The Echo Museum, Yerevan, Armenia

Participant artists: Astghik Melkonyan, David Kareyan, Diana Hakobyan, Harutyun Simonyan, Mher Azatyan, Sona Abgaryan, Tigran Khachatryan, Vahram Aghasyan. 

Curator: Eva Khachatryan

At the end of 90s and at the beginning of 2000s a shift took place in the language of Armenian contemporary art that was different in terms of the choice of the addressed issues, as well as the means of expression. Video was one of the media that proved to be the best at expressing the emergence of that new language. The images, which were created at home with the help of newly acquired VHS recorders and cameras that were temporarily borrowed from friends, brought with them a new opportunity – the advantage of conveying time, the process. It is no coincidence that almost all of the first examples of video art resulted from the various processes of that friendly environment - thus being the demonstrations of that collective time.

Diana Hakobyan’s video does not have a narrative. The author as if refuses the advantages of the moving image combining the static portraits of her friends with a rotating mechanical device (Untitled, 1997). The author uses the new media in a peculiar way: Diana makes minimal use of the features of the camera and editing. She only transfers the image to a new domain and adds a voice to it in order to get the rhythmic feeling of the process.

Mher Azatyan uses his portrait in the video from 1995 (“Identification”) and distorts it the same way as F. Bacon did in his paintings. This gesture is a particular reference to the “hamasteghtsakan art”1, which was being discussed and presented in the local context already from the end of the 80s, and to the seminal exhibition in 1993 - “Subjective Integration”2. Referring to Bacon Mher presents his “subjective integration” – the translated western art. With hamasteghtsakan art usually production of paintings is understood. However, there are a few exceptions among the works produced that do not deal with painting. Among them, besides Mher’s video, is also Arman Grigoryan’s “Killer Without Pay” (2004) based on the play of E. Ionesco “The Killer”.

We see the elements of reinventing the image, rethinking of the cinema and editing combined with performance in Tigran Khachatryan’s video-films. “Color of Eggplant” (2001) that presents the ironic remake of Parajanov’s “The Color of the Pomegranate” is one of his earliest and the most well pronounced punk works which challenges all the possible pillars of the Armenian culture. From this film the “garage film” series starts. Here the author refers to famous directors’ films (Tarkovsky, Pasolini, Godard, Dziga Vertov) subjecting them to reediting and presents his own personalized versions of those films that are manifestations of a unique convergence of art and cinema.

The element of performativity was the most common and characteristic one for video art: it provided a large spectrum of possibilities starting from the diversity of editing and including expression of radical ideas.

David Kareyan, who produced a number of live performances at the beginning of 2000s, in “The Call of the Ancestors” (2001) – the anti-nationalistic performance-video - with seemingly symbolic but in reality direct speech strikes the consciousness of the viewer through not showing another reality but pointing to the very environment and everyday life that surrounds us. The artist is harsh and clear in his statement – he embodies the priest who is eating the raw meat.

Other elements of performance appear in Sona Abgaryan’s early videos that refer to the issue of the girl-woman identity. Under the night’s light and dog’s barking the players of badminton embody the idea of “sisterhood”, friendship, solidarity of women as opposed to patriarchy (Untitled, 2001). The author uses the game to show a world where the undisturbed feelings of happiness and pleasure are present.

Astghik Melkonyan’s video “The Bag” (2004), which was presented through photo series too, also refers to the issue of identity which is directly connected with the body. The feeling of losing and finding the body is transferred through the “installation-pile” made out of “bags”. The presence of the body and its movements is reduced to the minimum. It is converted into a bag, which expresses the idea of moving.

Harutyun Simonyan’s work ("Schizoanalysis", 2000) is an attempt to overcome the presence of camera. The video lens is a public's controlling eye and in order to resist it the author initiates an intimate conversation with the “audience”, the viewer. It is a two-channel video: in the first one while sitting in front of the camera, Simonyan knits and speaks about the themes that come to his mind at that moment. During the monologue he regularly addresses the viewer and expresses desire to spend time together. This sometimes reminds of the TV format when the viewers are kept occupied, however, with one important difference - the artist who enters into intimate contact with the audience, also shares with it such feelings as boredom, uncertainty, unfulfillment and failure. In the second video the opposite action is happening: a different time, a different environment and an attempt to untangle the knot. The author as if deconstructs the previous situation, the previous action.

The documentary approach is probably the least common method used in video art in Armenia, making Karen Andreassian’s work probably the first one of its kind. He puts the camera in a public space in order to just film passing people. The text saying “everything is under control” regularly appears in the video. It is indicative that the problem of controlling the public sphere that was raised by the artist in 1995 is becoming more and more pronounced with time and today is one of the most relevant ones.

Vahram Aghasyan’s documentary narrative deals with the issues of the Soviet Modernist architecture. His “Ghost City” (2005-2007), one of the author’s most extensive research projects that was presented in various formats, addresses one of the unfinished architectural projects from the Soviet times which was intended to provide housing for people who became homeless after the 1988 earthquake. The project is about the Mush district in the Gyumri neighborhood. The group of structures that are neglected and do not serve their direct purpose is a monument of never accomplished Modernism and in its absurd existence up until now remains merely a platform for research and artistic interventions.

1. The author of the term “Hamasteghstakan Art” is Nazareth Karoyan.
2. The curators of the “Subjective Integration” were Nazareth Karoyan and Charlie Khachatryan

15 Juli, 2016 - 5 August, 2016