This project evolved out of a collaboration with my creative partner (lee williams boudakian) called WORLD OF Q — an interdisciplinary, constantly-evolving creative project featuring distinct iterations that revolve around a central storyworld. In this world, hackers, healers, and cultural workers have formed an underground movement to resist totalitarian erasure of cultural and ancestral practices and memory. By pulling from the archives of SWANA (Southwest Asian, North African) histories and movements, World of Q visions into the futures of those who have survived and thrived since time immemorial, by drawing from the stories, relationships, skills, and ontologies of their communities and peoples. The most recent work we created as part of World of Q is a short film called Transmission, which was a collaboration between Kalik Arts and co-directors Emily Mkrtichian and Anahid Yahjian.
ENSOULED is an intergenerational narrative that weaves magical realism and speculative fiction with histories of resistance movements and elements of SWANA culture. The story follows a solitary hacker and botanist (Badaskhan) who translates frequencies from the plant-life growing in their greenhouse and lab. The story is set in a near future where a totalitarian regime has nearly wiped out an entire generation of resistors, elders, and keepers-of-ancestral knowledge. As pressure mounts to join a growing underground resistance movement carried forward from the last generation’s efforts, Badaskhan buries further into their work as they become obsessed with recording and decoding unusual frequencies from a newly sprouted plant. The frequencies slowly reveal themselves to be secret correspondences between Badaskhan’s ancestors, a group of women resistors and practitioners of magic who survive on their own terms in Ottoman Turkey at the turn of the 20th century. Badaskhan, who has long denied their family history and Armenian ancestry, is now forced to contend with a resurfacing of painful childhood memories. Weaved throughout this intergenerational narrative are glimpses of an ethereal, simulated dimension in which a mysterious narrator (Araxi) discovers their own existence whilst describing chronicles of the lives of Badaskhan’s ancestors.
This is an interdisciplinary, iterative project. I’m currently developing it as an illustrated storybook (drawn by Lorik Khodaverdian), which is on track to completion by Spring 2020. In August 2020, I’ll shoot a series of short videos that pull scenes from the book, and build towards creating an immersive installation as well. A work-in-progress version of the installation was developed and presented at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Yerevan in September 2019. My long-term intention is to make a feature film, and possibly a digital storytelling platform.