Sunday, 22 March 2015

“Partizan Ballade”, Russian WWII art in Saatchi gallery, London

The exhibition of the legacy of WWII in Russian art - in Saatchi gallery, London - was underwhelming, with very few works on display.

This painting caught my eye: “Partizan Ballade” by Mai Volfovich Dantsig, 1969 [Партизанская Баллада, Май Вольфович Данциг, 1969]

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Istanbul: music bemusement (Armenian? Turkish?)

With a group of Armenian friends (from Armenia and Diaspora), we were passing through this really cool square towards the end of Istiklal avenue in Istanbul, and there was very good vibe there, with mainly young crowd of people seating on the floor, drinking, chatting and singing. Funnily enough, when we reached them, for at least a minute or so, we could not understand if they were singing in Armenian or Turkish. Perhaps, it's a kind of Turkish dialect they were using which has Armenian influences, or music was similar to Armenian, but we were bemused at our confusion and similarities.

"Turkish viagra"

I spotted "Turkish viagra"at one of market stalls in Istanbul.  I was told it's herbal, although not entirely sure what it is made of.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Armenia’s ex-file

This is perhaps my most pessimistic post to date. Brief and hopeless. Hopeless at least re near future prospects for Armenia.

In Minsk, Armenia’s ruling regime effectively conceded what remained of country’s independence to Russia, by formally signing the agreement of accession to the Eurasian Union, and turning Armenia into Russian province.

In the meantime, on the same day, there was this relatively big opposition rally in capital Yerevan, Liberty square. Ironically, some foreign twitter observers and media wrongly labelled it as anti-Eurasian Union accession protest. This assumption could not be more wrong. In fact, leaders of 2 out of 3 parties that called the rally, did everything possible to silence and discourage within their ranks any sizeable movement against Putin sponsored union, with ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan repeatedly using ‘realistic’, fatalistic language, such as “irreversible” and so on for that very purpose.

Instead, ex-president Ter-Petrosyan effectively joined forces with another ex-president Robert Kocharyan, who is behind oligarch Tsarukyan-led Bargavach Hayastan (“Prosperous Armenia”) party, calling for… regime change. To remind, Kocharyan’s years in power remembered for arguably the worst human rights violations in Armenia’s modern history, culminated in 1st March 2008 bloodshed. Not to mention Ter-Petrosyan’s own dubious human rights credentials towards the end of his reign.

What happened on Friday in Yerevan and Minsk was pretty disheartening on different levels, with no light at the end of the tunnel, as long as Putin is in power in Russia, and as long as Armenia’s political scene is occupied by faces from the past. For now, it’s all about the ex-file: backwards to the ex-country and ex-leaders.

[read also: How Armenia ruling regime and Putin’s Russia fooled the EU over Association Agreement and #PUTinOUT - protesters in Armenia say “Putin, you are not welcome”, denounce ruling regime]

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Armine, Sister: Armenia-themed performance by Teatr Zar in London

“The title, Armine, Sister, recalls the first two words of a letter with no clear address, which is doomed to drift around in time and space.”

This was a very unusual Armenia-themed performance combining theatre, dance, music, reflecting the Armenian Genocide from a different angle. It was about memory, about dead souls, about ghosts, the unbearable pain of memory. About witnessing the crime and inaction that made the very crime happened.

This performance could have been a reflection of any such crime, not just the Armenian Genocide, including contemporary massacres and genocides, the ones that are “developing story” right now, in front of our eyes.

Dance acts were so intimate, intense and unsettling that at times pretty difficult to watch. You wanted to turn away, to put a blindfold to cover your eyes, to pretend this is not happening, which was exactly a reflection of what has happened at the beginning of 20th century (and continues nowadays).

Lavash (Armenian flatbread) and pomegranate were organic part of the performance. Performance, that started before it began and continued afterwards.

Audience members were offered to taste lavash after the performance, and to take home a complimentary package of lavash for free. Of course, this lavash did not taste nearly as good as the one you can get in Armenia, but still was a nice touch and yet another connection to Armenia.

