(note: the time stamp of all posts and comments on this blog is the time in umm el-fahem, israel)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

july 4th: back at home and catching up, no.1

july 4th, back home and catching up
(for larger images click on image. to return to blog hit back arrow at top of page)

13 june 2010 day trip to eghegis -

(above image of scd 45 minutes outside of the village of eghegis)

as the work in my nothers exhibit is based on material from the medieval jewish cemetery in eghegis a bit about my
june 13th trip to eghegis. susanna arranged for me to travel to eghegis and the surrounding sites by taxi. naver, the driver -- young, eager, inexperienced, non-english-speaking -- and i managed to find our way to the village of eghegis (in vayots dzor province in the south eastern region of armenia, on the bank of the eghegis river which flows into river arpa ) and went directly to the cemetery.

image above: looking down from the parked taxi to the bridge across the river and up to the cemetery

we cautiously descended down a steep incline in the taxi. naver parked his vehicle and we walked down to the bridge across the rapidly flowing river and up (and up) stone steps until we sighted the brightly painted blue metal cemetery gate. being present within the stone walls of the
cemetery gave me a very primeval feeling. only the gate and the flat standing cases with armenian-, russian-, and english-language signage broke the spell of having walked into time past. the site was officially opened to visitors in 2009 after the 2000 - 2003 site excavations. after only a year it is once again overgrown and many of the semi-circular gravestones (dated 1266 - 1396) are covered by thick grasses, weeds, and lovely wild flowers. i had the feeling that there were many more burials than the excavations and now visible gravestones indicated as there was an almost palpable sense of many souls at peace with themselves and their surroundings.

image above: entrance gate to the medieval jewish cemetery, eghegis
image above: when found most of the gravestones were covered with lichen, such as this patch on the stone above. now unseen or undecipherable text on many stones had been destroyed by lichen
image above: (portion of stone wall visible) three gravestones in the eghegis medieval jewish cemetery

images above: examples of a gravestone decorated with still-visible relief sculpture with both jewish and armenian iconography
image above: engraved text in both hebrew and arameic
image above: now i understood why professor stone's driver drives a hummer. with the help of two young men from the village we did manage to get up the incline.

in the cemetery i walked from gravestone to gravestone, placing small stones on each to mark my visit and honor those buried, picked a few wild flowers to dry, and then just sat thinking.

once up the hill we spent the rest of the day driving around the breathtaking landscape
and visited the winery in areni
the 2nd image below is of family members hand labeling the bottles

we then stopped at an army base so that naver could deliver a care package to his "brother" (all young men must serve two years in the armenian army)
our last stop was noravank: the 13th century armenian apostolic church monastery; residence of of orbelian princes and, in the late 13th/early 14th century; and also housed momik, renowned armenian architect, sculptor (*of khachkars, the armenian cross) and a master artist of armenian illuminated manuscripts (link to but one of numerous sites with information about novarank).
to be continued

Sunday, June 20, 2010

the show is hung! 21 june 2010

incredible. the show is up (click on poster image to see larger version).
smokers move outside and under the stairs at naregatsi for their cigarette breaks. in a country where almost everyone smokes everywhere, this was notable.
blown glass entrance door to the naregatsi art institute

the naregatsi art institute is a very active cultural center and the gallery's 4th wall is not enclosed, i.e., facing onto the seating for the musical performances. last night while hanging the installation i was told as the lights were being turned off that there was a 7pm concert. i moved into the office and continued cutting lengths of 12 lb. fishing wire with a young classical pianist performing in the background. while it broke the rhythm of my work it was actually quite lovely.

