Interview: Loussiné Ghukasyan, Artist

Interview by Laure Raffy for HAYP Pop Up Gallery
Original text in French below. Download pdf:
Lussine Ghukasyan – interview – HAYP_En
Lussine Ghukasyan – interview – HAYP_Francais


 

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The visual artist Loussiné Ghukasyan exhibited at the previous HAYP Pop Up Gallery, “12 | 12 | 12 RETROSPECTIVE”, in Yerevan last December 2018. She was also a contributing artist at HAYP Pop Up Gallery’s “Lips of Pride” in 2016, and “Downshift” in 2017.

Laure Raffy: You studied design for 5 years at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Yerevan, what did this training bring you and how did it influence your artistic practice?

Loussine Ghukasyan: Initially, I applied to study etching and print media. In Armenia, the situation for artists is quite complicated. It’s not easy to take paths that differ from traditional ones, or to practice a profession that allows you to earn enough money to make a living. I decided to integrate design into my studies, thinking it would help me find work afterwards. But in the end, I chose to follow yet another path, specializing in painting. I loved the medium but not the pedagogy at the Academy. The environment was quite rigid.

So, I used to take my tools upstairs, alone on the terrace where I would paint the whole day before coming back down to the studios to present my work. This reminds me of a funny anecdote, I used to leave lots of empty space on my canvas. One day, a teacher came to me and told me that I had forgotten to complete some parts, as the entire canvas wasn’t covered.

I started to move away from the academy. Realism as a style and as a teaching method didn’t suit me. I felt like something was missing, like I couldn’t realize my ideas, my desires. I concentrated on drawing, which gave me more freedom. I felt more free to use white and black, a pallet I generally feel close to.

Loussine_Ghukasyan1LR: Your works are quite abstract with distinct lines. We don’t immediately guess what is hidden in these paintings, maybe that’s why we could find your works a bit frightening?

 

LG: I think that “beauty” hits you at first sight- a first glance. What you discover afterwards interests me more. I hope that my work escapes from what I call “first look”, I try to focus on the second encounter. My canvases reveal what emanates from the form: noise, emptiness, agitation … Occasionally I integrate color into my paintings. For instance, there’s a lot of blue in my works exhibited at 12 | 12 | 12. The work is actually called “In the Blue”. I have to say, naming my works is something really difficult for me. Titles don’t matter in my artistic practice. But blue is an important color for me. It’s the color of the night, thoughts, flowing water…

LR: Could you tell us about the context in which this work was produced?

LG: Two of the paintings presented in the installation were made when I lived in Marseille. I painted the third canvas when I was back in Yerevan. These paintings are the transcriptions of a wide range of emotions, encounters, important events … You can read the agitation, the movement, the fall, the trouble. The blood flowing at full speed in the veins and the body at rest. That is what I tried to express.

LR: What does the video projected on your canvases bring to the work?

LG: My video reveals fragments of life: the footsteps of passers-by in the street, their feet, the blinking of a woman’s eyes, all this slowed down. We don’t always pay attention to the gestures of everyday life. I wanted to play with the paint / video contrast in this installation. Video is essentially a moving image. In that sense, it contrasts with painting, a fixed image. I decided to slow down the images of the video and project them on my paintings which are agitated and dark, in order to bring serenity and a slower pace to the experience. The second part of my video, a white screen without image, illuminates the painting. It represents the only moment when we can distinguish the works on canvas in isolation, without distraction or filter; exposed.

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LR: Are your works on canvas preceded by sketches?

LG: My practice is spontaneous. I paint directly on canvas. I do not make a preliminary sketch. I like being alone when I paint, I like working without the eyes of others. When I make street art, for example, I usually don’t talk to anyone about it beforehand. These pieces are discovered later, through photos, traces .. I’m not really interested in live-painting, I prefer to produce and reveal later.

For example, during exhibition openings I used to escape when visitors arrive. I let them discover the work in the space. It’s not me directly that I reveal but my work, which of course, is also a part of me. I like to disappear and to erase myself through my artworks.

These last few weeks I’ve been working outside in the street, more than in my studio. I really try to choose specific places that connect to the landscape in order to make my art.

LR: We can see that language, words, are also very present in your practice.

LG: Indeed, I don’t always draw. I also like to write … When I make murals, I use a paint brush or marker. I like to use the brush more on the wall. It allows me to feel the space, the movement and textures.

I remember a project I did in Greece last summer. I went for a walk and brought some materials along with me, brushes, oil paints. Sitting in front of a huge wall, I thought about the notion of image. I wondered if it was really more useful than words and language. Spontaneously, I wanted to make a large-scale work. I grabbed a stick of wood to lengthen my brush and paint on this gigantic wall.

Here is what I wrote: “Be alone. Listen to the sound of the sea. Dance “

I was on a remote, wild beach. I thought about the people who would come to the sea and see this message. I imagined them dancing. I thought at that moment of the peace they could find, alone with themselves, in this almost deserted place.

I made other pieces when I returned to Armenia, other messages. For instance, a glorious day spent by the river, away from [the city of] Yerevan. The river flow was forked by a hydro company so that some of the water would flow into large concrete pipes that would produce electricity. Meters and meters of tubing. On one of them I wrote: “Listen to the sound of the river. Dance.”

A suggestion to listen to the water flowing in the tube, to try at least … These tubes completely break the cycle, the natural rhythm, I found it sad. These few words hoped to bring back a little poetry.

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LR: How do you make a living here as an artist?

LG: It’s not easy. When I paint, I’m not thinking about selling my works.

