Update from no man's land

Oh hai all, missed the ER community a lot! I know I promised to give an update about my activities since moving to Nagorno Karabagh/Artsakh last autumn to some of you, including @alberto, @alex_levene and @unknown_author so here we go.

First of all, I regret I failed to participate at Openvillage Festival in Brussels and the camp in Morocco (I can’t believe I am not there) while relocating and reorganizing my life due to circumstances. I also fu*ked up and lost some side projects that provided me with a minimal income keeping me afloat because bad internet, oh well.

It’s been hectic and disturbing at times, but I guess I made it, after 5 months, I can finally say I feel home in this war-torn region where people are still traumatized and need healing. I got a community too!

I felt lonely and questioned my decision many times, but then I decided to view my time here as a voluntary exile, a sort of residency, with time to reflect and work on my future projects related to human borders, war traumas, collective memory, conscription and how it affects lives…away from the bubble of Yerevan and putting myself and my capacities to test, feeling what I always felt, but sharper and stronger.

So, here are the things I’ve been doing since moving out of my comfort zone:

  • I managed to coordinate and curate a group exhibition in Yerevan about the lives of Syrian refugees in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh in Yerevan

  • I finalized my project draft “Juggling Dinosaurs” that tackles the issues of parenting and the role of mothers in Post Soviet reality. The project aims to interrogate female art practitioners experience of being mothers, and to question social expectations and norms which frame this role. After completing my research I plan to host a residency for parents in Armenia, providing the freedom for them to work independently or alongside their children, encouraging opportunities to work in collaboration with other artists by creating a supportive and inspiring network.

  • As I’ve witnessed a lot of violence in this society(a vicious circle of army, patriarchy and war) which exists in families and outside, even in institutions like my daughter’s kindergarten, I’m working with the local government/Ministry of Education, trying to find ways to train the teachers and teach about non-violent methods of education. I made a deal with an alternative school in Yerevan that agreed to host and train teachers from Martuni free of charge, now waiting for the Ministry of Education to approve the project(meeting with the Minister this Friday). The training will be followed up so it’s not going to be a one time event. Alternatively I am drafting a project to host seminars here for parents and teachers on healing the war traumas in collaboration with the Women’s Resource Center

  • Organising a contemporary art festival in Stepanakert, Nagorno Karabakh with the aim to decentralize art and culture from Yerevan and help Stepanakert evolve into a thriving international cultural center. Ultimately–the project will help rebuild essential infrastructures and establish processes that will advance economic viability within the region–all the while contributing to world culture. The venue for the festival is the Stepanakert Drama Theatre established in 1932, located on a beautiful central historical street in Stepanakert. It is currently left vacant and awaiting demolition, though it continues to be the favourite spot for the local youth to meet up. From outside the “beauty of Stepanakert” as it used to be referred to, still looks great and it has preserved its initial charm with carved doorways and magnificent arches. I already got the OK from the Ministry of Culture of Nagorno Karabakh to use the space and I am working on raising funds from private donors and diasporan agences(most of intl organisations do not operate here because this is an unrecognized/ disputed territory which limits the funding opportunities) but I definitely hope to make this work. The festival is scheduled on 17-20 May, 2018 so I still got some time. Please, let me know if you know of any organisations that I could apply for funding and also, if you are interested to contribute or participate, I can send you the project concept and details by email. Here are some photos of the theatre building that will host the festival.

So yeah, I’ve been quite busy, living off my savings, but now I need to find a source of income asap, so let me know if there is anything I can help you with, good people @nadia @noemi PS: got good internet too! :slight_smile:


Anna, that’s quite a story :slight_smile: I like remote places myself and can imagine living in some of them … but Karabagh is “quite out there”. Respect.

About remote work for you … I have no immediate bright idea, but we’ll keep you in mind for sure. I imagine that maybe @alberto and @anique.yael could welcome help in application writing and / or web research for the Edgeryders Research Network some time soon?

