Mekhitar Garabedian

Catastrophic Mourning

Armenian diasporic identity, around the world and for every generation since, is marked by the histories of displacement and dispossession of the Catastrophe of 1915-1916, the general extermination of all the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. These histories are not merely narratives of a faraway past disconnected from contemporary subjectivities and memories; they are also histories of the present. The legacies of displacement and dispossession are critical features of the present.

Why do these dead return? For Armenians, it is impossible to mourn the dead of the Catastrophe, to finally be able to bury them. I will argue that the uncanny presence of these revenants is caused by catastrophic mourning, the interdiction of mourning which is inherent to the ‘genocidal will’, as developed in the writings of philosopher Marc Nichanian. Nichanian’s approach is, primarily, based on his extensive study of Armenian literature of the 20th century. With the Catastrophe, something occurred in history that may not have occurred as fact, something occurred as the very negation of fact, something that is not presentable under the rules of knowledge and which marks the confines wherein historical knowledge sees its competence challenged.


Mekhitar Garabedian (°1977, Aleppo, Syria) lives and works in Ghent, Belgium.

Deploying a variety of media such as drawing, video, photography and installations, many of Mekhitar Garabedianʼs works draw from his experience as an immigrant and play on the humour and poetic qualities he finds between languages, cultures and histories. Just as his personal diasporic history is layered, his work echoes with a multiplicity of references to literature, music, philosophy and visual arts.

Mekhitar Garabedian is currently affiliated with KASK/School of Arts, Ghent, as a postdoctoral researcher and professor Installation and Media art. He is represented by Albert Baronian Gallery, Brussels.

Garabedian’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions at Bozar, Centre of Fine Arts, Brussels, 2015, S.M.A.K., Ghent, 2011, KIOSK, Ghent, 2010.

His work has appeared in group exhibitions such as Armenity/Hayoutioun, National Pavilion of The Republic of Armenia, Venice Biennale 2015 (awarded with the Golden Lion), Between the Pessimism of the Intellect and the Optimism of the Will, Thessaloniki Biennale 2015, Here and Elsewhere, New Museum, New York, 2014, Blijven Kijken/Ce qui nous regarde/Dropouts, M, Museum Leuven, 2013, Graphology, The Drawing Room, London, 2012.