I don’t think they would interest collectors. They are quite dark and people would not necessarily want to exhibit them in their homes. To make an income, I do book illustrations for an agency in New York, mostly children’s books.

Shortly after this interview was done (and prior to publishing), Loussiné GHUKASYAN’s works were on view at the Urban Festival in Yerevan in March 2019, a collaboration initiated by “Visual Gap Gallery” and the Goethe Institute in partnership with the German Embassy, where Loussiné participated in workshops led by a group of street artists from Hamburg, Germany.


 

L’artiste plasticienne Loussiné GHUKASYAN était présentée lors de la dernière exposition d’HAYP Pop Up Gallery, 12|12|12 , en décembre dernier, à Yerevan. Elle a aussi contribué à « Lips of Pride » en 2016 et « Downshift » en 2017 initiés par cette même galerie.

Laure Raffy: Vous avez durant 5 ans étudié le design à l’Académie des Beaux Arts d’État d’Erevan. Que vous a apporté cette formation, en quoi a-t-elle influencé votre démarche et vos choix artistiques?

Loussiné Ghukasyan: Initialement, j’ai déposé ma candidature pour apprendre la gravure. En Arménie, la situation des artistes est assez compliquée. Ce n’est pas évident d’emprunter des chemins différents des schémas traditionnels :exercer une profession qui permette de bien gagner sa vie.

J’ai décidé d’intégrer la fac de design en pensant trouver du travail par la suite. Finalement, j’ai choisi de suivre une autre formation, spécialisée en peinture. Même si le medium me plaisait beaucoup, je ne me reconnaissais pas dans les méthodes d’enseignement, la pédagogie de la formation. Le cadre était assez rigide.

Donc, je prenais mon matériel, je montais au dernier étage, seule, sur la terrasse et je peignais des journées entières avant de redescendre pour présenter mes travaux.

J’ai une anecdote amusante, j’avais l’habitude de laisser du blanc sur mes tableaux, de l’espace. Un jour, un professeur est venu me voir et m’a signalé que j’avais oublié des parties, que l’ensemble de la toile n’étais pas recouvert. Au fur et à mesure je me suis éloignée de cet enseignement de peinture réaliste car il ne me convenait pas vraiment. J’éprouvais un manque, j’avais l’impression de ne pas pouvoir concrétiser mes idées, mes envies. Je me suis ensuite concentrée sur le dessin, qui m’offrait davantage de liberté. Je me sentais plus libre d’utiliser le blanc et le noir, dont je me sens proche.

LR: Vos œuvres sont assez abstraites, vous utilisez des lignes, des traits. On ne devine pas de suite ce(ux) qui se cache(nt) dans ces toiles, c’est peut être en cela que l’on peut trouver vos pièces angoissantes, anxiogènes.

LG: Je pense que la « beauté » relève du premier regard, du coup d’oeil. Ce que l’on découvre ensuite m’intéresse davantage. Je souhaite que mon travail échappe à ce que j’appelle « premier regard », qu’il se concentre sur le second. Mes toiles dévoilent ce qui émane de la forme : le bruit, le vide, l’agitation… Il m’arrive tout de même d’intégrer des couleurs à mes toiles. On trouve notamment du bleu dans mes travaux exposés lors de 12|12|12. L’oeuvre s’appelle même In the Blue. D’ailleurs, il est pour moi difficile de nommer mes travaux. Les titres n’ont pas d’importance dans ma démarche.

Le bleu est une couleur importante pour moi. Il s’agit de la couleur de la nuit, des pensées, de l’eau qui s’écoule sans arrêt.

LR: Pourriez-vous nous parler du contexte dans lequel cette œuvre a été produite ?

LG: Deux des tableaux présentés dans l’installation ont été réalisés lorsque je vivais à Marseille. J’ai peins la troisième toile à mon retour à Erevan. Ces peintures sont la retranscription d’une large palette d’émotions, de rencontres, d’évènements importants… On peut y lire l’agitation, le mouvement, la chute, le trouble. Le sang coulant à toute vitesse dans les veines et le corps au repos, voici ce que j’ai cherché à exprimer.

LR: En quoi consiste la vidéo et qu’apporte-t’-elle au travail?

LG: Ma vidéo dévoile des détails de la vie : les pas des passants dans la rue, leurs pieds, le clignement des yeux d’une femme, tout cela ralenti. On ne prête pas toujours attention aux gestes de la vie quotidienne.

J’ai souhaité jouer avec le contraste peinture / vidéo dans cette installation.

La vidéo est par essence, une image en mouvement. En cela elle contraste avec la peinture, image fixe et immobile. J’ai décidé de ralentir les images de la vidéo et de les projeter sur mes peintures, agitées, sombres, afin d’y apporter du calme, de la lenteur. La seconde partie de ma vidéo, écran blanc, sans image, apporte de la lumière à ma peinture. Seul moment où l’on peut distinguer les toiles précisément.

LR: Vos travaux sont-ils rythmés par des protocoles, d’esquisse, de croquis, par exemple?

LG: Ma pratique est spontanée. Je peins directement mes toiles. Je ne réalise pas d’esquisse préliminaire. J’aime être seule lorsque je peins, j’aime travailler sans le regard de l’autre. Lorsque je réalise des pièces de street art par exemple, je n’en parle généralement à personne. Elles sont découvertes plus tard, au travers de photos, de traces.. Je ne m’intéresse plus vraiment au livepainting, je préfère produire et dévoiler par la suite.