Selected extracts from the programme about the project Armine, Sister that is on 2-11 October at Battersea Arts Centre, London:

Armine, Sister refers to the history of the Armenian people in Anatolia and their near-extermination at the beginning of the 20th century. The project enters into the history of Europe’s silence and is a refl­ection on the act and inheritance of witnessing.”

“Rather than focusing on the history of the events of 1915 or the history of the ensuing denial and taboo, Teatr ZAR centres on the history of ignorance that feeds on inaction and leads to inaction on the part of today’s Europeans. On the other hand, the history of ignorance also includes the social story of building an accord of silence around each act of violence. The events in Anatolia in the early 20th century launch us into a wider debate about lessons in “witnessing after witnessing”, which always turn into lessons in identity.”

Armine, Sister not only reveals the history of the Armenian extermination, but also the history of silence and the responsibility for it. ­The work explores what it means to be a witness, and what witnessing means to us today. We cannot and do not want to speak on behalf of Armenians, but we wish our performance to break the chord of silence.”

Monday, 21 July 2014

Istanbul MoMA: photo exhibit with Armenian touch

I will post more pics from this photo exhibit and Istanbul Museum of Modern Art in my upcoming posts, but here is a selection of Armenian-themed photos from the "ON THE ROAD / Images of Turkey from the Nar Photos Archive". I spent more time exploring this exhibit than anywhere else in the museum. Pay attention to the description that accompanied each photo.

*"A citizen of Armenia fixing his car on the way to Yerevan. Situated at the crossroads between Turkey, Armenia and Iran, 5 165 meters high Mount Ararat can be seen from all three countries. Yerevan, Ermenistan, 2008" [Unzipped: Interestingly, in English they use “Mount Ararat”, in Turkish “Agri Dagi”]

*"From the “Horovel” project carried out in villages on the Turkish-Armenian border; interview with Tigranuhi Asatryan, a survivor of 1915. Tigranuhi, who was 100 years old when the interview was conducted, shows a picture of herself when she was young. Gumru, 2010"

*"Ceremony held at the Balikli Armenian Cemetery after the march attended by over 100 000 people following the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink. Istanbul, 2007"

*"The Church of the Virgin Mary, adorned with Easter eggs to celebrate one of the most important days for Christians. It is believed that Jesus Christ was resurrected on this day, which is called Surp Zadik by Armenians. Istanbul, 2007"

Sunday, 27 April 2014

London: Ukraine protest stand against Russian aggression

When reaching Whitehall (government district in London) during the Armenian Genocide Commemorative March on 26 April 2014, I noticed this Ukrainian protest stand against Russian aggression. There was also Gambian protest action there.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Yerevan Diaries: Akanat - art cafe with a difference (“book menu”)

Akanat instantly became one of my most favourite places in Yerevan. It's an art cafe, with cool design, relaxing and friendly atmosphere, interesting crowd. They regularly hold art, literature events there. (see Akanat's Facebook page)

Along with the food/drinks menu, you get the “book menu” too, with a selection of mainly contemporary publications by Armenian and foreign authors. Absolutely loved the idea.

I chose “Կիկոսի վերադարձը” by writer Armen Ohanyan.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Yerevan Diaries: Cinema Star, "family space", film censorship, Lars von Trier and Parajanov

Here we are. Previously announced screening of Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac has been cancelled by Cinema Star (part of recently opened Dalma Garden Mall Western style shopping centre in Yerevan), due to unspecified “complaints by individuals and groups". A day or two ago, I remember seeing this film being referred to as “porno-drama” by some on Armenian Facebook.

This reminded me hysteria and eventual cancellation of gay themed Parada film screening a year or so ago.

