First Dilijan Arts Observatory Concludes in Armenia


Weekend of Exhibitions and Performances sets the tone for future participation in exhibitions at Hamburger Bahnhof and Centre Pompidou

The first stage of the recently launched Dilijan Arts Observatory, a creative fieldwork experiment which aimed to develop new models for the arts and life practices in Dilijan, Armenia, concluded last weekend with a two-day programme of celebratory events, performances and exhibitions. The Dilijan Arts Observatory welcomed hundreds of local citizens and international figures including artists, designers, cultural historians and environmental scientists. Conceived by the internationally respected curator Clémentine Deliss, the group participated in investigatory research in Dilijan and neighbouring villages. 

As the initiative of two family foundations of social entrepreneurs Ruben Vardanyan and Veronika Zonabend and philanthropist Gagik Adibekyan the idea of the Dilijan Arts Observatory was to come up with a new format of art education. As well as all of their social initiatives in Armenia this project was aimed to create a model of developing a certain city and its local community and making it a magnet for outstanding international guests.

The group developed a series of presentations, intended as uncut “rushes”, which represented their investigations over the past three weeks. They were joined during these open days by residents of Dilijan, plus a number of international curators who travelled to Armenia to experience the event, in addition to a strong presence of local and international media.

The results and findings from the Observatory’s three week research programme included:

•   Exhibitions sited throughout Impuls Factory renamed the “Impuls Kondensator”, including new unedited art presentations and prototypes created in response to the iconic building

•   The presentation of a Model for a “Dilijan Community Archive” with over 15 videos made of former employees of Impuls factory, as well as archive photographs, a science library including 60s fiction, numerous documents and maps.

•   An exhibition of unique historical Kilims from the private collection of the Postoyan family, which enabled international visitors to appreciate the history of Armenia through rugs dating back to 1890

•   Several ‘Live Music Installations’, including The Love Transcriptions — Music for Carpets and Voices, Impuls Factory by French composer and musician Augustin Maurs with Egyptian artist Nork Zakarian and musicians from Dilijan

•   Culinary festivities and Forest Kitchens, celebrating traditional dishes made from wild flowers and plants.

•   A round-table discussion with participants of the Diijian Arts Observatory and guest speakers including Jurgen Bey, Director Sandberg Institute, Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam; Erik van Buuren, Materials Scientist, The Fundamental School, Berlin; Angela Harutyunan, Art historian, American University Beirut; Arman Jilavian, RVVZ/IDeA Foundation; Nini Palavandishvili, Art historian, geo-AIR Tbilisi, and moderated by Clémentine Deliss

•   A tour of the UWC College, an international school housing 198 students from 72 countries and nationalities, sited within Dilijan National Park

•   Nine issues of the Dilijan Arts Observatory newspaper, conceptualised by Clémentine Deliss as a continuation of her previous publishing work with Metronome Press.

•   A film by leading Armenian artist-filmmaker Vardan Danielyan and cinematographer Andranik Sahakian

The former Soviet ‘Impuls’ factory (renamed by the Observatory as “Impuls Kondensator”), which covers 40,000 sqm and has been abandoned since its closure in 2008, provided the headquarters for the Observatory over the past three weeks.

A symbolic site at the centre of town, Impuls was once the main economic driver in the area, and an important hub for the local community. Employing 4000 workers, of which 70% were women, during some of the most fascinating periods of Armenia’s recent history, including the Cold War, it was also the site of community activity including weddings, a local football club, and landscaped gardens. Participants in the Observatory uncovered personal histories associated with the Factory, interviewing former workers whose lives were shaped by the building and the activities that took place there.

The concluding weekend of events launches a series of future programmes both internationally and within Armenia that will take place over the coming years. The outcome of the first Dilijan Arts Observatory will be developed further, and feature in exhibitions at the leading national art museums in Europe: the National Gallery of Contemporary Art, the “Hamburger Bahnhof”, Berlin, in November 2017, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, in summer 2018.

