it finally happened. I am in Eriwan with a bunch of crazy people and a lot of time on my hands. Best condition for a memorising adventure. You can watch more photos at insta #yehh2019 (Don`t skip the 2019 because than you end up at some porn pics.) But first things first.
Thanks to the Goethe-Institut, the cultural board of Hamburg and our connection to the local artist Mary Moon, who is part of the visual gap galery, we have been invited to give some workshops in screenprint, stencil art and graffiti. That`s the reason why I am here with Carsten (photographer), Fux (screenprinter and informatics), Rita (screenprinter, painter, collage), Suse (screenprinter), Kuli (screenprinter and stencil) and Susanne (screenprinter, assemblage and collage) – all very talented and creative people. It so far really feels like a class trip and we are still waiting for two more friends to come. And me? Well, my name is Juli and I am the writer of the groupe, so it`s my task to tell you all of our experince here and to exchange some german phrases with armenian artists and with the support of Suse, turn some of their favourite german words – like for me it`s Quatsch with Soße (rubbish with sauce) – into screenprint or stencils. I am already in love with the beauty of the armenian letters and for some mysterious reasons got the word „sister of sparkling wine“, written in armenian as a screenprint on one of my shirts before the trip. (Thx Suse, I love it.)
Our journey started way to early in the morning at 8 a.m. at the Berlin Airport Schönefeld – well, at least for the ones who made it in time – and guided us to Moscow, where we had a stop. I know, geographically thought, that doesn‘t make any sense, but economically it was the cheapest way. The exciting part of the flight was the fact, that we had a lot of screenprint colours and chemicals, we are in need of, split into our loggage and partly filled into shower gels, so we won‘t get into trouble with the customs duty. We really hoped they wouldn`t keep our suitcases or blow them up. After all you could built bombs with it, but just colour bombs.
But everything went well, so after a couple of hours and a flight over swnowwhite russia we found ourselves at the moscow airport sitting in a german based beergarden, listening to Lena Meyer-Landrut and all having half a litre – as that seems to be the average size – and waiting for our connecting flight. Airports are bubbles, very similiar all around the globe but filled with duty free cliches like russian nesting dolls and wodka.
After that short stop in russian munich, the journey went on and we arrived in the evening in Eriwan as the time is three ours before german time. There we got picked up from two drivers of the Goethe-Institut and got first time to glimpse the city. Armenia is a small country with round about three million inhabitants and one third of them is living in Eriwan. May be bcause I was born in eastgermany but I always felt drawn to the east so I have already visited bosnia, croatia and bulgaria. And by the looks of Erwian was reminded to these past beautiful trips of mine:
old ornated houses, a bit crumbly, as well as a lot of concrete buildings, many balconies, antennas and air conditionning at the walls. The city was lively, many lights and people.
So we arrived at our interim home at the Parpetsi street in the middle of the centre and sat food on one of the most impressive flats I ever visited. Its pompous decoration might deserve it‘s own chapter later.
Finally I managed to get my photo taken. Just random, I barely even noticed:
3rd of March / Dear Diary,
as promised our flat is one of a kind. It is like staying in a museum and I am slighty reminded on the prop fund I am working for. But even the most flowery language would not do it justice so I will just upload some picture later for you to capture its true beauty. Here just for starters:
Today we went for our first walk through the city and and visited the cascade. That is a huge outdoor stairway in the city centre, that hosts the Cafesjian Museum of Art and fortunately some escalators. I liked it a lot and all the art is to watch for free. Generally, there are many statues across town and a lot of reliefs showing the portraits of famous artists randomly at sevral buildings.
It is a pitty that it is just impossible to catch the breath taking view from a peak with a camera but may be you get an idea.
Typical for the whole city, also the cascade seems to be still under construction but when you take a closer look, you see that the moment is frozen and the ravages of time have already led to broken concret and rosty metall supports at the abandoned construction site. In the same way you find good looking buildings to one side, mostly the front, but being unplastered and unfinnished to another.
Trees are growing kind of wild at the sidewalks, breaking threw the paving stones, that are different everywhere showing the most beautiful ornaments. Well, there are flourishs at every corner, at cants, at advertising pillars, at benches at everything you can dream of, may be even at the dreams. Many old houses have adorned reliefs and massive columns, that are playful decorated at the top ends. Damn it, even some of the manhole covers show nice, golden pictures.
