Opening night of Salon Mashup. Start of "The Road to Ras al-Ain" (costume design by Alexandra Kharibian, performed by Lucine Hakobyan). © Armenian Institute

Salon Mashup

Displacement + Regeneration




Scene from "Walnuts" (devised and directed by Seta White). © Alexei Emam

In the basement tunnels of Shoreditch Town Hall from 31 January to 3 February 2013 ran Salon Mashup: Displacement + Regeneration, a four-day mixed media event featuring art exhibitions, installations and performances including music, theatre, dance, spoken word and performance art. Funded by Arts Council England, AGBU London Trust, Saint Sarkis Charity Trust as well as through contributions from individual donors, the event was the first of its kind and spoke clearly on the theme of the Armenian experience of loss and resettlement.

Scene from "Walnuts" (devised and directed by Seta White). © Alexei Emam

Collaborations were encouraged across different artistic media and the result was 13 performances over the three evenings, mainly of new collaborations between artists. The exhibition, curated by Shoair Mavlian (assistant curator of photography and international art at Tate Modern) and Vazken Khatchig Davidian (art historian), displayed the work of 10 very different artists across media which included video art, photography, installation, drawing and collage. Their work, all intimate and personal responses to their own history, provided a backdrop and in many cases a connection to the performances.

Performance of "Packing", devised and directed by Karen Babayan. Performed by Shakeh Major Tchilingirian. © Alexei Emam

The concept for Salon Mashup developed from an intention to create a space for Armenian artists, and artists interested in Armenian history and culture, to meet, explore ideas and collaborate. Indeed it was the “mashup” – the process of collaboration between the different artists and artistic media, and the bringing together of old and new – which made Salon Mashup so unique. Over 40 artists worked together to deliver new perspectives on varied experiences, accommodations and growth, which mark the routes of migration and resettlement.

The Opening Night launched the exhibition and first evening of performances. Some 200 people attended, filling the tunnels to capacity, including AI Friends, Patrons and Benefactors, funders of Salon Mashup and His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian.

Performance of "Fragments and Seeds" by Vergine Gulbenkian. © Alexei Emam

The tunnels of Shoreditch Town Hall embrace both art and performance. Their walls and labyrinths incorporate and blend into the work, enhancing the ideas presented and stories told. The audience experienced the work in a promenade, with performances taking place in different rooms. As one viewer described it, “The works and the gather of audience were evocative of ancient traditions of market place entertainment or storytelling under a starry sky.”

Over the subsequent three days, film screenings, workshops and an artists’ discussion forum also took place.

Alongside the overwhelming turnout from the UK Armenian community, Salon Mashup reached out to a new and diverse crowd, mixed in nationality and age. As one audience member put it, “I was fascinated by the number of new people that had been drawn into the event. There were a lot of new faces in the participants and in the attendees. It felt alive, a wonder, and new. This should be considered a triumph.”

I envisage Salon Mashup 2013 to be the first of many events, providing a platform and voice for Armenian culture that will feed and support collaborations in both the UK and abroad.

Seta White, Salon Mashup Director and Performance Curator