The exhibition in detail

AN UNINTERRUPTED CONVERSATION WITH THE FONDATION CARTIER

• EXHIBITIONS IN PARIS AND ABROAD

For the past 20 years, since the exhibition Un Art Populaire in 2001, the Fondation Cartier has celebrated Pelechian’s work in its exhibitions and its collection. In 2002, in particular, the film Our Century featured in Unknown Quantity, an exhibition created by the philosopher Paul Virilio. This film, which depicts the frantic technological race accompanying the conquest of space in the 20th century, strikingly echoes with Virilio’s theses on the acceleration of the contemporary world and the possibility of an ultimate accident.

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Cover of the exhibition catalog Un art populaire, 2001

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Left to right: Peter Hutton, Dominic Angerame, Artavazd Pelechian, Andrei Ujica, Alexis Rochas, Wolfgang Staehle, Svetlana Alexievitch, Lebbeus Woods, Nancy Rubins, and Stephen Vitiello in the installation "The Fall" by Lebbeus Woods, 2002
Picture

© André Morin.

Cover of the exhibition catalog Paul Virilio, Ce qui arrive, 2002.


Interview with Thomas Delamarre, 2020.
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Interview with Thomas Delamarre, 2020.

Pelechian’s films have also been shown abroad, on the occasion of exhibitions devoted to the Fondation Cartier’s collection, particularly at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2006), the Seoul Museum of Art (2017), and the Power Station of Art in Shanghai (2018).

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Artavazd Pelechian, Shadows, 2018, fabric, 150 x 250 cm. Installation of 80 flags based on an idea by Christian Boltanski.


View of the exhibition Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, A Beautiful Elsewhere, Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2018. Artavazd Pelechian, Shadows, 2018.


View of the exhibition Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, A Beautiful Elsewhere, Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2018. Photo © Luc Boegly.


View of the exhibition Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, A Beautiful Elsewhere, Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2018. Photo © Luc Boegly.


• A SERIES OF EXHIBITIONS IN COLLABORATION WITH GUILLERMO KUITCA

Starting in 2014, the Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca chose the film The Inhabitants as the central piece in a series of exhibitions conceived from the Fondation Cartier’s collection: Les Habitants (2014), Les Visitants (CCK, Buenos Aires, 2017), and Les Citoyens (Triennale Milano, 2021). For each exhibition, Kuitca chose to present Pelechian’s film alongside works by major artists such as David Lynch, Francis Bacon, Tarsila do Amaral, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Francesca Woodman.

LES HABITANTS

In 2014, Guillermo Kuitca created the exhibition Les Habitants, presented at the Fondation Cartier on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary. Conceived from works in the collection of the Fondation Cartier, it also included works from other collections. Pelechian’s film was presented in dialogue with works by David Lynch, Tarsila do Amaral, Francis Bacon, Patti Smith, Vija Celmins and Guillermo Kuitca. In the mind of the Argentinian artist, the inhabitants of the film’s title at once encompassed the artworks, artists and visitors, gathered into an ephemeral community for the duration of an exhibition. Presentation of the exhibition Les Habitants, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2014.

"Cher Artavazd" by Guillermo Kuitca, artist.
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"Cher Artavazd" by Guillermo Kuitca, artist.

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Catalog of the exhibition The Inhabitants, 2014.


View of the exhibition The Inhabitants, Paris, 2014. Photo © Luc Boegly.


View of the exhibition The Inhabitants, 2014

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Picture

© Olivier Ouadah.

View of the exhibition The Inhabitants, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, 2014. Photo © Luc Boegly.


View of the exhibition The Inhabitants, 2014. Photo © Luc Boegly.


Guillermo Kuitca, Untitled (study for The Inhabitants), watercolor on paper, 2014.


Presentation of the exhibition “The Inhabitants”, 2014.
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Presentation of the exhibition “The Inhabitants”, 2014.

LES VISITANTS

Three years later, Kuitca pursued this dialogue with the Fondation Cartier’s collection in his hometown of Bueno Aires. The exhibition Les Visitants. Guillermo Kuitca Reflects on the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain Collection featured the work of 23 international artists showing their work for the first time in Argentina, in the vast spaces of the CCK. At the heart of the exhibition, Pelechian’s film The Inhabitants this time formed a striking ensemble with the monumental photographs of mathematical objects by the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, and the intimate images by the American photographer Francesca Woodman.

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Cover of the exhibition catalogue for Les Visitants, 2018.


