Art Papers “Borders and Barriers” Issue, 2018/2019
Gilda Davidian, Meldia Yesayan, and Mashinka Firunts Hakopian interviewed by Sara Wintz for the “Borders and Barriers” issue of Art Papers. The conversation addresses Armenian diasporic formations; displacement; cultural erasure; art and gentrification; and economic violence in Los Angeles.
From Sara Wintz’s introduction to the interview:
I met Gilda Davidian, Meldia Yesayan, and Mashinka Firunts Hakopian at Urartu Coffee in Glendale, CA, on August 5, 2018. The subject of our conversation was the controversial exhibition Vision Valley, on view in Glendale’s Brand Library & Art Center, a show “conceived and organized” by The Pit gallery. Glendale is a historically Armenian suburb adjacent to the city of Los Angeles, where thousands of displaced Armenian migrants sought refuge: an estimated 30%–40% of the city’s residents are Armenian, making it one of the largest communities of Armenians in the US. Davidian, Yesayan, and Hakopian all have ties to Glendale’s communities. Yesayan and Hakopian grew up there, and each has family members who continue to reside in Glendale.
In an essay published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hakopian writes, “Theories circulate about why the diasporic community crystallized in Glendale. My mother would say it’s because the valley views approximate the mountainous topographies of Armenia. The valley, as she said, visually softens the losses of territorial dispossession.” The essay, and a subsequent open letter published by Hyperallergic, brought Davidian, Yesayan, and Hakopian together to oppose the forces of gentrification and cultural erasure in the city of Glendale. Together, with Armenian cultural workers and community activists, they are co-founding Artar, a collective based in Los Angeles that aims “to bring visibility to Armenian diasporic cultural output; to stand with our communities against erasure, displacement, and gentrification; and to stand in solidarity with other communities locally and globally whose survival is threatened by these forces.”