Also very charming are the countless small cafés and bistros with their very individualistic and lovely interiour. I am a bit afraight about our livers though. Yesterday we had delicious armenian beer and it only cost 1€ half a litre and we made it to a very fency wine bar and the really tasty armenian wine was just about 2€ the glass. The best about that – who makes great wine, also does great sparkling wine. Furthermore we found out that apricot is the national fruit and there is that really great apricot liqueur. The next super market is right around the corner of our flat and like all of them is opened seven days a week for 24/7. It is like living next to an accessable fridge. Did I mention that our livers are doomed? Same goes for our lungs because smoking is allowed and is happening everywhere even in fine restaurants. That makes some of our groupe as happy as it makes the others uncomfortable.
But even with damaged livers and lungs our future seems to be bright. We brought a book called the oracle of gummy bears and according to it, there are just the best things a head of us. I for example had three red ones what means the flames of passion will soon set me on fire. In case you thought that blog could get boring, I really doubt it…
4th of march / Dear Diary,
it is a well
established tradition that I surprise myself with something I forgot.
On my first class trip it were all my underwear and socks. To forget
towels or toothbrushs is a classic. Today it often concerns the
digital world, but how I could forget just one part of the charging
cable for my laptop, is a mystery to myself. It is actually the
reason why this diary is always one day behind as one day my notebook
ran out of energy and I couldn`t write and didnt`t manage to catch up
But my forgetfullness offered me a crazy experience:
My search for the right cable led me to the old post office, where inside a market just for cellphones and related devices was established. If you think about it, it makes sense that communication is now wildly taken over by smartphones. Who is still writing letters? I guess, if it wasn`t for amazon and co., there would be no more post in germany. In Erwian it seems people are not so much into online shopping, but still visiting the shops of their trusts. That might be why there are less chains and more individual retailers. So at the post, there were just a very few counters left in which front only old people would line up. The main part was made up by a lot of small shops, mostly all run by one man each. By the way all the workers at the counters were female, but all the workers at the mini electronic shops were male, but may be that was just a coincidence. (Can`t wait for the women`s fight day at the 8th of march to happen and see, what that will bring and what we will bring…)
So I went to one random shop, showed the guy the one part of my cable and asked for the other half. A plug with three holes. Unfortunately he didn`t speak english but pointed me to another shop, where the assistance could. He didn`t had the cable but knew exactly, who would and send me to the next shop. I again showed my cable and the guy there confirmed he would have it, but had to make a phone call first and ten long minutes later he changed his mind and yelled threw the whole hall to another shop assistance, who surely would have the right cable. So I went from one guy to the next, always showing my cable, always receiving a „no problem“ and then get send to the next one. At the end I was, where I started and the man kindly guided me out of the post office and waved down the street repeating „big shop, big shop“. I was in the best mood cause it reminded me so much at the rickshaw drivers in my beloved Jaipur, who apparently always knew the way, swearing by their children they would, but then driving you into the totally wrong direction. I love travelling.
So I went into the first, also very small electronic shop, that came up. Turned out there were many next to each other down the street. But what gained my trust was that giant teddy bear with a bouquet of white roses in one corner. Yes, when it comes to computer science I am a very critical and reasonable person. So I found out it was one of the shop assistances` birthday, a woman, and the bear was her present. Also, but may be not that important, I got my cable and it cost round about 2€. Last time I bought such one in germany it was about 80, so I am counting the days till it will explode. Until it does, you can read more about our armenian journey here.
4th of march / Dear Diary,
today we went to the university, where the workshops of our urban art festival already started, hold by armenian artists. Lucky us, our so felt class trip just turned into a real one, when we had the chance to listen to a very interesting lecture given by Edgar from the www.artlebyerevan.org about contemporary political streetart. We learned that graffiti is not forbidden by law, what were quite exciting news for our latecomer Gerrit (brozilla.org). But of course you can still get into trouble for making a wall „dirty“.