On another note, thanks for making the contact between Esteban and the OpenVillage House Sidi Kaouki here … he’s enjoying his time here and also making himself useful around the House … a very welcome guest!


Wow Anna, this read was long overdue, I’m happy to hear news from you…
That’s quite some projects… the one missing is the research into men coping with mandatory and highly disruptive Army training, if I remember well? Anyway, no pressure, you’ve got a lot on your plate!

I was glad to see the news about your exhibition and sent it to a new friend of mine - an Armenian-Belgian who cannot bring herself to see Armenia with new eyes since her family left when she was a kid… She is very taken aback by the old mentality in the rare times she travels there. You brought her joy by showing the edge! :slight_smile:

Myself am not working much at the moment, I am in a (soft) sabbatical of sorts. I don’t know whom you could contact for your festival… And do you even think people will fund or participate to an event in an area so precarious and deemed unsafe? Or is it mostly with and for local artists?

Finally, quick shoutout to @toolosophy who might be still doing peace building trainings and projects with a Romanian NGO working a lot abroad - and you two could partner up for education and other activities?

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Is t possible you can save that theater or is it too far gone?

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Thanks @matthias ! You should come visit some time :slight_smile:

I am sooo happy Esteban is welcomed in Sidi Kaouki, he’s such a nice soul and I was sure he could be helpful. I love connecting good people <3 Still can’t believe it’s all happening while I’m not in Morocco.

@johncoate Actually we had fears they want to demolish the building so when approaching the Ministry of Culture we had a special approach, something like "We know you appreciate the history and the importance of preserving the architectural heritage of Stepanakert, NOT LIKE Yerevan does(they are demolishing many old buildings in Yerevan). " Basically we played with the feeling of competition between Yerevan - the capital of Armenia, and Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh, AND we implied only a fool would demolish this kind of a beauty with so much history, so the local govt was like sure, you are right, we are not going to demolish it and we are going to find funds to refurbish the building and bring back the theatrical troupe.

The deal is: we are refurbishing the areas we will use for exhibition and the workshops that will take place during the festival and then the Jazz Orchestra will move in for a while, before the government finds the funds to refurbish the whole building including the stage area.

So I think the building is safe for now, and the second floor of it is used a dance studio, which proves it is not falling apart.

@noemi thanks for bringing up the projects I’m planning to work on in the future. I forgot to mention two of them, “Conscription, military patriarchy and the way it affects the society” and “Collective memory: stories of the peaceful co-living of Armenians and Azerbaijanis before the conflict”. Both are in research phase now, and I am uncertain when I will be able to actually work on these highly sensitive topics, taking into consideration the fact that the official peace process is stagnating and nationalist rhetoric is fuelling, rising tensions between the societies both in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Revanchist and military rhetoric has become widespread in recent years through the targeted introduction of enemy images into people’s consciousness, and even the idea that it is genetically impossible for Armenians and Azerbaijanis to live side by side has been aired.
Members of the younger generation who have no experience of inter-ethnic interaction (since the societies became mono-ethnic as a result of the war in the early 90s) are particularly vulnerable to propaganda. Many of them see the other side as demonised, abstract, and not possessing the same human qualities as themselves. Thus it becomes easier to justify one’s readiness to fight and hurt this “other”. All that remains of warm relations between neighbors are the memories, and documenting and passing these on to the next generation is a pressing task.I also aim to investigate the way the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan affects the people living on both sides of the border.

Glad you have the privilege to be in a sabbatical, you definitely needed that, being the hardworking multitasking bee that you are <3

It is definitely going to be a challenge to fundraise for the festival, but there is the almighty Armenian Diaspora, that loves Artsakh so much, so I hope they will prove their love through actions now. Otherwise it is true that the intl agencies prefer not to operate in the region because of the geopolitical situation and to be on the safe side.

