Interview: Lvis Mejía

Lvis Mejía is an artist based in Berlin, Germany. He works in time-based media, and is a founding member of oqko, an artist collective and label that works at the intersection of various music and visual practices. He is our featured artist this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 8, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about his meditative film essay “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end”, and what inspires him. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


HAYP/ IN SITU: Tell us about your Virtual Viewing Room Project, “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end”.

Lvis Mejía: In all honesty, I envision this work being an exercise rather than a project. I would love this to be – in a way – a pilot of an essay film, but I don’t know if I can pay tribute to that. The story is about a non-human entity that finds “something” (like a log book/writings and graphics) and tries to make sense out of it while it finds itself stuck in its spaceship waiting for the end to come. It is in the form of a visual diary that it starts “exercising the thoughts” and tries to decipher the essence and meaning of the object that it found. To find out how it ends, just follow the story.

I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end is in a way just a humble analogy to our lives. At the beginning we are unarmed, but during the process we start getting conscious about our surroundings and who we are. Nevertheless something is – at least until now  – inevitable, death (the end). This final chapter, or better said, how we cope with the cosmovision of death, determines most of our behavior in life, and therefore completely the way we live. In strength we remain fragile

The idea is to approach through an “experimental visual diary” I am forcing myself to use exclusively material from my own archive. An archive of my own. I am recycling and reinterpreting my work, and therefore a part of me. Material left in the virtual, material that never got exposed (became real) to the public eye. Like a crestomatia somehow. I decided to exclusively use found footage [of my own work], and tried to guide and interpret it in a specific direction.

HI: How does this relate to your artistic practice?

LM: Well, I have been working for a few years on the topic of “speculative futures” [of humankind] – yes I know the combination might sound redundant – but this issue both fascinates and concerns me, and sincerely, this should be a thing of global character. Leaving aside the unnecessary, almost pathetic question, “Where are we going?”. My tendency shows a rather objective-pessimism based on historical observation, critical perspective and a personal analysis of today’s standards. With this humble toolkit of understanding, I dare to conclude that the direction we are going in might not find its end soon, but all the way will be ferociously painful. 

As I mentioned above, the question of “Where are we going?”, seems unnecessary and almost pathetic to me, because it appears to be almost irrelevant for both the small “communities” capable of changing the paradigm on the paper and for the vast billions having potentially the chance to do it through action.         

In a way, this project is a family member of a pivotal writing I finished earlier this year about the shortcomings of our species, and the main argument is where the two projects merge. The writing will probably serve as part of the script to this experimental visual diary in order to reinforce the visual language.

Lvis Mejía performing at MUTEK in Montreal, 2015
“Anthropology of Amnesia” Lvis’ album (oqko label) exploring oral cultures from around the world, and their role in passing on and preserving memory.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

LM: Some rare chemistry processes in my body, getting confronted to new thoughts and experiences, fresh love and some extraordinary works of art.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

LM: As a matter of fact, it made me reaffirm more things rather than (re)discover new ones. We are quite fragile organisms driven mostly by many irrelevant and abusing meanings. When a pause is taken, imposed or seized, there is a chance to reflect, rethink, repurpose and adjust. In my personal opinion, things after confinement are just going to go on (unfortunately) back to the desired pathological consensus of “normality”. The current situation merely undressed society, exposing elemental components to ourselves. These times are just reflecting who and how we are in a more precise way. The collective does not really differ that much from the individual. There is yet so much to learn…. and paradoxically, all of that wisdom is already out there. We are just adamantly still wearing the veil. We are doomed, actually.

Pictured above, some works from Lvis’ yet unpublished photographic series, “Irrelevant Studies on Dichroic Foil” (see more works @Hayp.insitu on Instagram)

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

LM: Watching tons of films, trying to finish reading different books, meeting random people at bars and playing football.

HI: What’s your connection to Armenia?

LM: I have had the chance to work and collaborate in the last 3-4 years both with the community and great individuals from the cultural spectrum in the country, and each time has been a particular – yet interesting – challenge. 

It all started with a project that now resides in limbo: an audio installation at the Herouni Radio-Optic Telescope in Orgov. Ever since I have been going back consequently every year.
In my personal opinion I think Armenia has a special and prosperous panorama for the development of the art scene and market, but there is still a long way to go. Therefore, the actual moment of paving the process should maintain an experimental idiosyncratic approach without lacking professionalism.
It is crucial to potentialize the sense of unity throughout the community in order to have a common ground and not many individual players on stage. As an external person – yet a recurrent visitor – I see there is plenty of potential to sow and educate the younger generations with a global vision based on exchange and preservation of the cultural heritage avoiding endemic self-glorification. I am always happy to come back and contribute in whatever way is possible.

Lvis Mejía’s site-specific installation in Orgov, Armenia for HAYP Pop Up Gallery’s CETI Lab, 2017 exhibit exploring communications with extraterrestrial life.
Lvis and the collective at the Iron Fountain in Gyumri. A project by Sound Lab, an initiative lead by Vardan Harutyunyan and the Armenia Art Foundation, 2019.

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

LM: Lethargy and the negative-driven unfounded self-destructive criticism within the scene I have perceived.

