- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
June 18, 2004

City of Interpretation: Contemporary art exhibition seeks to “unearth” world of women

An exhibit at the Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (CCEA) in Yerevan represents the work of artists from 15 countries and their attempts to unveil the essence of woman, as defined by contemporary culture.

The exhibit, which continues through June 25, roughly parallels the theme of director Federico Fellini’s movie “City of Women”.

An entry from Arabesque Studio of Ukraine..

In “Women’s City”, the female gender is portrayed in as many interpretations as the number of artist depicting them. And most – whether from Switzerland, the Ukraine, Slovenia or Russia – are exaggerated commentaries on the multi-national objectification of women.

In “Critical Days”, for example, a photographic series by a Ukrainian studio shows a woman with her breasts and genitalia veiled in a sanitary napkin, mocking the way advertisement of the hygiene product portrays women. Another entry, by Maya Kosir shows a naked woman stepping out of a bath and onto a piece of meat – an attempted commentary that a man’s dream woman is a piece of meat.

“Society takes women as mysterious objects,” says one of the curators of the exhibition, Arpineh Tokmajyan. “There is an opinion that women have a secret world. Legends and myths are created about women and we tried to unearth them in 'Women's city'.”

Tokmajyan’s work is three rings, in diameters of 90cm, 60cm, 90cm, representing the “ideal” female form.

Women who might secretly measure their bodies are invited to do so publicly at the exhibition. A measuring tape on a wall encourages women to measure their breasts, waists and hips, then post the numbers on a paper attached to the wall. Few “measure up” to the ideal – which is the point of the entry.

“My sizes are 90-68-80, but I'm satisfied with my successes,” said visitor Tsovinar Chilingaryan.

The exhibition includes a Slovenian painter’s portraits of female genitalia as objects such as a butterfly or a peace symbol and others .

In their performance “Attack-Defense”, Swiss artists Martin Blum and Simona Fux beat each other with nuts stuffed with rose leaves, and then sit in front of each other and start lovingly drawing bloody wounds on on each other’s foreheads – a demonstration of the love-hate relations of men and women.


Artists were solicited for the exhibition through Internet, and financed their own trips to Yerevan. Curators spent $50 on the presentation.

“The Ministry of Culture is courting Diaspora by its ‘One Nation, One Culture’ slogan,” says Tokmajyan. “We wished to turn ‘Women’s City’ into an international festival where woman’s mystery would be revealed by views of different nations.”

Ukraine photographer Yelena Afanasieva says her work is better understood in Armenia than in her country. And she says her exhibit that portrays the captivity of women might also be seen as representative of Armenia and the Ukraine – two countries with a history of philosophical enslavement, trying to escape that captivity.

“There was something beautiful and captivating in that slavery,” Afanasievea says. “That is how woman subconsciously strives for slavery for avoiding social responsibility. It is often nice for woman when she is tied and made immovable and she gives herself up to submission with pleasure.”

Photograph presented by Tigran Khachatryan becomes the continuation of Yelena Afanasieva's thought. On that photograph a man (author of the photograph) lays hands on a woman, who peacefully sleeps. There is an inscription on that photograph that says “Stand up fool!!! Fight for your rights”.

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