- friday, 25 june, a memorable day. in addition to discovering that 7 of my pieces had been stolen, on the way back to bangladesh i jumped onto a mini van and it pulled away as i was still sliding the door closed and my finger got caught in the door. of course i did not know how to scream help! or STOP! in armenian so i just shouted STOP, STOP, at which point women around me saw that my thumb was caught and shouted to the driver so that he understood and did stop. yes, it hurt but i lived to tell.
- monday the 28th:
in the morning i sat in the beginning of presentations that two artists/professors from turkey were giving prior to leading workshops for students at the open university. their presence in yerevan was of great significance, the culmination of the efforts of many and a model of cultural exchange in spite of official party lines. i cannot comment on the workshops as i was not there but there was great interest on the part of the students to have the opportunity to work with these professors. the following week marianne, above, a member of the open university faculty, was off to istanbul for a similar exchange.
above image: woman in center is nermin saybasili, asst. prof. art history, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Conservatory, Beşiktaş – Istanbul – TURKEY. her work includes spectral densities in the networked city
from the arab studies journal (spring 2010), "Reflecting on selections from the 11th Istanbul Biennial, Nermin Saybasili draws out the curators’ explicit Brechtian framework and the transformative power of politically instructive art."(What Keeps Mankind Alive?. 11th International Art Exhibition, Istanbul Biennial. 12 September – 8 November 2009,reviewed by Nermin Saybasili)
image above: 2nd from left, artist/professor dilek winchester
(from http://arteeast.org/pages/generate/?id=114 )
Bio: The Turkish artist Dilek Winchester has studied in London and Berlin, today she lives and works in Istanbul. The moving between places and cultures is reflected in her work. She deals with the noncommittal of national and cultural identities in the face of global networking and geographic flexibility. In the seemingly insignificant, e.g. homemade yoghurt or a randomly said phrase, she detects a sense of belonging and an expression of the innate. Her projects most often are based on the participation of different groups of people, who she brings together through her action. Art serves her as a medium that can establish cultural and social communication and interaction. In Leipzig Dilek Winchester continues her work on the online project Emotional Dictionary wherein she explores the transforming potential of language and its emotional connotation.
i had requested of susanna that she ask armenna to bring in jewelry that she and her students had made to sell (e.g. in THE CLUB restaurant's store) as one of the ways that they earn money while going to university. the pieces were not labeled and i was very happy to learn that i selected a leather necklace designed and made by iness, one of the students who had volunteered to help de-install my exhibit.
image above: i am in the middle showing off my purchases. to my r. is iness, and to my l. is armenna, artist and faculty member who made the leather bracelet that i had just bought.
i went from the open university to the office of "the jewish community", a registered ngo referring to the secular organization within the local jewish community. the link above is a translation of their web site, http://www.jewish.am/. the other organization is affiliated with and run by the chabad, the orthodox synagogue and community projects. [here are two links with info.about the armenian jewish community, i cannot vouch for the editorial content or perspective.]
i sent an e-mail to the chabad rabbi inviting him to visit the gallery to see my exhibit but did not hear back from him. i am not comfortable in an orthodox synagogue with a mechitza (partition to separate the men and the women) and so i did not attend a shabbat service while i was there.
rimma and i had communicated with the help of susanna and then through e-mail using the great (free) but imperfect on line google translator. rimma came to my opening with other members of the community, one of whom spoke a bit of english and a little hebrew. most including rimma speak armenian and russian.
many! members of the community are intermarried. in the JCA office a young woman wearing a cross, and there with her three year old son, whose mother is jewish and lives now in germany and whose brother and grandmother live in israel but whose father feels very christian expressed to me that she feels christian. she also appeared to be close to rimma and absolutely comfortable in the organization's space discussing jewish topics. rimma travels to conferences around the globe and seems to relish her position as spokesperson. arthur topalian has a jewish father, now lives in france and is married to a christian armenian woman but seemed quite at home in the JCA. he spoke some english but unfortunately conversation was very general. the language barriers made it impossible to go into anything in depth. a situation that i came up against often but not always. however i did not feel that topics of a political nature would be something that rimma would particularly want to speak with me about even if we had been able to carry on such a conversation. her organization is funded (MINIMALLY) by the sochnut (the jewish agency in israel) and her public position would of necessity if not of belief be circumspect compared to mine. rimma was gracious and hospitable. we enjoyed armenian coffee and a spread of desserts and spoke about eghegis (the cemetery). rimma was also not shy in sharing with me the need for a sponsor (did i know of anyone in nyc or america?) to purchase office space for the JCA organization and partner in programmatic efforts. funding is an ongoing, difficult challenge.
clearly were i living in yerevan for a prolonged period i would have a better feel for the organization's activities and role in the lives of the members of the jewish community and the region. but the fact that there is a physical presence in addition to the synagogue seems to provide a sense of pride and comfort for the community members who i did meet.
(image above:includes rimma varzhapetyan (feller), chair, JCA, 2nd from left and with cap on arthur topalian, now living in france and married to an armenian christian. arthur's father is jewish)
tuesday evening susanna and i had a delicious and typical (kilikia restaurant) armenian meal -- my first barbecue. while it could be described as touristy with the traditional music played on traditional instruments, i was the only tourist there and the food and service were good. susanna and i had eaten in caucus my first day in yerevan, where the food was very good but the service bad to rude. armenian food is great, especially in the home, and i wanted to leave with the taste of the country fresh in my mouth.
to be continued, including follow-up on the 7 stolen nothers.