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

LM:
– A couple of large format installation
– Shooting experimental featured films.
– Develop educational artistic programs with true social impact.
– Develop a decentralized web environment.
– Found an independent multidisciplinary research institute.
– Get a lot of land to create an independent sustainable “country”, hehe.

the list gets long…..


About Lvis Mejía:

Visit Lvis’ Virtual Viewing Room project, “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end” here.
Follow him on Instagram at @lvis.mejia
See more of his work at: www.lvismejia.com
Follow oqko artists and releases at: www.oqko.org

Lvis Mejía is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and musician born in Mexico City, based in Berlin since 2007. He is a member of the artist collective and label, oqko. Lvis’ work has shown at major museums and galleries including DOCUMENTA 13, the ICA London, the Centre Pompidou, MUTEK Montréal and the Transmediale Berlin. His academic background is in philosophy, fine arts and time based media from Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, MIT Media Lab and HfbK Hamburg. His work has brought him to Armenia several times, in 2017 he designed a site-specific installation “UNO” at the Herouni Radio Optic Telescope (Orgov) in the framework of HAYP Pop Up Gallery’s CETI Lab exhibit. In 2018, Lvís participated in a collaborative installation for HAYP’s Retrospective “12-12-12”, and in 2019 he worked as a consultant for the Armenia Art Foundation’s Sound Lab in Gyumri. Lvis believes in the capacity of artistic practice to transcend medium, while being deeply intertwined in a sense of place and community. Since 2020, he has joined the IN SITU team as a cultural consultant, with the aim of catalyzing cross-cultural exchange and proposing new perspectives and contexts for art and idea making.

Interview: Tigran Amiryan

Tigran Amiryan is an independent curator and contemporary culture researcher with a Ph.D in Literary Studies. He is our featured artists this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 2, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about his auto-narrative sketch “Skin Crisis”, and his philosophy on the marriage of science, literature and creative practice. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


Tigran Amiryan, photo retrieved from Chai Khana

HAYP/ IN SITU: Tell us about your VVR project “Skin Crisis”, where did the idea come from? 

Tigran Amiryan: For many years I have been dealing with memory and recollection. It is of great interest to me how memory is formed and destroyed – whether individual or collective memory- how it transforms, how individual and group memory is formed, how amnesia occurs, and so on. Skin memory and human-reality relationships / boundaries continue to remain my focus. 

FIRDUS: THE MEMORY OF A PLACE by Tigran Amiryan. This memory-book is about the Firdusi street, the last vernacular district in the center of Yerevan. In addition to research articles, the book includes stories of local residents and family photo archives.
Tigran at his book signing of “Firdus: Memory of a place”

HI: Could you expand in particular on the idea of a text as an artwork?

TA: The topic of memory does not belong to one discipline or one language. Often this phenomenon, being multifaceted and multi-layered, requires researchers to use different languages ​​and methods. There are two scripts that are familiar to me, the mix of which allows for a more complete expression: literature and scientific language. With “Skin Crisis” I decided to push the boundaries between these two languages, as a means to remove the boundaries between our bodies during the last difficult months [of quarantine].

HI: How does this relate to your research and artistic practice?

TA: I develop my academic and creative practice in parallel. For example, I teach French literature, semiotics, etc., and at the same time, I’ve developed a number of projects in which I combine anthropological and literary approaches, concepts and artistic expression.

“Memory Square”, an essay on the memory of place by Tigran Amiryan.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

TA: I incorporated different concepts into “Skin Crisis” that refer to various ideas by Didier Anzieu, Julia Kristeva, and Gilles Deleuze. It’s well known that Anzieu was engaged not only in psychoanalysis, but also in literature, through which he tried to understand the basics of self-analysis. Kristeva also works constantly between the two disciplines, creating both fictional and philosophical and psychoanalytical texts. As for Deleuze, he always claims that all philosophies and scientific works carry an important creative engine, without which it is impossible to create a philosophical or meta-language.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

TA: Isolation is a new attempt to perceive space.

HI: When you’re not writing or researching, what do you enjoy the most?

TA: The sea.

“Atlantic” series. Photo credit Tigran Amiryan, courtesy of the artist.

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

TA: In Armenia and everywhere, we need to get rid of cultural tribalism. More democratic and transparent art!

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

TA: All my projects start with dreams and seem to come true. I don’t dream much, I have already started working on my next project which involves photography and memory.

Сimetière des fontaines” (Fountain Cemetary) by Tigran Amiryan.


About Tigran Amiryan:
Visit Tigran’s Virtual Viewing Room project, “Skin Crisis” here.
Follow him on instagram at @l_oriental
Find him on behance

Tigran Amiryan is a Professor of Contemporary World Literature, co-founder and president of CSN lab. He is a semiologist, literary critic, curator, contemporary culture researcher and multidisciplinary artist. Author of numerous articles on postmodern genres of literature, interdisciplinary analysis, contemporary comparative analytics, sociology of literature, etc. Tigran’s main interest revolves around the issue of narrativization of both individual and collective memory in contemporary culture, artistic (fictional) representation and history of the Self, biographies, urban space and environment that keep the memory of people’s lives despite being constantly subjected to oblivion and destruction. Tigran realized a number of art and research projects across several countries, Armenia, Georgia, France, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Morocco etc. Amongst his projects are “Memory square” (Kazakhstan), “Kukia Alphabet” (Georgia), “Firdus: The Memory of a Place” (Armenia), «Cyprus archive. Postcard from the land of care» (Cyprus).

