Armenia: 3 screenings
Naregatsi Institute, Yerevan 8.7.2014
Naregatsi is a philanthropic non-profit organization pursuing the preservation and promotion of Armenian cultural heritage www.naregatsi.org/ The Institute was an excellent venue for presenting film and video in Yerevan. My thanks to events manager Victoria and programme director Eka for their warm welcome and to the Naregatsi photographer who documented the first screening.
The theatre/cinema boasts a brand new screen and a rather old projector (HDMI will follow soon). Following Victoria Antabian’s initial introduction Mkrtich Tonoyan translated my synopsis of the Difference Screen project to an audience of 25 people including film critics Artsvi Bakhchinyan and Siranush Galstyan. Four young women film critics sat in the front row very engaged with the programme albeit with a limited understanding of English. Russian and Armenian are the commonly used languages in Armenia with English peripheral at best.
With Mkrtich as translator I was able to expand on the films during a short interval.
Arpine Tokmajyan’s A 3000 times walked way opened the second part of the programme. The work records a walk through Yerevan made almost every day from her apartment to studio over 10 years, a walk that became second nature and about which Arpi observes “On the one hand it became a part of me, while on the other it became invisible.”
Arpine joined Mkrtich and myself in the concluding discussion.
The following day Mkrtich and I made an early start to Gyumri, Armenia’s 2nd city devastated in the December 1988 earthquake. We arrived at the Berlin Hotel, which was originally built as a hospital. Today it provides accommodation and functions as an arts centre while providing hospital services in a separate wing. Mkrtich invited me to join him for a meeting at the City Research Center www.cityresearch.org/ who are beginning a cultural mapping of Gyumri to explore situations for research and creative engagement. In recent years Gyumri has been awarded world heritage status. Alexandrapol, Leninakan, Gyumri – names that reflect eras. Yerevan was still a village when Alexandrapol (Gurdjieff’s birthplace) was a thriving commercial city. Located beside the closed Turkish border the city has lost its trade routes.
State Art Academy, Gyumri 10.7.2014
10 years after the earthquake Vazgen Tadevosyan, Azat Sargsyan and others staged the 1st Gyumri International Biennale of Contemporary Art, an affirmative event designed to bring art and culture back to the broken city. The Gyumri Biennale has endured and this year Difference Screen was presented at the State Art Academy within the frame of the 9th Biennale.
About 40 people, students, lecturers and others, attended the screening at the impressive Academy theatre. Ben and I were concerned at the length of the proposed 1- 4pm programme. We need not have worried, some people left during the interval but many stayed until 5pm. We recorded a radio interview and enjoyed a lively Q/A discussion. Afterwards we joined Academy Director M. Ghukasyan in his office, who was interested to discuss contemporary art issues in Britain. The director hoped there would be a chance to work together in the future.
Naregatsi Institute, Yerevan 11.7.2014
Our 2nd screening at Naregatsi took place on a hot Friday evening with other exhibition openings competing for attention. Around 15 people attended a revised programme with less English language. Our original programme ended with Cordelia Swann’s Desert Rose a film I felt would have been difficult for many. Once again the audience was very appreciative of the films they saw.
My sincere thanks to Arpine Tokmajyan and Hratch for their hospitality and to Mkrtich Tonoyan for organising three screenings at short notice. Mkrtich is a co-founder and president of Akos, and founder of the Artist residency program ACOSS www.acoss.org/
Ararat from Yerevan through the haze of 37C
Beyond Mount Aragats the road to Tbilisi via Vanadzor passes frequent encampments of beekeepers and their hives testifying to the richness of flora at this time of year, a beautiful moment to drive through this magnificent rugged landscape. Arriving at the border I presented my passport with the following message written in English and Armenian.
“The passport accidentally appeared in a washing machine after being washed with clothes. It has since been checked, verified and cleared by the passport and visa office at Zvartnots Airport, Yerevan and by passport control. Entry to Armenia is date stamped in pink 07.07.2014 at the bottom of the 6th page of the passport.” Examining the more or less illegible pink smudge, the official consulted others before waving me through with a smile.
The journey continues…