patrons discuss the newly installed collection
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
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.
first object one could see when entering the
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
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
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.
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