Interview: Samvel Saghatelian

Samvel Saghatelian is a multi-disciplinary artist currently living and working in Armenia. He is our featured artist this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 2, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about Samvel’s project and what makes him “tick” as an artist. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


Samvel Saghatelian, Photo credits: Anush Kocharyan.

HAYP/IN SITU: Tell us about your Virtual Viewing Room (VVR) project.

SAMVEL SAGHATELIAN: “My VVR project addresses the drastic socio-political changes in human confrontation. The project is based on the “Metamorphosis” series, which dates back to the great changes and upheavals of the 90s: the collapse of the Soviet Union, [Armenian] Independence, war, and post-war reality. At the center of it all is woman, and in particular, the female body. She is more flexible and adaptable to different situations. A woman’s body is able to undergo change, no matter what context. I see the female form as a symbol that transcends and goes beyond gender to become a universal symbol for bodily transformation or metamorphosis. For me, beauty is genderless. But this specific bodily power, of flexibility, is definitely feminine.”

HI: How does this project relate to your artistic practice?

SAM SAGA: The series is as connected to my practice as it is to the revolutionary events of 2018. We experienced a liberation of ourselves and our bodies; an expansion in our identity that was more complete, united and self-sufficient. We became a fully flourishing body.
Before the revolution we were divided, not only as a nation but within ourselves. Blossoming happens when you find that unity within yourself. You don’t need to look for answers elsewhere- it’s in you. Once you have that, nothing can stop you. Not even a viral epidemic, just as the cholera epidemic did not prevent the “body” of the Italian Renaissance from flourishing.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

SAM SAGA: Everything related to man-nature, man-universe, man-man, man-society, man-politics, and of course, love and sex…

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

SAM SAGA: Restrictions, pressures, traumas, illnesses, viruses, and everything that creates limits ultimately encourages new creative horizons. For me, regarding the Corona situation in particular, two important issues came up. A need for a connection with nature, and an awareness of a crisis of humanism. I’ve found in this a chance to be redefined, reborn and recreated.

 “Metamorphosis: Floating bodies of lovers ”, 2019. Acrylic on canvas, 157x190cm

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

SAM SAGA: It depends if you’re in art or not. If you’re in it, then the creative process is continuous, even if you’re not actually making something in that moment. I enjoy watching movies, sex, exercising in the woods among the trees, conversations with different people, being with my family and kids…

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

SAM SAGA: I would make it so that law and enterprise would promote art as a priority in state policy. Art is politics and politics is art.

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

SAM SAGA: There are many! “Karahunj” is a public art concept and multimedia sculptural project that I would love to implement in Yerevan or, for example, in Los Angeles. Also related to public art is a concept series called “Architectural Monsters” that I would like to implement as real architectural buildings in Armenia, the USA and Dubai, but also on the planet Mars. I also could imagine making great mural art projects with these latest flowering figures [Metamorphosis series], or turn them into land art. Also on my dream list: I would love a private exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery.


About Samvel:
Visit Samvel’s Virtual Viewing Room project, “Metamorphosis” until June 7, 2020.
See more of his art at Samsaga.com

Samvel is an architect by training, and his three-dimensional approach shines through in his paintings, collages, and site-specific installations. His work often revolves around the body politic, and in particular, the female body as an allegory for society’s conflicts, struggles, as well as beauty and generative potential. Samvel’s career as an artist started in 1988 at the brink of the collapse of the USSR and Armenia’s Independence. A part of the 90s avant-garde in Yerevan, Samvel’s early work touched upon national survival, patriotism and ideologies dealing with the individual’s place in society. After moving to the US in 2002, Samvel was an active member of the LA artist community, exhibiting at the Garboushian Gallery, Mouradian Gallery, La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Avenue 50 Studio, Black Maria Gallery, and the Bruce Lurie Gallery among others. As of 2014, he has been living and working in Yerevan, inspired anew by the country’s political and societal shifts, and blossoming, outspoken youth. His recent works include “Transromance”, a bawdy and sarcastic collage series exploring the body, desire, and power relations; “Borderline Reality”, a collaborative project with inmates at various penitentiaries in Armenia; “Personal & Political Protest Signs”, an explicit typographic series; and “Homo-communication: The Hole” sketches, drawings, and sculptures exploring man in the universe and the universe in man. Samvel’s VVR project is part of “Metamorphosis”, a primitivist series that muses on man’s return to nature.


Virtual Viewing Room is made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Unlocking Creativity During the Lockdown

by Varduhi Kirakosian and Anna Gargarian


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Photo by Hrant Yeritskinyan for Evn Magazine

In response to the growing fear and anxiety around the ever-spreading COVID-19, some artists are embracing the #StayHome movement and making the most of isolation. Cities across the globe have declared a state of emergency, while artists have announced a state of inventiveness.

Trending Instagram challenges, live streams, and Facebook watch parties are finding ways to inspire creativity during confinement, encourage people to stay home, and raise spirits in the age of social distancing. A number of artist-run initiatives caught our attention, and we thought we’d share some of our favorites.

Restoring a (false?) sense of control

In a letter to “humans everywhere,” @Enyleeparker launched Clay Play, inviting interior designers to make tiny homes and rooms out of baked clay. The results are sweet and satisfying as scaled-down order is given to otherwise chaotic times.

Moscow-based photographer @Nicolaspolli has been running an Instagram page called @Homelife_Stilllife since mid March, calling on artists to share still life photographs taken from their interiors, including the backstage images. The result is a photo repository of everyday home sculptures that transform the domestic environment into a fantasy playground. Seeing images of both the final artistic vision and its process reminds us that reality is about perspective, and that the stories we tell (on social media and otherwise) are highly curated.

On April 3, performance artist Katya Bondar launched a digital performance MY-BODY-YOUR-BODY, in which she reflects on “time, the everyday state of reality, cyber communication and layered physicality”.

katya_bondar

In her four hour performance live streamed on Instagram, Katya embraces the Avatar as she gives herself over to the audience, allowing users to direct her movements and actions within the confines of her bedroom through commands sent via a private server. Katya notes in her performance description that due to the current state of events, “we all found ourselves in a new space of bodies, movements and communication”.

Such projects got us wondering, how are artists in Armenia reacting to confinement?

Pandemic -> Panic -> Performing Perspectives

Online performance has gone viral, from local music clubs like Yerevan’s Ulikhanyan Jazz Club and Gyumri’s Garage Club’s watch parties, to musicians and DJs inviting us into their homes for live-stream sessions. Among these musicians is Mikayel Voskanyan, who decided to turn his quarantine into a “Tarantine”. Tarantine (‘Թառանծին’ in Armenian) is a word play on “Tar” (Թառ), a traditional lute-like instrument that Voskanyan has mastered. He notes that his live stream sessions aren’t concerts at all, but rather “reflect a [new] chapter from my artistic lifestyle.” Mikayel hopes to shift the public focus and reshape the emotions dominating current news outlets and public conversation.

“Even though all my plans are canceled – concerts have been delayed and rescheduled – there is no way I can stop practicing and enjoying playing music. It’s an indispensable part of my life. I decided to stay true to my calling and encourage and give hope to people through music,” says Voskanyan.

Tarantine_voskanyan

Renowned jazz pianist Vahagn Hayrapetyan has also joined the virtual bandwagon of live streaming. Hayrapetyan launched a series of watch parties he calls “AntiVirus jazz”. Though they’re mostly solo performances, he has the occasional accompaniment, some invited and others unexpected. In this virtual duet, a musician chimes in on the upright bass, while watching Vahagn from home.

Accompaniment takes on a whole new meaning in Ara Dabandjian’s music video for “By the River”, an instrumental arrangement the artist composed during the COVID-19 times. The video, directed by comedian and artist Vahe Berberian, depicts a four-person band playing at home. The catch is, Ara performs with, well… himself, in this one-man show that playfully embodies how isolation is forcing us to really be with ourselves. The Aras share coffee, laughs, and a jam session, and one Ara (the drummer) get’s the door shut in his face when he shows up late to the party. Berberian notes in his facebook post, “During these Coronavirus times this was the safest way to bring together all the musicians.”

Many electronic music artists are sharing content (old and new) on platforms like Bohemnotsradio.com, Mixlr, Soundcloud or Mixcloud in hopes of not only sharing content, but encouraging other artists to make it their own. DJ Arpie shared with us that she’s trying to promote good vibes and just “have fun, release everything into the music, and let it talk to you”.

Outside of the musical realm, poet Arqmenik Nikoghosyan aims to educate followers and spark discussion in his live stream sessions where he recites and discusses poetry in order to, “fight against Coronavirus and isolation through literature.”

It’s safe to say that live streaming has become a trend, and content has varied with social media as a “free for all”. For those searching for content that scratches beneath the surface, “Pnti Khoghovak” (Փնթի խողովակ) podcast may be of interest. Translating roughly to “messy/disheveled pipe”, this Armenian language podcast features interviews and discussions on alternative music and subculture. In a recent interview with Evn Magazine, Pnti Khoghovak Founder Areg Arakelian shared that, “I don’t think there is a real underground scene [in Armenia] yet, but there are a lot of non-mainstream musicians and artists that I try to unite [on my platform]”. Arakelian hopes Pnti Khoghovak will be a go-to for people interested in what’s happening outside of the mainstream.

New Times Call for New Meaning

These times pose a real challenge for collaboration and have forced us to take a hard look at how meaningful our online communities really are. While sharing lends itself to performers wishing to “rekindle” an audience relationship, this presents an altogether new challenge for visual artists seeking a deeper exchange than image-sharing.

the square_vahrami_haypopup

This phenomenon is perhaps best represented in artist Anna Vahrami’s recent video work, “The Square”, posted to Facebook. Reflecting on the squares that outline our isolation, whether through the screens of our devices, Zoom windows, or the four walls of our homes, Vahrami laments the lack of direct communication, and brings our attention to the heightened mediation during quarantine.

