Sister Cities: Gyumri, Plovdiv, Istanbul

  • Armine Hovhannisyan (Yerevan, Armenia)

    Plovdiv, Bulgaria
    June-July, 2012

The residency program of Armine Hovhhanisyan was part of the residency exchange of curators and artists organized by ACSL (Yerevan-Armenia) and The Art Today Association (ATA)–Center of Contemporary Art (Plovdiv,Bulgaria) in the frame of the International collaborative network–HEICO Project (Heritage, Identity and Communication in Contemporary European Art Practices) involving 7 institutions from 6 countries.

Partner organizations: Heinrich-Boell Stiftung Brandenburg (Germany), Rokunstbau (Germany), The Art Today Association- Center of Contemporary Art (Bulgaria), Art ND Cultural Studies Laboratory -ACSL (Armenia), K:CAK (Moldova), GeoAIR (Georgia), SPACES (Slovak Republic).

During her one-month residency program at the ATA-Plovdiv, Armine Hovahannisyan focused on the concept of ‘sister cities’ through the idea of a particular connection among the three appointed cities of Plovdiv, Gyumri, and Istanbul.

The project ‘Sister Cities: Gyumri, Plovdiv, Istanbul’ focuses on the relation between the articulations of ‘sister, female’ on the one hand, and ‘dreams, desires’, on the other hand, by taking into consideration the challenge of closeness and sisterhood in the city sibling and, in contrast to it, the artificial political connections. Generally, the concept ‘sister city’ bounds the above-mentioned cities geographically, historically, culturally, and identically to exchange and contribute diverse ideas and activities. Despite the exciting idea of creating a partnership, the city becomes a space where first of all reciprocal political adulations and imitations take place, but, more importantly, it turns into a hub where we can search for the shared desires as deeper and more cultural understandings of the sisterhood and something far away from the politicized ‘friendship’. In 2012, while traveling and developing a research in those three cities, the artistic practice of Armine Hovhannisyan brought her to search for the public places that comprised the same shared dreams and for what could be learnt from the local inhabitants and their experiences. The public buildings and monuments in the different series of photos overlap with one another. Examples are the train station in Gyumri and the cigarette factory in Plovdiv or the monument of Aloysha in Plovdiv and the Passage Cafe in Istanbul, which is famous for its female portrait decorations from 1960s. The photomontage suggests an imaginary space where sister cities meet and come closer to each other based on the past utopias and desires/dreams.

Later on, the project became part of the International Exhibition ‘Urban Dreams’ organized by Art Today Association–Center of Contemporary Art in Plovdiv (

Armine Hovhannisyan is an artist and art teacher based in Yerevan, Armenia. She has graduated from Armenian Open University, Department of Fine Arts in 2004. Since 2003, she has taken part in various local and international exhibitions, symposiums, and workshops. Some of the crucial participations include ‘Gender Trouble. Platforms’ (2008-2009) organized by Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory (ACSL), ‘Society, Body, Art’ at ACCEA, Gyumri Biennale of Contemporary Art (2004-2008), ‘Changes through Exchanges’ (an experimental educational project organized by Armenian Open University/Department of Fine Arts), ‘Soviet AgitArt. Restoration’ (organized by BM SUMA-Contemporary Art Center in Istanbul), and ‘Manufacture’ (a residency project in Istanbul organized by Bilgi University). Armine’s works include various media such as interactive installations, drawings, films/video, and photography. Normally, her main method of work takes the form of collaboration, either with another artist or through involvement in different social layers. In her recent artistic activity, Armine examines the construction of the stereotyped narratives and norms in current society and the historical-cultural remains dealing with the Soviet history. Within these areas she questions the mechanisms of their representation by artistic subversive gestures and suggests the final realization as an interplay between the borders of fiction/reality, as well as creates new limits and boundaries between the visible and invisible, while very often using the tools of those normative images, stories, and identities. Since 2003, she has been working at the National Center of Aesthetics (Fine Arts and Decorative Applied Arts studio-college) as an art teacher. This activity has led her to initiate various projects for art education.

This project has been funded by the European Commission (Culture and Education).