“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

FUNDUK Week: At a glance

HAYP 12 12 12 Retrospective started off with a bang at opening night last Wednesday, December 12. Diverse installations animated twenty two different booths across the third floor of the Armenia Market – a former resale point that is currently used as storage. HAYP 12 12 12 is all about exploration and discovery, where more than 25 artists have created immersive experiences that evoke the feelings one might encounter while traveling.

Works like those of Arash Azadi, Ani Qananyan and Mary Moon explore urbanity through abstracted cityscapes.

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Mary Moon, installation, 2018

 

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Ani Qananyan, Untitled installation with ceramic and neon light.

 

Installations by Aramazt Kalayjian, Gorod Ustinov, and Vahram Galstyan offer the viewer opportunities for meditation and reflection using nostalgia and poetry as key elements for contemplation on our past and present.

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Aramazt Kalayjian, Installation with windows and Haikus, 2014-2018

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Vahram Galstyan, Lvacveq (լվացվեք), ceramic installation, 1999-2018

The journey continues from internal contemplation to that of fantasy and wild imagination in the installations by Narek Barseghyan, Lvis Mejia, Samvel Saghatelian and Radio EVN. Playing with light, projection, and sound, and dominated by a cool color palette, the very different yet interconnected works invite us to explore alien worlds: unknown places, beings, and meetings. Opening night featured the particularly eery run-in with Narek Barseghyan’s “monster”, a masked performer seeking human connection with an open hand (and chair).

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Performance by Narek Barseghyan, “Monsters – Rot 54”, 2018

 

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Samvel Saghatelian, “Homo Communication – The Hole”, installation and performance (2017 – 2018)

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RADIO EVN, HIGH-astan, immersive audio-visual installation, 2018

Lastly, the exhibition takes us to the square; the central meeting point (or crossroads) of the Caravanserai, which offers an opportunity to exchange – whether physical objects at Lea Frohlicher’s “In exchange for” interactive installation, or intimate moments over a cup of coffee at “If Walls Could See”, an installation by Armenuhi Yeghanyan with performance/action by Aramazt Kalayjian who will gladly read your coffee cup fortune from 16:00 – 21:00 daily. A word of caution, Aramazt is in high demand and people have been queuing up all week, so come early and with patience please!

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Aramazt Kalayajian, Performative action with coffee cups, reading, and Haikus

Other works within the Caravanserai courtyard are installations by Vardan Harutyunyan, Gayane Yerkanyan, and Sona Manukyan who propose alternate ways of seeing, perceiving, and understanding our identity. As happens at a journey’s end, we become slightly different people, shaped by our travels and those we crossed along the way. Added to the mix from December 21-23 will be “Oda[r]isque” an interactive performance by Aram Atamian exploring Armenian identity and experiences of auto-exoticization.

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Also in the square, or better known at HAYP 12 12 12 as the “Theatre of Ideas”, will be various performance, discussion, and workshops within the framework of FUNDUK Week. It kicked off on Opening Night with a contemporary dance performance by MIHR Theatre and Tiezerk Band.

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Performance by MIHR Theatre

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Performance by MIHR theatre

On Friday December 14,  we featured a live set by Radio EVN who transformed the square with an audio-visual experience called “HIGH-աստան (-astan)”. On Saturday evening, Berlin-based visiting artist Lvis Mejia performed a meditative set to an intimate audience, featuring sound samplings and field recordings from his own travels around the world.

48364211_2073204639431232_5302280965366743040_n copy.jpgAnd over the weekend, MIHR Theatre lead several groups on a sound walk entitled “A Journey to Nowhere”, which invited participants to explore the gallery space from a different perspective. Missed it? Don’t worry, there will be more sessions this weekend so don’t forget to sign up! The experience is in Armenian language.

Also happening this week:

  • “Where is Home” a performative workshop facilitated by Sonya Armaghanyan of EVN Community Theatre. More info here
  • Discussion & Presentation with Justin Grotelueschen, MEGAPOLIS Audio Festival founder and curator on “Pop Up festivals, radio & media art”
  • More Sound Walks with MIHR Theatre’s “A journey to nowhere”. More info here
  • Live silk-screening with Visual Gap Gallery
  • “The tongue stuck in my jaw”, Contemporary dance performance written, choreographed and performed by Hasmik Tangyan. More here.