View of the exhibition Les Visitants, CCK, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2017. Center, The Inhabitants, a film by Artavazd Pelechian, 1970. Photo © Jorge Miño

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Artavazd Pelechian, The Inhabitants, 1970, still image from film. © Artavazd Pelechian. ARR.


View of the exhibition Les Visitants, CCK, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2017. Center, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Series Conceptual Forms/Mathematical Forms, 5 black and white photographs. Photo © Federico Kaplun

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View of the exhibition Les Visitants, CCK, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2017. Francesca Woodman, Rome, Tuscany, Ravenna, black and white photographs. Photo © Jorge Miño

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Jorge Miño

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Francesca Woodman, Space2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978, black and white photograph, 14.8 x 14.8 cm.


Guillermo Kuitca, in front of maquette of the exhibition Les Visitants at CCK, Buenos Aires, 2017. Photo © Thomas Delamarre

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Guillermo Kuitca, maquettes of the exhibition Les Visitants at CCK, Buenos Aires, 2017. Photo © Martín Touzón

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Guillermo Kuitca, Untitled, from the series Variations sur Les Habitants/Les Visitants, 2017, oil on canvas, 30 x 100 cm.


CCK, Buenos Aires. Photo © Fede Kaplun

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• IN DIALOGUE WITH OTHER ARTISTS

Over the years, Pelechian has encountered a number of artists at the Fondation Cartier, and has engaged in an aesthetic dialogue with some of them, resulting in singular pieces that offer a unique perspective on the Armenian filmmaker and his work.

RAYMOND DEPARDON

In 2005, the Fondation Cartier, in collaboration with the ZKM Filminstitut, commissioned a new film to Pelechian, a project which would culminate 15 years later under the title Nature. In 2006, he spent several months in Paris to work on the project, and met Raymond Depardon. The French photographer and filmmaker made a series of portraits of Pelechian during his days spent working at the Fondation Cartier.

Raymond Depardon, Artavazd Pelechian, and his wife Aïda Galstyan at the Fondation Cartier, with Hervé Chandès and Andrei Ujica, 2005

PATTI SMITH

In 2014, the American artist and musician Patti Smith, long fascinated by the spellbinding lyricism of the film The Inhabitants, decided to pay tribute to this work and its author. She created Swans, A tribute to Artavazd Pelechian, together with the English musician Patrick Wolf. This concert, inspired by the film, was presented at the Fondation Cartier on July 10, 2014 in the filmmaker’s presence

Patti Smith, Swans, “Swans, A tribute to Artavazd Pelechian” (excerpt), 2014.
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Patti Smith, Swans, “Swans, A tribute to Artavazd Pelechian” (excerpt), 2014.

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Patti Smith, Swans, A tribute to Artavazd Pelechian, 2014

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© Olivier Ouadah.

Patti Smith, Swans, A tribute to Artavazd Pelechian, 2014

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© Olivier Ouadah.

Patti Smith, Swans, A tribute to Artavazd Pelechian, 2014

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© Olivier Ouadah.

Patti Smith, Swans, A tribute to Artavazd Pelechian, 2014

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Picture

© Olivier Ouadah.

Artavazd Pelechian and Aïda Galstyan during the evening anniversary of the 30 years of the Fondation Cartier, 2014. Photo © Thomas Salva / Lumento.


Patti Smith, Portrait of Artavazd Pelechian, 2014.

TADANORI YOKOO

Also in 2014, the Fondation Cartier invited the Japanese painter and graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo to create a collection of portraits of artists, thinkers and scientists who have marked its history. Among the hundred or so individual portraits created, now part of the Fondation Cartier’s collection, he painted three versions of Pelechian’s portrait, seeming to explore a different facet of his model in each one. A figure of the graphic design avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s, since the early 1980s, Yokoo has primarily focused on painting. The Fondation Cartier devoted a solo exhibition to him in 2006.

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Tadanori Yokoo, Portrait of Artavazd Pelechian, 2014.


Tadanori Yokoo, Portrait of Artavazd Pelechian, 2014.


Tadanori Yokoo, Portrait of Artavazd Pelechian, 2014.


NATURE

• 2020: EXHIBITION ARTAVAZD PELECHIAN, NATURE

The first exhibition devoted to the filmmaker in France, Artavazd Pelechian, Nature proposes an unprecedented dialogue between three of the filmmaker’s major works: Nature, his first film in 27 years; Land of the People, one of his earliest films, dating to 1966; and The Seasons, an ode to peasant life made in 1975.

