The Beat Generation of Armenia

My name is Laura. I was born and raised in Armenia –– a country that underwent a huge natural disaster at the end of the 80s, and a horrible war at the beginning of the 90s. The post-war Armenian youth, born in the mid-to-late 90s by a gaunt crowd ravaged by the Spitak earthquake and the Karabakh War, is a generation that tries to create a new country and a new model of society, without any help from the government or elder generations. I am a representative of that generation, oftentimes referred to as the hope for the bright future of Armenia.

The generation that emerged in the aftermath of World War II was called ‘The Beat Generation’, one of broken and unconscious people. As similarities are obvious between “the broken” generation and my generation, I call us “The Beat Generation of Armenia.” 

John Kerouac once said:

“The origins of the word “beat” are obscure, but the meaning is only too clear to the most Americans. … a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness. In short, it means being undramatically pushed up against the wall of oneself. A man is beat when he goes broke, and wagers the sum of his resources on a single number; and the young generation has done that from early youth”.

Indeed, we do feel having been reduced to the bedrock of consciousness; in other words, we have been left with the simplest forms of knowledge and mental resources. Now, we try hard to be able to create new things from the leftovers of the half-destroyed country. This is a result of the society’s prolonged functioning in the “survival mode” — so long, in fact, that virtually everything besides survival has systematically been left out of the equation over the last two decades.

In Armenia, those born after 1989 made up over 800,000 people out of nearly three million in 2014. The Armenian youth — nearly 800,000 people — is over 30 percent of the overall population, holding the country’s future on their shoulders.

The process of creating a new society in a post-war country is mostly done by the young adults’ individual thinking and actions. To bring an example of these young people, I approached those who, I believe, can be relevant examples of “The Beat Generation of Armenia.” They express their national and personal consciousness through creating, learning and working. Some of them actively participate in the social-political life and try to make changes in today’s vicious political arena, risking personal well-being for the creation of a new society.

12079105_499967356829428_2544461214627676166_n Artak Gevorgyan is one of those young individuals who tries to make a change. He is a young street artist who mainly focuses on the social-political issues in Armenia and expresses his political views through graffiti  on the streets of Yerevan:

“We are civic activists, who speak out about the social-political situation in the country; if there’s a social problem we react on it in some ways. The ways can be different: street art or whatever comes to one’s mind. We choose art as our voice in expressing our views. For example, if journalists express their views by writing, we create art. In a single thought, we struggle against the vicious political power that controls the country by creating”  says Gevorgyan. 

Photo by Narek Aleksanyan

Photo by Narek Aleksanyan

Gevorgyan told that although he has been pushed against the wall by the political parties, that tried to pressure him in different ways, he is not going to stop his civic activism. 

“We, the new generation should create new alternatives for ourselves, new city, new art galleries, new workplaces. No one is going to do it for us. Neither the Soviet generation, nor the government, because they do not need it, but we do; thus, we should do it by ourselves”.

In the process, we should not only accept that we are alone in doing it, but should also be able to create a model of a society far from today’s vicious political parties. This is one of the main struggles of our generation. Some young adults of “The Beat Generation of Armenia” mostly self-express their feelings and experiences  through art.

IMG_9131 Anna Terzikian is a young artist who lately gave a performance, ‘I’m Tired’, in a local young performers’ competition titled One Square Meter, in which the artists are allowed to perform only in the given one square meter on stage. When her turn came, she just lied without moving. Here is how she explains the idea of her performance:

“Once I was talking to one of my friends when the conversation grew up to the point when I started to talk about the feeling that I have lately, I feel like I do not even have my square meter just to sleep in and take a rest. There is always someone or something that wakes me up. At that time when I was in this mental situation, the “One Square Meter” was already near and the first thing that came to my mind was to go there and just sleep. Why not?.”  This was how Terzikian decided to participate in festival. 

Anna

Photo by Ophelia Janibekyan

The melancholy of being tired was not only in me but everybody I know. Moreover, the graffiti saying “I’m Tired” that are spread all over the city streets finalized my idea of the performance. Thus, I went there and let myself to have a rest in a square meter that belonged to only me for a while,” she added.

Through her performance, Terzikian not only expressed her feeling of being tired through the act, but also the feelings of her peers who permanently look for their personal space, a square meter. According to Anna, the reason for this mass tiredness is the dullness of the society.

“Let’s take a regular exhibition in the city. Usually, we see there the same faces all the time, or even when the new faces appear, the continuation of the development of a certain art never happens. We do not have ways for developing our art in here. The majority of the people are not interested…. They feel more safe and comfortable in the shapes and perceptions that are already embedded in them. There is a chronic fear of innovations among us which makes that empty monotony and causes the tiredness.” says Terzikian.

The idea of creating a new society that grows independently came from the mental damage that was caused by tragedies of the recent past. Although huge steps are being taken by “the beat” towards the development and growth of the country, the main power of our spirit remains unrecovered. We fight against the unjust system of our government, but still are not strong enough to be able to make any major changes. We create art, but still not nearly enough for ensuring its longevity and not getting tired from our creations. We struggle for making our voice heard, but it is still not loud enough even for most of us to hear it. Nevertheless, I still believe that soon “The Beat Generation of Armenia” will also overcome its individual difficulties and become another great generation for the country.

 

Laura Sargsyan

 

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