Dilijan Arts Observatory

Dilijan Arts Observatory

Dilijan Arts Observatory project launched on August 22, 2016. For some three weeks over 30 artists representing different spheres worked to create modern art. The outcome of the Dilijan Arts Observatory will  first be exposed in the National Gallery of Contemporary Art in Berlin, in November 2017 and in Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, in summer 2018. On September 10 and 11 former Impuls factory based in Dilijan hosted the exposition of Dilijan Arts Observatory.
It is a part of the Dilijan Art Initiative project and is supported by RVVZ and IDeA foundations. International curator and anthropologist Clementine Deliss curated the Dilijan Arts Observatory. She told RP about her ambitious project in Dilijan.

Text : Mariam Loretsyan / Photos : David Galstyan

In love with Dilijan

Today we live in a world of expertise and everyone likes to feel that they are specialists in their field. We also know that today the world is  turbulent with an unstoppable movement of people, of skills, of ways of seeing the world. Living and meeting people in an unknown place is no longer limited to a moment of travel, it can be a question of survival, of emergency, a situation of life or death. All confrontations whether peaceful or aggressive, require readjustment. Against this backdrop of our daily politics and the growing fears that we feel wherever we live, there is hope of a safe corner of creativity and education that will help foster a dialogue across cultures, faiths and ages. It does not exist without our investment and this is a collective investment.
I am honored to be invited by IDEA foundation, RVVZ and Dilijan Development Foundation to engage with Dilijan. I loved the place the moment I arrived there for the first time in September last year and I have already come back six or seven times, and I`ll be back again. But even more than the foundation, I am honored to have received an immediate sense of trust beyond the barriers of languages and contexts by the citizens of Dilijan. You realize now, I do not speak Armenian or Russian.


The importance of Dilijan Community Archive

The Director of the Dilijan centralized library system and the other 15 women working in the municipal library, opened the door to the prospect of setting up a Dilijan Arts Observatory. In an active and intense generosity, they lent me archival photographs and it led to the proposal for a Dilijan Community Archive, which was displayed on the top floor of the administrative building of “Impuls” factory.
You ask me: what are the results? Number one is the conviction that Dilijan needs a community archive, a new form of cultural centre for everybody and our exhibition is a modest proposal. The key concept of education in Dilijan can be realized and it can regenerate employment on a local, regional, national and international scale of excellence. 

If we had a mantra

If we had a mantra, which is not really my style, it would consist of the following points: Before we plan, let`s listen to the stories of the place, before we build, let`s live in what is here, before we think we know, let`s exchange our insecurities, let`s meet artists, historians, scientists, architects, people with daily jobs, people of every society, young and old. But if we start a conversation, we have to work with a translation. In this case we will miss things, imagine it, but we may also gain a lot. This is why the works that are exposed in Dilijan Arts Observatory project are unfinished, they are rushed works that have come from field work experience with the participants of Dilijan Arts Observatory. This is a result of a field work that only lasted for three weeks. It is meant to be the beginning of the conversation with you.

A model for an Armenian context

The year was 2009 when I came to Armenia for the first time. I was invited to take part in a very important summer school that had been curated by Nazareth Karoyan. It was at that moment I met a lot of strong thinkers, brilliant artists and I always wanted to come back to Armenia.
In the art world today there are many biennales, every part of the world has its biennale, which is like a big art fair. There are also many people today who build new museums. What we wanted to do here was to begin to understand and identify what is the most appropriate kind of art-educational institution and to use Dilijan as a model for the Armenian context. So when I was invited by IDEA foundation to come to Dilijan, to look at the city, I saw centers of cultural activities of composers, writers, cinematographers and architects. But I also saw this factory ‘Impuls’, which we renamed to ‘Impuls Kondensator’. I thought to myself that Dilijan is not only about elite culture, it is also about employment and production. I also knew that Dilijan has always been international. Many people used to come to Dilijan because of its beauty and nature, and because they could revive dialogues between different people from different parts of the world. For me the most important result of the Dilijan Arts Observatory is the model, the beginnings of a new kind of cultural center in Armenia based on a community archive. This archive is a foundation for the youth and I am honored that so many people of the older generation were ready to share their experience and memories with people, who came out to Dilijan for the first time. So we want to achieve national and local, but also international recognition of the value of Dilijan through artists, scientists and historians who will come back to this wonderful town.

Hospitality - the cultural uniqueness of Dilijan

I have worked in many parts of the world, in many countries including West African countries, India, Japan and Australia. Very often, when you come as an outsider you will feel hostility, you feel that people are suspicious of you. Here in Dilijan I do not know the language but I have never had a problem with feeling the sympathy of Dilijan and Armenian people. This is extraordinary. If I had felt resistance from the moment I arrived here in Dilijan, then it would not have worked. So I am very grateful for the openness of the Dilijan residents, their trust and their generosity, otherwise this would have not worked. We were met with a dialogue and this is the most important thing for me. Dilijan has always had the ability to greet people from the outside, it has been a place for filmmakers, architects and composers. Already today I am meeting so many people who have decided to move to Dilijan from Yerevan. Every place in the world has its unique culture, but every culture changes. Even traditions change, so there is no static notion of culture. Hospitality is the cultural uniqueness of Dilijan because this town manages to bring people together.

The ongoing dialogue

Armenia has always been famous for its intelligence, educational faculty, astrophysics and composers. I am very impressed with the artists I have met there and I want to work more and more with them.
I was very stubborn because I did not want to say “we are going to do this” and “this is how we are going to do that”. I had to keep coming back and fine tune my own expectations in dialogue with the ladies from the library, with the people I met here and I had to keep understanding which way I was to go. Very often in corporate life today we keep asking for the results, but the observatory is field work and it is about an ongoing dialogue. We have been here for only three weeks and that is why we have showed works in progress. So I hope we will have a chance to continue with this.