Par exemple, lors des ouvertures d’exposition auxquelles je participe, je m’échappe lorsque les visiteurs arrivent. Je les laisse découvrir le travail dans l’espace. Ce n’est pas moi directement que je dévoile mais mon travail. J’aime disparaître et m’effacer au travers de celui-ci.

Ces derniers temps, je travaille beaucoup dehors, dans la rue, davantage qu’en atelier.

J’essaie vraiment de choisir des endroits précis qui respectent le paysage pour réaliser mes oeuvres.

LR: On peut remarquer que le langage, les mots sont aussi très présents dans votre démarche.

LG: En effet, je ne dessine pas toujours. J’aime aussi écrire…

Lorsque je réalise des muraux, j’utilise des pinceaux ou le marqueur en général.

J’aime utiliser le pinceau sur le mur. Ça me permet de sentir la matière, l’espace, le mouvement. Le feutre ne me permet pas vraiment de distinguer les textures.

Je me souviens d’un projet réalisé en Grèce. J’étais partie marcher un moment. J’avais avec moi du matériel, des pinceaux, de l’huile. Assise devant un immense mur, je réfléchissais à la notion d’image. Je me demandais si elle était vraiment plus utile que les mots et le langage.

Spontanément, j’ai eu envie de réaliser une grande pièce. J’ai saisi un bâton afin d’allonger mon pinceau et pouvoir peindre sur ce mur gigantesque.

Voici ce que j’ai écrit : « Be alone. Listen the sound of the sea. Dance »

Je me trouvais sur une plage éloignée, sauvage, j’ai pensé aux personnes qui pourraient arriver par la mer et voir ce message. Je les imaginais entrain de danser. Je pensais au moment de solitude qu’ils auraient, de retrouvailles avec eux même, dans cet espace presque désert.

J’ai réalisé d’autres inscriptions à mon retour en Arménie, d’autres messages. Notamment ce fameux jour où nous étions sortis d’Erevan pour passer la journée au bord de la rivière. Ce cours d’eau a été divisé en deux par une entreprise de sorte à ce qu’une partie de l’eau s’écoule dans de grands tubes en béton et qu’elle produise de l’électricité. Des mètres et des mètres de tube.

Sur l’un d’eux j’ai inscrit : « Listen to the sound of the river. Dance ». Une incitation à écouter l’eau qui s’écoule dans le tube, essayer du moins… Ces tubes rompent totalement le cycle, le rythme naturel, je trouve ça triste. Ces quelques mots y apporte peut être un peu de poésie.

LR: Comment est-ce que tu t’en sors pour vivre ici en tant qu’artiste?

LG: Ce n’est pas évident. Lorsque je réalise mes toiles, je ne pense pas à les vendre. Je pense d’ailleurs qu’elles n’intéresseraient pas beaucoup de collectionneurs. Elles sont assez sombres et des gens n’auraient pas forcément envie de les exposer chez eux. Pour gagner ma vie, je réalise des illustrations pour des livres, avec une agence installée à NY, des livres jeunesse notamment.

On rencontrait Loussiné GHUKASYAN il y a quelques semaines, à l’Urban Festival , manifestation initié par la Galerie « Visual Gap Gallery » et l’Institut Goethe, où elle participait aux ateliers menés par un collectif d’artistes Hambourgeois.

Reading fortunes and being seen

Aramazt Kalayjian is a multi-disciplinary artist from New York, currently based in Yerevan, Armenia since 2011. The below text is a reflection on “If walls could see” a collaborative project with installation by Armenuhi Yeghanyan, and durational performance by Aramazt Kalayjian. The project took place in the framework of HAYP 12 12 12 RETROSPECTIVE, an exhibit that looked at the medieval caravanserai as metaphor for cultural meeting point. Themes of exchange, travel, displacement, fantasy, translation and encounters pervaded the works on view from December 12 -24, 2018 on the third floor of the Armenia Market.


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Hayku 30.0
Coffee is Seeing
Sometimes we need the other
Here we are all one

We all want to be seen and we do it in very different ways.

I had created a set of wall-hanging sculptures featuring haiku poetry, separated into three layers of glass, 4cms apart, making a visual puzzle. It was simple and playful.

Complimenting this I performed coffee cup readings. My guest would arrive and I would prepare coffee and read their fortune.  I would write a haiku poem on an Armenian language typewriter and give them their reading to remember. 

The door opens, I have received another guest. I greet them warmly and light the gas stove. She sits before me, asking questions. She seems familiar but I do not recognise her.  “Do you remember me?” she asks. I mention a certain familiarity but that is all. “Then good, I won’t tell you anything more to see if your cup reading is authentic.”

I laugh and we drink our coffee and flip the cup. I was being tested but I had faith in the coffee grains creating their story on the white porcelain walls and in my ability to read the symbols and weave meaning.

2_HAYP_Pop_up_CoffeeHaikus_AramaztKalayjian

My mother had an abortion before I was born. She was 19 and not ready for motherhood. Then, as now, taboos surrounded her decision. She was depressed, ashamed and in reclusion before my birth. I came along, like Simba, a joy for our family and community. The first-born of the youngest child in her family.

She had not had the childhood she would have hoped for. Her father passed away when she was just three. She had taken on the role of helper of the house, cooking, cleaning and babysitting cousins. She had become a mother before she was a woman. I understood why she began to train me, and later my brothers, to be her aids around the house.  She later confessed she had always wanted a daughter.

On days off from school we were handed individual lists of chores in my mother’s handwriting or we were given extraordinarily inconvenient tasks such as reading a book aloud into a tape recorder so that there was proof of our having practiced reading that day.  My father would take the cassette and listen to us read 40 Days of Musa Dagh or Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys on his commute to work. This was his way to make us present in his life. He could listen to our voice despite his absence from home.

