Come Closer

  • Art From Different Angles
    International group exhibition by artists from Armenia, France, Iran and Switzerland

    Curators: Susanna Gyulamiryan (ACSL-Armenia), Alina Mnatsakanian (Switzerland)

    Manoir de la ville de Martigny (Switzerland)
    June 12-July 27, 2015

‘Come Closer’ is a freely-launched collaborative initiative of curators and independent artists to bring segments of culture and contemporary art practices from Switzerland, France, Armenia, and Iran closer to public at large. The project consists of a series of touring exhibitions and art events. The idea started with two artists of Armenian origin, living in the Diaspora: one in France, Edmond Habetian, and the other in Switzerland, Alina Mnatsakanian. The initial idea was to present interactive works, performances and installations, with the idea of approaching the local public in Armenia. Armenians, born outside of Armenia, the two artists felt that the Diaspora Armenians are considered as half-strangers for the locals and they wanted to change that feeling of “otherness”; they wanted to impose themselves and to fill the gap. Alina Mnatsakanian took the idea a little farther by inviting other Swiss artists to participate in the exhibition, total-strangers or “others” this time! To create collaboration on the conceptual and artistic level Susanna Gyulamiryan, a curator from Armenia, was invited to participate for the second part of the exhibition which happens now in the Manoir of Martigny and in 2017 in the Contemporary Art Center Ticino (CACT) in Bellinzona. Gyulamiryan invited the art collective Art Laboratory, artists Diana Hakobian from Armenia and Raffie Davtian – an Armenian from Iran. As far as the notion of the “other” serves as one of the stimulant arguments in launching the project “Come Closer” in its initial stage in Armenia*, here is important to represent the institutional ideology of the State in nowadays post-Soviet Armenia which adopted the dominant top-to-bottom fictive rhetoric to unify Diaspora’s and local Armenians under the slogan “one nation- one culture” and placed it in the ranks of ‘untouchable cultural treasures’. While the recent and ongoing changes in concept of identity mirror the dramatic and decisive changes, maintaining that identities are relational and defined by similarities and differences with “others” on individual, geographical, geopolitical and broader cultural levels. The contemporary intellectual and artistic scene of post-Soviet Armenia where the role of artists is noticeably ‘marginal’ for State institutions (here the metaphor of ‘margin’ is used in a positive sense) – has been opposing to the essentialist formulas of ‘national’ and/or nationalistic re-evaluation of culture. **

The project ‘Come Closer’ does not serve exactly for the notion of identities, neither on concepts of ‘otherness’ or ‘difference’ on the level of every separately taken art work in the exhibition, however both the above mentioned concepts are disguised components in the translation and perception that are inevitably present in the ‘cultural dialogs’ and the economy of domination-subordination in the concept of ‘otherness’. The latter mainly serves the interests of the dominant cultural discourses. The difference between the ‘other’ and the diverse is regarded to be ideological and not logical, as being the ‘other’ in the contemporary culture means being subjected to dispossession and unequal irrespective of the fact that the ‘other’ is in a dominant or subordinate position, on the other hand, being ‘diverse’ means being equal, but different.

‘Come Closer’ mainly proclaims the importance to show ‘differences’ on artistic thinking and actions, different tendencies of artists’ beliefs, positions, concepts, and modes of representations that in contrary to the ‘cultural norms’ create an independent filed of artistic experiences. The important point for the project’s organizers and artists is the task of establishing a collateral and collaborative platform of individual artistic approaches and collective production of meanings with respect to facilitating ‘closeness’ towards the inter-personal, international communication among the artists and the public, to become a space for a collective visual and discursive platform and a discussion space serving the purpose of producing new meanings, knowledge, experiments, and social and artistic constellations.

The exhibition consists of multiple spectra of self-presentations and socio-political manifestations within different paradigms of contemporary art.
Catherine Aeschlimann has a personal vision of the cities and the everyday life. While creating her works in public spheres, she gets closer to the city by paying attention to details, she also creates links with the public who sometimes become participants. Pier Giorgio De Pinto, a transmedia artist, combines the virtual and the real through his interactive installation. The public participates and becomes part of the art by constantly altering it. The Armenian alphabet and fragments of the Armenian culture are part of the installation. Edmond Habetian presents a philosophical contemplation on life and identity through another performance. Alina Mnatsakanian’s art is a reflection of a Diasporan person, a person with multiple cultural influences and a “world citizen” attitude. She presents an installation where the public’s participation is primordial. After his every-day participative performance at the Museum of Modern Art of Yerevan in 2014*,Geneviève Petermann gets closer to her subjects and shatters borders formally and intellectually. The human being is omnipresent in her works, sometimes as a whole, but not always. Her intellectual approach complimented with a humoristic touch gives her masterfully executed paintings an original vision. Josette Taramarcaz’ knows how to listen. The sculptor, who presented an installation of 280 ears made of wax in Armenia*, now creates a sound installation as a result of her interactions with the locals. Intimate conversations sharing life stories and thoughts. Raffie Davtian problematizes the intersection of art, gender, sexuality and power, and their connection with politics and masculine power, personified in male physiology. The problematisation boundaries between art and the personal, with reflections on the border of intimacy, personal narratives and social imperatives are present in the work of Diana HakobianThe Art Laboratory art collective’s activities peer into traumatic reality and resistance against the powerful regime in nowadays Armenia. They are far more courageous, far more uncompromising, and far more unflagging in their attitude for matters of civil rights and social justice. The video installation of the Art Laboratory invites the audience to come closer to those realities in the country that this time concerns of a series of political and criminal murders. The same time the minimalist visuality of the video installation appears as an “empty sign” that, at first glance, symbolizes the post – election apathy in Armenian society in 2012 – another serial unfair election in the country that taking local people to despair, however the installation refers more to the criticism than the hopelessness.

We invite the wider audience: public at large and art professionals from Switzerland or elsewhere to stand closer to our initiative and inter-act, communicate and reflect on the different aspects and concepts of international artistic practices.

*The first phase of the exhibition took place at the Yerevan Museum of Modern Art in October 2014 with the participation of Catherine Aeschlimann, Geneviève Petermann and Alina Mnatsakanian from Neuchâtel, Josette Taramarcaz from Valais, Pier Giorgio de Pinto from Ticino and Edmond Habetian from France.

** It is worth mentioning that Armenia has been a member to the European Council for several years now and is linked in a manifold of ways to the developments underway within the European Union. At the same time, however, the relations between the EU and Armenia remain rather formal, making the prospects of Armenia’s entry into the European family highly uncertain.