Skinning the Lamb / 1995

It is said that there is a price to be paid for beginning anew,though no one ever asks the lamb if it wishes to be sacrificed. 

Sonia Balassanian, 1995

The theme of sacrifice is present in many of Balassanian’s works. The most minimalist presentation of this theme can be seen in her “Skinning the Lamb” (1995) video.

By showing the Armenian (and not only Armenian) ritual of animal sacrifice, it seems that the artist relocates it to the sacrificed Armenian people, or the mankind itself. If we study this work in more detail, we will notice that instead of showing the act of the sacrifice, that is the act of slaying the animal, but the acts following it, the process of “cleaning”. We see the close-up of a man’s hand, armed with a knife, carving through the white layers of the fat under the skin of the lamb.

There are no traces of blood. In spite of presence of knife (as a tool of violence) the element of brutality and violence is mostly absent. This is more a scene of repentance of sins, cleansing, and emancipation. There is no hidden meaning here. Sacrifice has been related to the repentance of sins, which has been expressed in this near documentary style work.

Excerpt from Eva Khachatrian essay
for the catalogue of “Brooding”,
NPAK, Yerevan, 2004