A veritable visual elegy, the film Nature pays tribute to the telluric power of nature, with its unrelenting force, capable of transcending all human ambition. In dialogue with this film-event, the Fondation Cartier is offering a chance to rediscover two gems of Pelechian’s filmography. The Seasons depicts a community of Armenian peasants, revealing the symbiotic connection between these peasants and the natural environment in which they live and work. With this film, Pelechian’s musical approach to film editing reaches new heights of intensity. With the pioneering film Land of the People, the filmmaker observes the Thinker, which features in the opening and closing shots. But this celebration of the promises of progress heralds the next phase of Pelechian’s filmography, in which he would go on to develop a more pessimistic vision of this technological race.

Brought together, these three essential films engage in a dialogue that deeply resonates with the challenges of our time, from opposite ends of the filmmaker’s body of work. Rounded out with a gallery devoted to Pelechian’s life and work featuring archival images and documents, the exhibition paints a unique portrait of this artist, whose filmography holds a distinctive position in the history of cinema.

Interview with Thomas Delamarre, 2020.
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Interview with Thomas Delamarre, 2020.

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View of the exhibition “Nature” at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, 2020

View of the exhibition Nature, 2020.


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© Edouard Caupeil.

View of the exhibition “Nature” at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, 2020
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© Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition “Nature” at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, 2020
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© Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition “Nature” at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, 2020
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© Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition “Nature” at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, 2020
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© Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition “Nature” at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, 2020
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© Luc Boegly.

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© Luc Boegly.

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© Luc Boegly.

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© Luc Boegly.

The American artist Sarah Sze is simultaneously proposing the exhibition Night into Day. Through her two installations, Twice Twilight and Tracing Fallen Sky, the artist explores the way in which the proliferation of images is changing our relationship to objects, time and memory—a reflection with subtle connections to the filmmaker’s approach.

"Cher Artavazd" by Sarah Sze, artist.
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"Cher Artavazd" by Sarah Sze, artist.

• GENESIS OF THE FILM

Following its initial collaborations with Pelechian in the early 2000s, the Fondation Cartier wished to accompany the filmmaker’s work more decisively. At the same time, the Romanian filmmaker Andrei Ujica, then head of the ZKM Filminstitut in Karlsruhe, Germany, was regularly collaborating with the Fondation Cartier, which had notably presented his film Out of the Present on the occasion of the 1999 exhibition Un Monde Réel. Following a series of enthusiastic conversations in Paris, Moscow and Karlsruhe between Pelechian, Hervé Chandès, director general of the Fondation Cartier, and Andrei Ujica, the Fondation Cartier, with the support of the ZKM Filminstitut, commissions in 2005 the making of a new film to Pelechian, demonstrating its respect and admiration for the filmmaker and his work.

Pelechian wrote a synopsis, presented below, already describing his vision of the film, titled Nature, in great detail. Starting in 2005, Pelechian began spending extended periods of time in Paris and Karlsruhe in order to undertake the research necessary for this film project devoted to nature. It took him nearly 15 years to complete this work. Ultimately, it seemed that the rise of new image technologies provided the filmmaker with the material necessary to realize his vision. Discovering videos diffused online, he spent time exploring amateur footage shot with cellphones during the ecological catastrophes that have occurred over the past two decades—particularly the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and the one that struck Japan in 2011. These are the images now at the heart of the film Nature, finally revealed in 2020 at the Fondation Cartier.

The fruit of a commission from the Fondation Cartier and the ZKM Filminstitut, Nature also received support from the Folk Arts Hub Foundation in Yerevan, Armenia.

Film synopsis for Nature, 2005. Original Russian and French manuscript and English translations.

Excerpts from the film “The Missing Image”,(work in progress since 2019). Director: Hrant Vardanyan © Arev Film Studio
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Excerpts from the film “The Missing Image”,(work in progress since 2019). Director: Hrant Vardanyan © Arev Film Studio

2020: Nature
Բնություն | Природа

Film, digital, black & white, 62min, France / Armenia / Germany

Pelechian’s new film depicts the force and majesty of nature, capable of overpowering human communities and their achievements. Gathered from the internet, most of the images composing the film are fragile, amateur-shot traces from within nature, and its tremors that regularly rock these communities.

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Artavazd Pelechian, Nature, 2020, still image from film. © Artavazd Pelechian. RR.


Artavazd Pelechian, Nature, 2020, still image from film. © Artavazd Pelechian. RR.


Artavazd Pelechian, Nature, 2020, still image from film. © Artavazd Pelechian. RR.


Artavazd Pelechian, Nature, 2020, still image from film. © Artavazd Pelechian. RR.


Artavazd Pelechian, Nature, 2020, still image from film. © Artavazd Pelechian. RR.


Artavazd Pelechian, Nature, 2020, still image from film. © Artavazd Pelechian. RR.


Artavazd Pelechian, Nature, 2020, still image from film. © Artavazd Pelechian. RR.


"Cher Artavazd" by Melik Ohanian, artist.
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"Cher Artavazd" by Melik Ohanian, artist.

Interview with Philippe Azoury, 2020.
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Interview with Philippe Azoury, 2020.

• A PIONEERING GAZE ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Pelechian’s cinema distinguishes itself through its indisputable ecological conscience. He examines the fate of the human species, through explorations of its position within the cosmos, and on earth. He observes how women and men coexist with other inhabitants of the planet—animals, plant life, minerals. This theme took center stage in his cinema with The Inhabitants in 1970 and The Seasons in 1975. While his films cannot be reduced to this element alone, and their powerful symbolism lends itself to a great many interpretations, Pelechian nonetheless stands as a pioneering figure in the depiction of humanity’s expanding grip over natural elements. And the filmmaker’s vision once again strikingly emerges in his new film, Nature, which takes tragic stock of the relationship between humans and nature in the 21st century.

"Cher Artavazd" by Emanuele Coccia, philosopher.
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"Cher Artavazd" by Emanuele Coccia, philosopher.

• IN THE PRESS

Having nearly vanished for nearly 30 years, the great Armenian experimental filmmaker is back with a new masterpiece, Nature, the fruit of 15 years of work—a visual poem on ecological catastrophe that he has foreseen since his earliest films.

Libération – Luc Chessel

Nature is the final symphony of climate upheaval, with Beethoven and Shostakovich as its choirmasters. It is the greatest catastrophe film of all time, eclipsing all the rest through its proximity with the world that awaits.

Le Monde – Jacques Mandelbaum

At the end of Nature we are both terrified and at peace: terrified to be at peace, at peace with being terrified. Is a greater aesthetic experience conceivable?

Transfuge – Jean-Christophe Ferrari

Pour les quelques chanceux qui ont pu se rendre à la Fondation Cartier fin octobre, le dernier film d’Artavazd Pelechian brille probablement comme une étoile vive et secrète, annonciatrice d’un temps cataclysmique et également porteuse de l’espoir de jours plus lumineux.

Trafic – Julie Mengelle

Rather than continuity in terms of theme or action, the splicing favors the internal rhythm of the shots, pulsations, frequently connecting the immense and the infinitesimal, cosmos and detail, long shots and extreme close-ups, to the point of indistinguishability.

Cahiers du Cinéma – Hervé Aubron

A symphony both elegiac and apocalyptic, Nature is a poetic meditation on beauty, but above all on the devastating power of nature. This rough diamond glints with climatic apocalypse: in it, the theoretical rigor that is the legacy of the Soviet film masters converges with an ultra-contemporary form and thought.

Les Inrocks – Bruno Deruisseau

It is a prophetic vision: humanity is diluted less in the waves of a tsunami than in the very substance of the low-definition, faded images. Beyond its monstrous entanglement, it is the idea of a deformation of reality through its very image, retouched and endlessly duplicated, that brings its uneasy vertigo to Nature.

La Septième Obsession – David Ezan

The decision to play with heterogeneous, impure material collected from the internet, marred by visible pixels, brings fragility to fragility, chaos to chaos, while imbuing Pelechian’s cinema with a planetary dimension.

Art Press – Jacques Kermabon

Rising waters, earthquakes, hurricanes…We have rarely seen our planet so enraged on the big screen. Nature marks the return of the rare filmmaker Artavazd Pelechian.

Beaux-Arts Magazine

The critical central sequence of the 2011 Japanese tsunami, which provoked the Fukushima catastrophe, is staggeringly brutal.

Les Echos – Pierre de Gasquet

A surging herd on its frenzied flight, the surging ocean devouring the land, the surging revolutionary masses out to bury totalitarianism – Pelechian’s cinema is wholly driven by an energy as irrepressible as it is destructive.

