Monday, 1 September 2008

Last Day of Meline’s bar – 31 July 2008

Meline’s bar, opened in November 2004, the only openly gay bar in Armenian capital with gay staff and clientele, was closed down due to financial reasons, as well as ongoing renovation projects in central Yerevan. Despite previous closure and re-opening, controversial opinions, Meline's remained a place where LGBT Armenians could be themselves, spend evening/night out, relax and have fun. It’s for that reason that I recognised Meline’s a “Venue of the Year” in Unzipped: Gay Armenia LIST 2008 (For other gay-friendly venues, or venues of interest for gay community, see my Armenia Gay Guide)

I am glad that Pawel Leszkowicz, art curator and writer from Poland, was in Yerevan and in Meline’s on its very last day and provides this valuable account of a “definite ending with a splash called a naked party”. He says that “the patrons in Meline’s seems to be optimistic and sure that new bars will open in the future.” I certainly hope so.

(For selection of posters from Meline's past years - click here)

*From One Week in Yerevan: Art, Politics, and Sexuality by Pawel Leszkowicz (pictures of Meline’s last day by Pawel Leszkowicz)
**pictures have been taken out from this post upon request of people captured there, for understandable reasons.

On the 31st of July is the last night of the one and only gay club in Yerevan. Melines Bar is located in the very center of the town next to the Republic Square with its famous fountains and the Armenian National Gallery holding the early frescos representing the heritage of the first country that adopted Christianity as its religion in 301 AD. Melines Bar has its own history of on and off operations since the 2004. But today is a definite ending with a splash called a naked party.

Since 2002 when homosexuality was decriminalized in Armenia due to the country membership in the Council of Europe, gay scene started to emerge queering the city of Yerevan. For a while there was a popular mixed disco called Monte Christo but it didn’t survived. The final closing of Meline’s is a symptom of another process of modernization and capitalization, the center is being gentrified and the building housing the bar is doomed for destruction. A new monumental architecture of expensive apartments and shops pop up all over the center. The new just finished Northern Avenue haunts with surrealistic emptiness and Georgio Armani ads. Yet the elegant Armenian men rather prefer fake (Turkish) D&G T-shirts. Shoe fetishism is also crucial for male vogue here. The fashion/art photographer Raffie Davtian documents the Armenian sense of style and urban life changes.

In the small cellar space of Meline’s a crowd of topless men dances in an erotic frenzy. It is far after midnight and the music is a global pop/disco with a strong Russian’s divas influxes that made the patrons ecstatic. Russian is still the second language here and the Russian pop rules. The open homoerotic sexual expression is a twist of a traditional patriarchal same sex bonding in Armenian culture where young men walk on the street holding hands and kiss on the mouth upon meeting. Supposedly it does not have a sexual meaning?! The old Soviet abjection of homosexuality combined with the new condemnation by Armenian Christian Apostolic Church defines the negative social attitude towards gays and lesbians. Quite recently Mikael Danielyan the president of local branch of Helsinki Association was beaten by an Armenian politician for speaking for the rights of “faggots”. Yet the patrons in Meline’s seems to be optimistic and sure that new bars will open in the future.

Pawel Leszkowicz is a curator and lecturer/writer from Poland ,specialising in contemporary art/visual culture and sexuality/queer studies. He curated the exhibition of contemporary queer art "Love and Democracy" (2005/2006) and wrote with his partner Tomek Kitlinski the book "Love and Democracy. He intends to develop an international perspective and contacts in this field, particularly in Eastern Europe. In Poland he teaches at the Department of Art History at the University and the Department of Intermedia at the Fine Arts Academy.

No comments: