An installation view of Andrius Arutiunian piece with two speakers, a vinyl player, and carpets at Venice BiennaleAn installation view of Andrius Arutiunian piece with the score frescoed at Venice BiennaleAn installation view of Andrius Arutiunian piece with two speakers, a vinyl player, and carpets at Venice BiennaleEnneagram frescoed on the wall by Andrius Arutiunian representing the score of the pieceAn installation view of Andrius Arutiunian piece with two speakers, a vinyl player, and carpets at Venice BiennaleLive performance of the piece for four hands, retuned piano, and live electronicsVinyl player and speakers of the installation by Andrius Arutiunian in Venice Biennale

Seven Common Ways of Disappearing is a work of open duration for four hands and retuned grand piano. First conceived as a live performance, it was then shown as an installation (Armenia Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2022) and released as a limited-edition vinyl record of the same name (via Hallow Ground, 2022).

The work is closely connected to the Armenian-Greek mystic and composer G.I. Gurdjieff who was one of the first thinkers (and quite possibly charlatans) to introduce a syncretic idea of Eastern philosophy into the West. Gurdjieff’s unique way of teaching was based on an esoteric blend of Middle Eastern, Buddhist, and Dervish philosophies, and oscillated between a genuine search for enlightenment and a complex form of trickery. While he wrote numerous books and musical scores, he stayed a rather enigmatic and conflicting figure among his contemporaries, which were both enchanted and confused by his constant fluctuation between mystical appearances, bizarre coincidences, and bouts of simultaneous drunkenness and sombreness. Among many interests of his were digestive systems, heavenly harmonies, codified notions of “the Idiot”, ritualistic dances, search for the Truth, search for inebriation (both toxic and divine), ancient magic, and enchanting repetitive music.

Gurdjieff was also the first person to introduce the idea of enneagram into the Western imagination (which later was appropriated widely by the New Age movement). Borrowing from his writing on the world ordering and musical tuning, in Seven Common Ways of Disappearing the enneagram is used to organize the musical and structural matter of the piece. The work is written for a grand piano – the epitome of Western musical production – retuned in a system based on Gurdjieff’s writings. Using a simple set of rules, the two musicians have to navigate the topography of the score, rendering the piece in different configuration each time.

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