It is here that I learned to cook and clean and learn and evolve. It wasn’t the best nor the worst childhood; there was love and anguish; there was appreciation and neglect; guilt and innocence; polarity also revealed duality.

The very first thing I learned from my mother was to make coffee. And this was a profound desire of mine.

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Observing the family gatherings of my youth, the ceremonial aspect of receiving coffee at the end of a meal or an evening was divine. The first sips were spiritual ecstasy when the coffee was good.  When it wasn’t there was criticism sprinkled in with gossip and conversation. It became a challenge I wanted my skills to meet.

Cups of coffee. Something human and universal being shared. First dates and breakups. Beginnings, interviews, being fired or laid-off. All can start with a cup of coffee and often do. Friends gather over coffee, families end gatherings with it. You can drink it before and after sex and at any other time!

Coffee is said to have been discovered by shepherds in the village of Kaffa, Ethiopia. Their goats were, according to legend, exceptionally frisky and energetic after eating the seed and flesh of the coffee fruit. It was considered to have magical or spiritual qualities and in Ethiopian culture today the coffee ceremony remains a staple in welcoming guests. Upon a bed of grass, several people gather around a clay pot and coals while the coffee beans are roasted on a pan over a naked fire. Frankincense is burnt. The coffee seed is roasted until the beans are browned and crushed by a mortar and pestle and then poured into the Jebenna, the aforementioned thin-necked clay pot Ethiopians use for coffee ceremonies.

Since then, the bean has been cultivated in a variety of different ways and its export from Ethiopia to the Ottoman Empire popularized the drink as a commodity and a pastime. As the grinds became more refined, so too did the tastes and methods of preparation. Mixes with milk and sugar, sometimes with tea or honey. The culture of coffee was born and it was widespread by the late 19th century.

We, humans, have sought meaning in patterns since the early cave paintings depicting man and nature. Cloud gazing, I-Ching coins, tea leaves, all offer a canvas from which patterns and meaning have been cultivated for centuries. Coffee grounds, naturally, offer this too.

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I learnt how to read a cup from my mother and uncle. The reading always took place at the very end of a meeting or a gathering in our home. My mother read the cups as if to offer relief from worry emphasizing the positive and reminding the listener to be more aware of opportunities and others. My uncle, however, approached the matter as if reading tarot cards. His own interest in spirituality gave him a foundation to both see and to connect with the person before him when reading the coffee cup.

Having witnessed this throughout my childhood, I sensed that there was magic in the cup. Here was a way to truly connect with the love and attention channelled into it. It seemed like people felt they were being seen for who they truly were.

We trust the foreigner. We trust the neutral, non-attached person that is disconnected from our lives. People seek this possibility and coffee cups offer it.

I wanted to create this experience a long time ago and the caravanserai with HAYP offered the perfect opportunity, in the land of open doors and tinted windows.

The response at the exhibition was completely unexpected. I had imagined sitting in a room and having maybe one or two people arrive for coffee.  Instead, the demand was great. Perhaps people have an inherent desire to sit and be heard. There is a comparison with Catholic confession, with the priest and the sinner.  In our case the roles are perhaps more nebulous, beyond reader and listener.

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What was most astounding was how readily people shared openly, with the cup between us. I was asked if I could see people looking negatively on them and their life. One woman described an emotional affair with another man and asked if that was worse than a physical affair.  Someone else told me their entire story, from youth to marriage, and how her husband had became a brutal person, triggering a suicide attempt. All of this to me! I am no one. A man that made cups of coffee, a man that told stories as a way to see and be seen.

I was surprised by the variety of people that came along. Two women working in the wig store below the exhibition space arrived one by one. The quirky owner of the building with his right-hand man, seeking advice based on his profound belief in fortunes. An elder, an adult, and one of our youth, arrived at one point representing three generations of women. Artists, designers, performers, dancers, architects, musicians, writers, hopefuls, seekers, lovers of life, ordinary folk, all lined up for a free cup and a fortune, written in short form, as a memento.

I felt a deep responsibility. To remain as neutral as possible when sitting in front of another. To try to be totally absent of ego and present in the moment while interpreting the grains and the patterns, however subtle or bold. I did not want to color the story with my own and instead took symbols from the cup, interpreting meaning, somehow, to reveal simple truths.

I was left feeling exhausted and full of gratitude.  


written by Aramazt Kalayjian
edited by Raffi Ouzounian
photography by Ed Tadevossian
video by Karén Khachaturov

A walk around Oda[r]isque

by Aram Atamian

Note by the editor: Aram Atamian is the author, choreographer and performer of “Oda[r]isque”, a participatory performance and installation that took place over the course of three days, from December 20-22, 2018 at HAYP Pop Up Gallery in the context of HAYP 12 12 12 RETROSPECTIVE. 


 

0°                                                                                                               a walk around Oda[r]isque


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karen

From top: Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Odalisque with Slave, 1839; Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Turkish Bath, 1852-59; Silvia Sleigh, The Turkish Bath, 1973; Oda[r]isque #1: Aramazt, 2018; Oda[r]isque #16: Mary, 2018; Oda[r]isque #18: Petros, 2018; Oda[r]isque #21: Karen, 2018.

