Haig Aivazian

With master oud maker Mehmet Caymaz

‘I am sick, I am living / With an invisible apparition / Maybe one day, one day then / I await with hope / My poor soul rotting with longing.’

‘Hastayım Yaşıyorum’ is the first part of an ongoing research project on Turkish-Armenian oud master Udi Hrant Kenkulian (1901-1978), a musician and composer, with significant contributions to the Türk sanat müziḡi repertoire — a salon music derived from the Ottoman classics but central to the Modern Turkish Republican identity. A large majority of Kenkulian’s life was spent playing in cafés and selling instruments in Istanbul. He would however, with the support of various patrons, travel repeatedly in a bid to cure his blindness. His eyesight would never be restored, but he would disseminate his music and transmit his knowledge to many students in places like Greece, Lebanon and as far West as the United States.

Thinking through modal structures in classical and modern Turkish music, this project inhabits both the oppositions and entanglements inherent in terms such as ‘Makam’ and ‘Taksim’, simultaneously embodying an irreconcilable coming together and a partitioning. ‘Makam’ defines both an intervallic and melodic structure in modal music, but it is also used to designate a shrine, its Arabic root implying residence and sedentarization. ‘Taksim’, which is an improvisation within the ‘Makam’ in musical terms, refers to division or distribution in the Arabic language.

The piece derives from the object of the oud; a fretless string instrument with a body made with the highest levels of craftsmanship, which is constructed by careful shaping and gluing curved strips of hardwood together. Produced in collaboration with musicologist and oud master oud maker Mehmet Caymaz, the oud’s hemispherical form is extruded, forming a smooth enclosed length. It also takes inspiration from traditions of learning, teaching and playing the instrument, placed on facing seats mimicking this tradition.

‘Hastayım Yaşıyorum’ was displayed in the wood-panelled library of the Mekhitarist Monastery of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, Venice as part of The National Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia, the Golden Lion award winner of the 56th Venice Biennale.


Haig Aivazian (b. 1980, Beirut) is an artist, curator and writer living and working in Beirut. He received his MA in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University, Chicago and his BA in Design and Studio Art from Concordia University, Montréal, and also studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Selected exhibitions and screenings included The Armenian National Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, 2015; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, 2015; Los Angeles Municipal Museum, 2014; Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg, 2013; Southern Panoramas, Videobrasil, 2013; Art Dubai; FIDMarseille, 2012; Parisian Laundry, Montreal, 2011; Mercer Union, Toronto, 2011; Sharjah Biennial, 2009. Selected performances and lectures include Istanbul Biennial, 2015; Akademie der Kunste der Welt, Cologne, 2015; Asia Society, New York, 2015; Home Works, Beirut, 2012. Aivazian was associate curator of Sharjah Biennial 10, 2010 and has written for Afterall Journal, Manifesta Journal, FUSE, Adbusters, Ibraaz, Bidoun, AMCA (Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey), and The Arab Studies Journal, among others.


Hastayım Yaşıyorum (I Am Sick But I Am Alive), 2018
tulipwood, mahogany and polyester varnish
239 x 36.9 x 99.9 cm
Hastayım Yaşıyorum (I Am Sick But I Am Alive), 2017
tulipwood, mahogany and polyester varnish
238 x 36.8 x 99.8 cm
Hastayım Yaşıyorum (I Am Sick But I Am Alive), 2016
tulipwood, mahogany and polyester varnish
237 x 36.7 x 99.7 cm
Hastayım Yaşıyorum (I Am Sick But I Am Alive), 2015
tulipwood, mahogany and polyester varnish
236 x 36.6 x 99.6 cm