De-contextualization, revolution, art
At NPAK, during April 13 – May 12, 2018 period we were supposed to present the process of a project called “User Experience”. The project is an important experiment, which has the potential of
bringing up several issues:
a) An experimental method of producing artistic content where the content creator is not the individual author, but a collective subject was adopted. The method was periodic, horizontal discussion sessions during preceding 8-month period, which formed the artworks, event contents, and related texts.
b) Problems of interaction of information and physical public realms, in political and social contexts.
c) Reconsideration of the format of the Annual Festival of Alternative Art, under which the “User Experience” project was held.
This project exactly coincided with the public movement in Armenia, as a result of which the “Velvet Revolution” or “The Revolution of Love and Solidarity” took place. The process of the movement overtook the significance (urgency) of our project. This loss of urgency occurred for two reasons:
Firstly, most of the members of the initiating group and the NPAK staff were in the streets taking part in the street protests.
And the main issue, which we would like to emphasize, is the contextual reform of art by the revolution. Together with the revolution, a change of cultural paradigm has taken place. Before that we
lived in the nationalist paradigm of the late sixties, which had come to overthrow the dictatorial Soviet system. A system based on very progressive, but distorted ideas. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, nationalism remained the only ideology and created its own authoritarian system based on principles of neoliberal economy.
The post-revolution changes represent a transition from post-soviet nationalism to a new collective national identity, which is still being built and does not allow it to be named as yet. This implies the significance of statehood in the image of a legitimate government, the ability to think about democracy and the future, which did not exist before. The economy is now being emancipated from the criminal elements. This makes it possible for the rich to speak without bearing the brand of being an oligarch. However, it is also capitalistic and neoliberal.
This change is of global nature. It is not possible to place the old content on the new situation, without revision. Some art objects created during the project lost their urgency within the one month
of the revolution. From the possibilities of making declarations they turned into objects of cultural study stemming from the old situation. Some other items acquired additional content and associative
parallels. And the third group began to show art-politics-media relationship in a different light.
The present event does not intend to reopen ready, but unrealized program. The task of the present project is to show the transformation of the “User Experience” in the context of the revolution, as a time-wise parallel process. It also shows the key concepts created over the years by the avant-garde discourse, which has appeared in the methodological and contextual foundations of the “User Experience” as well as the “Revolution”. This event will include the subjects of the previous project, as well as new items and works, which will emphasize the context of the above mentioned changes.
Amasսia Niziblian, Anton Ivchenko, Anna Sakhlyan, Anna Vahrami, Anastasia Karapetyan, Arpy Balyan, Arpy Hovakimyan, Areg Araqelyan, Arthur Sharoyan, Alexander Melyan, Gohar Martirosyan, Gor Yengoyan, Yelena Aydinyan, Janna Hovanisyan, Lilit Ispiryan, Lilit KHandakaryan, Kay Khachatryan, Haykuhi Alaverdyan, Holly Armenakyan, Mariam Aleksanyan, Sargis Baghdasaryan, Sona Khachartyan, Tatev Martirosian
Anastasia Karapetyan, Anjik Torosyan, Anton Ivchenko, Arthur Sharoyan, Alexander Melyan, Gor Yengoyan, Lazar Saribekyan, Henrik Hakobyan, Vahram Akimyan
In 2018 NPAK organizes its traditional Annual Festival of Alternative Art for 22nd time. It has a 22 year history. During these years, the principal objective of the festival has been provision of platform for new artists and initiatives. Without diverting from this principle, this year’s festival took place differently. An attempt was made to change the procedure of organizing the festival, which brought with it new content and concept. Series of the events of this year has been formed around this very concept.
Traditional institution-curator-artist structure has been replaced by a different format. Invited participants determined the form of their participation during periodical meetings, and formulated the concept, the works, the program, as well as associated artists’ statements. Actually curation of the festival was done by the same group of participants who created the artistic content. There were two basic principles: each person individually decides on the form of participation, and its concept; while everything was subject to group discourse.
Thus, one way or another, it turned out that each work has been created as a result of group discussions. Even there are works that is unclear who the artist is. However, they exist, because the group found them to be noteworthy. In the meantime it was understood that in this context, the traditional importance of individual author is doubtful. The author became collective subject.
The entire content of the event has been formed around these principles. The artists’ statement, which we call “Narrative” was also result of this process.
This text is record of conversation at one of the meetings. A meeting, during which everyone talked about what had happened during the past eight months, as well as how was this project structured?
We started to come almost every week. The process was a driving force for me to participate.
The first meeting was a catastrophe. The question “what are we talking about now?” became ridiculously common. Then we started to orient ourselves more or less.