After armenia has gone threw political changes recently, Edgar Amroyan showed as a lot of creative protest, that sometimes even got the understanding from the police, which by the way mostly isn‘t armed here. Although there is not much graffiti at armenian streets yet (…) , we saw a lot of powerful pics and I learned that the motto of the revolution, the phrase you could read everywhere, was: „With soul“. They produced stickers quoting Bertolt Brecht „What is robbing of a bank compared to founding of a bank?“ and put it e.g. on ATMs. What stucked in my mind because I haven`t seen it before was a huge cream cake, the activists took in front of the government building for the presidents` birthday, having „go away“ written on it. They placed it just in front of the entrance. Security wanted them to take it away, but as it is an armenian tradition, that you should never take back a present, they sucessfully could refuse it. Besides learning all about that, we also got to see the students for the first time, who might also take part in the workshops, we will give later.
After that first gettogether and sensitised for the sprayed hashtags and paroles across town, we walked to the Gothe-Institut. There we met with all the partners involved in the urban art festival, which we sometimes just knew from email contact. There were the members of the visual gap gallery, the armenian graffiti teachers, a projection artist, who is also part of Radio Eriwan, the stuff of the Goethe-Institut and us. In a big round we discussed last questions and came up with new ideas for the procedure of the workshops. Like always in life, you get along with some people better then with others and just from this very first meeting I can tell you, I felt very well situated at the Goethe-Institut. We were seated at the library and just from a superficial look at the book shelfs I can tell you that librarian does know her profession. She did not only ordered the classics, we germans were all forced to read at school, but also got very new and beautiful books, you can see right now in the windows of our bookshops.
I wanna use this moment to strongly recommand „Was man von hier aus sehen kann“ (what you can see from here) written by Mariana Leky to all of you. I don`t know whether it is already translated but just for this one it would be worth to learn german. It is one of the best written books I ever had the plessure to read just last week and it made me cry twice. I actually bought it to read it at this journey but then finnished it long before. Even that one is already a part of the Yerevan library.
So there were many of my favourite authors and books, I consider friends. Even my most favourite book, „The neverending story“ from Michael Ende was there, but just in the childrens section, where I think it is underestimated. Well, sometimes there was the right author, but the wrong book, so I might have to make a list for that awesome librarian, but all together I just felt understood. That is one reason why I would like to change the language exchange workshop from the Hay Art Gallery to that place. Because of the universes weird sense of humor or fates better knowing or gods proactive planning or may be just human failure it hasn‘t been announced yet, so I have no clue if there will be participants showing up. Language does not sound as cool as urban art and even if you are interested in it, you would have to have time and be able to speak english, but even if there would just be three interested persons they would be the right ones and it would totally be worth it. That is my life as a language lover in a nutshell: I was never cool but always profoundly nerdy. But perhaps this time that could built a cool basis for furthergoing art as you might see in the photo below.
So in general the plan is to explain some funny german phrases, trying to find similar ones in armenian, learn some new sayings and than focus on special words like „Knalltüte“ what translates word by word to bang bag and means foolish person. May be I fall in love with some armenian words (perhaps that is what the three red gummy bears really stood for) and may be some of the armenian students do the same with some german expressions and if so, there is a chance to turn that into stencils or at our festival weekend even into screen print. We will see. And you will read. 😉
P.S. The armenian word for thank you is „shnorhakalut’yun“. Could be the reason why so many just say merci.
7th of march / Dear Diary,
yesterday at the afternoon Fux and Rita gave the first workshop in screenprinting to students. Due to some missunderstanding Susanne, Kuli and me had some time off and while just straying around we ended up at a little fun fairish parc for children and enjoyed the crazy figures and the sun. Susanne and me ordered a capucchino and were happy to find out, we got a capuncho instead. The focus lies on puch because that is really sweet coffee with vodka. But after it was already served, we of course couldn‘t let it go to waste.
So in the best mood we arrived at the Goethe-Institut were an official evening for and with us was planned. To our surprise even the german ambassador and his family came to listen to our lecture about the Gängeviertel – the art squat we are from. Believe me, ten years ago when the 12 houses in the city centre of Hamburg were squatted, no one would have thought that years later in another country a representative of the german government would interested listening to our explanations about squatting as a political expression and a legitimated way to gain free space for social and cultural demands. But also the very sweet ladies working for the Goethe-Institut – I guess we are all having a crush on them, as they are so friendly, open and helpful – stated that he was very into art and visits them often.