Positif - Laetitia Mikles

Pelechian is without a doubt one of the most influential film artists of the last half century. (…)

However short, his wordless films are conceived on the scale of history, geology, planets, and elemental forces and cycles. Perhaps more clearly than Pelechian’s previous films, Nature presents a point of view outside the human framework.

Pelechian’s film shows us that nature is irrepressible and at least as beautiful as it is disastrous. Most importantly, its movement abides.

Bomb Magazine – Nicholas Elliott

In this maximalist visual symphony, soundtracked by Beethoven, Mozart, Shostakovich, Avet Terterian and Tigran Hamasyan, nature’s cataclysmic forces upend human habitation, perched precariously on land that is still for just a relative second of the planet’s billions of years of history.

Art Review – Carmen Gray

A cinematic montage of natural disasters questions humanity’s chances of survival.

Hyperallergic – Dan Schindel

Pelechian may be rounding up his life project here with a terrestrial alarm. Suddenly, this least modern of filmmakers seems to be painfully of the moment.

Sight&Sound – Michael Atkinson

• A STAR IN YEREVAN

A star in Yerevan. Director: Hrant Vardanyan.
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A star in Yerevan. Director: Hrant Vardanyan.

In March 2021, a star paying tribute to Artavazd Pelechian was unveiled in Yerevan, in the presence of the filmmaker and his wife, Aïda Galstyan. Customarily placed in front of the Moscow Cinema in Yerevan, these stars honor renowned figures in the Armenian film and art world. Pelechian chose for his star to be placed apart, at 31 Tumanyan Street, in front of the Gemini Cafeteria. Before he left for Moscow in the mid-1960s, this is where Pelechian’s path in film began, inspired by the artists and thinkers of the time that he encountered in this hot spot of artistic and intellectual life in Yerevan. This star dedicated to Pelechian thus celebrates a filmmaker who in turn became a towering figure in Armenian culture. At his request, a QR code linking to the Fondation Cartier site was placed on the commemorative plaque, allowing visitors to access the online project Encounter with Artavazd Pelechian, which he finds to be the most exhaustive resource to date on his life and work.

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© Hrant Vardanyan.

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© Hrant Vardanyan.

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© Hrant Vardanyan.

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© Hrant Vardanyan.

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© Hrant Vardanyan.

Artavazd Pelechian, february, 2021. Director: Hrant Vardanyan.
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Artavazd Pelechian, february, 2021. Director: Hrant Vardanyan.

Acknowledgements

The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain extends its deepest gratitude to Artavazd Pelechian for his availability and vital commitment to the creation of this online project, and for the trust he placed in us throughout its preparation.

We are also grateful to Aida Galstyan, his wife, for her invaluable help and unique insight into Pelechian’s career.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to Andrei Ujica for his support and critical contribution to the understanding of Pelechian’s work through this project.

May also be thanked Hrant Vardanyan for his participation to the production of this project from Yerevan.

We sincerely thank Philippe Azoury, Emanuele Coccia, Atom Egoyan, Jean-Michel Frodon, Guillermo Kuitca, Pietro Marcello, Melik Ohanian, Sarah Sze, and Marguerite Vappereau for their singular perspectives on Pelechian’s work.

We are deeply grateful to Raymond Depardon, Patti Smith, and Tadanori Yokoo, whose works are featured in this online project, for their generosity.

We lastly thank everyone who contributed to the preparation of this project: Hayk Adamyan, Patrick Cazals, Ronald Chammah, Artak Davidyan, Juliette Duret (BOZAR), Lars Henrik Gass and Carsten Spicher (International Short Film Festival Oberhausen), Frédéric Papon (La Fémis), Moritz de Halden, Libération, Aurélien Marsais and Astrid Silva (Visions du Réel), Tatiana Maksimenko, Frédérique Mehdi and Mélanie Lemaréchal (Jeu de Paume), Le Monde, François Niney, Michael Pilz, Artavazd Sirakanyan, Rino Sciarretta, and Koryun Sokhakyan.

The online project Encounter with Artavazd Pelechian was developed on the occasion of the exhibition Artavazd Pelechian, Nature presented at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris from October 24, 2020 to April 25, 2021.

Editorial director, texts: Thomas Delamarre
Editorial coordinator: Sidney Gérard
Development and integration: Johanna Musch, with assistance from Valentin Guérin
Audiovisual production: Solène Dupont-Delestraint
Editorial communications coordinator: Justine Coppeaux
Assistant to Mr. Pelechian, translation: Lilit Sokhakyan
Graphic design: Julie Bouchet