In conversation with Bagrat Arazyan

Bagrat was born in Yerevan, Armenia. His mother is a philologist of the English language and his father is a creative man: actor, film director, cellist and writer. At seventeen Bagrat left for Moscow, where he graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts.

Now you are living in Slovenia, so what are your feelings about your Russian-Armenian cultural origins?
Both of my parents are Armenians, therefore my origin is definitely Armenian. The fact that I lived in Moscow, in the Russian cultural context, makes my cultural background only partially Russian. Certainly Russian culture, just like French, Italian, Anglo-American culture, has had and is still having a profound effect on me, and I suppose this to be a natural process for any artist. The question is: to what extent can the artist transforms these influences within himself and generates new ones? Although currently living in Slovenia, my cultural background, due to its diversity, distinguishes me very clearly from the Slovenian cultural context. This is why, while I am living in this reality, within which I intertwine relationships and exchanges, I see myself as a distant author, somehow out of the norm. But I believe this otherness to be a value and not  a defect, because we must be vaccinated towards the rejection of diversity; only in this way  opening towards the other, the stranger, can become a reality and this is how tolerance arises and dialogue on reduction of distances may start.

This feeling of being able to live – through art – with ethnic and linguistic crossings of various kinds, in which way does influence  your thoughts about conflicts made to redefine borders and struggles in support of peoples and minorities who suffer abuse and violation of their rights and, from the opposite side, strong reactions to stop all this?
As a person, I am interested in many topics and problems that affect us on a daily basis. But this has nothing to do with my artistic work, because in my point of view, creativity cannot solve short-term problems, and cannot speak directly of social, political or ecological problems, as William Kentridge, Michelangelo Pistoletto or Michele Guido do. This is not the task of art, and when I see artists shouting out loud for or against some instances by means of their works, I don’t see art in all this. In my opinion, art is constantly shrouded in mystery, it never speaks directly, and everything that worries the author and upsets him always has an infinite number of semantic layers in its implementation. When an artist already knows all about something and no longer has doubts and no longer asks questions, then he dies as an artist.

So what is the message or content of your artistic production?
The content of my work is usually a question. And, the question is not always the same in all works: my job is a series of questions and thoughts. And there are never answers. This process  can only  end in myself. When you ask questions to yourself, you dive into the depths: it is only from these depths that the answers can emerge. And the work itself, for a thoughtful observer, can become the springboard from which he can begin to wonder. And if you can stimulate the observer to achieve different views and thoughts, then the goal is achieved.

You are artistic director of the Center for Contemporary Art Pivka. Can you let us know something about this reality and how you manage it?
It has been a great adventure, for me, to found, without funds and without support of any kind, in 2017, with the collaboration of my wife Irina Vdovenko, who takes care of performance projects, the Center for Contemporary Art Pivka, where I am curator for visual arts. It is a small reality without an exhibition venue, within a small country (it must be thought that Slovenia, which dedicates so many efforts to support contemporary culture, has two million inhabitants). This is the reason why I cannot have any real expectation for state support. There is just our enthusiasm and our desire to connect with the world that leads us to create international projects for and in different places.

Can this activity count on the support of private sponsors?
No, this idea of an operating platform is currently lacking support from private sponsors. When we can invest money in a project, we do it. If there is no such availability, then we must wait for better times. We have carried out some very high quality projects, for which the Pivka Tourism Society and the Prule Cultural Center of Ljubljana have provided us with all possible assistance, so we would be definitely thrilled to have a further experience of cooperation with them.

Bagrat Arazyan accanto all’opera Geometria 4, del 2019, ph Archivio A.Curto Bagrat Arazyan next to the artwork Geometria 4 (2019) ph Archivio A. Curto

Bagrat ArazyanBagrat Arazyan, work from the Lines series, 2018, ink and pen on canvas, 40 x 50 cm, ph courtesy Gallery Art3B, Izola

Bagrat Arazyan, detail of the installation Calligraphic, 2015-2019, realized for the exhibition Variations / Directions, ph courtesy Galerija Mesta Ptuj

What are your coming exhibition projects for 2020?
I have recently been invited to Ukraine, in Chernobyl, to an art residency, which ended with the final exhibition at the Kiev History Museum, of the twenty participating artists. There were many interesting authors who, I hope, will be part in the realization of at least two important events, one in Ukraine and the other in Slovenia. The purpose  is to organize a great exhibition that could be the largest project on Ukrainian artists, ever been made in Slovenia.

Can you name some of the Ukrainian authors that you think of involving in this project?
We have an agreement with Plac Izolanov Gallery in Izola to exhibit an installation by Olga Drozd at the end of May, 2020, furthermore I am planning an exhibition of her watercolors in another space. I am also working, at the moment, on the production of Ukranian artists such as Yulia Kisil, Stan Kvitko, Ksenja Oksin, Oleksii Burdii, that I would like to introduce to Slovenian public.

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