Telos. Noun. An ultimate object or aim: in the hedonistic life, people lose some moral purpose, a telos which provides the moral justification for society.
In a recent exhibition at Latitude in Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan, Sarko Meene presented delicate paintings together with an immersive metallic installation guided by the idea of “telos.” According to Aristotle, everything in nature has its own goal and ultimate purpose and this he referred to as telos. “One day I was talking to a friend of mine who studied philosophy and we were discussing the seed being so important, how everything starts from a seed. A tree starts from a seed. A human starts from a seed. Everything goes towards death”, explains Sarko, “And we said ‘oh telos, that’s basically what it is.’ Something small becomes something, and then in the case of a human it becomes an identity and you know the layers of it. The layers of life and then it ends and then it cycles around all the time because I don’t believe death is the end.”
This idea of layering is most present in the installation piece, Identity, which appears in the exhibition space as a six-part installation, though their is a seventh part: the viewer. “It can be explained in so many different ways and at the same time it’s extremely simple”, explains Sarko of the work, “It’s a fingerprint and layers of lines in your palm. In one piece there are two layers which become one, where you become an identity.” Viewing the work – which was made using fire to form contours in metal mesh – is an immersive experience. “I made it so that at one point you self-actualize, realizing how you were born”, adds Sarko, “At the beginning of your life you’re more ambitious, going against your parents. You have to actually mature to come to a point where you’re appreciating where you have come from and what you have built. I feel that it’s actually later in life where you’re actually born. At one level I made it so you are centering. The pieces are see-through and two sided so you can stand on each side, and if you finish and get to the end it directs you back into it and that’s about life never ending and going back, in and out, life and death. I’m sure humans are also circling through phases just like everything else does.”
The metallic Identity, though constructed from harsh materials like chains and metal, appears gentle and feminine. “It’s funny how you say that, because it’s all metal”, says Sarko, “But that’s how women are too, hard but delicate.” And, in addition to the confusingly dainty Identity, were 40 small watercolour works on paper titled Something Small. Bursting with colour and feeling, they were hung in the space in the order of the Fibonacci sequence in the shape of a circular pattern. The works were made at the beginning of the Armenian lockdown on scraps of paper Sarko had to hand, though instead of seeming woeful and grey, they are the complete opposite. “They’re a little bit crooked and not touched up properly but I decided not to touch them because nothing is really perfect anyway”, explains Sarko, “I usually force myself to be in solitude to actually paint or create but this lockdown was a given one. I had this immense strong gratitude for everything. I feel like that’s why I had a lot of love in me even though there was covid and separation, but I was like, oh wow world, I love you, you’re so real. My reaction to the lockdown was very positive. I was feeling grateful the whole time. I was appreciating everything I would eat, every beautiful thing in my life…which is why my works became so positive too.”
Perhaps what made the exhibition of Telos even more remarkable, was the fact that it was the first exhibition in the Latitude space – which was founded by the Yerevan Biennial Art Foundation – following its use as a space for refugees as a result of the recent Artsakh war. “I really wanted this space to be philosophically correct because this space was holding refugees during the war”, says Sarko, “This was the first reopening since they left. I kind of opened the space with Telos.” And, given that Sarko’s idea of Telos is concerned with the idea of phases in our lives, it was probably the most astute show that the space could have gone for.
And what next for Sarko? Telos was actually not the first time that Identity was exhibited. “The piece has actually been exhibited before, under a different form, and it may also change again”, explains Sarko, “I changed it, maybe because I changed. It might change in the future too. I let it be very free.” Whatever follows, I’m sure that Sarko’s telos will blossom in a beautiful new way.
Telos took place at Latitude in Yerevan, Armenia