On august 19 2009, an EVS (European volunteer service) volunteer – Inga Butrimaite from Lithuania, and a local activist – Vahagn Vardumyan went to Dzorap early in the afternoon, with about 50 pictures exhibition in a big bag, something like 8 kilos of photos, cloth and hardboard paper, creativity and joy, a movie projector, to organize an exhib-action in a very historically significant place in Dzorap – the graveyard of the Armenian Kings from Arshakuni dynasty. The idea started from the photos that Inga used to take during her each visit to this village, but now this idea already started becoming big enough to be noticed by the whole village here, and other villages on Inga’s route. Children, teenagers and youth are always very fast to spread the news in villages, so they did a great job to announce the sudden appearance of an exhibition in their village, which brought many people out of their homes, to the shade of the trees which were holding the ropes for our pictures.
“Simple, cheap materials and ways we use for this kind of exhibitions are a big advantage in terms of mobility, and we thus combine our own joy with a kind of social and cultural activism, which makes us extremely happy” says Vahagn Vardumyan.
Why outdoor exhibition?
Because it is the easiest to organize, and it is summer time, nice to be outside, people love to be out. With an open air exhibition you can just come into the day and put something new in it.
It makes all the event more joyful, interesting and informative. It is also something that is lost in most of the communities – cultural socializing together in a common place. Although people play games outside in yards, they go to markets where they also talk etc, but there is something more that people need, and that is socializing in a more culturally rich way.
Why villages as a theme?
Because it is very interesting and alive part of the society in general, and is the main keeper of traditions, customs, lifestyle, mentality of the nation. Also – Armenia is a country where there are not many big cities, and agriculture dominates in the country, which is a typical feature of the village lifestyle.
Why cheap materials?
If you can still make it nice by not spending much on it, why not to give it a try? We forgot our cloth for screen in Yerevan, and had to find out another alternative for the screen, for which we decided to make a paper-screen, and kids helped us in it, right in the exhibition place. We told them our ambition is to make the cheapest but functional movie screen in the World, so maybe we even brake a Guiness record. Kids and everybody else were of course laughing, but the message of cheap stuff not being shameful to make and use was successfully passed to the villagers of Dzorap. It was also nice to see how people were coming, touching the exhibition pictures, not being afraid to damage anything, simply because it was not easy to do. In general this approach to materials created a more relaxed atmosphere and people felt very comfortable in that space.
Where were the previous exhibitions?
Once we organized an open air exhibition in Kond, one of the last surviving historian Yerevan pieces, a cute district in center of Yerevan. We were less lucky in Kond exhibition-action, as the rain didn’t let us finish the screening. Next event before this one was in Vahagni village of Lori region, where we exhibited about 70 pictures, the biggest amount so far. For the screening we were again unlucky, as the rain was in charge of the evening, and we were totally wet and happy anyway.
Where will be the next one and what will it be?
We plan to do the next exhibition-action (exhib-action) in Gilanlar village which also has kept a number of very cute features of village life, pieces of simplicity and cultural heritage of Armenians. I would mention lavash baking, traditional architecture, agricultural habits etc. All our exhib-actions have in general some similarities: in all of them we exhibit pictures from all the villages we visited and explored, we always try to be in a way sudden, without official announcement of the event, we try to involve local people in very simple stuff that they do with pleasure, we talk a bit about our ideas and concept, but we try not to bore them, and finally – we feel very happy to have the opportunity to connect cultures and to become bridge for mutual understanding, stimulation of healthy curiosity and appreciation of each other between our nations.
We noticed that young people which are the main participants of our actions need much more than TV than the TV and their regular mainstream environment can give, and it’s a pity that the main cultural life is happening in and around the big cities, leaving villagers behind, forgotten and bored of their hard life. We feel like it should be done something to change this shameful situation world-wide, to combine fun, joy, awareness and education in big and small communities, and we believe we can do it, since we saw how simple it can be to make a smile on a face of a tired and bored villager. it is also amazing how quickly we can turn their boredom into curiosity, and it truly makes us feel useful, powerful and happy.