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Narayan Mahon: Lands in Limbo

December 6, 2014 – March 15, 2015

Narayan Mahon, Store, Stepanakert, Nagorno Karabakh, 2006. Archival pigment print, 24 x 30 inches. © Narayan Mahon Photography.
A man walks into a small store in the center of Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno Karabakh. Stepanakert lost nearly half it’s population to forced deportation of Azeris during the breakway war. Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) began its secession from Azerbaijan during the dying years of the Soviet Union. The breakaway war with Azerbaijan ended in 1994 with an estimated 30,000 dead and nearly 750,000 displaced Azerbaijanis (leaving NKR an ethnically 100% Armenian ). While a fragile cease-fire still stands there is yet to be a peace agreement, leaving the official status of Nagorno Karabakh is constant limbo. While not recognized by a single nation, NKR maintains all the governmental trappings of a sovereign state, with an elected president, cabinet, parliament and military.

In December 2014, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art will present the first museum exhibition showcasing Narayan Mahon’s photographic journey through the unrecognized countries of Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus, Transnistria, Nagorno Karabakh, and Somaliland. With a selection of photographs from each of the artist’s five geographically-based series, Narayan Mahon: Lands in Limbo explores the day-to-day realities of living in countries that remain unacknowledged by the larger international community. Mahon calls attention to complex geopolitical realities, while simultaneously giving poetic image to the human condition. He artfully captures the experiences of individuals grappling with matters of cultural and ethnic identity, economic devastation, and self-determination in the face of extreme international isolation. In doing so, he raises timely questions about the meaning of national sovereignty in the increasingly globalized world of the twenty-first century, and contributes to the ongoing dialogue about the role of documentary photography in contemporary art.