I also got a support letter from the Ministry of Culture of Artsakh last week, which will help me to fundraise, but as I do not have much time to fundraise, I am postponing the event till fall(end of September/beginning of October). Thus I will have enough time to organise the event and make it as big as possible.


Whoop, whoop! The documentary about last year’s festival is online and so is the fundraiser for this year’s edition. Please, have a look and spread the word! Your feedback is very important to me <3
@nadia @alberto @johncoate @bob @noemi @alex_levene @patrick_andrews @inge @natalia_skoczylas @hazem

PS: Just to clarify the context: this year we did not manage to get funding from the local government as they had other priorities(alternative world football championship of unrecognized countries) and all of the other(few, mostly diasporan) agencies operating in the conflict-ridden region are prioritizing socio-economic long-term projects such as building houses and schools, and arts and cultural development is clearly not one of their top priorities. So yeah, here we are, unable to apply for intl funding because of the political situation(supporting a project in Karabakh=recognizing its existence, i.e. clearly a no no since it’s a de facto Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenian forces).


@anon82932460 @inge maybe make a nice post with the video embedded in it?


working on this now @nadia — where should I post it? Which category? Campfire?

I’ve created this post: Support This Art Festival Battling Cultural And Economic Isolation Through The "Ghost Theater of Stepanakert"@iriedawta, please have a look and let me know if any wording needs to be changed.

@anon82932460 when its ready to be pushed, you can use this video on FB as visual as well: Still can't get enough of ARTsakh Fest 2018 teaser by @vananeborian 🖤💜💛 . . . #vananeborian #artsakhfest #teaser #stepanakert #nagornokarabakh... | By Artsakh Fest | Facebook

And I hope this picture will be scrapped for sharing:

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wow @inge great job, why lost city though? Could you check this project, during which we attempt to define what Nagorno Karabakh is? Thinking about the right wording right now, will let you know if I come up with something else…

Areg Balayan, a documentary photographer who led a workshop on photography last year called the photo project"The ghost theater of Stepanakert". We can use this wording too.

Thanks a lot for this <3

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Also is there a way for the first video (by Vanane Borian) to play automatically once the page is open?Here’s the original one, though it might not make a difference.

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I don’t have the ability to upload mp4, can I be given those admin rights by any chance, @matthias

Also, for some reason the video link from FB shows as square, but isn’t on FB (and I’d like to center it, HALP)

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yeah would be good to have the documentary show bigger as well @matthias :pray:

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Also, @iriedawta, it would be great to have a quote from you in it. The reason why you are doing this, why it is important, and why through the arts.


Right, I will get back to you in a minute with a quote. Also, you could add reports on two art installations that are in English:

“Learning How to Fly” Project by Laura Arena

“Take Your Seat” Project by Susanna Arakelyan and Marcel Mayer

As well as this Review in English by Joe Nerssessian

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Here is my quote, feel free to edit:

After living there for about a year, I realized that the lack of community space and community-based artistic interventions is the only solution to overcoming the isolation of the region and healing the people who experienced war for three generations in a row. I just felt a responsibility to revive this building as it was the community space for decades and the only building of historical and cultural importance that survived the war. My goal is to use the public space and contemporary art practices to meet local needs.

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The intended way to post a video is to post it on YouTube or Vimeo, then to post the link here on its on line, which will turn it automatically into an embedded video. I’ll give you the Edgeryders YouTube credentials via DM.

(Uploading videos here directly is technically possible, but as video files are very large so over time backups etc. would become complicated.)

Facebook videos are a mess and should not be used for anything outside of Facebook. Video links can become invalid after some time, and so on.

No, and I don’t think it’s a good idea. Let the visitor be in control.

Videos at 100% content width of the text column is a good idea. I’ll put it on the list and will try it later. There’s always a fullscreen button for embedded videos, too.

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Great, thanks @matthias, will do!

@iriedawta and @anon82932460 the piece is ready to be pushed on social media and on edgeryders :slight_smile:

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