- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 May 2, 2003 

Art in the Eyes of the Creators: "Antifreeze" not such a hot exhibition

Exhibit patrons discuss the newly installed collection at CCEA.

Red cloths with English inscriptions on them hanging from the ceiling are the first objects seen, entering the Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (CCEA) where on April 26 an exhibition of youth art opened.

"It's street art," explains, Nata, the creator of the cloths. "If visitors don't understand English then at least they will understand the words 'I'm an artist'."

The exhibit is called "Antifreeze" and the widespread use of English in the art suggests the artists aren't aiming for an Armenian audience as much as for Western assimilation.

"The exhibition's stress falls upon communication," says organizer Vahram Aghasyan. "Antifreeze is added to a car's water not to let it freeze and make the engine work. The art is a sort of antifreeze. It doesn't let the culture freeze and the culture, in its turn, is an engine of society and it doesn't let society hang about. The subject was developed exactly that way. And it is another question to what extent it found response in authors' minds."

The question was answered with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Few of the exhibited works had any connection to Armenian reality and few of them had any communication with Armenian audience. Gas masks, one placed on the edge of one installation, and another on an antiwar image amateurishly portrayed on the canvas, where faces of Bush and bin Laden were crossed out crosswise with different symbols, were attempts to reflect concerns of Western society.

"Violenc fedr" video representation of girls rolling over was more the author's unsuccessful attempt to show that he is against rape.

The first object one could see when entering the CCEA.

The exhibition could be considered a reflection of the illusion of Armenian youngsters that in their isolated country they breathe the same air with Western youngsters and that they live through the same problems.

It seemed that antiwar images (which lacked any representation of an Armenian public figure) were brought to the exhibition from a completely different place and that they tried to reflect the atmosphere of antiwar demonstrations of Western cities. But the images did not include any Armenian-related demonstrations.

One of the rare works reflecting Armenian society was a short video clip on so-called "rabiz". A young man, who plays with tzbeh (worry beads) squatted down or walks around in a narrow room scratching his genitals. Author Artur Zakaryan tried to show young men representing rabiz layer of the society as idle, lazy and futile people, who have no ambitions. However, the parody was more expressing hostility and hatred towards rabiz young men.

The conflict that was born in the '70s among hippies and conventional rabiz people, who were predisposed to Eastern culture, hasn't been resolved yet and found its reflection in CCEA.

One of the works at the exhibition was representing the so-called rabiz society of Armenia.

"If rabiz culture is predisposed to Eastern and Greek cultures then this exhibition is predisposed to Western exotica," says art critic Vardan Jaloyan. "It is reproduction of Western art. One of the tasks of the art is contra position. To be contra posed both to Western and to Eastern, to go out of the bounds of art as an art is a rebellion against running culture. But here they didn't manage to reproduce the outer world and as a result the exhibition was turned into chaos of symbols and images. And they are taken from the achievements of contemporary art and changed into design. The texts are clichés of youth subculture and bear no creative moments."

One of the works bearing Armenian words is the image of crumpled Armenian newspapers. Words "I have no aspirations" are written from top to bottom on that image. It doesn't reflect dead end of existence so much, more it expresses innocent words that were born as a result of the state of anonymity pressurizing young people's ambitions in Armenia. That anonymity was caused by the society, which is mobile at first sight but in reality leads nowhere - symbolized by the crumpled Armenian newspapers indicating different trends, though without revealing any prospects.

Two hours after opening of the exhibition "Reincarnation" rock group performed. Members of that group consider themselves as fascists. Songs with Russian and English texts were accompanied by video clips of Hitler and modern young Russian nationalists. But the effect not so much expressed the musicians' ideology as their imitation of young Western fascists.

"We allowed this group to participate at the exhibition as it is an art and it can't harm," says Vahram Aghasyan. "Real fascists are those Dashnaks, who prevented performance of the Turkish director's movie."

Aghasyan was referring to a film festival last week in which a Dashnak party youth group stood up in a cinema and prohibited the showing of a Turkish-produced film.

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