270°                                                                                                                                                     90°


– – – 

“You’re coming from behind the mountain” is how my Persian-Armenian friend translated one of his favorite Armenian idioms to me. It means roughly the same thing as the English idiom “You’ve been living under a rock”, but also, he explained, implies this person-from-the-other-side has a certain wildness or is ‘unbridled’ or ‘unleashed’. The Armenian word sandsardsak came up to describe this shade of meaning in particular. During my research in preparation for Oda[r]isque, a participatory performance and installation for HAYP’s final exhibit 12-12-12, this idiom kept coming back to me. My notes in my phone remain from this conversation sometime in 2016:

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 2.13.05 pm

Screenshot of a smartphone note from 2016

The three dashes [- – -] indicate where you can insert your pronoun of choice, depending on who is coming from behind the mountain. As the project was coming together, I asked a friend from Yerevan if this idiom was familiar as I was considering having it be a subtitle of the project and wanted to make sure it was relevant.  She didn’t recognize it, but she suggested the word sandsardsak as an alternative to the idiom [1].

240°                                                                                                                                                     60°


The Program/instructions that were given to all attendees of Oda[r]isque on December 20th-22nd from 7:00-9:00pm AMT.

Welcome to

Oda[r]isque!

Thank you so much for coming! Together we’ll be hijacking classical 19th century orientalist images to playfully research  connections between geography, identity, and fantasy.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: grab whichever props immediately look appealing to you-no need to overthink.

Step 2: together we’ll collaborate on making an image. We can use the blue book [2] as inspiration or just jump right in.

Step 3: I’ll shoot our images and they will be on view here for the remainder of the exhibition for our collective reflection and enjoyment. With your permission, they will be compiled and accessible on the @odarisque Instagram account [3].

[reverse side]

The special thing about orientalism is that it is a personal fantasy about direction.  A fantasy of what is not here but over there—a line of desire that can be followed in the imagination and then, for some, by setting out on foot to follow that line. What one hopes to find over there could be an escape, it could be freedom from sexual repression, it could be a new life or even a new self. In the past this has been oriented around a myth of an East and a West, Orient and Occident [4]. What is it, though, when our fantasies of possibility are linked to home and identity instead of just the exotic? How do we use these two-directional  fantasies of ownership to conjure home and to define ourselves?

220°                                                                                                                                                     40°


Observations

I was initially concerned that

  1. People wouldn’t want to be photographed.
  2. People wouldn’t feel like subjects.

I found to my surprise and relief that

  1. Most people like to be photographed.
  2. Each person, it seemed to me, had such a precise point of view that the passive objects of the source paintings were entirely replaced by critical, powerful subjects.

While each collaborator more or less had a strong vision for the image they wanted to make, almost always this was realized with input from the entire audience. This happened completely naturally with no suggestion from me. I was very pleased about this because I knew the whole project would fall apart conceptually if it was my gaze and direction behind each image. I set a rule for myself to be more of an assistant and camera operator for each participant’s vision.

Each day’s mood was remarkably different. The first day was only one sided, and we essentially started with all the props on set and people more or less took away and rearranged as the shoot moved on. While the party atmosphere of the first day was most welcome, for the second day I wanted to test the double-sided set to give people that initial choice. Also, we cleared the set after each shoot so the selection of props became another defining moment. The images from the second day have a sparser, more deliberate and critical feel to me for these reasons. The third day was somehow a happy mix of both-there was a boldness and confidence to the image-making that made me wonder how this project could evolve over a longer period.

200°                                                                                                                                                     20°


The Odalisque [5]

A classic trope in 19th century Orientalist painting in which a female, typically non-Muslim, member of a haram reclines luxuriously. Usually these were painted by Western European men in their own studios embellished from scraps of fact into a speculative fantasy of a place east of them which they may never have visited. Sarah Ahmed explains:

The Orient is not an empty place; it is full, and it is full of all that which is “not Europe” or not Occidental, and which in its ”not-ness” seems to point to another way of being in the world – to a world of romance, sexuality and sensuality [6]. In a way, orientalism involves the transformation of “farness” as a spatial marker of distance into a property of people and places. “They” embody what is far away. Thus “farness” takes the direction of a wish, or even follows the line of a wish. The “far” often slides into the exotic, after all. The exotic is not only where we are not, but it is also future oriented, as a place we long for and might yet inhabit. […] This fantasy of lack, of what is “not here,” shapes the desire for what is “there,” such that “there” becomes visible on the horizon as “supplying” what is lacking […] Desire directs bodies toward its object; in desire, we face the desired and seek to get closer. Desire confirms that which we are not (the object of desire), while it pushes us toward that “not,” which appears as an object on the horizon, at the edge of our gaze, always getting closer even when it is not quite here [emphasis added.] [7]

180°                                                                                                                                                   360°


The visa stamp

“Rather than ‘eastern’ or ‘western’, Armenia was imaged as a borderland, ‘in-between’ East and West. The image of the Armenians, therefore, was characterized by ambiguity.

The Armenian population was dispersed across the borders of the Russian, Persian and Ottoman Empires, a region frequently portrayed as the boundary between civilization and barbarism or Europe and Asia. It was also perceived as a religious borderland, the meeting place of Christianity and Islam. Armenia was problematic as it seemed to straddle these borders.[8]”-Jo Laycock

This occidental/oriental fantasy seems to operate over vast expanses of land and sea and across continents. Armenians, on the other hand, experience a distinctly local fantasy of east and west all our own which hinges entirely and precisely on the geographical marker of Mt Ararat: the terms Western and Eastern Armenian are contingent on which side of the mountain, the west or the east, a particular Armenian’s family is originally from. The entry and exit visa stamps of the Republic of Armenia depict Sis and Masis, the two peaks of Ararat, though they are entirely outside of country borders. This implies you are now entering or exiting two countries at once: the Republic of Armenia and an Other [Odar] Armenia. The other being, as Ahmed put it, a ‘not-ness’ or all that is not here.