by 2am i had finished hanging the forms on 6 of the 12 wires each wire across the room short side to short side represents a month.
i had had some help from 4 of susanna's students for a few hours in the afternoon but they each had previous plans so could not stay. beno and ernest had hung the wires from unsecured pipes resting on the type of "L" hook one hangs a plant from in front of a window.
there was an 11:30am concert this morning thus could not begin work until 1pm.
geghecik (one susanna's students and a recent grad who had helped a couple of hours yesterday surprised me by coming in today around 2pm. image below) she stayed until 9pm and her help and problem solving abilities are the reason that i was able to leave tonight around midnight with the show hung.
for a few hours late afternoon we shared the area of the naregatsi with young instrumentalists learning armenian traditional (?folk) music. it was great. in fact
geghecik took video of it as i hung forms but not sure how to get it up on this blog.
the posters are up around town, the bottles of wine bought and movses drove me to the naregatsi with the work yesterday, and in addition to other efforts susanna's facebook page is getting the word out.
image above: nothers poster at the club restaurant, yerevan

i am very excited. below is the brochure (thanks to the support of Thomas Mittnacht, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy in Armenia). click on each page and then use the magnifying glass icon.

o.k. did not want the opening to happen without giving you and idea of what the exhibit is about. but now, to sleep. and as a very large mosquito has been buzzing around me since i got back to the hostel and i have not been able to kill it i cannot wait to jump under my mosquito-netted bottom bunk bed.

hope to share more with you as the week goes on. please also know that while i have been terrible at responding to e-mail i very much appreciate your writing and the news. and while a blog is totally self serving in that it is but a monologue to talk about what is happening in my life, i do care very much about what is going on in your lives.

later, suzi

Monday, June 14, 2010

june 11-14, about art/armenian perspectives

6/14 note: i began writing this post on june 11th
we had a huge as in HUGE thunder, lightening, torrential rain storm last night. since then there has been no internet connection out of bangladesh (the so.-west area of yerevan where I am living).
ART, perspectives that I have encountered:
- about a week and a half ago movses’ friend garineh matsaryan -- not sure of spelling -- came by for coffee (the ceramic studio and more specifically movses avetisyan, the young master ceramicist/teacher whose studio it is, is a magnet for numerous drop in visitors throughout each day and evening. more about that another time). garineh is currently teaching at the secondary school and retooling herself as a graphic artist. she is of movses’ parents generation (i think he is in his late 30s). she told me (later confirmed by others) that she was a famous artist during the soviet times. a painter and performance artist, garineh spoke about how times are so difficult now – for all but especially for artists. she told me matter of factly how during soviet times artists were able to live on what they earned ("...much less, but it took much less to live"). it was impossible to determine if she was speaking wistfully she was so matter-of-fact. she did not address the issue of what kind of art she was expected to create then and able to create now.
unlike grigori, the administrator of the fine arts college i had previously mentioned, my impression was that garineh seemed exhausted: a reluctant teacher and more concerned with the economics of her situation than with the freedom of creativity.

-- last monday in gyumri we (the current ACSL artists-in-residence) were privileged to make presentations of our work to the art institute students who rarely have opportunities to meet with working artists. they packed the room (and waited for us patiently as we were late to get there –time in armenia seems to be an inexact concept – and then eat (service in restaurants is still being honed. individual’s orders are not synchronized. food is brought to the table haphazardly and it appears the kitchen staff and servers assume that the diners have plenty of again time. a remnant of soviet times?)

roger presented in english and russian (I keep forgetting to ask him why, as it is clear that those in their 20s do not know russian, although the school director did and the art historian might). his and jerry’s presentation included a lot of text around the art of intervention. this presented a challenge for susanna (who is very well-versed/teaches cultural studies and theory at the open university) to translate quickly and basically for students to whom this is entirely new material. asheer akram and i presented our work, installations and sculpture, that challenged the students as well as the work presented unfamiliar perspectives on social and political issues. The most energetic reaction from the students was to a piece of asheer’s created for a group exhibit “war and religion" the crescent of islam (pg.14, item L68-161). he explained that this was not meant as opinion but as something to think about, an explanation they seemed reluctant to accept.

the art historian (field of concentration 20th century art) initiated a conversation with me after the session. she wanted me to understand that armenians do not accept art as a way to think about societal problems but she hopes that changes.
unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to see the students’ art. we spent an hour walking around the old part of the city – the charm and interest of the architecture along with larger soviet-era structures still evident -- that had been severely impacted by the 1988 earthquake. It appears that it individual structures are now being repaired and renovated by people who can afford to do so and the area will slowly become an upscale gentrified section of the city.