The participants in the Dilijan Arts Observatory were: Vahram Aghasyan (Artist, AM), Haig Aivazian (Artist, CA), Alen Amirkhanian (Environmental Scientist, AM), Ruben Arevshatyan (Cultural and Architectural Historian, AM), Erik van Buuren (Materials Scientist, NL), Katerina Chuchalina (Curator, RU), Vardan Danielyan (Filmmaker, AM), Mohamad Deeb (Architect, LB), Silvina Der Meguerditchian (Artist, DE), Arpad Dobriban (Artist, DE), Andrew de Freitas (Artist, NZ), David Galstyan (Photographer, AM), Vigen Galstyan (Curator, AM), Natasha Gasparian (Cultural Historian, LB), Raphaela Grolimund (Artist, CH), Angela Harutyunyan (Art Historian, AM), Krispin Heé (Graphic Designer, CH), Misha Hollenbach, Perks and Mini (Designer, AU), Marc Norbert Hörler (Artist, CH), Marianna Hovhannisyan (Curator, AM), Christoph Keller (Artist, DE), Augustin Maurs (Composer, FR), Ioana Mitrea (Artist, RO), Maria Mkrtycheva (Educator, RU), Andrea Poessnicker (Industrial Designer, DE), Mathilde Rosier (Artist, CH), Andranik Sahakian (Cinematographer, AM), Marcello Spada (Artist, IT), Joanna Sokolowska (Curator, PL), Pascal Storz (Graphic Designer, CH), Davit Sukiasyan (Musician, AM), Hasmik Ter-Voskanian (Botanist, AM), Shauna Toohey, Perks and Mini (Designer, AU), Vangjush Vellahu (Artist, AL), Jasmin Werner (Artist, DE), Nork Zakarian (Musician, EG).

Curator: Clémentine Deliss Assistant Curators: Nairi Khatchadourian, Asya Yaghmurian


Commentary from participants in the DAO programme, included:


Augustin Maurs, French musician and composer:

“En tous cas, au delá la de l’ampleur impressionante de la tache et des challenges, Dilijan a été une très très belle et riche experience - je pense pour nous tous, et pour moi sans aucune hésitation. Un grand merci à Clémentine de m’avoir fait venir - et d’avoir eu le courage d’assumer l’immense charge de ce projet. J’espère vraiment qu’il y aura une suite et je serais heureux de pouvoir y contribuer.”
(“In any case, beyond the impressive magnitude of the task and challenges, Dilijan was a very beautiful and rich experience - I think for all of us, and for me without any hesitation. A big thank you to Clementine for inviting me - and having the courage to take on the huge burden of this project. I really hope there will be a sequel and I would be happy to be involved.”)


Veronika Zonabend, Co-Founder, IDeA Foundation:

“Our goal is to create the best environment for people to visit and form discussions, intellectually and creatively, to inspire people to come to Dilijan. We also aim to encourage the local community to learn and develop new ideas, and experience the results. We hope to create one of the best meeting places for these things to come together. Under the guidance of Clémentine Deliss, to whom I am grateful, the Dilijan Arts Observatory programme has been pursuing the idea of creating future models of art education also capable to inspire local people to contributing the development of their native town of Dilijan.”


Clémentine Deliss, Curator of the Dilijan Arts Observatory:

“My hope is that during the Dilijan Arts Observatory, together we will come up with a series of proposals, models, and possible prototype works, that we can present as something that we too would like to be a part of.”


Eleonora Adibekyan, co-founder of the Adibekyan Family Foundation for Advancement:

“We wish to thank all those who took part in the Dilijan Arts Observatory project – artists, cultural scientists, sociologists – for carrying out their research. Learning the history and traditions of Dilijan has been the first step in the search for a new national and cultural identity for the inhabitants of the town, and for Armenia as a whole.”


Dilijan Arts Observatory is supported by philanthropists Ruben Vardanyan and Veronika Zonabend, Founders of the United World College Dilijan, RVVZ and IDeA charitable foundations, and Co-Founders of DDF, as well as another DDF Co-Founder Gagik Adibekyan who is also the Founder of Adibekyan Family Foundation for Advancement.

Dilijan Art Initiative is a multifaceted project that seeks to promote Dilijan and Armenian culture, providing support for the presentation of work by artists from the Armenian diaspora in the world’s leading exhibitions and major cultural events. Prior to the launch of the Observatory, Dilijan Art Initiative supported Armenity/Hayoutioun; the National Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia at the 56th Venice Biennale, which was awarded the Golden Lion, the highest possible honour for a national pavilion, and the Armenian programme at the 14th Istanbul Biennial devoted to the research of Armenian history and trauma in contemporary Turkey.

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