Artist Samvel Saghatelyan told us he was “flourishing in the times of the coronavirus”. Known for his provocative and humorous social commentary that combines graphic, collage, and performance work, Samvel often incorporates the ready made into his oeuvre. His recent piece, “Save Your Ass”, remarks on the absurdity of human (re)action in the face of panic.

samsaga_tp

The work incorporates his trademark graphic text (reminiscent of his political protest signs) on a roll of toilet paper. He posted an image of the work to Facebook with the subtext, “But you can’t save your ass with just toilet paper….”. In his letter to journalist Anush Kocharyan, published in the interview series “From Balcony to Balcony”, Saghatelyan reflects on crisis and opportunity. For Samvel, this is a “return to our original state”, a reckoning with nature that forces us to deal with our negligence and carelessness, and reintroduce discipline into our lives. “Let’s think about how to transform this period,” he says, “how to find a way of self expression not only in art but in all types of relationships.” As an artist who lived through the soviet system, its downfall, and the following hardships of the 90s, Samvel says that this situation isn’t so unfamiliar.

“I’m used to working with limitations. Sometimes you need limitations in order to help you give shape to all the sh*t you have inside.”

In an interview with photographer, Karén Khachaturov, he explained the challenge of making art these days since what inspires him most is social life. Karén is taking this time to reflect on, rethink and share works from his previous series which are acquiring new meaning in the context of Coronavirus. Khachaturov’s trademark pastel color palette and utopia/dystopia landscapes reflect on alternative realities. If before the works stemmed from his own experience, today his sterile aesthetic and surreal environments are uncannily relatable on a global scale.

karenkhachaturov

“Paper Factory”, from the series “Strayed in Utopia” by Karén Khachaturov.

No less relatable is the general concern for economic livelihood in the face of halted festivals, concerts, and exhibitions. Musician Arash Azadi offers a simple solution to this challenge, taking advantage of the current hyperactivity of the web during quarantine as an opportunity for artists to collectively support each other economically. With the knowledge that YouTube allows individuals to monetize their channels with a minimum of 1000 subscribers, Azadi invites artists to share each other’s work and increase the number of subscribers to their private channels in an act of collective social support.

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While global isolation movements have ironically leveled the playing field, creating an unexpected sense of unity in our shared struggle, there is an undeniable need for more meaningful communication. Artists Anna Vahrami, Vanana Boryan and Gohar Martirosyan aim to bridge this gap through a project called Antibody:

“Antibody is a social platform, where we would like to develop alternative ways of communication based on contemporary art. The main concept is to recreate an approach that empowers the ‘social body’ system, out of the ego’s competition and hierarchical structure, in order to organize an immune-strong and conscious process of collaboration,” Vahrami explains.

Antibody intends to be a virtual platform for artists from around the world to come together and discuss the future prospects of spreading art in times of COVID-19 and beyond. They hope to set the stage for collaborations between local and international artists, and “spread art like a virus”.

 


Originally posted on April 4, 2020. Revisions were made on April 6 to include Vanana Boryan among the Antibody collective.

Exhibition Review: Community and Critique @ Warehouse421

Artists explore gentrification, preservation and cultural appropriation through material practice at Abu Dhabi’s Warehouse421

by Anna Gargarian


Mina Port Zayed_Warehouses by Beno Saradzic

Mina Zayed Port Warehouses photographed by Beno Saradzic, 2012

As my Uber pulls into Zayed port, I’m struck by the rows of warehouses neatly placed like lego blocks. In contrast to Abu Dhabi’s soaring towers or Saadiyat Isand’s sparse sandy landscape, the structures are low, industrial, and filled with life. We pass a carpet souk, with its white arcaded facade and golden signs, men are chatting (bartering?) in the doorways. A fruit and vegetable market are bustling with movement. A rarity in the otherwise sterile Emirati capital.

Victor Besa_TheNational_MinaZayed Fruit and Vegetable market

Fruit and Vegetable Market, photography by Victor Besa for TheNational.ae

I wonder about the contents of each warehouse, where they come from and where they’re going. We loop around a roundabout before pulling up to the entrance of Warehouse421. It’s Saturday evening and the opening night of “Community and Critique: Salama bint Hamdam Emerging Artist Fellowships 2018/2019”, a collective exhibit of the center’s sixth cohort of artist fellows. 

Since it opened in 2015, Warehouse421 has dedicated itself to supporting art and design from the Emirates, Middle East and South Asia through exhibitions and educational initiatives. Tonight’s exhibit features the work of 15 local artists who have participated in the one-year long Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF), a partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and SHF foundation.

The Warehouse’s rusted exterior and glass entrance is minimalist and striking. A pink glow illuminates the facade and its flanking installations: Departure, a skeletal iron boat by Spanish artist Xavier Mascaró, and a black and white mural. 

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Departure, artist Xavier Mascaró, photograph by Anna Gargarian.