150°                                                                                                                                                   330°


The backdrop

at the center of Oda[r]ique was a woven tapestry of a screenshot I took from Google Maps of the view of the western side of Mount Ararat looking directly east to Armenia. This is the other side of the mountain, with Sis on the right and Masis on the left.

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The 2.7×1.3m tapestry was woven using a digital jacquard loom, which translates a digital image into binary code which is then read by the loom and each row of threads is set automatically and then advanced by hand. Because of this, the other side of the weaving reveals the colors which were hidden on areas of the front, creating something like a negative image. Additionally, of course, the image itself is flipped. In this case the reverse of the tapestry has Sis on the left and Masis on the right, as one sees it from the RA.

On the second and third day of Oda[r]isque, both sides of the tapestry were lit creating a double-sided set. Each subject/collaborator first had to choose which side they wished to work with, decisions could have been made based on eastern/western Armenian identity, nationality, fantasy, longing, aesthetic preference, whim, or some combination of these. Whatever the deciding factors were, once this choice became the first step of the process the images began to take on a more deliberate and critical tone as there was now an invitation to take a side and define it.

120°                                                                                                                                                   300°


Research Bibliography for Oda[r]isque:

Ahmed, Sarah. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.
Akomfrah, John. 2013. The Stuart Hall Project. DVD. United Kingdom: Smoking Dog Films.
Boone, Joseph Allen. The Homoerotics of Orientalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.
Epstein, Mikhail. “On Transculture.” Academic Exchange 7, no. 5 (2005). http://www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2005/aprmay/sidebar.html
Laycock, Jo. Imagining Armenia. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.
Peltre, Christine. Orientalism in Art (New York : Abbeville Press, 1998).
Razlogov, Kirill. “Parajanov in prison: an exercise in transculturalism.” Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema 12, No. 1 (2018): 37-57. https://doi.org/10.1080/17503132.2018.1422223 .
Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

90°                                                                                                                                                     270°


What now

I consider the live photoshoot to be the main piece and the resulting images as a kind of glorified documentation. However, seeing the results of everyone’s extremely thoughtful and playful work I think they would function quite well on their own. I’m starting to plan a physical publication with pieces of writing accompanying each image in collaboration with the participants. Until then, the Instagram catalogue, @odarisque, is a placeholder and you’ll find any/all updates right there.

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Footnotes

  1. Another Armenian friend from Tehran confirmed that this idiom is regularly used in in the Persian-Armenian dialect.
  2. Christine Peltre, Orientalism in Art (New York : Abbeville Press, 1998).
  3. If you wish to get in touch, you can e-mail me at aramatamianstudio[at]gmail[dot]com.
  4. Which caused its fair share of problems: most orientalist imagery can be read as a biproduct and tool of colonization and imperialism. See Edward Said’s Orientalism for more on this.
  5. Famous interventions with this trope include Manet’s Olympia, where instead of imagining a sex-slave from a foreign land he appropriates the pose and composition exactly but with a sex-worker and her maid in a contemporary Parisian setting. Also of note is Sylvia Sleigh’s The Turkish Bath (1973) after the Ingres painting of the same name, which borrows certain compositional elements from the Ingres (particularly the cloning of one of the bodies) but with contemporary men in her circle including the performance artist and sculptor Scott Burton posing.
  6. sandsardsak/սանձարձակ again comes to mind.
  7. Sarah Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 114.
  8. Jo Laycock, Imagining Armenia (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), 28-29.

#SpotLight: Aramazt Kalayjian

by Lori Kassabian

Disclaimer:

December 12, 2018 HAYP Pop Up Gallery celebrates 4 years of pop up exhibitions, performance and more with one final project – 12-12-12 – as the gallery closes one chapter and begins another. During this 4 years, we curated 12 exhibits and worked with over 80 visual and performing artists — local and international —  who explored the most unconventional liminal space that we could find.  In this blog series we are paying tribute to our artists that have been part of HAYP community and now will join us for the final celebration of our work. 

 

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CALL FOR FASHION DESIGNERS!

հայերենի տեքստը ստորև

CALL FOR FASHION DESIGNERS!

Do you get inspired by contemporary art? Do you love collaborating with other creatives? Have you mastered the skills of deconstruction and re-modeling? HAYP Pop Up gallery is looking for you! Our upcoming project will explore and reinterpret post soviet street style and iconic clothing items during a 2-week workshop in April and a fashion performance in May.

If you want to be a part of this exciting art & fashion collaboration send us your creative portfolio at info.hayp@gmail.com.

Application Must Include:

  • photos of your work
  • sketches
  • concepts

Workshop Requirements:

  • Interest in fashion a must
  • Experience with basic sewing/fashion/design skills necessary
  • Interest in re-modeling/reappropriation a plus
  • Familiarity with working with leather a plus
  • A good eye for color, texture, shape
  • Familiarity with Armenian 90s culture
  • Ability to fully commit to 3 hours/day for 10 day total workshop

Deadline for submission: April 13, 2018

Workshop dates: April 16-26

Workshop leader: Anais Paws

 


ԿՈՉ ԴԻԶԱՅՆԵՐՆԵՐԻՆ

Ոգեշնչում ՞եք ժամանակակից արվեստի գործերով: Սիրում ՞եք համագործակցել այլ ստեղծագործողների հետ: Տիրապետում ՞եք դեկոնստրուկցիա եւ վերարտադրման հմտություններին: ՀԱՅՓ Փոպ-Ապ պատկերասրահը փնտրում է ձ՝եզ: Մեր եկող ծրագրը կվերլուծենք եւ կվերանայենք հետխորհրդային ստրիտ ստայլը 2 շաբաթանոց սեմինարի ընթացքում ապրելին եւ ներկայացման ժամանակ մայիսին:

Եթե ցանկանում եք լինել այս արվեստի եւ մոդաի համագործակցության մի մասը, ուղարկեք ձեր ստեղծագործական պորտֆոկիոն. info.hayp@gmail.com։  

Դիմումը պետք է ներառի.

