During CDNs seminar in Armenia, from 26th of April to 2nd of May, called “Sharing is caring! Collective action and common solutions” on the topic of commons, the participants had the chance to visit a local artists’ squat. Read more about it and get activists support video at the end.
The squat is located in one of the oldest buildings in Yerevan, which was assigned for demolition. Several artists occupied the building, moving in their studios and arranging common space, used by other civic groups. Neighbors are providing electricity and water supply and different groups of supporters bring food, music, support, happiness. We engaged in dialog with squatters and tried to understand their reasoning we came to very interesting discoveries about Yerevan nature. What local people were explaining to us is that they are against ruining everything old and instead building new centers that are aimed only to elite utilities rather than common space for people. Another very important aspect why they want to preserve this building is that they are the last witnesses of Communal architecture, in which buildings are oriented towards inner gardens, providing community with common space, to enjoy the sun, wash laundry, have an eye on kids running for ball safe from traffic. Therefore, preserving the house is preserving Yerevan in which the local community is the center of planing. The artists are doing everything they can to keep the building and that is why they are organizing various exhibitions with their work in order to get more people and also collect some money to continue promoting their aims. As the building is currently not such a priority in demolishing it, since there are a lot of them headed first, still it is just a matter of time when they will engage in a stronger manner to actually destroy it.
After the visit and with gathered information from the locals, we had a sum-up and a discussion with the participants of the seminar about their impressions, their thoughts and aimed to understand such actions and show our support. The first point that was raised was why should someone want to destroy something that can be used in creative purposes, as it became to be a great place for young and enthusiastic people to meet. We also discussed if squats are a public place and the participants agreed that we should consider them as such, comparing it to a form of museum that should be accessible to everyone, but it mainly depends on the management. Since there is a community that manages it, that is gathered by the place itself, they are sharing same values and norms, keeping in mind that this is an example for everybody who wants change and who wants a more democratic and transparent society, they are doing their best to continue and don’t give up. Therefore, we can see that no matter where we come from, what do we do as our professions, what are our backgrounds, we all are facing challenges and we all want change, but change that is sustainable and that is guided by the will of the people. We strongly support such initiatives, as the art squat in Yerevan and we hope that they will achieve what they are fighting for and keep the beauty of the building and its meaning to the community. In this purpose, we asked few of our participant to say couple of words to express their ideas and to show support for the artists. You can see the video below with the messages!