Demonstration Art: Fourth festival hopes to bring international
August 6, 2004

Demonstration Art: Fourth festival hopes to bring international attention to

By Gayane Lazarian
ArmeniaNow reporter

The fourth Gyumri International Biennial begins tomorrow
(August 7) and for the next three weeks will fill the city’s four museums
with contemporary and even avante garde art. And for the fourth time since
1998, spectators will have their chance to be surprised, engrossed, shocked
perhaps, and will no doubt exercise their rights as art “critics”.
Tadevosyan wants to bring international attention to Gyumri art
“In Armenia people are not ready for avant garde art, because of many years
of totalitarian and closed regime,” says Biennial founder Vazgen Pahlavouni
Tadevosyan. And, while Gyumri is a traditional center of art in Armenia, it
was also a center of traditional art.
Gyumri residents, however, like to “make defects in to effects,” Tadevosyan
says. “There is a thrust for art here . . .”
No other CIS country has such an art festival. And, when it was conceived
six years ago, organizers themselves were not sure how it would be received
in a place yet marked by Gyumri’s tragedy from the earthquake of 1988.
“But we were sure that especially in these ruins things will work,”
Tadevosyan says. “Advanced art is very dynamic, not petrified and
traditional. It can work in ruins, because it has many alternatives and
different methods.”
The first festival, called “Time, Territory, Research”, was a form of art
therapy for Gyumri. And it was a surprise for visitors from outside Armenia.
But the main goal, Tadevosyan says, was to give Gyumri a holiday.
The idea of course is not original. The first biennial was in Venice, 100
years ago. Armenian artist Martiros Saryan was among international artists
who participated in Venice.
“At the time when the USSR was collapsing, we already had such ideas,”
Tadevosyan says. “Gyumri was a flourishing city and there was a possibility
to make it an art center on an international level.”
But such dreams were shelved when Gyumri was destroyed by earthquake and
soon after the war in Karabakh broke out.
But the founders of the biennial were determined to take either a brave step
or a foolish one, and decided to inaugurate an international festival in the
ruins of a city.
“We have to do something according to international standards, otherwise
there is no meaning, but thanks God, the calculations were right and people
came,” Tadevosyan says.

“Critics” will get a chance to define “art”
This year the festival will include 60 to 70 artists from England, Ireland,
Russia, Iran, Austria, Italy, Germany, France and USA.
“We must make Armenia a country of international art,” Tadevosyan says.
“Through the biennial people started to know Gyumri. Our city is in a
healing process now and it is getting better with this art dialogue. ”
This year’s festival will be financed by United Nationals Developmental
Program, the British Council and “Ararat” Brandy Company. Different
embassies help participants from their countries.
Tadevosyan says:” We know that we are on the long road, and we will not see
the end, because other generations will continue our work. We also know that
we’ll not have an international reputation in soon. When you plant a tree,
you can only eat the fruit after some years. Gyumri`s biennial is very
important, because we have things to say to the world and to say them
bravely and proudly.”