ACU’s Julfa Cemetery Project: Rome exhibition and colloquium

Photo of silhouette of two people looking at a 3D projection at the Julfa Cemetery Project exhibition.

Immersive 3D soft projection at Soap Factory, Rome. (Photo by H Short)

Members of the Julfa project team, Dr Judith Crispin, Professor Harold Short and Drew Baker, presented an exhibition and colloquium in Rome (23 to 25 September), in association with the events marking the formal opening and blessing of ACU's Rome Centre.

The Julfa Cemetery Digital Repatriation Project is working to digitally reconstruct an ancient Armenian cemetery, Julfa, destroyed by Azeri troops at the beginning of this century. Working with cutting edge 3D visualisation tools, the project’s researchers are making use of photographs taken during the 20th Century along with 3D scans of the few extant monuments to create an immersive 3D model of 2000 medieval and early modern tombstones.

The exhibition, held at the newly renovated Soap Factory in Rome’s Garbatella district, presented the project's first immersive 3D displays. Two large projections showed the cemetery site along with 15 individual funerary monuments called khachkars (cross-stones). The exhibition is pioneering a revolutionary new approach to combining still images, 3D audio, 3D visualisations and traditional photography in order to render an emotionally compelling and dignified recreation of a destroyed cultural site. The exhibition was attended by large audiences, many drawn from the Armenian diaspora in Rome. Some visitors travelled from Milan, Madrid, and even from as far as London.

The exhibitions in Rome included: historical photographs by Argam Ayzazyan, Aram Vryur and Zaven Sargsyan, new photographs by Dione McAlary and Judith Crispin, audio field recordings by Kimmo Venonnen, 3D field scans by Drew Baker, Judith Crispin, Dione McAlary, Hamlet Petrosyan and Father Shahe Ananyan. Topographical and monument reconstructions were done by Drew Baker, image editing by Judith Crispin and technical support was provided by Craig Williams and his team from Mosaic, Adelaide.

The exhibition was accompanied by a colloquium that featured talks by renowned Armenian archaeologist Hamlet Petrosyan and, by Skype from Armenia, photographer Argam Ayvazyan. The colloquium opened with welcomes from Professor Wayne McKenna, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, and Vartan Karapetian, Cultural Attaché from the Armenian embassy to the Vatican, on behalf of the Ambassador.

The enthusiasm and support of the Armenian community was also evident in a subsequent visit to the monastery at San Lazarro degli Armeni in Venice, where Father Hamazasp has offered to host a two-year installation of the Julfa Project materials. Closer to home, the exhibitions will be shown early in 2017 at the State Library of New South Wales, to mark the launch of its new 'Armenian Collection', which is documenting the arrival and development of Sydney's 45,000 strong Armenian community.  The Julfa Project also plans to exhibit in Melbourne, as a joint sponsorship by a city gallery and the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry.

Now in its second year at ACU, the project is indebted to the far-sightedness of the Vice-Chancellor and President, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, and the invaluable support they have provided to the project since its inception.

For more information, visit the 24 October Staff Bulletin article or the project website.

Judith Crispin and Harold Short
October 2016

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