Pejvak [Rouzbeh Akhbari & Felix Kalmenson], May 2018
‘A Passage’ is a video and installation project produced in Agarak and Meghri. The project tackles the political economy and social ecology of border infrastructures in Southern Armenia. By focusing on two significant events that illustrate the dominant political shifts in the region, ‘A Passage’ looks at how processes of rapid militarization and neoliberalization have restructured these borders. These two events include the recent erasure of the historic Yerevan-Baku Railway; and the upcoming construction of an industrial Free Economic Zone (FEZ) planned precisely where the removed train infrastructure was housed. The scrapping of the railway symbolizes the socio-political adherence to maintaining strict mobility regimes for citizens, while the introduction of the FEZ signals how capital supersedes these bodily restrictions and borders.
The metaphor of ‘wind’ is a recurring thematic framework for examining complex socio-political dynamics in this project. The two channel video, ‘Make Breeze’, stitches together interior perspectives of Meghri’s abandoned airport with shots depicting two horsemen masked with mirrors enacting a ritual on the runway with windsocks in search of a breeze. The runway and the passenger halls have remained derelict for the past decade; inhabited only by a single security guard and a herd of wild horses who graze in the adjacent mountains. The horsemen’s quest is ultimately disrupted as the wild horses reclaim their space and occupy the main runway.
The thematic carries over in examinations of modes of mobility and obstruction as seen through the evacuated linkages of the discontinued Yerevan-Baku railway. ‘Wait’ takes place in the empty tunnel that bridges the geopolitical boundary of Nakhichevan and Armenia, where the same horsemen ceremonially carry a banner with the ghost train’s image. As the riders proceed along the unlit tunnel, the second channel depicts Agarak’s theater, where the town’s children’s choir announces the major embarkation points on the former railroad.