’s also a wonderful comment on consumerism and the consumerist indoctrination that people undergo since earliest childhood. Like its Native-American progenitors, Donikian’s piece also possesses a sacred quality. (For intellectual analyses of the sacred, see the work of anthropologists and theorists such as Durkheim, Girard, and Bataille.) The result is a creation that at once tears down and builds up, demolishes and creates, makes fun of and sanctifies our most basic instincts and desires, if not desire itself.
Both Donikian’s totem pole and the accompanying poetry/text are an effigy and memorial of sorts to 1915. Donikian refers to the Armenian Genocide as a “shithole of blood” that descended on his family along with the other 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the great Catastrophe. Donikian’s totem pole and accompanying text are one of the rare attempts to go beyond the obvious and purely descriptive representations of the Medz Yeghern and place it in a more cosmic context (for lack of a better term), to try to describe the indescribable, to name the unnamable. In the accompanying CD Donikian, now in his 60s, is seen pulling on a string which is attached to the bottom of the totem pole. As the pole slowly rotates, the full garishness of Donikian’s creation stares out at the viewer, like some evil tricked out pornographic drag Christmas window display. In taking these disparate, wonderful, and terrifying elements and fashioning them into a sacred, aestheticized image, Donikian, like those wild Hindu gods Brahma and Shiva, repeatedly devours and recreates the universe.








Aide et téléchargements


Lots of totems, no taboos

by Christopher Atamian