“History runs in circles. Skewed, irregular circles, rhythmical and completely dissonant ellipses. I also heard that there are places in the world where rivers run in circles, where gold-headed fish bump into each other, and lonely ethnographers record their echoing CLINKs.
Meanwhile, somebody is living their childhood, probably in dad’s garage or on a rug somewhere. You, a small figure, watch another figure larger than you. They have a history you don’t yet know, just like the rest of the world. You are still growing into your language and onto your feet, and this might be the first time you ever hear anything. Four, five generations from a tragedy – a childhood parallel to yours, but a completely different one.
Every child is a musical instrument. That’s why our ears grow as we age.
It may be a peaceful scene, or a slightly uncomfortable one. It may ripen, one day, into a bright memory, or into a silent, anxious rebuke, held firmly by both figures, now equal in height. Generational conflicts precede larger and more painful ones, making the strongest umbilical cords. Another circle closes, tying us back to the cervical suffering.
But right now, at this moment, on a rug, in a car, by the monotonous music machine, the only circles you draw are your first ones, spinning the body and thought, breaking the world’s axis into millions of dancing small figures. You may as well hear of those rivers – it’s a miracle, but they reach everywhere, populating the world with gold-headed fish. Only blood and bodies alter their flows, oh look, we are now trapped in an island that was not here before, I believe we are also humming songs we never knew, but somehow remember.
Humming is very important. You see, we know all the melodies, I’m just not sure I remember… Those instinctive rhythms and loops – my head is spinning, we can never get away from them. This is how they communicate in these islands, they are humming, calling out, back and forth, blending into a single voice, and this voice is carrying spores.
And spores, you see, you must watch them. I understand now: they form the core of endlessness, they contain the essence of spreading and growing, the pervasive code of continuity. Let’s spore on this, we said when we were small figures, spinning on the rug by the monotonous musical machine. Let’s bet, take a chance, throw a possibility in the air. I spore you now, in this island: we can recompose and re-sing our roles, our stories, borders and positions. We may not have much, but we have those music machines, and if there are children, they make the best instruments.
Horror can never be accepted as a force equal to gravity. But sounds and movements can break constitutions and alter the flows of rivers, washing us up on the rug or in dad’s garage, in seats of power, positions of play, and, finally, far, far outside the circular traps of history.“
– Monika Kalinauskaitė, text for Armen by Andrius Arutiunian
ARMEN is an audio-visual installation and performance set, composed using found audio materials which were produced by Armenian musicians living abroad. Armenia has one of the largest diaspora in the world, spread across various continents. I chose to work with a selection of tracks from the 1970s and 80s made by Armenian diaspora producers, same generation as my father, who is an Armenian emigré himself. All of the selected tracks share a certain sense of nostalgia as well as use certain elements of traditional Armenian music. I reproduce their sounds and structures which create this “southern” feeling while exposing it to noises and glitchy textures reconstructing their narratives anew.
ARMEN was premiered and shown at the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), Vilnius and broadcast by Radio Papesse Süden Radio and documenta14 SAVVY FUNK radio program. Further performances include Theater Rast in Amsterdam and various public presentations in Armenia.
The piece is also published as a limited-edition handmade lathe vinyl and is available upon a request.
ARMEN is supported by the AFK (Amsterdam Fund for the Arts), Performing Arts Fund NL, Armenian Art Foundation and Lithuanian Council for Culture