My friend said let’s gather and talk about a concrete subject. The exhibition was born in the process. We had not known what the subject would be before that. The question of anonymity of the exhibition was much discussed, as well as the concept of postmodernism. It brought about some arguments.
I knew about the Alternative for a long time and I wanted to participate. I joined later. I came when there was an articulate concept.
But the concept is being written just now.
It was clear from the common chat that the nature of the Alternative should change.
After the last Alternative a question was brought up whether it makes sense to continue the Alternative in the same format. And the nature of the Alternative changed.
I started to participate from the second meeting on. It is interesting to me whether it is possible to work together.
I participate not to produce a work of art but because I can take part in the discussion.
They told me there is such a thing but I said I was very busy. I only came once or twice and started to participate on regular basis only in the second semester. I don’t remember how the conversation about online sphere and the internet began.
It was provoked by a suggestion made by one of the participants about opening a Facebook page.
I didn’t see that, I don’t know who it is. Then when I understood that they talked about a subject that I found interesting I began to participate.
Will anyone check up what is written?
I will proofread.
They added me to the chat, I understood nothing first, they talked about their old acquaintances and old festivals. We didn’t yet exist at that time.
In August we started to talk. I said this won’t do: people should be inspired and come themselves.
Several people made suggestions and all of them were in the limits of the same subject area. And so the subject was crystallized. All the works were formed during collective discussions.
First only one of us was breaking the silence at the discussions.
I wanted to make an exhibition on the subject of “social tags” because I was angry. I entered the group. I wasn’t interested first, I even had to force myself to participate, but then I stayed.
Some people stopped coming during the process. Sometimes I was bored myself. First I was irritated that some people didn’t come and didn’t even warn that they wouldn’t. I wanted to quit because of that.
The drunken feasts were elements of establishing more friendly relations.
Arguments arose on public sphere during several meetings.
I didn’t argue much.
The arguments served as elements of establishing closer relations, just as the vodka made by my friend, for example.
It was an attempt to commence an experimental, risky method where an open-call attitude could have failed. That’s why more or less like-minded people were invited.
I will try to legitimate this method.
There have been some similar attempts in Armenia but I don’t know any successful precedent.
We can talk about the method as a result when we already have a number of works.
It is a collective activity deprived of an author in the humanistic sense of the word. It doesn’t matter whose work it is: what counts is that everyone cares about the problem.
It is important that the works establish themselves in the process.
Sometimes I was absent but I believed that the collective work will succeed.
It is important when works are created before your eyes.
One of the participants insisted on the idea that a curator is necessary as an organ of control, and he left the project because of that. Or he just didn’t feel like continuing.
It was discomfortable first because I was not acquainted with the majority of people. A lot of people didn’t know each other.
The process is a user experience already.
Many of the participants are not from artistic environment but at the moment all of us find ourselves in artistic environment.
I take seriously whatever my friend says.
I hear the word “group” all the time but is this a group?
People often gather around an idea. Were Dada or Fluxus groups?
One of the participants functioned as a catalyst.
Is this an artistic project or not? I didn’t perceive this as art.
If it grows into an exhibition, will it grow into art? If there are film screenings, concerts, a free market, is that an exhibition?
If all those activities are brought into art space then it is an artistic initiative.
If I am not an artist but I am in an art space, maybe I still don’t make art? If they call what I do activism, is it activism? What I do is hooliganism, it is struggle.
It’s a question of your own position. If you consider yourself to be an artist then you are an artist.
Duchamp balanced on the edge of making or not making art.
He is always in a borderline condition that is why what he did was avant-garde.
Why is it important that there is no author? If someone helps to create a work of art then he or she becomes an author too.
How does the absence of an author differ from an author’s presumable presence?
It is a gesture which emphasizes the fact that the collective is the author.
To me it is important as a gesture of solidarity with those collectives which are not artistic and avoid individual responsibility.
Nothing stays anonymous in Armenia. But here we have a gesture which supposes a question of sharing the responsibility. You are responsible for another person’s work as well.
If I am against someone’s work on principle, why should I be responsible for another’s work? I accept it but I don’t want to take any responsibility.
You talk about compromise: when an individual compromises with the collective decisions.
We must define the limits of compromise. For example, you give up some of your principles for the sake of the collective work.
I am for not writing my name so I can abstract away from myself, take a detached view of myself. I can do something that I wouldn’t do as an author. A collective responsibility gives certain freedom.
It is like an escape: you put yourself in a convenient position.
It’s good when the work matters and not yourself.
If you are more secure, you are also responsible for others at the same time. Those are interrelated facts.
I am very fastidious about my artistic preferences. It is important to me that I can reconsider those preferences putting aside my own pedantry.
The idea of an author has a much shorter history than art history is.