There was this temporary art exhibition thing going on for a couple of weeks, and I checked it out with my friend Arin. It’s organized by HAYP Pop Up, and they set up a few exhibitions each year. They usually are held at places that are a bit off the beaten path, and this one was at the Byurakan Observatory. Artists from Armenia and abroad are invited to participate and a different theme is selected for each one.
This time, the theme was aliens. Well, not exactly. I think that the artists had to imagine what it would be like to make contact with extraterrestrials. Or something. I don’t know. (HERE‘s the webpage about it.) I love art, but modern art frequently baffles me, so combining modern art with a spacey (literally) topic like aliens can only possible result in complete stupefaction.
There was one exhibit in a different location, so we went there first. It’s apparently a radio-optic telescope but just looked like some weird pendulum thing in the middle of a giant bowl. The exhibit was a sound exhibit where the artist put three speakers around the rim of the bowl and three microphones inside of it. I think he did some mixing of the sounds, but the speakers partly played what the microphones were picking up, resulting in some weird echoey feedback sounds. The speakers were playing what the microphones were picking up, and the microphones were picking up what the speakers were playing. Weird, right? And if you made a sound loud enough, you could make it into the playback too. I don’t know. There was some deep meaning or something to it, but mostly it was just eerie.
The best part of it was the view. It was next to a gorge, and there was another weird, abandoned thing in the distance that Arin and I decided to check out. Things that I often think in Armenia: “I wonder if we’re trespassing by being here.” Immediate next thought: “T.I.A. Is trespassing even a thing here?” I don’t have any clue what this thing was, but there were stairs so we obviously climbed it. And then there was a ladder so I obviously climbed that too. It all seemed sturdy enough… don’t worry, I have health insurance!
I think that my favorite part of the whole exhibit was everything we did that wasn’t part of the exhibit. After the sound thing, we went to the observatory property to see the rest of the art. It was all confusing. We started out trying to read the descriptions and understand what was happening and quickly gave up in favor of just walking around the grounds. Here’s a made-up example in an attempt to express how I usually feel at modern art exhibits:
Description: “This weird art-like thing you see in front of you imagines the moment of successful contact with extraterrestrials. Elation quickly turns to horror as the humans realize that these are not friendly beings. An immediate war breaks out between human-kind on Earth and the hostile alien forces. Within seconds, the humans can see that the alien weapons are far superior and that they have no hope for survival. This complicated emotional journey from elation to terror to defeat is captured by the piece you see in front of you.”
The art: A cardboard box with a one-eyed frowny face drawn in black sharpie on the side and an LED light inside.
The other people there: “Ah yes, I see it!” “Magnificent!” “So many emotions!” “Completely brilliant!” “The artist is a genius!” “The Michelangelo of the 21st century!” “I’m so artsy and sophisticated!” “My life will never be the same!”
Me: “Hey did someone forget their cardboard box? I hate it when people just leave their trash lying around. Where’s the exhibit? Maybe they unpacked it from this box, put it somewhere else, and forgot to take the description sign with them. Oh well, on to the next one!”
I would describe myself as a person who likes art, but sometimes… yeah. I think that I am more an admirer of impressive things, so I appreciate the skill that goes into creating art. If it’s something that I think would be difficult to create, I like it. If it’s something that seems thrown together with some abstract description, it just reminds me of the people in high school English who got good grades from reading sparknotes and BSing their papers. Aka I’m not impressed.
Anyway, it was an interesting experience. Apparently, modern art is the same confusing adventure no matter what country you’re in. Good to know.