AUCTION OF SOULS
Performing Memory by and with Arsinée Khanjian
With Elmira Bahrami, Taner Şahintürk and Jesse Jonas Kracht
In English, German and Armenian
With German and English subtitles
In 1918, Ravished Armenia, the eyewitness account of then 18-year-old Aurora Mardiganian, which relentlessly described her ordeal through the massacre of the Armenians, triggered a wave of shock. Only a handful of scenes and the script have survived from the film version that was created in 1919 with Aurora in the leading role. The copies disappeared just like Aurora, who died penniless and forgotten in Los Angeles at 92 years old. Arsinée Khanjian reconstructs the story of a desperate attempt to relate the indescribable.
Recording from 24/April 2017
A Video Installation by Atom Egoyan
In English with German subtitles
Aurora Mardiganian was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Hoping to find her surviving brother, she went to the United States. At Ellis Island she met a New York-Armenian couple who took her in and placed advertisements in newspapers. Her story came to the attention of Harvey Gates, a filmmaker in Hollywood who was quick to recognize its commercial potential. In 1918 a film was made about her experience, with Mardiganian herself playing the leading role. The film was released under the title Auction of Souls in 1919, and catapulted Aurora Mardiganian into unexpected stardom. She experienced great difficulty meeting the social responsibilities forced upon her by the public appearances to promote the film. Aurora threatened suicide and abandoned the promotional tour. As a result, seven Aurora doubles were hired to appear during the promotional campaign. The seven »Auroras« in this installation recite texts from the account of Aurora’s experiences published as Ravished Armenia in 1918, before the film’s release. Because the film of Aurora Mardiganian’s story has been lost (only a twenty-two minutes have been preserved), this installation is an attempt to bring Aurora’s spirit back to the big screen.
Auroras was shown as a video installation as part of the festival Es schneit in April 2016 as well as at the 4th Berliner Herbstsalon in 2019 and is now available online for the first time.