Lebanese director Nigol Bezjian’s installation titled ‘Çanakayna’ at the 4th Çanakkale Biennial that began on September 27 suffered a mysterious attack last Tuesday. Biennial staff think this may have been a case of theft, while Bezjian, who included photographs of Armenian soldiers that served in the army from the Ottoman period to the present day, treats the case with suspicion.
The 4th Çanakkale Biennial, ascribed special importance since it coincides with the centennial of the Battle of Çanakkale, began on September 27. Only in its second week, the installation of Lebanese director Nigol Bezjian titled ‘Çanakayna’ at the Biennial has suffered an attack. ‘Çanakayna’ features a video containing conversations with local people made by an actor who wanders the streets of the city wearing the uniform worn by soldiers who fought at the Battle of Çanakkale (also known as the Battle of Gallipoli, during the Dardanelles Campaign) and introduces himself as ‘Sarkis’, and more than 40 portraits of Armenian soldiers who served in the army from the Ottoman period to the present day. However, one of these portraits, that of Colonel Krikor Takvoryan, mysteriously disappeared last Tuesday.
‘Not an attack but theft’
Deniz Erbaş, one of the curators of the Biennial, stated that they did not perceive this action as an attack. Erbaş emphasized the fact that only one of the portraits had been stolen, and that the rest had not suffered any damage, and that they had received neither a complaint from visitors, or a threat from any organization regarding Bezjian’s work since the Biennial begun. Biennial Director Seyhan Boztepe explained that the aim could not have been to damage Bezjian’s work. “If that were the case, they would have damaged the entire installation. They would not have taken just a single portrait and left the rest as they were,” Boztepe added and made an interesting comment, stating that they perceived the installation as an interactive work, and that anything that befalls it until the end of the Biennial would become part of the work.
Despite the presence of biennial staff and security wardens on every level of the biennial space who supervise visitors, and genuinely tight precautions such as taking the names of visitors at the biennial entrance, biennial staff do not know how this ‘action’ was carried out. This is what Bezjian emphasizes first, and he explains his suspicion with the following words: “Everyone who heard I shot this video asked me whether I was harassed or not. The night before the shooting, Seyhan Boztepe was worried about negative reactions we might get on the street. As they say, this might be a case of ‘natural’ theft, or they might be covering it up to stop it becoming a big thing. Or perhaps, a secret relative of Colonel Takvoryan, who does not want to reveal his or her identity, took the photograph, who knows…”