It’s a lot to take in, and we don’t expect you to remember it all, but you don’t have to! Check out (and download) the full program of events here:

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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.

HAYP Pop Up’s Guide to the Armenia Art Fair: Practical tips & Info

After several weeks of (peaceful) protests, blocked roads, and halted infrastructure that left us all wondering whether indeed the Armenia Art Fair was going to happen, we are excited to be a part of its much anticipated launch this weekend at the Yerevan Expo center from May 11-13.

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While Armenia has a legacy of international contemporary art exhibitions – from the reputed Gyumri Art Biennale (from 1998 to 2012), to on-going projects at Armenia’s Center for Experimental Art (locally referred to as “NPAK” under its Armenian acronym), to last year’s 2017 STANDART Triennial of Contemporary Art- this marks Armenia’s first international commercial art fair. Although HAYP Pop Up Gallery is not your standard gallery (we operate as an N.G.O. with community projects versus an LLC), part of our mission is to stimulate and uplift the local contemporary art scene, and we believe that this is a significant step towards laying the groundwork for a much-needed Art Market in Armenia.

As a pop up gallery that lives on the margins of cultural institutions, comercial galleries, and the public and private space, together with the Armenia Art Fair organizing team, we decided to participate through a collateral project within the grounds of the Expo in an unused space at the Mergelian Institute (across from the Expo Center). But more about our project later, first, let’s take a look at what to expect at this year’s Armenia Art Fair, and some useful tips on how to get there, how to avoid “museum fatigue”, and where to eat.

Who and what is at the Art Fair?

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The main motor behind the Art Fair is a team of four, including Founding Director Nina Festekjian, Co-founding Director Zara Ouzounian-Halpin, Curator Eva Khachatrian, and Communications Lead Sarah Watterson. An extended team of graphic designers, and program and exhibitions coordinators are also part of the magic.

Exhibitors include galleries, curatorial projects, and independent contemporary artists, mostly from Armenia but also from the UK, Belarus, the UAE, and Russia. As the first edition of an Art Fair in a country that, let’s face it, doesn’t have an art market (1), perhaps the most interesting component to the project is the Open Space section, the concept child of Eva Khatchatrian.

“This section is what pulled me to the Art Fair, my background is in experimental curatorial projects more than commercial galleries,” Eva told us. “The idea is to show a diverse face of Armenian contemporary art by including artists who were active in the 90s as well as emerging artists. The Open Space will create a dialogue between the two”.

Though the Art Fair’s program of events is not extensive, we are expecting some interesting content.

The Program:

Friday, May 11:
7pm Private Viewing (by invitation only)
8:30pm Performance: by Swiss artist Christian Zehnder in the framework of the Aré Performance Festival  

Saturday, May 12:
2pm Public opening
6-7pm “Transliterative Tease”: a Performance Lecture by “Slavs and Tatars”
8pm HAYP Pop Up Gallery: Opening of “Narek Barseghyan: The Leather Show”, an exhibition and fashion performance

Sunday, May 13:
6-8pm Night Owl Round Table Discussion and Q&A
Topic: “Shifting Perspectives on Art from Local to Global: The Contemporary Image Maker”
Speakers: A discussion with curators and critics Susanna Gyulamiryan (ACSL), Nazareth Karoyan (ICA), and visiting curator and writer George Schoellhammer. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Randall Rhodes (AUA).

What we’re excited about (besides our own opening, of course)

“Transliterative Tease” by “Slavs and Tatars”. Slavs and Tatars is an artist collective whose main activities include exhibitions, performance-lectures, and books. They define themselves as Eurasian, somewhere between “East of the Berlin wall and West of the Great Wall of China”. Common themes in their work concern semantics, cultural transliteration (in their words, “the younger, trashier sibling to translation”), and issues of identity politics and appropriation (of sounds, language, meaning). We won’t go too much into the details of their performance work in order to save you the treat on Saturday evening, but their use of subtle humour to slowly reel the viewer into an absurd world is seductive and hilarious.

Our Recommendation: How to spend your Saturday

Take into consideration your capacity to look at art when planning your visit, i.e. how long can you be in an exhibition space before you get museum fatigue (you know what we’re talking about, right?). If you want to make a day of it and skip the crowds, then we recommend coming right at the Art Fair opening around 2pm. This will give you plenty of time to visit the Art Fair at the Expo Center, including the galleries and Open Space, and break for a late lunch (early dinner) before attending the evening events from 6-9pm. Alternatively, if you want a half-day of events, consider coming around 4pm, which gives you about 2 hours to visit the Art Fair and maybe grab a coffee in the courtyard.

Don’t miss the 6pm Performance Lecture by “Slavs and Tatars”, before heading over at 7:30-8-ish to the other side of the courtyard to HAYP Pop Up Gallery. On the 7th floor of Mergelian Institute’s central building, HAYP has temporarily transformed an unfinished space into a gallery for a more alternative, “street”, fashion-meets-art project: “Narek Barseghyan: The Leather Show”. The Leather Show is a solo exhibit of some truly amazing works on canvas by emerging artist Narek Barseghyan, and a fashion-performance starting at 8pm of the Leather Show Collection produced during our 10 day fashion workshop where designers Narek Jhangiryan, Tatev Khachatryan, and Sarko Meené collaborated with our visual artist to create a unique 90s inspired high-low collection. Performance, live set, and light beverages will be served. Not to be missed! NOTE: Because our event starts after working hours for the Mergelian Institute, security requires you to sign-up on our Event-brite for a FREE ticket and registration (sign-up here)! Please don’t forget, bring your printed ticket, or just show the image on your phone at the entrance. If you have a printed invitation then you’re all set.

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Where is the Expo and how do I get there?

The Yerevan Expo is a recently built exhibition center (2014) located within the courtyard of the Mergelian Institute Complex. The Institute was originally built in 1956 and operated as Yerevan’s Computer Research and Development Institute. The institute was famous for housing the first ever computer, and while it no longer functions on the cutting-edge of computer technology, it is still an active Tech Cluster housing multiple office spaces and start-up organizations.

Fun Art Fact: Check out Armenian modernist Yervand Kochar’s “Muse of Cybernetics” from 1972, a copper sculpture dedicated to the institute that has lived in the courtyard since 1973.

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Yervand Kochar, Cybernetic Muse. Photo credits: pinterest

Getting there by Taxi:

Tell your taxi driver you’re going to the “Mergelian Institute”, most drivers know the institute, but are not aware of the Expo Center since it’s still pretty new. You can always give the exact address: 3 Hakob Hakobyan street.

Getting there by Metro:

The Mergelian Institute is a 5 minute walk from the Barekamutyun Metro Station (Friends Station). Barekamutyun is the last stop on the metro line after the Baghramyan stop. When you leave the metro platform, the escalators take you to an underground market where you can find just about anything (from cheap shoes, to funky eyewear and even popcorn, shawarma and horrible wigs). It’s a circular market located under a main intersection, which means there are several exits which can be confusing if you’re not familiar with this stop. Make sure to exit at the H. HAKOBYAN STREET (Հ. ՀԱԿՈԲՅԱՆ) exit. Word of caution, the exits are listed in Armenian language only. From there, walk up Hakobyan street about 3 blocks until you get to the Mergelian Institute on the left hand side of the street. You can’t miss it, it’s the tallest building on the block. HAYP Pop Up Gallery is located on the 7th floor of this building from May 12-22. It looks like this:

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Mergelian Institute, 3 Hakob Hakobyan Street.

To get to the Expo Center, walk through the main doors of the Central Mergelian Institute Building, cross the courtyard (where you’ll see a pool, randomly) and enter the Expo Pavilion. The Expo Center looks like this:

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Yerevan Expo Center in the courtyard of the Mergelian Institute

Here’s a map to clear things up!

mergelian institute_map

Where to eat?

The Expo Center has a small cafe near the main entrance, as well as a little hidden coffee stand in the courtyard garden, and a buffet-style lunch spot called Art Lunch near the main entrance of the Mergelian Institute. The food is good, cheap, and they have wifi, but it gets crowded at lunchtime in particular during office hours. If you want some real eats nearby, about a 5-10 minute walking distance from the Mergelian Complex, we have two main recommendations. Neither of them are “luxurious” in terms of interiors, but the food is consistently good and you can eat it there or get it “to-go” (տանելու “tan-eh-loo”, in Armenian).

Tasty Syrian Food at Jaco’s:

38 Gulbenkyan Street
https://goo.gl/maps/fa195pPndGG2

Jaco’s has a strange design layout, but plenty of seating both inside and outside on their terrace. The menu is a typical middle eastern menu with an assortment of Mediterranean appetizers (hummus, mutabal, tabulé, etc.) as well as tasty main dishes from skewered barbecue meats (Shish Tawuk and Kebabs) to stewed vegetables and more. They also have an extensive Hookah (or Nargile) menu, which can be a bother if you’re not into that and would like to eat in a non-smokey environment. Having said that, most restaurants in Armenia are smoking… a good solution to this problem is a table outside at their terrace.

Homemade Local Food at “Arevelyan (Eastern) Cuisine”:

16 Komitas Avenue
https://goo.gl/maps/2iKUtqAGeam

Arevelyan has an extensive menu of local dishes, from typical Eastern Armenian salads and soups (with sorrel or yogurt), to various meat dishes. If you want something quick, their savory pastries are good. Their “Khatchapouri” (or Eastern cheese-stuffed “boreg”) is simple but tasty.

That’s all we have for you today!

Join us this weekend, May 11-13, at the Armenia Art Fair, and make sure you get your tickets to HAYP Pop Up Gallery presents, “Narek Barseghyan: The Leather Show” on eventbrite here. 

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FOOTNOTES:

(1) We are speaking from experience when it comes to the local art market, but don’t just take it from us, UNESCO’s recent research shows that among the various cultural sectors in Armenia, the visual arts contributes only .2% of the national GDP, placing sixth most lucrative after 1) Audio-visual and interactive media, 2) Art Performances & Celebrations, 3) Literature, 4) Design, and 5) Natural Heritage (in order of GDP contribution). We have a long-way ahead towards paving the wave to healthy art market, let’s get to work!

 

 

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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CETI Lab: ARTiculating frameworks for communication

by Anna K. Gargarian, Curator “CETI Lab”

September 2017 is an important marker in the history of space exploration: exactly forty years since the Voyager 1 was sent into space, forty-six years since a group of nobel prize winning scientists gathered at Byurakan to discuss communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence (CETI), and seventy years since Victor Ambartsumian discovered stellar associations.

Ambartsumian’s breakthrough transformed our understanding of the life of stars, and marked the beginning of the intellectual community that is the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO). It was Ambartsumian’s reputation, in combination with the unique environment of BAO, that lead scientists Carl Sagan and I.E. Shklovskii to propose Byurakan as the location for the 1971 CETI conference (1). During the peak of the cold war, scientists from the USSR and the US came together for four days to discuss the challenges of communicating with intelligent life beyond our planet. The conference addressed questions of language, knowledge representation, transmission, reception, as well as philosophical concerns of free will, perception, and the consequences of successful communication. The information gathered during this conference was part of Sagan and Shklovksii’s decade-long collaborative research that informed the content of space missions like the Pioneer 10 in 1972, and Voyagers 1 and 2 in 1977 (2).

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The 1971 CETI conference participants standing in front of the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory’s conference hall.

 

It is within this context that HAYP Pop Up Gallery exhibits “CETI Lab: HAYP at BAO”, a multi-location collective exhibit that invites artists and scientists to imagine communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence. From September 16-27, 2017, the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO) and the Herouni Radio-Optic Telescope in Orgov, Armenia will be transformed with site-specific installations by a diverse group of artists. 

Like the scientists before them, the artists are concerned with frameworks for representing, expressing, and accessing information. Contextualizing a question is at the heart of all problem-solving, whether from an epistemological (3), scientific, or curatorial perspective. It is for this reason that the 1971 CETI conference organizers shaped their discussion around the Drake Equation, a proposed formula for estimating the likelihood of communicating civilizations beyond our planet. While the equation was criticized for being more conjectural than scientific, its concern was not with accuracy but rather offered a framework for structuring the conversation (4). Similarly, the exhibition does not present one unified perspective, but rather proposes a structured set of contexts for approaching the question of communication. Through this diverse net of projects by writers, musicians, sculptors, photographers, and architects, we intend to portray a feeling for the paradigm of communication through an expressive language that uses metaphor as a formalism for understanding (5).

This brings us to our second concern, which is the question of language. Among the 1971 conference participants were linguists, anthropologists, and artificial intelligence experts who shared a common interest in finding the appropriate expressive language for representing cognitive theory. They discussed the possibilities of using binary, computer, or image-based languages, and struggled with the fact that language evokes ideas that extend beyond the subject at hand and refers to cultural perceptions that are not universal(6). Through metaphor, we hope to explore the conditions that frame communication and “help us understand references, reasons, motivation, and purpose not explicitly stated”(7). These conditions include self-consciousness, as seen in the installation by Sona Manukyan and the poetry of Arto Vaun. They include our awareness of our limitations in time and space as in the sculptural works of Manan Torosian and Samvel Saghatelian. In Vardan VHSound’s “Communication Machine”, the artist is concerned with representing not only knowledge, but also sensorial experience through an acoustic map of our environment. Artist Karen Mirzoyan explores the potentially dangerous consequences of successful communication through an apocalyptic “intergalactic war” series.

The exhibition is aware of the dangers of metaphor, which although a useful tool for understanding, is often scientifically inaccurate(8). But these inaccuracies, or rather absurdities of logic, are also at the core of this exhibition. Gaps in commonsense reasoning like trying to conceive of communicating with an “other” whose existence is still unknown, or like building a radio-optic telescope that was never actually used (9). Even sending devices into space as “time-capsules” of planet earth that may only reach another life-form long after human extinction on planet Earth. Science, like art, has been revolutionized by “absurd” ideas. While many of the exhibited works incorporate an element of humor, Lvis Mejía’s installation piece in Orgov subtly comments on the irony of a radio-optic telescope made to record sounds from space, by manipulating its shape in order to provide the observer with audio feedback defined by the observer him/herself.

Communication, like humor and the creative process, is ultimately born from a social context. Although there are great differences in the ways that artists and scientists approach universal concerns of existence, self-consciousness, and life beyond our planet, we hope to draw parallels on our collective interest for understanding and creatively manipulating our human limitations (10).

While the Voyagers serve as interstellar time-capsules of human knowledge and culture, “CETI Lab: HAYP at BAO” has explored a much closer time-capsule which is the unique environment of the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory. Like the scientists of the ’71 CETI conference, our ’17 CETI Lab artists have immersed themselves in the unique environment of the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory in order to explore its culture, history, and the multi-layered dynamics of a still vibrant community of thinkers in order to address the underlying question:

“Before we ask how aliens communicate, we ought to ask how humans can.”
-Marvin Minsky (11)

The Artworks of “CETI Lab: HAYP at BAO”:

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Footnotes:

  1. According to Shklovskii, the original conference location was to be in Czechoslovakia, but this decision was changed after the tensions of the Warsaw Pact Invasion in 1968. Shklovskii states in his memoir that Byurakan seemed an opportune choice because of his ties to Ambartsumian and the “blinding beauty” (Ослепительная красота) of the view of Mount Ararat. (Шкловский, 110)
  2. From 1961 to 1967 Sagan and Shklovskii co-authored the book Intelligent Life in the Universe. The collaboration started as a translation exchange, in which Sagan translated from Shklovskii’s original text, but evolved into co-authorship as Sagan amended significant sections of the book. The book was fully written long distance via paper mail. Sagan and Shklovskii didn’t meet until the 1971 CETI conference in Byurakan, as Shklovskii wasn’t allowed to leave the USSR. (See Spangenburg, 68).
  3. The idea of “frameworks” was first developed by Minsky in 1975 within the artificial intelligence context as a way of conceiving of knowledge in structured units. Papert and Goldstein elaborated on frame theory in 1977 within the epistemological context to discuss “knowledge frameworks” as a theory on contexts, their relationship to language, and consequently understanding (Goldstein, 93-96).
  4. The Drake Equation was a probabilistic argument on the number of intelligent communicative civilizations beyond our planet. According to Sagan, the Drake equation was chosen for the conference structure (vs other equations on the same subject) because it was the original and simplest one (Каплана, 12)
  5. In Goldstein and Papert (1977) the authors speak of metaphor as a tool for “debugging” and self-learning. In the context of humor, Minsky (1980) sees metaphor as a powerful thought tool to apply previous knowledge and experience to new problems. Metaphor is essentially one of our most effective ways for representing and understanding the world around us.
  6. Goldstein & Papert, 96
  7. Goldstein & Papert, 101
  8. Minsky (1980)
  9. I am making reference to the Herouni Radio-Optic Telescope in Orgov, Armenia (one of the locations of our exhibit). Although the telescope was used for observing stars and planets, it never fulfilled its primary intended function: to capture radio signals from space. It is important to note that there is little objective research published about this telescope whose history, purpose, and engineering remains an interesting point for further research and development.
  10. For Mayakovsky, poetry (like all art) should be born from a “social command” (Mayakovsky, 18). There are interesting parallels between the creative process of Mayakovsky (as described in “How are verses made?”), and man’s challenge of communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence as defined by Minsky in his 1985 essay. Both identify material, space, and time as man’s constraints to be manipulated for effective understanding of our social environment and thinking processes.
  11. Minsky, 1985. p 9. It’s interesting to note that Ambartsumian makes a similar reference in the 1971 conference catalogue recalling: “Professor Shklovsky was right when he told me, before we can solve the problem of communicating with extraterrestrial civilizations, it would be nice to establish contact regarding this question with other countries, and that’s exactly the aim of this conference.” Paraphrased from Russian original text in Каплана, p11.

WORKS CITED

Goldstein, I. and Papert, S. (1977), Artificial Intelligence, Language, and the Study of Knowledge*,†. Cognitive Science, 1: 84–123. doi:10.1207/s15516709cog0101_5

Mayakovsky, Vladimir. How are verses made?. Translation from original (1926). Cape ed., London, Grossman Publishers, 1970, reprinted 1974.


Minsky, Marvin “Communication with Alien Intelligence.” Regis, Edward, ed. Extraterrestrials: Science and Alien Intelligence. Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Minsky, Marvin, “Jokes and their Relation to the Cognitive Unconscious.” In Cognitive Constraints on Communication, Vaina and Hintikka (eds.) Reidel, 1981. A.I. memo NO: 603, November 1980. Accessed Aug 16 2017.

https://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/papers/jokes.cognitive.txt

Minsky, Marvin “What to transmit, and what one might expect to receive” (notes, Byurakan, Armenia, Sept 7 1971), 1-11. Use courtesy of the Minsky Family.


“NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Still Reaching for the Stars After 40 Years.” NASA, NASA, 1 Aug. 2017, http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-voyager-spacecraft-still-reaching-for-the-stars-after-40-years. Accessed 3 Sept. 2017.

Проблема CETI (связь с внеземными цивилизациями), ред. С.А. Каплана, – Издательство “Мир”, – Москва, 1975, 349 с.

Spangenburg, Ray, and Diane Moser. Carl Sagan: a biography. Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 2004.

Шкловский И. С. Эшелон. Невыдуманные рассказы. — М.: «Новости», 1991. — 222 с.

The soviet-era conference on communicating with aliens

by Charlotte Poulain


Forty-six years ago, in the midst of the Cold War, 44 scientists from the USSR and the United States gathered at the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory in Armenia. Each scientist had impeccable credentials, most of them were well-known in their field, and three were Nobel-Prize winners. The theme of the conference? Communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence.

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CALL TO PERFORMERS/Կոչ մասնակիցներին

հայերենի տեքստը ստորև ն է գտնվում

Dear artists, storytellers, musicians and performers,

HAYP Pop Up Gallery will be back in Gyumri this fall, from November 18 to 28. Our project “New Illuminations” has three different components: interviews (on-going), a workshop (nov 5-8), and an exhibition (nov 18-28).

We are a pop-up gallery, which means the gallery space will only be open for 10 days (after that, we will be gone… until our next project). We believe that performance art allows people to engage with the visual arts in new and exciting ways. That’s why we want to host events during the exhibit, and we want you to be involved!

If you have a cool concept, it’s your turn to shine!

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