Who Is the Victim?, 2007, Venice Biennale

My work explores and links my multi-faceted identity with the physical and perceptual world surrounding me and relates intimate images to broader social and cultural issues including gender identity and relations, the aftermath of war, and the role of the individual, especially the individual artist, in today’s society.
The simultaneous development of several ideas made possible by the video art format mirrors the rapidly shifting and essentially unresolved nature of those issues.
My language operates at a certain level of symbolic abstraction in order to evoke universal human experiences from specific situations.

Sonia Balassanian

The artist Sonia Balassanian’s video images tap into this universalized misery and suffering. A projection of her multipart video work “Who Is the Victim?” for the Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia at the 52nd Venice Biennale shows a man in camouflage fatigues relating his war experiences in a quiet, monotonous voice—the cold, the hunger, and brute violence. The text derives from the diary of an Armenian soldier. Not that this is conveyed in the text: the man talks of his personal experiences and of the trauma induced by war.
At the same time a parallel video sets up a “dialogue”: it shows a woman overcome by grief for the husband she has lost in war. She speaks from an abstractly experiential space, for the destination her husband failed to return from is unknown to her except via the media. But the soldier’s direct experience is no less intangible than the woman’s ideas of war based on media reports and memories of her husband. Both figures have been broken by the futility of death through war—the soldier succumbs to blank apathy, the woman to despair.
Gender-specific differences in dealing with war are also brought out: while the woman is left alone with her grief, the soldier is left with a shattered psyche. The slightly unsharp black-and-white images call to mind newspaper photos and lend the subjective nature of the utterances a semblance of media objectivity.

                                                                                                                                     Nina Möntmann
                                                                                                             Excerpt from curator’s statement

Translated by
Christopher Jenkin-Jones

A spatial installation by Sonia Balassanian Presented at 52nd Venice Biennale the Pavilion of Armenia In collaboration with Gagik Ghazareh David Kareyan Curator: Nina Möntmann Cast: Edward Tadevosian Widow of a fallen freedom-fighter