Inside, the Warehouse is bustling with guests. A predominantly female staff greets me, elegantly cloaked in their traditional Emirati black abaya and shiela (overgarment and head-scarf). Waitstaff twirl about the lobby with trays of fresh juice. The labyrinth of galleries winds around a central glass courtyard with the installation ‘(Cu.6H202)’ by Rawdha Al Ketbi (@r.ks). A series of concentric copper domes, the sculpture reminds me of a prehistoric tortoise. As I enter the courtyard, I’m taken aback by the extreme heat and humidity of this strange outside/inside space. The installation momentarily comes to life when it releases a burst of mist paired with strobing purple lights; tortoise turned space-craft….I think it’s ready for take-off. It’s a synesthetic experience of mist, rust, humidity, and the hissing of the machine – an obvious but poetic sculpture that reminds me of the relationship between mechanical and organic life.

AC16-September-SEAF-6-Rawdha_warehouse421

‘(Cu.6H202)’ by Rawdha Al Ketbi, photograph courtesy of Warehouse421

As I re-enter the air conditioned galleries, I’m confronted with an installation by Christopher Benton (@maxfirepower), a Satwa-based artist originally from the US. At Warehouse421 the artist explores themes of gentrification and cultural preservation through video, sculpture and textile. A quilt-like tapestry hangs from a wall made from repurposed textile fragments held together by safety pins. A patchwork of brand names from local restaurants, shops and various service industries, the piece honors both a disappearing tailoring tradition as well as the labor force that makes up Dubai’s oldest neighborhood of Satwa.

AC16-September-SEAF-6_Alexandra Chaves : The National

Photograph by Alexandra Chaves for TheNational.ae

I’m immediately reminded of Joaquín Torres-García’s constructivist paintings, with their gridded compositions of colors and artefacts that form abstract urban landscapes. Similarly, Benton “maps” a city neighborhood through its craft production and a constructivist formal language. 

Across from the quilt is “Quasi-Problematic Assortment of Items, Arranged Based on the UN’s Formula for Overcrowding”. Benton’s installation is a one-meter cubic acrylic construction filled with miscellaneous items. According to the UN calculations of liveable housing, the piece “illustrate[s] at human-scale the amount of space a bachelor has in a bedspace room that houses 18 people”. The work is claustrophobic, colorful, playful and poignant. 

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Quasi-Problematic Assortment of Items, Arranged Based on the UN’s Formula for Overcrowding, by Christopher Benton. Photograph by the artist.

I walk through galleries of elegantly displayed mix-media sculpture, prints, and paintings. I am drawn to the installation “Where it began” by Sultan Al Remeithi. The artist has transformed a cell-like gallery space into a neon frenzy of rave culture. The floors, walls, and ceilings are completely covered in spray painted text, posters, and grotesque portraiture. A sort of urban chapel, the viewer is immersed in vignettes of DJ’s at their decks and youth dressed in hoodies and headphones. On the far side of the room, a semi-transparent candescent sheet obscures a video projection of an unintelligible night scene: I can barely make out a car with flashing headlights. I overhear the artist explain to a journalist the contradiction he felt upon returning to the UAE after studies abroad. As much as party culture is organic to cities like Berlin and London, the experience in the Emirates feels appropriated and inauthentic. Ironically, as far as clubs go, this room feels legit. 

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Themes of artificiality resurface in the ironic work of a young artist studying and comparing water samples collected locally (presumably from Dubai)*. Water sources include an Indoor Snow Park, an Aquarium, a 5 Star Hotel Pool, a Man-made lake, and a Roundabout fountain to name a few. The descriptions of each sample are presented “scientifically” in identical glass jars with stark black and white labels stating the sample’s origin, the global coordinates of the source, and the date and time of collection. A closer read reveals the artist’s description of the source environment, which ranges from descriptions of fish-feeding habits, to nearby furniture, to people expressing their love for one another in the water’s presence. The idiosyncratic nature of her observations highlights the absurdity of the sources themselves. 

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As I make my way towards the exit, I am distracted by floor-to-ceiling red velvet curtains that contrast to the otherwise contemporary interior. Like a circus caravan parked at the gallery’s entrance, I enter the theatrical space of “Hollowed”, a site-specific installation by artist Maitha Abdalla (@maithaabdalla). Through video and sculpture, the artist constructs a surreal environment that is much larger than one originally expects. Dramatic lighting and an eerie quietness inhabit the space along with fantastical anthropomorphic creatures that explore “emptiness, memory, waiting and rebirth”. The exhibit is independent from the SEAF Cohort’s collective show, and it gives me a sense of the Warehouse’s diverse program.

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I leave Warehouse421 hopeful, reflecting on how important it is to give space to and support the critical gaze of artists, particularly in the context of fast-paced development. Their sensitivity, humour, and humanity is inspiring and humbling. 

“COMMUNITY & CRITIQUE: SALAMA BINT HAMDAN EMERGING ARTISTS FELLOWSHIP 2018/19 COHORT 6 SHOW”
On view at Warehouse421 from September 14 – November 24, 2019
Warehouse421, Abu Dhabi, Mina Zayed, Street Samrayr, +9712 6768803

 


*Dubai is the only Emirate hosting an indoor Snow Park.

 

“Tbilisi” Impressions by Laure Raffy

Photos and text by Laure Raffy
Translation by Anna Gargarian

Original text in French language below English text.


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A four day trip for the HAYP Pop Up team to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Objective: to feel the city’s pulse and feed our plans to establish a permanent gallery space in Yerevan in the upcoming months. An opportunity to meet key players and to weave the initial threads of partnership with a neighboring country, as we begin to envision future collaborations.

