INSTRUMENTS // 

Promoting Alternative Thinking through Culture and Art

2000-2002

In the conflict-torn post soviet societies undergoing economic, political and social early transformations, both agrarian and political populism prevail and remain the major challenge for the development of civil society, political institutions and society’s ability to face real challenges openly. The mainstream thinking - which pits a righteous and ordinary people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the people of their fundamental rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice - remains the major drive of the formulation of the official policies and platforms of both ruling and opposition political elites.

ICHD has considered that to challenge this reality and to create an environment enabling out-of-box thinking in society, unveil the official programs and expose the real interests beyond formal politics, alternative thinking should be cultivated through creating a dissonance between the core values of the society and the perception of the reality. ICHD focused on culture and art as leverage for creating such a controversy, disagreement about the interpretation and significance of the perceptions and stereotypes. The uniquely provocative style of art run counter to the stereotype perception of traditional values and juxtaposes such perception against core values through generating alternative thinking.

One of the World’s Champions of alternative thinking throughout the ages is Sir William Shakespeare, whose plays and heritage are eternal resource of rethinking, reviewing and revising the attitudes against one’s core values. ICHD has commenced its “Rethinking attitudes, unveiling values through culture and art” program with recalling the Shakespearian heritage quite appealing and favored in Armenian society. Supported by the British Embassy in Armenia, in close cooperation with the Armenian Shakespearean Society, Yerevan State University, and the Institute of Arts ANA, the ICHD have organized a joint event and a concert within the framework of Shakespearean Days in memoriam Ruben Zaryan, the renowned Shakespearean scholar and to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Armenian Shakespearean Center and Library Foundation in Aram Khachatryan Concert Hall in Fall 2000.

The Gyumri Earthquake of 1988 was the most devastating disaster in the history of the Republic of Armenia, which caused even more damage to the minds and souls of the people, than it caused to their bodies and assets. The disaster-torn society is hardly following the track of civil society; its core values sometimes retreat in front of the shocking reality living the floor to core instincts. In addition to the stress caused by the transformations that a society in transition undergoes, the Armenian people have been also subject to the shocks brought by the earthquake and the armed conflict over the Nagorno Karabakh

The ICHD considered recovering the value canvas in the society affected by the disaster more important than the recovery of the physical and social infrastructure. Even more than a decade after the earthquake the wounds of its shock still harm the people’s thinking. In 2000 ICHD has focused on challenging the thinking of people in Gyumri by exposing the rebirth of values in Gyumri through a photo exhibition. In cooperation with Gyumri Development Foundation, the Gyumri Center of Contemporary Arts, and the "Stil" Museum of Pictorial Art, ICHD organized an arts exhibition of the works by Hayk Adamyan, renowned Armenian photographer, Hollywood, CA.

ICHD considered that a dynamic glance at the problems of the society survived the devastating disaster would encourage people to rethink their social, poverty and psychological issues through the prism of their core values. Following this objective ICHD organized the promotion of the film "Merry Bus" produced by Armenfilm (directed by Albert Mkrtchyan, starring - Anahit Harutyunyan, Sos Sargsyan, and Zhora Baghdasaryan) and its presentation at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001.

ICHD has once again challenged the thinking in post-disaster society by channeling it through the postmodern and contemporary art. For this purpose, ICHD used the format of Gyumri International Biennials. The first Biennial “Investigation, Time & Territory” has been organized by the Center of Contemporary Art of Gyumri, Gyumri City Hall back in 1998, engaging over 100 avant-garde artists from eight countries in the region and Europe. The second Biennial in 2000, which exposed the art of about 130 artists from 16 countries to the people of Gyumri, has been organized under the presidency of the Chairman of ICHD Board of Trustees, Dr. Armen Darbinyan. The Gyumri Third International Biennial has been organized in 2002, as a series of expeditions of artists from a dozen of countries who engaged the audience in creative activity: photo, video shooting, gathering of artistic materials, recording of music, performances, etc.

ICHD’s next initiative under the program “Rethinking attitudes, unveiling values through culture and art” has focused on the work of Revolutionary of the Armenian medieval thought, the Champion of the Armenian Renaissance in X century, St. Gregory of Narek. The poetry of the author of mystical interpretation on the Song of Songs remains a booster of people’s minds till our days. With the joint efforts of the Chairman of the ICHD Board of Trustees Dr. Armen Darbinian, and the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation M. Shvedkoy, the score of the chorus concert by the famous German composer Alfred Schnitke was brought to Yerevan and passed on to Robert Mlkeyan, the conductor of the Chorus of the Armenia Chamber Orchestra in 2002.

 

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Cases

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