Ninel Melkonyan and Catharine Yang, Alienated Utterings, 2020


The Outward Localities Collective aims to pay homage to the young soldiers who perished in a distanced war in the South Caucasus region. The brutalities of this uneven war were mostly unseen due to the insufficiency of media response. The fighting erupted on September 27, 2020, and lasted 44 days. It took the lives of many young soldiers, mainly born between 2000 and 2002. Those were people who had dreams, yet their struggle was unseen, their life was neglected, and they perished invisibly. This piece offers a historical projection on a distanced war through a personal lens of the viewer, bringing consciousness to the disengaged international society about the idea of global consciousness, human empathy, and the capability to share the pain of others. We invite you to shorten the distance between you and a war. We want to get the war onto your lips, onto your ears, so that you can hear the names, so that you will feel the war based on your lived experience. You will listen to names in a different language, which will be alienated from your tongue and your ears. We invite you to use your own body and voice vibration to enchant those names and bring dignity to those who perished. We want to acknowledge that war is young, war is horrifying, and there is no romanticism in it. We attempt to shift your inward, outward perspective so that the inability to relate to the outside world will be illuminated by a sense of universal belonging. By repetition and differences of the names, we practice the re-humanization of “muted” names, giving them voices and putting you into an alternative position to experience a war.

Alienated Utterings is a durational video performance and an artistic reaction of visual activism to the recent war between the two post-Soviet countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan, which left the international society indifferent. As a member of the Outward Localities Collective, I am in dialog with Catherine Yang in this video performance. We vocalize and handwrite sixty-one names of Armenian soldiers who perished in the Nagorno Karabakh (NK) war. NK is an enclave, historically populated by ethnic Armenians, yet de facto was assigned to the Republic of Azerbaijan by Joseph Stalin in the 1920s. The first war in Nagorno Karabakh began after the USSR collapsed and lasted for two years, from 1992-1994. It ended with a cease-fire agreement, where the disputed land remained under the Republic of Armenia's protection. The frozen conflict erupted in a full-scale war on September 27, 2020, in a disproportional high technological drone warfare. As a result of heavy fighting, about 20,000 servicemen, most 18 to 20 years old young conscripts, perished from both sides. The war lasted 44 days and ended with a cease-fire on November 10, 2020. More than 100,000 Armenians, indigenous to their land, were displaced from the Nagorno Karabakh region and remain without shelters. About 30,000 children and youth are deprived of their right to education, numerous sites of Armenian cultural heritage are in danger of cultural erasure.

Outward Localities
Film Media Performing Arts Visual Arts |
Ninel Melkonyan
B.A. History of Art, 2021

Catherine Yang
B.A. History of Art, Data Science