Armenia: Close to paradise – Observations during the orientation trip

If you enjoy improvised systems as much as I do, Armenia is close to paradise.
I believe that it stimulates your imagination if you encounter a lot of improvisations in your daily life. So Armenians must feel very stimulated. After visiting the house of the famous Armenian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov and seeing his artistic oeuvre, I am quite sure my theory must be right (see blog from day 8, Yerevan).

In public space I discovered, for example, that Armenians like to hang their empty coffee cups on trees, on nails or twigs. I never saw it anywhere before, this particular but beautiful habit. I would suggest that the Armenians claim it as an integral part of their culture.

01-coffeecups     02-coffeecups

Surprisingly, compared to Iran I felt less free to go wherever I wanted, here, be it for quite innocent reasons. For example, I wanted to take a picture of a piano in a park. I liked the way it was covered to protect it from rain or sunlight.


With one foot on the grass I searched for the right angle. Suddenly I heard a police siren, followed by a male voice that spoke Armenian through a megaphone from the inside of the police car. I didn’t think it was meant for me. I continued my photographic operation. But the voice became louder, and only after I took my one foot off the grass it stopped and the car drove past. I had a similar experience the next morning: a gentle knock on my shoulder to inform me that I was not allowed to photograph a certain jacket.


Later that week I was walking in a shopping mall. In a side street I suddenly heard that same police siren. Everyone around me jittered, a little scared, turning their heads in the direction the sound came from. It wasn’t a police car, but a guy who could imitate that sound perfectly. Everybody started laughing. I guess I was not the only one who had been haunted by the police.

Enough about police, back to improvised systems.

Look at these sculptures, made on the market! Sometimes they even become balancing acts.

05-sauerkraut-sculpture     06-nut-sculpture

07-spices-sculpture     09-shoe-sculpture

08b-bread-sculpture 08a-bread-sculpture-2

And their shoes! What beauty can be found in the lack of choice.

10-black-shoes-2     11-black-shoes

In Yerevan I also met a group of people doing morning exercises. Armenian women, mostly retired, lead by a Russian instructor. In contrast to their Iranian colleagues, who were jumping and swinging, they performed slow and more controlled moves, eye exercises, skin massages. It looked all very sweet and tender.



And I also discovered an Armenian follow-up of the Iranian bending frequency. Only this time it was not for reading a newspaper, but for drinking water. Luckily the Armenians still have plenty of that.




And I added several Armenian contributions to my collection of men holding long objects.


17-roll    18-metal

I’ve been collecting them for quite some time now, men carrying long objects.
Beams, bars, branches, broomsticks, plastic pipes, fluorescent light tubes.

Mostly men, odd enough.

I have read somewhere that a stick is the only object
that directly connects mankind with animals.
An animal with a stick becomes more human.
A human being with a stick makes him or her more primal.

19-sweepers   20-sweepers-2


Morning sweepers in Gumri.
You can hear them from far away. The empty square amplifies the rhythmic sound of their broomsticks on the rough concrete. Later on, I spotted the broomsticks stored outside a hair salon.
I found the ladies inside, warming themselves by the stove.


Suddenly, a hustle and bustle on one particular street. Children were walking fast, sometimes even running, alone or accompanied by their parents, so as not to be late for school.
In line, like a row of ants, they moved towards the school. After school had started the parents walked the same way back, a traffic flow in the opposite direction.




Paulien Oltheten, Yerevan 2016

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