Even more outrageous, ridiculous, you name it, was Cinema Star's bullsh*t statement 'justifying' the cancelation of film screening by ‘cinema is a family space’ line.
«Որոշման համար հիմք են հանդիսացել մի շարք քաղաքացիների եւ հասարակական խմբերի բազմաթիվ առարկությունները, որոնք կասկած են հայտնել Հայաստանում մեծ էկրանով ֆիլմի ցուցադրության նպատակահարմարության վերաբերյալ: 2013 թվականին բացվելուց անմիջապես հետո Սինեմա Սթար Դալմա Գարդենը դարձավ «ընտանեկան տարածք» եւ երեւանցիների հանգստի սիրելի վայրերից մեկը: Հաշվի առնելով այդ հանգամանքը` մենք որոշեցինք խուսափել իրավիճակից, երբ ֆիլմի ցուցադրությունը կարող է հակասական կարծիքներ առաջացնել մեր այցելուների մոտ», - ասված է հաղորդագրության մեջ:
Forgetting for a moment such an utter nonsense as cinema calling itself a “family space”… If this was the case (which it is not, of course!), then why on earth did they announce the film's screening in the first place?!

If this is a some kind of “family space” cinema, then one would expect the showcase of only “U” or “PG”, or at the very maximum “12+” rating films there. One would expect. One would be wrong.

The even bigger irony is that this very cinema is currently screening a film that is as far from a “family friendly” notion as it can get - The Wolf of Wall Street, released in the UK under “18+” rating. A picture, still from The Wolf of Wall Street, is currently making rounds on Armenian sector of Facebook, along with abundance of jokes, memes and ridicules towards the Cinema Star and their statement.

But there is more ridiculousness incorporated within the statement. They also mentioned that they wanted avoiding the situation when a film’s screening generates “conflicting opinions” among cinema visitors… What?!… I have now ‘conflicting’ urge to laugh or scream…. Isn’t this the best that any film screening could achieve?!

This is a case of censorship, simple and plain. You better remove Parajanov’s picture from your foyer. You don't deserve such associations. You would have succumb to censorship and censor Parajanov too. Because you are such a coward, or as well known Armenian DJ Vakcina described on her FB page (translit AM): “vaxkot u tssik Cinema Star Armenia !”

Speculations are abound as to who is behind this cancellation. Some say it's the church, but no clear confirmation yet.

So here we are. Yesterday it was Parada, today it is Nymphomaniac… What awaits Armenia tomorrow?… Back to the USSR?… or shall I say forward to the Customs Union?

In this age of internet, don't they realise that censorship won't work in Armenia and will only achieve an opposite effect, generating even more interest about (in this case) the film… Don’t they realise how ridiculous they look now - both those who gave the orders and those who complied with such orders.

In the meantime, while publicly, with such stupid actions some want to present an image of Armenia as some kind of backwards, morality and ‘traditional values’ obsessed nation, word ‘porno’ is on top of most widely searched by Armenians online.

In any case, I will never go to any cinema or venue that supports or gave in to censorship.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Yerevan Diaries: no phallic-shaped Christmas lights but plenty of festive decor and warmth amid freezing temperature

With the “Old New Year” of 13th Jan formally closing down the festive period in Armenia and ex-Soviet states, I will start posting some of my latest Yerevan observations under the Yerevan Diaries label.

This will mainly be a collation of my selected #YerevanDiaries daily tweets @unzippedblog directly from Yerevan, with few more observatory notes or pics.

It was (still is) unusually cold in Yerevan, with the freezing temperature ranging from minus 10 to minus 18 C, but the warmth of family, those precious offline moments with dearest craziest awesome friends in Yerevan made this cutting cold so much more bearable.

So here we are. The first post this year with some of festive pics and Christmas decorations from Yerevan.

There were no phallic-shaped Christmas lights on Abovyan st. in downtown Yerevan [picture circulated on FB was a joke and not taken in Yerevan] but there were plenty of tasteful and tasteless Christmas decorations.

*Candle... or not. All depends on your perception ;)) 

*My favourite Cascade

*Each time I enter Republic sq, the changing lights of the main Christmas tree there turned... blue. I am not kidding. It was pretty hilarious coincidence that became part of talks in the town and my daily routine. No comment, indeed ;))

Happy New Year from Yerevan !! May LOVE rule xxx