“About 47.000 people, which is the 1.5% of the whole population of Armenia, are under the threat of natural disaster called ‘landslide’,” reads the description in the leaflet of photo exhibition. The gloomy photographs of mostly cold blue and green hues depict both landscapes with destroyed houses and portraits of hopeless inhabitants who are the part of factual statistics.
The photo exhibition called “Landslides in Armenia” was opened on October 2nd at Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (ACCEA). By this project Armenian photographer Arthur Lumen raises the issue of major importance through the artistic medium. The trigger of the exhibition goes back to 2011, when he first encountered the harsh reality of inhabitants of landslide-hazard zones. Since then, Lumen told, the idea of informing people about the tragedy was born developing into the current project. He also noticed that people have their part to be blamed for since their negligence contributes disaster’s occurrence. “For example, in Voghjaberd they left faucets open, so that’s a cause of landslide,” he stated. Lumen thinks that both people living in the landslide-hazard areas and those who learn about the disaster through the project should acquire knowledge about the natural environment and their impact on it.
The vertical and horizontal photographs depict gravestones, damaged or demolished houses, and people living their lives in the fear of upcoming rip through the land and homes. Almost all portraits are vertical and indicate the human specific position in nature. Interestingly the gravestones are also embraced in verticality of the shot, as if even in their horizontal mergence with soil still echoing the human specific position. People in front and in their damaged houses leave an impression of witnesses of their own grief. Thus photography as always multiplies reality in its various aspects, and in this case the sufferer becomes the witness of their own sufferings and loses.
The horizontal images of landscapes fulfill the function of transmitting as much information as possible. They appear to be an informative constituent of the project. And still they remind the viewer of a greater expansion of horizontality of nature as opposed to human specific verticality, and thus empowered by the virtual expansion warn about the expanding nature of the very disaster.
The artificial illumination reveals human presence behind each photograph thus making a twofold notion of human activity: destructive and documentary. The overall grim and cold images are illuminated by cold and artificial light, as a result the black pigments are perceived as deep and relatively warm. Accordingly viewer faces the image where the cold light and the absence of it with resulting “warm” darkness, tell the story of unresolved tragedy. The complicacy of both aesthetics and the story thus correspond to each other.
The video depicting people living in the risk areas is the part of Lumen’s project. The video is a mix of sound, photography and videography. This short narrative video tells of landslides and includes speeches of sufferers.
The visitor of the exhibition Harutyun Tashjyan, noted that he got familiar with the issue through that video, which he described as an informative piece covering a serious problem. The fact of being informed of the fate of those people and the disaster in general while also encountering the aesthetic value of the works was the main feature of the exhibition for him. “It gives me shivers, both the aesthetics– in a positive, and the phenomenon in a negative way,” expressed her emotions Sofya Khachatryan, another visitor.
Lumen mentioned about the assistance of Hakob Margaryan who helped with lighting, and thanked OSF for funding the project. The footage was done in Sovetashen cemetary, Getahovit and Voghjaberd villages within a year
The exhibition is open until October 17th, and takes place in ACCEA, Mirzoyan Library, Bureaucrat bookstore, The Green Bean coffee shop and in The Club.