Unfolding Layers of Sensuality in Mary Badalian’s Embroidered Canvases

by Varduhi Kirakosian


I pass by Mary’s artworks in the gallery, the second one in line, the third… and I can’t help letting my hand slowly and carefully graze the surface of one of the canvases. I feel every wrinkle on its skin. The sensation of the touch synced with vivid colors whisper about the different types of Mary: the one who impulsively scribbled the surface in the work “Night near Barbès,” or that Mary who very precisely stitched the equal, parallel, lines of “Spiral”. We can almost read the artist in her choice of colors and yet we are perplexed by the monochrome veils that cast a slight shadow upon her, serving as a private space she keeps for herself, a refuge from the public.

Varduhi Kirakosian in front of “Night near Barbés”. Photo by Milena Gevorgyan.
Night near Barbes, detail. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Spiral, detail. Photo by Harut Saroyan.

Mary’s mixed media heightens the senses. Her canvases unfold as a dialogue between the disorder of colors and the consensus of materials. Texture is an essential element of her work, created principally through her choice of thread and occasional beadwork. Curator Anna Gargarian describes Mary’s surfaces as “..fibrous and organic constructions that seduce through their obsessive and sensual tactility.”

Photo by Harut Saroyan.

Mary Badalian is an Armenian visual artist who lives and works in Yerevan. Mary’s interests, which she cultivated through internships at the Armenian Constitutional Court, Chamber of Advocates, and the United Nations in Armenia, encompass international relations, human rights, and ethical and integrity issues. Mary rediscovered her interest in art and creativity as self-expression while studying law at the Slavonic University of Armenia in 2018. She started her artistic practice as an experiment. 

“My grandma used to have a bunch of old threads left from Soviet textile factories,” Mary pointed out during a private interview. When her grandmother’s collection was handed down to her, this was both a discovery and an inspiration. Mary explained that she was seduced by the idea of reaching a more “intimate interaction” with the canvas by way of the needle: the resulting embroidery is scar-like, like wounds to the “skin”. Her process ends by concealing this interaction with multiple layers of monochrome paint. The artist’s decision to cover her physical encounter—and significant struggle—with materiality creates a calmer, uniform and almost emotionless picture.

From left to right: “Nonexistent character”, “Brain Tricks”, “Imposter Syndrome”. Photo by Harut Saroyan.
Brain Tricks, detail. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“First I see the initial picture of my work in mind,” says Mary. I see the colors, the lines, and shapes, and then I feel the urge to make it real.” Sometimes she makes a preliminary sketch of the forms and shapes with a marker on the canvas. The choice of threads is woven in her mind subconsciously, and it builds into a similar palette of very different materials and colors. But mostly, it’s unplanned, and it’s the process that interests her. Embroidery is close to Mary’s heart as a therapy. 

“I love doing repetitive and monotonous tasks sometimes,” Mary notes. It takes her several hours of silence and time alone to let her mind disconnect, and her hands begin to work calmly and almost automatically.

Mary during #StudioSaturdays, an art-in-progress happening at the gallery in the framework of the exhibit “Chromological Disorder”.

“Most pieces are free-hand. I don’t often premeditate how I’m going to stitch. That whole planning process might sometimes ruin the realness of the emotional flow that creates a powerful dynamic,” she tells me. 

What attracts her most in abstract art is how subjective and personal the interpretation is for every person. For Mary, the strongest works of art are those that influenced her emotionally. Now, as she makes her own artworks, she wants her audience to connect with her works emotionally on a personal level and be influenced by them each in their own way.

Mary also seeks to break down barriers between traditional and popular cultures by investigating and highlighting their connections and their differences. The time-consuming traditional stitch craft contradicts with our world of instant gratification and mass production. But Mary puts embroidery in a whole new context and grants it a chance to earn a wider space and meaning in contemporary fine art with all of its intricacy and sensuality.

Mary’s art is conflicting. It evokes questions like, “What’s the initial work of art?”, “Which is more intriguing?”, and “Why does she feel the need to hide her expressive composition?” As Gargarian puts it, “The care and attention with which she selects and juxtaposes her colors is as surprising as her consequent act of ‘erasing’ the color via multiple coats of paint.” Mary’s process is unique, and her phases of production are distinct and gradual, making it difficult to define when a work is complete. For Mary, the paint coats are a “logical ending”. 

