The Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia, La Biennale di Venezia

  • Revolutionary Sensorium
    The Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia
    58th International Art Exhibition
    La Biennale di Venezia 2019

    Curator: Susanna Gyulamiryan
    Commissioner: The Minsitry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia

    Artists and Participants:
    Narine Arakelian
    Gayane Ayvazyan
    Ruzanna Grigoryan
    Anna Nikoghosyan
    Anna Zhamakochyan
    ‘Artlabyerevan’ Art Collective

    Venezia, Palazzo Zenobio
    Collegio Armeno Moorat-Rafael
    May 9 – November 24, 2019

The three-part project presented at the Armenian pavilion of the 58th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (2019) is an artistic and analytical representation of the Armenian Revolution of 2018. Fe/male artists, scholars and queer feminist activists have been largely involved in the project. In particular, artist Narine Arakelian reenacted one of the revolution’s most unique forms of protest — the ‘Cast Iron Pots and Pans’ initiative. This undertaking saw women, from all walks of life, opening their windows at 11:00 p.m., every night of the revolution, banging pots and pans together, en masse, all throughout Yerevan, and other major cities of the country. Arakelian recreated this moment along the streets and canals of Venice involving over 50 fe/male volunteers and feminist activists. This symbolic gesture was meant to demonstrate that the revolution would not have taken place without the radical political actions of Armenian women and their braveness and creative inventiveness.
It is worth noting that feminist artistic practices often feature a form of resistance expressed in the public use of subcultural or household-related objects such as ceramics, fabrics, or kitchen appliances, to articulate political messages.

The second part is a series of videos titled ‘Dialogues about Revolution and Power,’ initiated by the curator of the pavilion Susanna Gyulamiryan. In these videos, Gyulamiryan collaborated with female experts, researchers, scholars, and queer feminist activists from Armenia. Gayane Ayvazyan and Anna Nikoghosyan present reflections and analyses on the 2018 revolution in Armenia; Anna Zhamakochyan recites the poem-manifesto ‘Revolution: An Event of the Return of Reality;’ and Ruzanna Grigoryan declares, in a slogan-like statement, that she is ‘Not speaking of the revolution for the sake of the revolution.’ The series provides a platform for important discursive reflections and creative manifestations. The full, uncut version of these videos is included in the catalog of the Pavilion of Armenia along with the curatorial text.

The video series of ‘Artlabyerevan’ art collective consists of several thematic video projections, where, according to the curator of the pavilion, the key topic is the ‘revolutionary multitude.’ The term ‘multitude’ was coined by political philosophers Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. Among the important features of the 2018 Armenian revolution were agility, mobility, new forms of relationships between the resisting and struggling sides, and the formation of self-sufficient and decentralized groups. The art collective also reproduced the performative nature of revolutionary events; the essential role of digital technologies and drone shots for political mobilization and revolutionary action; state repression and police violence against revolutionary protests. To create an illusion of re-participation, the art collective live-streams the flow of visitors into the exhibition space, projecting their images onto the screen of their video installation.

The project of the Pavilion of Republic of Armenia brings up issues in need of artistic and socio-political examination, interrogation and epistemological effort. They are rooted in the critical and political thinking of the participants of the project.