viennacontemporary 2018, Focus: Armenia
Organizer: Armenia Art Foundation
Curator: Sona Stepanyan
The velvet revolution of love and solidarity, which took place in May 2018, directed the world’s attention to Armenia, a former republic of the Soviet Union in the South Caucasus. This unprecedented case in the history of the young state has questioned the boundaries of professional identity, uniting citizens online and offline, breaking down the distance between the center and the periphery, approaching step by step the main square of the capital city, Yerevan. One of the features of this revolution is that it succeeded in erasing the barriers between the artistic and the non-artistic, when each word from the political stage was immediately reinterpreted in an artistic context, and politicians used a vocabulary that had been developed in artists’ studios. Finally, a space was established that was dialogic in contrast to a hierarchical space that would oppress the artist and turn him or her into a marginal element.
The artistic gesture had been the only way to protest so far. Artists – the permanent and invisible fighters against authoritarian regimes – came closer to their dream and thus found themselves in a transitional reality, whose discursive boundaries cannot yet be clearly defined. Once, the romantic 80s, dominated by perestroika, brought the first spirit of freedom, disobedience to official structures, bringing together visual artists, poets, musicians, who actively published manifestos and released samizdat, representing “Western, forbidden” art in Armenia. The ambitious 90s formed the first independent institutional agenda (the emergence of the Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (1992), the Venice Biennale Pavilion (1995), and Gyumri Contemporary Art Biennale (1998) and paved the way for the development of new media, such as video-art and performance. It was followed by the street actionism of the 00s, which, in a burst of solidarity, united artists and activists, contributing to the emergence of the Armenian public art and street art. Finally, one cannot help mentioning the frustration and apathy that are also present in the history of this struggle – the power nap of the 10s becomes the result of such an artistic stagnation caused by despair over the unchanging power that suppressed freedom. At the same time, Armenia has always been in parallel with the outsidedness of an active diasporal artistic gesture, projecting ideas about a home outside Armenia. But one way or another, internal artistic activity was provoked by political and cultural realities, often being an instant reaction and a way to stay in between reality and an illusory life.
The turning point that we are witnessing now opens the way to a new system of inclusive and effective institutions and equal opportunities. Dreaming Alive tells about the discourse of the latest three decades of Armenian contemporary art through catalogs and interviews gathered in the mediatheque zone. It sets today’s current art map and offers a glimpse of the Armenian realities in the rethinking of six contemporary artists.
The corpus of the exhibition is a selection from the six projects conducted by the winners on the 1st and 2nd open-call of Armenia Art Foundation. The artists exhibited include: Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri, Mher Azatyan, Arman Grigoryan, Piruza Khalapyan, Rebecca Topakian, Mika Vatinyan.
Partner: d`Arvestanots architectural studio (Yerevan, Armenian)