“It makes it more cohesive and less messy,” she says. 

“Identity Crisis”, photo courtesy of the artist.

This conflict between contemporary minimalism versus the colorful mess of “folk” or “craft” art is best portrayed in her piece, “Identity Crisis”. This work uniquely shows the colorful embroidery on one side of the canvas and the monochrome paint on the other. This work touches on all the questions related to Mary’s practice and expressive voice. It begs the question: does expression need to be clean or is it all about letting the mess of your inner expression come forth as it is? Either way, I would argue that the real artwork is her process, and all of the emotions and questions it instigates in the viewer.

“Chromological Disorder” is on view at Dalan Art Gallery at 12 Abovyan street until July 30. 

In Conversation: Vazken Kalayjian

by Anna K. Gargarian

With “Heart Flow: Spiritual Abstractions” opening in just a few days, I took a moment to sit down with artist Vazken Kalayjian to discuss his practice – both artistic and spiritual, as for him they are one and the same. The below interview is an informal dialogue between artist and curator, as we think about materials, rites of passage, heightened states of consciousness, and how that translates into artistic practice.



Artist, Vazken Kalayjian at work in his Bridgeport studio at the Read’s Art Space. Photo by Jacqueline Karaaslanian.

Anna K. Gargarian: Tell me a little bit about your process

Vazken Kalayjian: Well, it’s always a long preparation to start a work – mentally, physically, spiritually. And it’s always after some intense experience. Like I’ve gone on a Vision Quest, or had an interesting meditation, or I’ve visited a special place, whether it’s in nature or a temple, or whatever. And that experience calls me to start. 

Usually I’ll work on several canvases at once within the same theme, or series. Because I like to use thickly applied oil paint. I like the intensity of real pigment and that makes it dry slower. So because of that, I’ve learned that it’s always good to have a few pieces going at once (as many as I can fit in my studio). So I’ll do an underlayer on one canvas, and then move onto the other, then I’ll come back to it a few days later. I kind of go back and forth until eventually one piece gets to a particular place where I feel like it’s almost complete. Then I turn the other works around, and focus on that piece until it’s finished. I may go back to it, but usually I don’t. Then I continue with the other works in a similar fashion. So that’s the process….

Zen Koan series (oil on paper), hanging in the artist’s Connecticut studio.

The thing about paper, and what I love about Arches paper in particular, is that it’s very thick. It’s 100% cotton, so it absorbs the paint quickly and I can finish a piece in a day or so. With canvas it takes more time. I usually work on a linen canvas, and because I like to work really roughly on the surface (you can see all the writing and scratching and claw marks), I double stretch the canvas and back it with Sintra board to keep a hard surface, all of which slows the drying process even further.

I’ve experimented with a lot of different materials. My canvas maker back in New York was Simon Liu, he was a famous canvas maker who worked for artists like Rauschenberg and Jasper Jones, and with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And he made Aluminum panels for me, that was Rauschenberg’s favorite. From an archival perspective that’s really indestructible. I like thinking of the afterlife of a work, and part of that is being responsible with the materials I pick. I’m not into the gimmicky stuff with deteriorating art pieces, like a rotting banana, or whatever. 

AKG: Tell me a bit about the Bridgeport Rhapsody series. It’s very different from the other series in this show. Why the name “Rhapsody”?

VK: Well…it has a musical connotation. When I first moved to Bridgeport from Westport – Westport is a very upper middle class and gentrified town. In Bridgeport I was at the Read’s Art Space, where all of the residents are artists. So my neighbors were musicians, painters, writers, culinary and theatre experts, and we’d get together over wine, we’d play music, look at art – so there was all of this exchange. And then from my window…instead of looking at these very manicured suburban lawns, I was looking at graffiti and could hear musicians, or rap music. You know… it was inner city. It reminded me of my Brooklyn days as a student. Not the Brooklyn of today, I’m talking about the Brooklyn of the 70s. Even though physically Bridgeport is only 20 minutes away from Westport and Greenwich – I mean, literally they share the same air and beach and highway – but you have this huge contrast. Most noticeably in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of soul. It was really great. It’s like I went from soullessness to someplace soulful, with rhythm and colors and tastes. And so you have this mix. I mean you have the rap, the seagulls, the wind, jazz…all of that together, all of these sounds – it was really a beautiful experience to go through. Almost like an awakening. I was living in a kind of bubble before – of affluence….of….well these towns, intentionally they keep others out. So when you extricate yourself from that, you have this whole new experience….it’s beautiful. 

Rhapsody 15 (oil on canvas) in the artist’s studio at the Read’s Art Space in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Bridgeport Rhapsody, 2017. Oil on canvas. 183 x 142 cm.

AKG: So your periods of creativity, they don’t just follow some kind of spiritual experience. It’s also these big life changes?

VK: Well you know, a lot of people think that spiritual experiences are peaceful. Or somehow it’s relaxing…not necessarily. Sometimes when I go out on a Vision Quest, it’s really difficult, it’s painful, it’s scary…you have all sorts of experiences. It’s not always blissful. It’s not that image we think of, sitting crossed-legged by the ocean.…

AKG: Could you explain what you mean by a Vision Quest?

VK: The Vision Quest as we know it in the states comes from the Native American tradition. It’s basically an experience you have when you’re going through any major change in your life, some rite of passage, or maybe you want to honor certain cycles… so you chose to take time away from everyday life and you isolate yourself in nature where you can’t be disturbed by anyone. Away from civilization into the wild. It could be anywhere from 4 days, 11 days, 28 days or 40 days. You stay in one place. You don’t bring anything with you – no reading, no sketch books, no iPhone or music. Nothing distracting. Part of the time you fast, depending on your health. And then you spend your time alternating between meditation and doing Tai Chi, Chi Gong, chanting and prayers, all sorts of practices to replenish your energy. And you do it all in one place, within your circle. Traditionally, you also go through 4 days without sleep – which is really difficult. And during this time you’re basically shedding. You’re cleansing and shedding – dealing with everything that comes up. Whether it’s the cold of the night time, or the heat of the day time. Whether it’s insects or animals that show up and confront you… you deal with boredom, you deal with sadness, and all sorts of things that you have that you’re shedding. I’ve been doing this yearly since 1992.

Kalayjian meditating in nature.

AKG: In previous conversations you told me that when you work you’re really in a flow-state, which you achieve usually through your spiritual practice. But how do you reconcile being in a fully immersed flow-state, with working on an art piece for an extended period of time? How do you work in flow state, then interrupt it with your daily life, and then come back to it….how does that fit into your process?


VK: That’s a good question. It’s not really interrupting. You see, in my early years when I was doing zen meditation, it was very much like that. I would work during the day, then in the evening I’d go to the Zen temple for meditation, and maybe on Saturday I might go to a full day sitting. It was very compartmentalized. But I was lucky to have great teachers. And over the years as my practice matured, and I wasn’t stuck into one thing, besides Zen Buddhism I added other layers – my Shamanic work in nature, Pathwork, Core energetics, Sufi Teachings and then the Fourth Way with Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, which really influenced me. The Fourth Way is all about daily practice. In other words: it’s about bringing presence to every moment in the day. Of course you have certain times in your day dedicated to awareness – whether it’s meditation or yoga – but the ultimate goal is how you are in the Bazaar. How are you in every day life? Because if you meditate in the morning, but then forget yourself during the day…. It becomes very mechanical. That’s what kids do so well because they’re still so open to energy. You know that with your newborn baby, he knows when you’re on your phone or not present in the moment, he’ll complain. They’re still in tune in a way that we’ve lost. 

So, for me, when I’m painting over a period of time, even if it’s over several months, the breaks in between aren’t really interruptions. Each moment of work is a kind of complete cycle that adds onto the next. Like daily practice. It’s a whole impression. Layers of these experiences. 

AKG: And what’s next in store for you? This has been a really big change for you moving to Armenia from Bridgeport, particularly during these challenging times. Is something new cooking?

VK: Yeah, I feel like something really important is cooking. It’s an important time and an important place for me. For both of us, actually. Jacqueline as well. When it comes out, I’m curious to see what shape it’s going to take…

AKG: What are you waiting for? Space, the right time?

VK: Actually, something happened yesterday. I have some ideas now relating to performance and digital tools. Maybe we’ll talk about it after this show. I want to get through this opening and then we’ll see. I’m looking forward to getting to work in my new studio. It’s still being renovated. But I mean…where it is with the view point of the mountains outside of the city…I’m sure interesting things are going to happen…. I’m looking forward to it. 



About Vazken Kalayjian:

Kalayjian was born in 1956 in Aleppo, Syria. His passion for painting began as a young boy in Syria at the Saryan Academy, and continued throughout his youth as a student of Fine Arts at the Pratt Institute in New York. Kalayjian was an active member of the New York art scene from the early 80s until the late 90s, showing at various galleries including the Cast Iron Gallery, Montserrat Gallery, Pratt Institute Gallery, and at Open Center New York. Up until late 2020, Kalayjian was a member of the Read’s Art Space in Bridgeport, Connecticut where he has shown consistently over the past decade. He recently moved to Armenia with his wife Jacqueline. His next exhibition, “Heart Flow: Spiritual Abstractions” will premiere at Latitude Art Space in Vahakni from May 15 to June 2, 2021.


Event information: https://fb.me/e/25WIV9kGK

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.

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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.

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‘(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.

 

Exhibition Review: Together is Possible

Where residents take part in each other’s sadness and joy without discrimination 

by Laure Raffy
(scroll down for original text in French)

 

Nelli Shishmanyan is a freelance photojournalist and member of the 4Plus collective (4Plus documentary center for photography) that brings together Armenian photographers engaged in human rights, and in particular, women’s rights. For the past seven years, her work has focused on territories in conflict. In 2012, during a workshop held in Tbilisi, she met two Azerbaijani photographers with whom she stayed in touch over the years. In 2018 they collaborated on a joint project to meet Armenian and Azerbaijani communities peacefully living together in villages in Georgia and Armenia.

This project, supported by the European Union within the framework of Peacebuilding through Capacity Enhancement and Civic Engagement (PeaCE) program implemented by EPF-Armenia, EPF-Azerbaijan, International Alert and CRRC-Georgia, was also presented in an exhibition in Tbilisi last October: «Together for Peace».

In March of this year, ACCEA / NPAK (Armenian Center for Contemporary and Experimental Art) unveiled a selection of fragments from this initiative and presented “Together is possible”, featuring photographs captured by Nelli Shishmanyan. This ambitious and necessary exhibition highlighted the possible understanding between the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities marked by the Nagorno Karabakh conflict for many years. In particular, it revealed images taken in 2018 in the villages of Tsopi and Khojori in Georgia and Khachaghbiur (former Chakhrlu) in Armenia,  where the two communities live side by side.

Armenia / Azerbaijan without a slash; without a break or separation. An ode to peace, a possible reconciliation, maybe not so distant, maybe awaits.

Shishmanyan’s work juxtaposes faces, humanizes communities that have been distanced, and that have been defacing one another since the late years of the Soviet Union; so close geographically and even culturally.

Highlighting a life where the children of the village attend the same school, where the water of the central fountain is drunk by all. Nelli reveals through her lens the movement of lives that are in full swing. Where laughter echoes through the photographs, and the kitchen smells tickle our senses. We enter alongside the reporter within the interiors of the village, in the intimacy of the neighborhood that shares tea, discussions, games, tolerance. Tables filled with pastries- delicacies that are offered to brothers no matter where they’re from. The laughter roars on both sides of the room, we hear it from here.

The wheels of war seem to disappear in these serene, isolated territories, where tensions fade as witnessed by these inhabitants.

As Nelli Shishmanyan tells me when I meet her: “This project is far from the notion of conflict. It highlights common traditions, connections between these people, peace first and foremost…Tensions emanate from governments, not from populations.”

Two men who, in the exhibited video, express themselves “…we want prosperity for both nations…we live peacefully.”

To receive, to question, as an example of “living together”, possible, imaginable, mixed, stronger.

With modesty, Shishmanyan and her Azerbaijani partners explore a subject suspended at the tip of our lips, complex. They highlight the imprints of undifferentiated hands left on the walls of the house of culture in Tsopi. A poetic throwing of arms that reveals the possible calm and the power of encounter.

A photographic practice without end, according to Nelli Shishmanyan, who shares when we talk about a possible continuation of the project “…Photography is part of life and life continues.”

And who knows, in a future exhibition maybe, we could meet the two Azeri collaborators in Yerevan.

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« Together is possible »

Là où les communautés prennent par aux douleurs
et aux joies de chacun, sans discrimination aucune. 

 

Nelli Shishmanyan est photographe reporter indépendante et membre du collectif 4Plus

( 4Plus documentary center for photography ) qui réunit des photographes arméniens engagés pour le droit de l’homme et des femmes spécifiquement. Depuis 2012, ses projets ont principalement attrait à certaines zones sensibles et territoires en conflit. En 2012, lors d’un workshop se tenant à Tbilissi, elle fait la connaissance de deux photographes azéris.

En 2018, ils iront ensemble à la rencontre des communautés arménienne et azerbaïdjanaise évoluant ensemble dans certains villages geogiens et arméniens.

Ce projet, qui bénéficiait du soutien de l’Union européenne dans le cadre du programme PeaCE, mis en œuvre par EPF-Arménie, EPF-Azerbaïdjan, International Alert et CRRC-Géorgie a été présenté dans une exposition à Tbilisi en octobre dernier : “Together for Peace”.

Une exposition s’est parallèlement tenue en décembre dernier, à Baku en Azerbaijan.

En mars dernier, l’ACCEA/NPAK (Armenian Center for Contempory Experimental Art) nous dévoilait quelques fragments de cette initiative et présentait « Together is possible », dans lequel nous retrouvions les images capturées par Nelli Shishmanyan. Cette exposition ambitieuse et nécessaire mettait en lumière l’entente possible entre les communautés arménienne et azerbaïdjanaise marquées par le conflit depuis de longues années. Elle nous dévoilait notamment les images réalisées en 2018 dans les villages de Tsopi et Khojori en Georgie et Khachaghbiur (anciennement Chakhrlu) en Arménie, où les deux communautés évoluent côte à côte.

Arménie / Azerbaïjan sans le / cette fois, sans rupture et sans mur. Ôde à la paix, comme une réconciliation possible, peut être pas si lointaine, attendue, possiblement.

Le travail de Shishmanyan pose des visages, humanise des populations souvent éloignées les unes des autres, qui se mutilent depuis les dernières années de l’Union soviétique, pourtant si proches géographiquement et culturellement.

Mise en lumière de vies où les enfants du village fréquentent la même école, où l’eau de la fontaine centrale est bue de tous. Elle nous dévoile, par le biais de l’objectif, le mouvement de ces vies qui battent leur plein. Où les rires résonnent dans les photos, où les odeurs de cuisine parviennent jusqu’à nous. On pénètre avec la reporter dans les intérieurs du village, dans l’intimité du voisinage qui partage thé, discussions, jeux, tolérance. Tables emplies de pâtisseries, de gourmandises que l’on offre à ses frères, d’où qu’ils viennent. Les rires se baladent de part et d’autre de la pièce, on les entend d’ici.

Les rouages de la guerre semblent disparaître sur ces territoires sereins, isolés, où les tensions s’effacent comme en témoignent ses habitants.

Et comme Nelli Shishmanyan nous le dit lorsque nous la rencontrons : « Ce projet est éloigné de la notion de conflit. Il met en lumière des traditions communes, des correspondances entre ces gens, la paix avant toute chose […] Les tensions émanent des gouvernements, non des populations. »

A l’image de ces deux hommes qui dans la vidéo présentée s’expriment « […] we want prosperity for both nations […] we live peacefully. »

A recevoir, à questionner, tel un exemple de « vivre ensemble », possible, imaginable, mélangé, mixte, plus fort.

Avec pudeur, Shishmanyan et ses partenaires azerbaïdjanais explorent, un sujet suspendu aux lèvres, complexe. Ils mettent en lumière l’empreinte de ces mains indifférenciables, imprimées sur le mur de la maison de la culture de Tsopi. Une levée des armes poétique dévoilant le calme possible et la force de la rencontre.

Une pratique photographique qui s’inscrit dans le temps et nous terminerons sur les mots de Nelli Shishmanyan qui signale lorsqu’on lui parle d’une possible continuité « […] La photographie s’ancre dans la vie et la vie continue. »

Et qui sait… Lors d’une prochaine exposition, nous aurons peut-être la chance de rencontrer ses deux collaborateurs azerbaïdjanais à Erevan.

INTERVIEW: “Is Armenia ready for a major art biennale?” Laure Raffy interviews curator Mazdak Faiznia of ICAE 2018

interview by Laure Raffy
photos by Ed Tadevossian, courtesy of ICAE2018 and Shaula International

On the occasion of the ICAE 2018 (International Contemporary Art Exhibition) that took place in Yerevan from September 28-October 28, the HAYP Pop Up team was able to interview curator Mazdak Faiznia, artistic director of the Faiznia Family Foundation (FFF) based in Kermanshah, Iran. The FFF encourages and promotes contemporary art creation nationally and internationally.

Original interview in Italian below.


 

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LR: Could you clarify why you chose “Soundlines” for the exhibition theme, and in particular what is its connection to Armenia?

MF: I guess first off, I’d like to address the notion of silence. Armenians have always been and continue to be, all around the world. Their culture dates back thousands of years, and they’ve contributed greatly [to culture] wherever they’ve been.

I’m Kurdish Iranian and I am aware that Armenians have played a key role in our region as bearers of innovation, cinema, photography, medicine, industry and the arts – but in silence and discretion. Geographically, Armenia is not so big, but its voice is far-reaching.

One of the ICAE ‘s goals was to create a dialogue through artistic and cultural environments in Armenia with the rest of the world. For this reason, I was looking for an element of Armenia’s contemporary history that successfully engaged in international discourse and represented the Armenian voice, and it’s not by chance that I came to the traditional Armenian flute, or “Duduk”. It’s a small instrument with a full voice. Anchored in Armenia’s history, this globally recognised symbol of Armenian identity has been able to dialogue with all forms of music, from pop to rock to electronic music and even classical music since the 1980s.

“Soundlines” is also a reference to the novel Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, which looked at how the oral tradition of Australian Aborigines created a [sonic] map of the territory.

Sound as a metaphor for artistic practice, which places at its core concepts of identity, collective and personal memory, landscape memory, mobility, and international cultural dialogue. Line as sound, as real or mental borders, and also as a formal and conceptual element; idealised maps and their relationship to the territory . This is not unlike how the sound of an Armenian Duduk might integrate itself harmoniously within an orchestra of diverse instruments from the rest of the world. I’m interested in the relationship between sound, identity and tradition.

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LR: How did you make the selection of artists and works in the program, and where did they come from? Did institutions also participate in the exhibit?

MF: The selection of artists and works was based on their relationship to the theme and character of the project, which was shaped for both the Armenian and international publics that would be present during the Francophone Summit in Yerevan. The works were loans from artist studios, the galleries that represent them, and international private Collections and Foundations. 

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LR: Do you plan to renew ICAE next year?

MF: Bringing to life ICAE2018 was arduous, from the complexity of the theme to its production… it was really a “Mission Impossible”, especially considering the scale of the project and the invited international artists. We had very little time, and the added challenge of bringing a world audience to Armenia. If it weren’t for everyone’s support and openness, especially on behalf of the artists, our international and local partners, the incredible efforts of the team and their organisation, it would have been difficult to bring to fruition and it was almost a miracle.

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But miracles aren’t always possible. And so, if a major objective [for Armenia] is to insert Yerevan and the country on the map as a cultural destination for contemporary art, this could be considered a first step. But continuity is essential, and there needs to be a long term program to generate important cultural events like biennales, triennales, and art fairs, and establish infrastructure for museums, foundations, independent and non profit spaces, artists, academies etc, that are globally connected. In order to make all of this happen, there needs to be a program with a vision, and certain synergies that enable the commitment and support on behalf of the public and private sectors. Lastly, it needs to continue – never give up- continue, continue, and continue! 

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In occasione dell’ICAE (International Exhibition of Contemporary Art) tenuto a Erevan il mese scorso, abbiamo avuto la possibilità di intervistare Mazdak Faiznia, curatore della mostra e direttore artistico della Faiznia Family Foundation in Kermanshah, Iran.

intervista da Laure Raffy

foto da Ed Tadevossian per ICAE2018, Courtesy di Shaula International


LR: Potresti specificare come mai hai scelto “Soundlines” come tema, e qual’è il legame particolare con l’Armenia?

MF: Forse la prima cosa che devo dire è proprio il silenzio. In tutti sensi, gli Armeni sono stati e sono [ancora] da per tutto il mondo. Hanno una cultura millenaria, hanno contributo tantissimo dove sono stati, ed in effetti io che sono curdo Iraniano, in Iran gli armeni hanno avuto un ruolo fondamentale nella nostra zona: sono stati i portatori d’innovazione, del cinema, della fotografia, la medicina, l’industria, la cultura e l’arte, ma con un silenzio naturale. L’Armenia geograficamente è un paese non molto grande ma ha una voce ampia.

Uno degli obiettivi di questo evento è [stato di] creare un dialogo tra atmosfera artistica e culturale in Armenia con il resto del mondo. Per cui cercavo un elemento che nella storia contemporanea di questo paese è riuscito a dialogare a livello internazionale, rappresentando la voce dell’Armenia e non per caso sono arrivato al Duduk, il flauto antico e strumento tradizionale Armeno. È uno strumento piccolo ma ha una voce ampia. Il Duduk è ben radicato nella storia ed é riconosciuto come [simbolo di] l’identità Armena in tutto il mondo, ma è riuscito a dialogare con tutte le forme della musica, dalla musica pop al rock alla musica elettronica ed anche nella musica classica soprattutto dopo gli anni 80.

Invece Soundlines evoca “La via dei canti” (The Songlines), il celebre libro di Bruce Chatwin sulla tradizione orale degli aborigeni Australiani da cui deriva una mappatura del territorio. Per cui il suono come una metafora della pratica artistica che mette al centro della sua attenzione concetti importanti come: identità, la memoria collettiva e personale, anche la memoria del paesaggio, la mobilità, ed il dialogo culturale a livello internazionale. La Linea come il Suono, come confini reali o mentali, anche come elemento formale o concettuale, cioè, le mappe ideali ed il rapporto con il territorio. In maniera analoga a quanto avviene in un’orchestra in cui il suono del Duduk Armeno, si integra perfettamente con gli altri strumenti del resto del mondo. [Mi interessa] Questo rapporto tra il suono ed il suo rapporto con l’identità e la tradizione.

LR: Come hai fatto la scelta degli artisti? Hanno partecipato anche delle istituzioni?

MF: La scelta degli artisti e le opere è stato basato sul tema [della mostra] ed il carattere del progetto che è stato creato per l’Armenia e il pubblico Armeno ed anche internazionale che visiterebbe la mostra nel periodo del Summit dei paesi Francofoni a Yerevan. Praticamente le opere provengono dallo studio degli artisti, dalle loro gallerie rappresentanti, e dalle collezioni e fondazioni privati internazionale. 

LR: Ci sarà un altro ICAE per l’anno prossimo?

MF: Per la realizzazione dell’ICAE 2018 – essendo stato un obiettivo arduo da raggiungere, a causa della complessità del tema e della produzione..è stata davvero una “Mission Impossible”, nel senso che considerata la mole del progetto e degli artisti internazionali invitati, il poco tempo [avuto] e la difficoltà di far approdare il mondo in Armenia, se non fosse stato per la disponibilità di tutti e soprattutto degli artisti, i partner internazionali e locali, e lo sforzo incredibile del team e della organizzazione, sarebbe stato difficile da realizzare, quasi quasi è stato un miracolo.

Ma non sempre si possono fare i miracoli. Per cui se l’obbiettivo da raggiungere sarebbe di inserire Yerevan e l’Armenia nella mappa come destinazione culturale per l’arte contemporanea, questo sarebbe un primo passo ma bisogna soprattutto mantenere una continuità, avere un programma di lungo termine, di creare delle rassegne importanti come Biennale, triennale, le fiere, creare le infrastrutture per i musei, le fondazioni, gli spazi indipendenti e non profit, per gli artisti, le Accademia, eccetera, e metterli in contatto a livello internazionale. Per fare tutto questo ci vuole un programma per raggiungere l’obiettivo, [e] creare sinergie per avere l’impegno e il sostegno da parte del settore pubblico e privato, ed alla fine, non mollare. Continuare, continuare e continuare.

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.

Opening “NOR-DADA” in Venice

by Charlotte Poulain


Prepping

A short three months ago HAYP Pop Up Gallery was contacted by the GAA Foundation, a Dutch non-profit organization that participates yearly in the Venice Biennale with a large-scale collateral exhibit. They wanted us to participate in “Personal Structures: No Borders”, their Venice Biennale 2017 international exhibit of art by emerging and established artists from all over the world.

As you can imagine, we were very excited about the prospect of bringing our nomadic art gallery to Venice.  But the logistics were daunting: we had to come up with a solid concept and  significant funding within a seemingly impossible timeframe. Never the less, we decided to make the leap and seize the opportunity. We selected an artist whom we thought would make a bold statement: someone highly talented, contemporary, whose creative voice would propose a fresh perspective on Armenian contemporary art.

Continue reading

Aaaaand we’re back

by Charlotte Poulain


As you may have noticed, HAYP hasn’t been popping up all that often in 2016. Our first project this year (and biggest to date) was Lips of Pride, a collective exhibit focused on women’s sexuality and societal perceptions of shame in Armenia. We haven’t been idle since: we organized an aerial dancing performance by Marcela Perez at 44 SkyBar in June, as well as a full day workshop with HARTAK festival on how to test your business idea with a pop up.

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At the same time, we’ve been working on several projects that will come to life this fall and next spring. Anna’s also been invited to talk about art and entrepreneurship at AIWA’s 25th anniversary conference in Boston this September (‘cause she’s fabulous). Bostonians may even expect to see a pop up in their neighborhood for the occasion (more details coming soon).

…And now the awesome news is: HAYP Pop Up Gallery is back this summer with a major event this Friday! (Facebook event here)

This time around, we’re working in collaboration with the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA). For those of you who don’t know it yet, the ICA is a Yerevan-based institution that offers art classes, hosts artists in residence, and curates exhibitions. Their venue on Fizkulturnikner street recently underwent renovation, so their Director and Curator Nazareth Karoyan decided a mural was in order, and they commissioned Yerevan-born artist Samvel Saghatelian for the job.

Back in November, we had worked with Samvel to curate a solo exhibit in the secret back room of a vape shop called Misty Fumes. The exhibition was titled “Enter Through the Smoke Shop” and presented Samvel’s “PolitIcal and Personal Protest signs”, a series of graphic sign boards playing with Latin and Armenian letters. Perhaps the most iconic of these works was “LOVE is electric Է”, created by the artist in June 2015 at the time of the Electric Yerevan protest.

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The mural at the ICA is a scaled-up elaboration on that work. Just as this year’s protests have grown in intensity, Samvel Saghatelian’s demand for love has multiplied in scale from hand-held sign board to the entire building facade. Because it deserves to be inaugurated in style, HAYP Pop Up Gallery and the ICA have joined forces to curate the second edition of Samvel Saghatelian’s “Political and Personal Protest Signs”. If you didn’t get to see his works in November for HAYP 5.0, now’s your chance!

Join us for LOVE ICA – is electrIC Again”, the mural’s public inauguration and a HAYP exhibition opening on Friday, August 26 at 7PM, at the ICA (Facebook event here). Wine and music can be enjoyed in the ICA’s garden, and in front of Samvel’s larger than life artwork. Don’t miss out!

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LOCATION:
48 Fizkulturnikner Street (at the end of 5th st in Aygestan district of Yerevan behind Alek Manukyan st).

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