  • ձեր աշխատանքների լուսանկարները
  • էսքիզները
  • կոնսեպտները

Պահանջները մասնակցելու համար.

  • Հետաքրքրություն մոդաի մեջ պարտադիր է
  • Անհրաժեշտ է հիմնական կարի վերանորոգման / նորաձեւության հմտություններ
  • Հետաքրքրություն վերարտադրման / վերաբաշխման մեջ առավելք է
  • Կաշիի հետ աշխատելու փորձը առավելք է
  • Ունակություն գույ ների, տեկստուռաների, կերպարանքների օգտագործելու հանդեպ
  • Ծանոթություն 90-ականների մշակույթի հետ
  • Հնարավորություն 2 շաբաթվա ընթացքում ամբողջությամբ ներկա լինել 4 վորքշոփներին

Ներկայացման վերջնաժամկետը `ապրիլի 13-ը։

Վորքշոփը տվելու է`ապրիլի 16-ից 26-ը։

Վորքշոփը առաջնորդը`Անաիս Փոս։

HAYP #StudioVisit: Narek Barseghyan

Hasmik Badoyan

Photo credits: Katya Golotvina

Disclaimer:

HAYP has been inviting artists to be part of our pop-up exhibits for over three years. During this time, we curated 11 exhibits and worked with over 80 visual and performing artists — local and international —  who explored the most unconventional liminal space that we could find. In 2018, HAYP is turning an inward eye from the public space to the personal creative space of artists through a special blog series #StudioVisit. A HAYP envoy will meet with our beloved artists at their natural habitat for a studio visit, talk and coffee, in order to ask existential questions and see art in its nascent stage…

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2017: A YEAR OF HAYP

By Dalita Khoury and the HAYP team

HAYP’s third year has come to an end, and we have to say, it’s been our most ambitious and exciting year yet. With our largest exhibition in history and our first international exhibit ever, people are really catching on to the HAYP. Before we close the chapter on 2017, we thought we would reminisce about our greatest moments.

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HAYP takes a trip to the USA…

You may have been wondering what the HAYP Pop Up Gallery team has been up to since our last event in September, “LOVE (ICA) Is electrIC Again”. For the past two weeks HAYP curator and executive director, Anna Gargarian, traveled stateside for work (and a little bit of play) to Boston and New York. Here’s an update by Anna as she reflects on the highlights from her trip: 

New York, New York

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My time in New York was brief but intense. Although neighborhoods and loci of activity shift, the beauty and awesomeness of the city never change. What stood out from my trip were two very different, but equally interesting museums: The Cooper Hewitt Museum, and the Museum of Art and Design (MAD). 

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The Cooper Hewitt re-opened its doors in 2014 at its 5th avenue location, the 64-roomed Andrew Carnegie Mansion; its home ever since 1976. The museum’s historic architecture offers a stark contrast to the touch-screen tables, large-scale projections, and personal design “pens” that allow visitors to engage with historic and contemporary design objects in a unique and interactive museum experience.

 

Tapping the back of your individual “touch pen” to the description of an object allows you to “save” the object to your personally curated collection of online images. The tip of the pen allows you to draw, select, and play on the tables located at the center of the mansion’s main atrium and corridors. Visitors are invited to make and save their own designs inspired by various objects from the collection. 

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The MAD museum was originally founded in 1956 under the name the Museum of Contemporary Crafts. In 2008, the museum reopened under its more catchy name, MAD (the Museum of Art and Design) to embody a broader spectrum of interests that include design, crafts, and artisanal practice, but also architecture, fashion, technology, interior design, and the performing arts. Personally, what stood out was the museum’s display of traditional, artisanal “crafts” (something you’d imagine your grandmother making) in a bold, fresh, and contemporary way. Also unique to this museum is that it not only exhibits works, but also gives you insight into the process of craft making with its open studio artist residencies. 

I loved the exhibit “Toxic Seas” by artists, Margaret and Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring. The exhibit featured large-scale crocheted coral reefs that often incoorporated bits of plastic and reusable materials as a commentary on the pollution we produce and its effects on the marine environment.

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Also noteworthy, the individual pieces were collectively crocheted by women from all over the world who contributed sections of the work. The feminist undertones of elevating what is traditionally “women’s work” to the museum gallery is an added plus. Each artwork wall label included the names of each contributor and her country of origin. This reminded me of our own feminist, “Craftivist” group in Armenia, “Free the Needle”. Maybe they should get involved? Just a thought…

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Another surprising exhibit was artist, Chris Antemann’s, “Forbidden Fruit”, a collection of risqué ceramic figurines inspired by 18th century ceramic decorative arts. Although I’m not usually partial to the ceramic arts, Antemann’s keen sense of humour, brilliant use of form and color, and her masterful use of a “high society” decorative objects to show “debased” and provocative subject matter were completely engaging and charming. I will think twice before judging ceramic figurines in the future…

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Of course, New York City wouldn’t be complete without some late night adventures with old friends….. so this happened in an abandoned factory somewhere in Brooklyn: 

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Back in the more green lands of Great Barrington, Massachusetts:

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While in my home state of Massachusetts, I travelled westward to Great Barrington (about 2 hours west from Boston) to meet Suzi Banks Baum, the artist I had been Skyping/emailing/facebook messaging for the past three months in order to design and coordinate the upcoming HAYP project, “New Illuminations”. I’ve mentioned Suzi and our project before, but I hadn’t actually physically met her until last week! And what a pleasure…

Suzi is a book artist among many other things. That is, she makes handmade artist books and has been teaching book binding techniques (including coptic stitch binding which she’ll teach at our workshop this November) for many years. For Suzi, handmade books are a unique tool and means of expression for writing, illustrating, and most of all story telling. We are in the process of fundraising for our 4-day workshop and 10-day exhibition in Gyumri this November (donate here!). And another bonus of this visit, I got to reconnect with Dana Walrath, the artist I worked with to curate “Mapping Identity: Figures, Borders, and Nations” for AGBU Exhibitions in Yerevan.

Celebrating 25 years of AIWA

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Arts & Entertainment Panel: Sona Movsesian (Conan O’Brien Presents), Anush Yemenidjian (Hollywood Reporter), Teni Melidonian (The Academy), and Nora Armani (SR Film Festival). Photocredits: AIWA.

Next in Massachusetts was my attendance and participation at the AIWA 25th anniversary conference, a truly amazing three-day event of inspiring talks, presentations, and conversations with women leaders from the US, Armenia, Turkey, Argentina, Lebanon and more. We even had a few celebrity speakers (always fun)!

Panel discussions were divided by category including: Global Leadership and Women, Arts and Entertainment, Entrepreneurship and Business, and Leaders in Politics. Keynote speakers included Linda Hill from the Harvard Business School (one of my favorites), Seline Dogan from the Turkish Parliament, Maro Martirosian of Armenia’s Women’s Resource Center, and Katherine Sarafian, longtime producer at Pixar Animation Studios. 

Re-occuring themes in the talks were: implicit bias and gendered perspectives, approaches to leadership, how to “break the silence” and empower women leaders, and various tools for leveraging one’s skills and how to be an effective leader. 

 

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My panel! Photocredits: Juliana Del Aguila

The speakers were many, and inspiring, and HAYP Pop Up Gallery was thrilled and honored to be a part of the conversation as a member of the “Business and Entrepreneurship” panel. Co-panelists included Hasmik Asatrian-Azoyan of Basen hotels in Sisian, Juliana Del Aguila of Karas Wines, and Vera Manoukian of Starwood Hotels. Our dynamic panel addressed questions like: 1) What are your biggest challenges, and how have you overcome them?, 2) What specificities are unique to your industry? etc.

The AIWA conference ended with a deluxe Gala, complete with awards, inspiring speeches, good food, and dancing. Below is a (blurry) picture from the evening.

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Artist Studio Visit:

And of course my trip to the states wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to an artist studio…. introducing: Marsha Nouritza Odabashian.

Marsha is among the many artists who inhabit Boston’s South End artist district. The space itself was invigorating: a large open studio on the fifth floor of a typical Boston “brown stone” building. Her studio mates include an Italian painter, and an American costume designer and tutu-maker.

Marsha works in oil paint, ceramics, acrylic, and other experimental media and uses just as wide a variety of surfaces for her works, including all types of paper, sponge, canvas, wood and more. Her work explores identity and shows reoccurring motifs of flora and fauna (based on reality but often times distorted into fantastical elements), figural processions, and sewing needles (a commentary on woman’s work that underlies the tool’s dual function as weapon). 

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If you haven’t already noticed, Marsha’s body of work is highly inspired by Armenian manuscripts….so of course a bell went off in my head for HAYP8.0’s “New Illuminations- Codex”. Let me just say that my suitcase back to Yerevan was slightly heavier than when I left…. (hint, hint).

What next?

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Coming up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts is our fundraising event for “New Illuminations”, hosted and organized by artist, Suzi Baum. The fundraiser will be on October 25, 2016 at the Elixir in Great Barrington. Come and join Suzi with an open heart (and an even more open wallet) to learn more about the New Illuminations project.

Meanwhile, in Yerevan the HAYP team will be moving forward full-throtle to find an exhibition space and key partnerships with experts and collaborators in Yerevan and in Gyumri. More coming soon!

Keep checking out the hype with HAYP Pop Up for news on this and many more projects.

Introducing: The New Illuminations

Check out more information about our upcoming project, HAYP8.0 NEW ILLUMINATIONS

New Illuminations

by Anna Gargarian, HAYP Pop Up Gallery


The idea for “New Illuminations” took root in the creative mind of artist, Suzi Banks Baum back in March of 2016 during her first visit to Armenia. Suzi was among a group of photojournalists who were invited by National Geographic photographer, John Stanmeyer, as well as Anush Babajanyan and Nazik Armenakyan of 4Plus Photography, to come to Armenia for several weeks with a storyline.  

12829256_10208958504859511_7202841814466965724_oSuzi Baum (top right) with the team of photojournalists including John Stanmeyer (back row center) in Armenia in March, 2016. Photocredits: 4Plus Photography.

Suzi’s storyline: what are the realities faced by women artists in Gyumri, Armenia? What are the thresholds and challenges they encounter in their creative practice? 

12814434_10208933297749349_1750150045420713735_nSuzi Baum with several of the women artists she interviewed in Gyumri, Armenia. March, 2016. Photocredits: Suzi Baum.

Her trip to the Matenadaran, Armenia’s manuscript museum, left her awestruck and…

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