Afterwards we were casual chattering with all the visitors and I had the most interesting talk about heteronormativity, gender roles and traditional thinking. During the lecture we also mentioned our feminist sex shop collective, the fuck yeah sexshop from the Gängeviertel, and it raised some curious questions. While of course there are enlightened and progressive thinking people in armenia too, especially among young and educated persons, the majority of the society still helds to a patriachal and binary way of living. You won`t believe the amount of bridal shops at the streets. So people of opposite genders get married mostly early and start families. Single mothers and patchwork families are rare and judged. Homosexuality still is a taboo in big parts of the society. The former gay bar right around our flat was lit on fire. Living in the queer and free spirited Gängeviertel bubble it always is shocking when you realise how much fear and hate there still is and how much the world actually almost everywhere still has to change.
Tomorrow is the womens`day and I am very curious to see, what that means over here. By the way right now I am sitting in an alternative art café above a photo library, that instantly became one of my new favourite places and for the first time I saw a woman wearing an undercut. Here I am really happy to have short hair and thereby breaking with the traditional look. The waitress just invited me to come back to that café tomorrow evening because there will be a female Hip Hop musician giving a concert for the womens`day.
Today I took part in Susannes` stencil workshop at the Goethe-Institut and it was, like all the other urban street art wokshops, just visited by female students. I hope we can do some feminist stencils. They have been really excited and are very up to create their own stencils in the following days. I love that they are empowered to put their statements and motives at the walls of Yerevan and may be next time we come back here, there will be much more interesting art at the very empty fassades. Susannes theory lecture was very inspiring.
Also I got to chat with the stencil students about our languages and we decided to meet tomorrow for our first phrase- and word exchange. May be we might turn some words into stencils later too.
I am really happy about that development and can`t wait to learn some new stuff. May be we can even create a new phrase and mix an armenian and a german saying. I would love that.
11th of march / Dear Diary
time flyes by so quickly that I barely find the time to tell you what happened.
First of all, I had my phrases exchange workshop and about 12 students showed up. It was a blast. We had so much fun and it was very interesting. I learned that armenians express their love in sayings like: „I want to die on your body“ or „I want to eat your liver.“ Don`t know about vegetarians though. But imagine me coming home and telling that to someone I love – I might get locked away.
Armenia is such a small country. I red it has the size of Brandenburg, one federal district of germany. But still they preserved their own very beautiful alphabet thousands of years like their own secret language and are justifiably proud about it. The students told me, that there are birds hidden in the letters. Have a look: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/armenian-birds-alphabet-bedros-awak.html As the workshop was such a success Suse and me are inviting to coffeetables during the urban art festival next weekend for more cultural exchange while talking about our languages.
The other workshops are runnig well, too and the art in progress is taking shape. I am happy to see the final results at our exhibition at the Hay Art Gallery.
But of course we are not just working all the time, although our schedule is really bussy. Last saturday we went on a 16hours trip that started 7am. People who know me, know I refuse to get up at a single-digit time and with the time difference of three hours that was even worse. It was one of my quiter days but it still was worth it.
So we travelled by a small bus with some russians and a tourguide, who spoke russian and english. Our first stop was at 9:30 at a fast foodrestaurant, that was supposed to be our only eating stop, so we had our earliest lunch ever. Like always the main dish meant meat, meat and meat. As a vegetarian I was quite unhappy. Mostly you find great veg food, too. The armenian cuisine is delicious but is either meat, sugar or cheese. As a vegan you would either have to eat raw vegetables or starve. It was the first time I didn`t enjoy the meal. But may be it was good I didn`t eat that much because our driver didn`t know he was driving a car but confused it for a plane and took the street bumps like he wanted to take off. What we did from our seats. Better flydrive with an empty stomach.
Afterwards we went to see the armenian stonehenge out of stones, that are about 7.000 years old. The fun part was the very fusty way, we had to walk. It was so difficult to get there, but somewhen you just have to give up, say goodbye to your shoes and lough about it.
Our little road trip lend us threw the beautiful armenian countryside surrounded by snowy mountains, that looked like cream cake and sparkled in the sun under the bluest sky while we had the best view of the Ararat. It was just magnificent.
Then we took the longest cableway of the world, the wings of Tatev. It has about 5.750 meters, very calm elevator music and and an amazing view. So we arrived at the monastery Tatev, that was built in 895 and is one of armenians most important architectural monuments. Unfortunately I have been to so many churches, monasteries and forts in my life, I just can get excited about them anymore. But I enjoyed the peace at the small darkened church, that came with the scent of incense. How time stands still at these ancient buildings that are so far away from our fast moving digital time.
