Vahagni Concert Kicks Off Shushi Art Project

A scene from Sunday's Vahagni concert

LOS ANGELES—The newly launched Shushi Art Project presented its first public event, a benefit concert held in Los Angeles on January 15. Featuring Vahagni and his band, the sold-out “Solitude” concert took place at Hollywood’s Barnsdall Gallery Theatre.

An award-winning guitarist and composer, Vahagni led his flamenco-jazz ensemble (including pianist Vardan Ovsepian, cellist Artyom Manukyan, percussionist Zach Harmon, bassist Hamilton Price, and guest percussionist Geraldo Morales) to deliver a set of original compositions and folk arrangements. Much of the material was culled from Vahagni’s forthcoming album, Solitude.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit “Land & Technology,” the Shushi Art Project’s showcase event for 2012, said executive director Harry Vorperian. An international festival of contemporary art, “Land & Technology” will be held in Shushi, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, from October 1 through 14, featuring the works of over 15 visual artists from the United States, Europe and Armenia.

“In terms of its topography and cultural history alike, the city of Shushi is a breathtaking site,” Vorperian said. “Once there, as you take in the imposing beauty of the countryside, you can’t help but reflect on the meaning of geography in a world that seems to get smaller and smaller.”

“It’s no accident that our organization was named after Shushi,” Vorperian continued. “Beyond our fascination with what the city evokes and inspires in a purely aesthetic sense, we like the silent challenge, or at least question, it poses. A place like Shushi, perched as it is at an altitude of some 5,000 feet, and given the fact that it’s literally cut off from the rest of the world, compels you to think about the role of land in the shaping of identity. Shushi can also make you think about the potential points at which its cultural heritage and modern technology can legitimately converge and even complement one another. Hence the ‘land and technology’ theme of our inaugural event in Shushi.”

All artworks featured at the “Land & Technology” festival will be built or assembled during the course of the event at various sites throughout Shushi, often in collaboration with local residents. The artworks, including installations and land art, will remain in the city to become permanent elements of its landscape.

In addition to “Land & Technology,” events planned for 2012 include “Ode to Komitas,” a major collaborative concert slated for summer. With performances by musicians from across the world, the concert will be an homage to the legacy of the great composer Komitas Vardapet, expressed through new renditions of his music, Vorperian said.

About the Shushi Art Project: A Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, the Shushi Art Project seeks to present extraordinary artistic events that celebrate diversity, promote discourse, and foster change.

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