Ambling through a city full of stories, historic buildings, and wonders to discover veiled behind urban facades, we take in (on the fly) inspiration, ideas, and lots of images.

A meeting with Tamara Janashia leads us to many others: gallerists, printers, artists.
The Nectar Gallery, perched on a small hill, reveals the colossal work of Elene Chantladze that combines writing, drawing, collage, and painting on stone; a lifetime’s work that offers a narrative about intimate space and important moments.

Time to catch our breath and grab a coffee on the terrace of Stamba Hotel, former printing house renovated into hotel complex. An industrial space that highlights the gears and mechanisms of the machines it once housed. It is here that we meet Irina Popiashvili before she invites us to a private space where she collects the works of several artists; a creative incubator where she nurtures artists with a graceful rigor. She brings us to the department of Visual Art, Architecture and Design at the Free University of Tbilisi, where Irina is the Dean. A precious moment that invites us into discover creative studios, filled with ideas and treasures in the making. The chance to meet students, inspired and inspiring, impressive in their tenacity and strength, confronting materials as massive and rigid as wood and steel .. We (re)encounter some of them on Saturday night in an apartment atop the city’s outskirts; an intimate space that is home to an exhibition curated by the students themselves.

On this short trip we have the privilege of meeting artist Tamuna Chabashvili, who mainly uses textile as “final object” in an engaging work that brings together tedious research, investigation, and careful collecting of stories. Along the way, we discover the underground Patara art gallery, which urges us to explore the border between private and public space, and the importance of introducing art within the lived urban environment. A visit to the Window Project gallery reveals bold scenographic display, an intervention by a contemporary artist/designer that took inspiration from the exhibition’s focus: the art works of the late Vakhtang Kokiashvi.

Planning to develop a future print department, HAYP can’t miss out on a visit to Cezanne printing house, highly recommended for the quality of its catalogs and artist books. An encounter that revealed (or confirmed) the vast range of possibilities for book formats, textures, and binding methods … revealing, yet again, that the book serves as both archive and extension of an art work, an artifact in its own right.

Four days of meetings, a perpetual dialogue between the historic and contemporary, industrial and artisanal, massive and undeniably refined. Sprinkled with impressions, scribbled papers, porcelains, and found objects along the unbeaten path.

And so, more to come….


original text:

Déplacement de l’équipe de HAYP Pop Up dans la capitale Georgienne, Tbilisi. Ce, afin d’en prendre le poul et alimenter encore le projet de galerie physique et permanente qui prendra place à Yerevan, dans les prochains mois. L’occasion de rencontrer des acteurs, tisser une première toile de partenaires dans un pays voisin et imaginer de possibles collaborations.

Un détour dans une ville emplie d’histoire(s), d’édifices historiques, de merveilles à découvrir au verso des façades. Un moment permettant d’attraper en vol, inspirations, idées, et beaucoup d’images.

Une rencontre avec Tamara Janashia nous mène vers bien d’autres : galeristes, imprimeurs, artistes. La Galerie Nectar perchée sur une petite colline dévoile le travail colossal d’ Elene Chantladze, mêlant écriture, dessins, collages, peintures sur roches. Oeuvre d’une vie proposant une lecture de l’espace intime et de certains faits marquants. Le temps de reprendre son souffle et commander un café sur la terrasse du Stamba Hotel, ancienne imprimerie réhabilitée en complexe hôtelier. Un espace industriel où sont aujourd’hui sublimés, les rouages et mécaniques des anciennes machines.
C’est ici que l’on rencontre Irina Popiashvili avant qu’elle nous conduise dans un espace où elle conserve plusieurs travaux d’artistes. Une pépinière de créateurs qu’elle soutient avec force et velour. Cette visite nous mène à l’école d’Arts visuels et d’architecture dont Irina est la doyenne. Moment précieux nous permettant de découvrir quelques ateliers emplis d’idées et de trésors en devenir. L’occasion de rencontrer des étudiants, inspirés et inspirants, impressionnants par leur tenacité et leur force, faisant face, à des matériaux aussi massifs et rigides que le bois et l’acier.. On en (re)découvre certains d’entre-eux, le samedi soir, dans cet appartement, planté sur les hauteur de la ville. Espace intimiste, abritant une exposition commissariée par les étudiants eux même.
S’offre durant ces quelques jours, le privilège de rencontrer l’artiste Tamuna Chabashvili, qui utilise principalement le textile comme « objet final » d’un travail engagé, fastidieux de recherches, d’enquêtes, de collecte d’histoires. Sur notre passage, on découvre l’espace galerie souterrain Patara qui nous interroge encore sur la lisière entre espace privé et public et l’intérêt d’introduire l’art où les individus circulent. Nous visitions la galerie Window Project mêlant des choix scénographiques audacieux et l’intervention d’artistes/designers sur les œuvres d’un créateur initial, aujourd’hui disparu, Vakhtang Kokiashvi.

Dans son souhait de développer un volet « publication », HAYP se doit un passage à l’imprimerie Cezanne, recommandée pour la qualité d’impression de catalogues et livres d’artistes. Un moment révélant (ou confirmant) le large panel de possibilités en termes de format, texture, mode de reliure… Une visite révélant de nouveau que si le livre peut accompagner l’oeuvre, il peut aussi se penser comme « objet d’art », à part entière.

4 jours et un mélange de rencontres, un perpétuel dialogue entre historique et contemporain, industriel et artisanal, massif et indéniablement fin. Parsemés de notes, de papiers griffonnés, de porcelaines, d’objet chinés au fil des marches.

A suivre, donc.

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.

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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. 


 

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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.

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– – – 

“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:

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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].

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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?

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About CETI Lab

HAYP Pop Up Gallery is pleased to present “CETI Lab: HAYP at BAO”, a project combining an artist residency, a collective exhibition and an event week. This will be HAYP Pop Up Gallery’s 10th collective art exhibit in Armenia, and the first to take place at the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory.

The Concept

“CETI Lab: HAYP at BAO” invites artists and scientists to imagine communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence. The project takes inspiration from the 1971 CETI conference at BAO, organized by Carl Sagan and Iosif Shklovskii, that brought together nobel-prize winning scientists to explore the possibilities of communicating with intelligent life beyond our planet.

From September 16 to 27, 2017 the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO) in Armenia will be transformed with site-specific installation by a group of diverse artists including photographers, architects, sculptors, writers, sound and installation artists. The project also includes a site-specific installation by visiting Berlin-based sound artist Lvis Mejía, at the Herouni Radio-Optic Telescope in Orgov, just outside of Byurakan village.

Like the scientists before them, the artists consider the various unknown variables that frame the challenge of communication. Those include technical questions of language, transmission, reception and interaction as well philosophical concerns of free will, perception, and the consequences of successful communication. As we consider our own assumptions of “the other” and the parameters that allow for effective exchange, it becomes increasingly evident that the greatest challenge is in understanding the environment that frames these interactions.

The projects of CETI Lab are studies and explorations on the unique environment that is the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, its lifeforms, ideas and idiosyncrasies.

Participating Artists

Tina Chakarian, Visual Artist (Boston, USA)
Sona Manukyan, Photographer & Architect (Yerevan, Armenia)
Lvis Mejía, Audio Artist (Berlin, Germany)
Karen Mirzoyan, Photographer (Yerevan, Armenia)
Samvel Saghatelian, Painter & Architect (Yerevan, Armenia)
Manan Torosyan, Sculptor & Visual Artist (Yerevan, Armenia)
Gorod Ustinov, Artist Collective (Izhevsk, Russia)
Arto Vaun, poet (Boston, USA)
VHSound, Sound Artist (Yerevan, Armenia)

ARTIST PROJECTS & LOCATIONS

Location: Herouni Radio-Optical Telescope, Orgov, Armenia. 

Hours of Operation: Open daily Monday-Friday from 16:00 to 19:00. Open weekends from 12:00 to 19:00.

The unaccountable to the non-observer, by Lvis Mejía
A site-specific installation and contemplative sonic experience on the principle of acoustic feedback.

The Communication Machine, by VHSound
An interactive instrument and public performance on the sound universe of the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory.


Location: The Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, Byurakan, Armenia.

Hours of Operation: Open daily Monday-Friday from 16:00 to 20:00. Open weekends from 12:00 to 20:00.

“Polychromatic Signals” by Tina Chakarian
A kinetic acrylic polygon.

Do they breathe?by Sona Manukyan
A site-specific installation on reflexive communication.

Intergalactic War Seriesby Karen Mirzoyan
An exploration in the consequences of communication as seen through children image-culture and popular sci-fi narratives.

Contactby Gorod Oustinov
An interactive micro land art installation and collective alien-tracking device.

Homo-Communicationby Samvel Saghatelian
A site-specific installation and study on the meeting point of communication: #TheHole.

“Start and end”, by Manan Torosyan
An outdoor sculpture on the cyclical nature of time and parallel forms of life in the universe.

“The Transgression of Light”, a poem by Arto Vaun
A meditation on the harmony and dissonance between humans and the universe.

PRACTICAL INFO

Locations & Hours of Operation:

The exhibition will last from September 16, 2017 to September 27, 2017

  • The Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, Byurakan, Armenia. Map here.
    Hours of Operation: Open daily Monday-Friday from 16:00 to 20:00. Open weekends from 12:00 to 20:00.
  • The Herouni Radio-Optic Telescope, Orgov, Armenia. Map here.
    Hours of Operation: Open daily Monday-Friday from 16:00 to 19:00. Open weekends from 12:00 to 19:00.

Transportation:

  • BY CAR: You can easily drive there or get a taxi (around 4,000 one-way from Yerevan). Follow the Google Maps here to go to the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory and the Herouni Radio-Optic Telescope.
  • BY HAYP BUS: Departure from Republic Square in Yerevan. Limited seats available, awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis. Cost: 1,000 AMD one-way.
    *** Yerevan-Orgov-Byurakan: 13:00, 15:00
    *** Byurakan-Yerevan: 20:00

Exhibition tickets:

Because the Byurakan Observatory and the Herouni Telescope are functioning scientific centers, you absolutely need a ticket to enter the grounds. The ticket is available for free on Eventbrite here.