The same holds true for our next stop at an old cave town, that was only abandoned at 1950. To get there we had to take a swinging bridge, that seemed to be much older but was built in 2012.
It looked like it was built out of a rosty fence, poorly patched at the floor. While I was at the start still watching my past life in an inner review, Fux pushed me on the bridge because he wanted to take a good picture. You only do those crazy things, when you are travelling.
Like jumping from a 20 meters high cliff into a river, paragliding, jumping on a driving train, from a driving bus and so on – all things I did away from home, but I would never do in Germany. Or going over a swinging bridge, that really doesn`t look trustworthy, is 150metres high and to long to hold your breath. Me writing that of course gives away that I survived.
So we deserved our last stop – a free wine tasting at a tourist trap. I like that the fruit vodka, you could by there, was bottled in little plastic bottles, not labeled and all looking like water bottles. Class trips in armenia must be fun. So was ours.
On sunday finally our friends Jules (film maker) and Gerrit (graffiti artist, Brozilla) arrived and moved in our fency city apartment. Also Tom, a czech graffti artist (Pausrr) we didn‘t know before, became a part of our flat share . So the madness is complete now.
We celebrated that fact with a very good dinner at a very chic restaurants, the GGs – as we call our beloved Goethe Girls – invited us to. We were a really big round because the members of the Visual Gap Galery and Art Lab also joined. One of them, a very talented artist named Maram, who also gave lessons in graffiti ( www.maramava.com ) is a tattoo artist and might get me a new one… Since forever I would love to get the „Auryn“ from the never ending story. We well see. There is not much time left. The only shadow over that evening was the lost game of the soccer club FC St.Pauli in our hometown Hamburg, what we sadly followed from Yerevan.
I made a new friend outside the restaurant. I don`t know what it is about armenians and teddy bears but I am a fan. This one even had blinking balloons. I instantly fall in love.
Now there is just one single incident left I would love to tell you about. In a small group we visited a neighbourhood called Kond, that is poor but has more streetart. There we met the kindest old man Robert, who invited us to his home. There we met his lovely wife Olga, who instantly brew the best coffee for us and offered us self made apricot juice. Both couldn`t speak english but russian so we were talk-guessing. They showed us there family album and were just the sweetest hosts. Armenian people are incredibly friendly and overwhelmingly welcoming. So far everybody had a smile for us.
So here we are,
everybody bussy with workshops and preparations for our festival at
the weekend. Me sitting again at my favourite coffee place and trying
not to bore you guys. By the way thank you for reading.
15th of march / Dear Diary
our great Jules made a teaser for the upcoming documentary:
16th of march / Dear Diary,
tomorrow is our final day in Yerevan. Unbelievable how fast the time went by and how much happened in between. The vernissage of our urban art festival was last thursday at the Hay Art Gallery and since then, many people visited the exhibition, that shows the results from the workshops last week. Since the workshops are still continuing now open for everybody, the exhibition is still growing.
Also Suse and me went on having coffeetables to exchange armenian phrases and words. My favourite so far is „ush lini nush lini“. Be late, but an almond, what means it might take a while, but in the end it will be good. Sounds so happy endish and changed my view of almonds. I also learned instead of saying „Fuck off to the devil“ as germans do, armenians say: „Return to the fold of the writer“. Hm, interesting.
So we met more and more great people, talented artists and Brozilla even got to make a piece at the german ambassy, saying „clowns only know one skincolour: colourful“. Of course our dearest Goethe Girls also got a graffiti at their entrance, that even is political. Getting to know that great team would already have made the whole journey worth taken.
Right now, we reached a point, where we can walk down the streets and casually meet people, have some chats, get invitations and find our way back home from everywhere. You start having deeper conversations and make real friends. It is the moment, when you can imagine another life, living in Eriwan. It would be different, but it could be awesome, too. You would have different friends, different talks, different thoughts and for me, I would write different stuff. But being on that classtrip and telling the people we meet about the Gängeviertel, once more made me realise that the life I chose by living at an art squat with a bunch of seriously talented and seriously crazy people, was the best call for me. Thank you guys for that incredible experience and that wonderful trip with all of you.
P.S. Ah, I forgot, we have been to armenian breakfast TV. What don`t we do for fame: