Interview: Sona Sahakian — 16.07.21
A Life In Armenia Through Film: With Sona Sahakian
մոռացոմ, the Armenian word for Oblivion, encapsulates this moving short film by visual artist Sona Sahakian. Not only does the film traverse through the beautiful life of Sahakian’s great-grandfather, but the interwoven elements of nature and the environments of Armenia bring with them a more meaningful insight. Does time remain still as life stills-or as this film explores-does it become ever continuing and cyclical? The mountains and villages of Armenia represent roots, memory and power. The butterfly represents rebirth, and the snail represents stillness. Each element is carefully chosen and visualised to create a work that brings questions and answers to its audience. For Sahakian, Oblivion is the past and it’s memories, for us it is life and it’s moments. We spoke to Sahakian about time, place and the connected, nuanced perspective visualised in Oblivion.
What significance does Oblivion have to you, when you view it?
Oblivion gave me a magical and nostalgic feeling, it is an intangible feeling that cannot be expressed in words. By returning to your memories, you long for the atmosphere, the energetic aura and the warmth that gave you a familiar and pleasant feeling. Although I was not born in Armenia, I still feel an inner connection to my roots. The past ends up in the present, making you feel freer, more perfect and more complete, thus filling your void.
Oblivion explores the cyclical nature of time. The merging of the past, present and future. It is the merging of all these states of time to produce an almost ‘static-like’ environment, where events are happening all at once and all together.
How did you represent this idea within your film?
In my film I show the story of my great-grandfather by using different metaphors. I use moving images but also old photographs, and give a new life and meaning to it. The relationship between time and consciousness creates a transformed representation between our thinking, reality, emotions and feelings. In this way you come into deeper contact with a mental space that creates a deeper layer of reality and a timeless and virtual dimension.
In the film you discover the butterflies which shows the impermanence of life; it is a metaphor for time, the process of transformation and ephemeral life. It is the immortality and evolution of the soul, where I show the stages of life, death and rebirth or strength, growth and vulnerability. Everything comes and goes. Nothing is permanent. Life is only for a short time, it’s temporary. At the end of the film I use the snail as a symbol for the rebirth of man and the beginning of a new life. It is the endless cycle of human existence, where life, death and rebirth are closely linked and moving. The snail also gives me a feeling of silence, softness, warmth and confidence. When you return to your inner home, you discover wisdom and your inner powers, which lead you to new experiences, insights and events.
You mention that your project is based on the journey you made whilst in Armenia. How did the surrounding environment influence your project?
Previously I did not pay much attention to inner silence and nature, until I made a magical journey to the mountains in Meghri Agarak (Armenia) and met a shaman. He helped me to feel the real presence and silence in my body and to hear the sounds of nature. By meditating and listening attentively to all sounds, I let my thoughts go back and forth like clouds to live in the present moment. In Armenia a lot of candles are lit, which are mainly meant to express gratitude and to make certain wishes. On the high peaks of the mountains there are rocky temples that are holy places, where you can light candles. What particularly inspired me were the traces, shapes, textures and the stratification of the candle wax, that have formed on the rocks over the years. For me, Armenia is a mountainous and mystical country where many warm, open and hospitable people live. They have more contact with nature and they spend their day more outdoors than indoors.
Human-environment dynamics are crucial and heavily influence our own experiences. Why was the story and life of your great-grandfather so necessary to tell?
The story of my great-grandfather, who awoke from a coma after seven years, greatly touched me and made me think about how time and consciousness relate to each other and influence each other. It was important to bring this story to the fore, because life itself in an endless journey where life, death and rebirth endlessly develop and continue in the world. How is it possible that there are such mysterious powers in people? The perseverance of my great-grandmother, who did not give up hope and believed that her husband would live again. Where did my great-grandmother find this power? These are the questions that motivate me to find our deepest inner house and the mysterious treasure box of our existence. Miracles in life do exist!
Why choose the title Oblivion? Does the word have different meanings in different languages?
In Armenian, the word for oblivion is մոռացոմ, which denotes a situation where someone or something is completely forgotten. Oblivion to me is a kind of repository for stories and events, containing an accumulation of the past that influences our perception of the world and expands human consciousness. I chose the title Oblivion because I don’t want to lose my great-grandfather’s story. You always carry the past with you as memories, creating an altered cycle of human existence, which is a glimpse of your soul and consciousness. I chose the title Oblivion because I don’t want to lose the story of my great-grand father. The photos that I took and collected, I revive the traces of the past in the new present. By going back to my roots I experienced the traces of the past, which gave me the sense of a timeless dimension.
As time passes, the lives of people pass also. Do you feel as though this project explores how, even as time changes, experiences can still be felt and seen as strongly as they were in the past?
I see memories as timeless traces where you freeze a moment of time that immediately becomes the past, but at the same time you breathe new life into the present. This makes the awareness and transformation of time tangible. Time becomes dynamic and mobile, so that past, present and future merge and form a unit that stimulates your senses and your imagination. Time is distorted, freezes and transforms at the same time, allowing you to find unexpected new experiences and creativity in your life. In this way the events you have experienced are more valuable and reliable, which gives you a new view of life and influences your perspective. You always carry the past with you as memories, creating an altered cycle of human existence, which is a glimpse of your soul and consciousness.
How important do you feel the connections are between people and environments?
I think the connection between people and environments is very important because man is a microcosm of nature, a small universe. In nature one finds quiet beauty and reflection that brings harmony and balance, and in which the mind relaxes and can find peace. It gives strength and perseverance to be stronger in life and to enjoy life as it is at every moment. There is a merge between the search for truth, thinking and being with matter and time. Nature is part of man, who maintains everything.
Do you personally resonate and feel connected to a specific place?
The journey I made in Armenia was an important source of inspiration. This is how I came into contact with the spiritual world, meditation and yoga, which have made me stronger and more powerful and given me guidance in my life. The atmosphere, the mountains and the energetic aura gave me a magical and nostalgic feeling, which has enriched my view of the world an strengthened my awareness of my existence. What also fascinated me are the villages in the high mountains, which have a special, extraordinary power and depth, through which I experience an inner connection with my cultural and genetic background.
What power and perspective do you think artists have, if any, in relation to environments?
The perception of the world and nature is one of the places which is a source of inspiration. There is something hidden in reality that we can deeply understand and perceive through our senses. Through our eyes we see, perceive and nourish our creative gaze and energy field. In this way we create new shapes and dimensions that strengthen our imagination and remain anchored in our memories and memory.
Are you also currently working on any other projects? Do you have any hopes for future projects?
I am currently making new works about the war in Armenia. As you may know, there is a lot going on in the country right now. With my works I want to show the emotional world of the population, and I want to give them strength, encouragement and positive energy to overcome these difficult times and survive, through mixed media. Themes such as struggle, hope, courage, loss and power are central to my works.
I am also working on a project about light and shadow, which I want to expand further. For me, light is the most important positive force and the source of life. We have to find a balance between black and white, light and dark. One cannot exist without the other. We must fight against dark moments in life to be victorious. In the future I would like to create more mixed media works in combination with 2D, photography and film. By bringing different media forms together, I want to visualize solidarity. I also hope that I will have more opportunities to hold exhibitions and participate in projects in which different artists share their experiences.
THE ARTIST / SONA SAHAKIAN
“I am a visual artist based in the Hague, The Netherlands. I graduated from the department of Fine Arts at the Royal Academy of the Arts, The Hague. My works consists of paintings, drawings, collages, photographs, installations and films (video art). In recent years I have participated in various groups exhibitions and projects.
My works are about the search for an inner experience of time, where memories are made experienceable in the shape of fixation and transformation. The transience, the cycle of human existence – life, death and rebirth – plays an important role in this; this transforms our reality and strengthens our human consciousness. In my art I want to stimulate people’s imagination and sensory experiences in which the traces of the past are revived in the present, which remains anchored in my memory and thus enriches my personal history. In this way I want to inspire people to make an inner journey by really feeling and discovering for themselves what the treasury of their existence is.”
Sona Sahakian explores and visualises-through an abstract, everchanging and moving narrative-how time, consciousness and life cycles merge.
FILM COPYRIGHT © SONA SAHAKIAN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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