gentrification in yerevan is the art as intervention issue that roger, jerry and their team of three open university students: gohan, vahe and david, are working on with local grass-roots activists who as it happened had hung an SOS sign from their building. the issue is the paltry sum that was paid to the former inhabitants of center city buildings who were forced to move so that high rise buildings could be (were) built. The former residents could not, of course, afford to purchase apartments where they had formerly lived. the current residents in this building on north street are afraid that
the same thing is about to happen to them. their building is the only old building that remains standing on what is now a pedestrian mall. the rest of the street is filled with built but basically empty or partially completed luxury buildings that it had been thought diaspora armenians would purchase. the ground floor storefronts are either very! expensive boutiques recognizable throughout the western world or are empty. - back in Yerevan, still about art
i had a good, very interesting meeting with seda stepanyan, a smart editor/reporter for the (now web site, formerly print weekly) ARMENIAN REPORTER, having contacted them before I left the states and delighted that seda then contacted me soon after my arrival. after the interview seda wanted to show me a piece of public art – a sculpture of the composer arno babayanian (1921-1983) – that had caused a scandal in the municipality and to this day is a great annoyance for many. seda described the soviet influenced sculptures that dot the city as states where one head can be cut off and replaced with another and it will make no difference. the very large statue distorts the composer’s facial features, hands and fingers. he is sitting at an elongated piano where the heavy marble almost seems weightless as floats above the ground, rsting on one fat leg. it is a wonderful piece. a piece that emotes and allows the viewer to go beyond the media and into the heart and mind of the composer and his music. The head of the municipality and the members of the art committee held their ground and did not remove the piece but time will demonstrate the impact of the public uproar on future commissions for public art.
i am interested to see the work that will be shown in the september 2010 gyumri biennial. there is clearly a small cadre of artists in armenia plugged into the global community of contemporary artists in spite of a reluctant public audience. but whether this remains a mostly underground movement is not clear.
once my show is hung I will have the opportunity to visit the museums and galleries and develop a greater awareness of contemporary art taking its place among the traditional, modern and folk art that becomes accustomed to seeing throughout armenia.

i did have an opportunity today to stop by the open university. i took a photo of susanna sitting beneath a piece by one of the current students. and with that image i will end this posting.

Monday, June 7, 2010

continuing at last, monday night, 7 june 2010

hello! since last i wrote i have basically been at work 12 hour days in the ceramic studio. YEA!*!* for yesterday, sunday, i reached my goal of making 400 multiples for my installation.

there is still much work to be done, but now it feels doable. the first 200 have been fired, and if dry the rest will be fired this thursday evening.

great news to share: last monday, may 31st, i took half a day away from the studio to meet susanna at the naregatsi art institute. she had arranged an appointment with levon eskenian, director of musical programs and also responsible for bringing visual art opportunities to the members of the visual arts committee. naregatsi is a terrific space that presents very interesting cultural programming. recently susanna and levon collaborated to present ACSL artist in residence, italian/swiss composer willy merz, in a discussion about and a short program of new music. the naregatsi center's programming to date has leaned heavily towards the presentation of traditional material and art and this foot into contemporary music generated a lot of interest and was very well received.

it appears that my exhibit will be the naregatsi gallery's first exhibit of conceptual art/installation art. this new work is a visual interpretation based on:
- the material from the excavation site reports (professor michael stone of hebrew university, jerusalem) of the medieval jewish cemetery "discovered" in eghegis, armenia (1999) and research that i did on medieval jewish communities (particularly women and children)
- the fact that armenians have been the OTHER in the diaspora and the issue of relationships with (& attitudes about) the OTHER in armenia today.

the installation, titled "nothers", comfortably fits the sensibility of the venue. for as stated on their web site, it is
the nageratsi institute's belief that "the arts reflect the past, enrich the present, and imagine the future".

today we visited the art institute in gyumri (more on this later) and tomorrow it is back to sanding. thursday and friday we are off to the disputed area of nagorno-karabakh (yes, we got our visas) hosted by the nageratsi art institute shushi branch, and sunday i will visit the site in eghegis.