Pratt Manhattan Gallery, in conjunction with the Blind Dates Project, is now presenting “Blind Dates: New Encounters from the Edges of a Former Empire,” an exhibition of 13 new projects based on curatorial match-making that centers around the peoples, places, and cultures that once constituted the vast geography of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922). The exhibition is on view through February 12, 2011 and is free and open to the public. “Blind Dates” is guest-curated by Defne Ayas and Neery Melkonian.

Exhibiting artists, many of whom have ties to countries including Armenia, Bosnia, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, and Turkey, utilized the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent formation of nation states throughout the region as a point of departure to explore the effects of various forms of ruptures, gaps, erasures, and reconstructions. An underlying theme of the exhibition is formed by diasporas, or transnational cultural cartographies that offer non-conventional temporal and spatial configurations, through the prism of contemporary lived experiences.

“At the heart of ‘Blind Dates’ are research-based collaborations by artists who explore attachments to images, voices, and histories that collide with existing taxonomies of nation-states, art histories, and identities,” said Melkonian. Ayas added that the exhibition, which was envisioned as ongoing and open to reformulation, “extends a rare platform for artists and cultural producers from the former Ottoman region.”

Works created specifically for “Blind Dates” include:

·       Architectural drawings and models that re-imagine the ruins of the ancient cultural capital of Ani where a collapsed bridge once connected the two river banks of the still-divided neighboring countries of Armenia and Turkey by Silva Ajemian and Aslihan Demirtas

·       Personal stories that map a peaceful protest against the demise of old architecture, public spaces, and the infringement of human rights in post-Soviet Armenia by Karen Andreassian with Citizen Walker Sergey

·       An audio-visual critique of recreations of “trauma” and “atrocity” through ideologically manufactured documentaries by Hrayr Anmahouni Eulmessekian with Anahid Kassabian

·       A whimsical video critique of Orientalism by Michael Blum and Damir Nikši?

·       Impressionistic black and white photographs juxtaposed with an essay in three languages that explores reliance on archives in search of objective truths and personal mythologies by Jean Marie Casbarian with Nazan Maksudyan

·       A poster that highlights and questions developments in the fields of museology, archaeology, and art education during the late Ottoman empire by Özge Ersoy with Taline Toutounjian

·       A functional sculpture in the shape of a platform found in Turkish baths that reconstructs the once interconnected histories of Iznik and Kütahya ceramic tile-making traditions by Linda Ganjian and Elif Uras

·       Color photographs that recapture the exiled Ottoman-Armenian artist Arshile Gorky as seen through the grids of his “glass house” in Connecticut by Aram Jibilian with Aaron Mattocks as Arshile Gorky’s ghost

·       A performance and installation piece detailing the act of exchanging letters in artist Nina Katchadourian and Ahmet Ö?üt’s names through a legalized transaction

·       An animated video that explores the unchanging yet resilient role of women in Armenia by Karine Matsakian and Sona Abgarian

·       A documentary video based on performance workshops that explore the evolution of the Zeybekiko Greek folk-dance tradition by Stefanos Tsivopoulos with Ursula Eagly, Carlos Fittante, and Christopher Williams

·       Photographs and a philosophical essay on how to resurrect traditions from ruptured pasts through the translation of an English text into Ottoman by Jalal Toufic with Selim Kuru as translator

·       A mixed-media installation by Xurban Collective that poses as an archeological survey of ruined villages from five different regions of Anatolia

Ayas and Melkonian developed the concept for the Blind Dates Project in 2006 and began a series of public discussions in conjunction with the project in fall 2009. Topics addressed to date include the role of artistic and curatorial practices in overcoming immeasurable loss and building new communities; the reconstruction of an ancient bridge between two divided modern countries and its role in serving historical justice; the necessity of interdisciplinary approaches to studying the legacy of the Ottoman Empire; and the consideration of sensory attachments when rewriting new (art) histories. For more information on the Blind Dates Project and its public programming, please visit

Ayas is a curator and educator specializing in new media and visual art performance who commutes between Shanghai and New York. She is director of programs for Arthub Asia; teaches art history at New York University, Shanghai; and has been curator of PERFORMA-a biennial of performance art in New York City-since 2004. Melkonian is a freelance art advisor, critic, curator, and educator based in New York City. She was formerly associate director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and director of visual arts programming at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe. She serves as the director of the Blind Dates Project and is the producer of its public programming.

For more information on “Blind Dates” and upcoming Pratt Manhattan Gallery exhibitions, please call 212-647-7778, email, or visit Add Pratt Manhattan Gallery on Facebook by searching “Pratt Manhattan Gallery” and follow Pratt Exhibitions on Twitter at “PrattGallery.”

Corporate supporters of the Blind Dates Project include Law Office of Souren A. Israelyan; Millyard Imaging and Matt McEnteggart/White Box Builders; Raffi Momjian P.C.; and Richard Tenguerian Architectural Models. Individual patrons include Ken Darian; Mimi Brown Ercil; Tunç Iyriboz; Sylvia Minassian; Roswitha and Fred Loeffler; Shant Mardirossian; Kaan Nazli; Seda Sahakian; Ani Totah; and others who wish to remain anonymous. Additional project supporters include AICA-Armenia; ALWAN for the Arts; Arts in the One World; Blind Dates Friends & Global Advisory Council; Dorothy and Joseph Reilly Fund; Hrant Dink Memorial Workshop; Mirak Family Foundation; Mondriaan Foundation; and UTA Turkish Studies.

Blind Dates Project fiscal sponsors include the Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention (2006-2008) and New York Foundation for the Arts (2009-present).