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The exhibition “Meeting. Part I” is part of the field research on artistic communities in Armenia. This installment focuses on key concepts such as “tusovka,” self-organization, and institutions.
The term “Tusovka*,” often perceived negatively, has become the primary focus of our research. Tusovkas serve as vital components within Armenia’s artistic community and beyond, arguably playing a central role. Artist studios, functioning as self-organized spaces, serve as “meeting places” rather than traditional museums or art centers. For instance, in Vanadzor, the absence of contemporary art institutions has spurred artists to create their own spaces. To discover active artists in Vanadzor, you wouldn’t head to the museum or the Centers for Contemporary Art; instead, you’d go directly to the artist’s studio. This trend extends beyond Vanadzor to other major cities in Armenia, presenting both positive and negative implications.
Tusovkas substitute for institutions, establishing their own rules, agendas, and modes of communication. In territories lacking formal institutions like Vanadzor, self-organized communities become focal points in artistic processes, preventing stagnation and fostering new initiatives.
The prevalence of so-called “tusovka culture” in Armenia often influences institutional formations, where institutions evolve from informal gatherings into more structured entities.
While gatherings theoretically serve institutional functions, they typically lack specific structures and are confined by local contexts and interests. Consequently, fragmentation occurs within and between communities, leading to divergent discourses. In some places, the political context dominates, while in others, there’s an entirely divergent discourse, completely opposite. Neither side is invested in the concerns of the other, yet they can coexist on the same plane and follow parallel trajectories.
A challenge with tusovkas is their reluctance or inability to engage with others outside their circles, contrasting with institutions designed to accommodate diverse opinions and interests. Institutions facilitate the collection and analysis of artistic processes. However, we’re confined solely to what’s happening in the tusovka itself and its interests. In essence, if there are 10 people in a collective, you’ll never be aware of the 11th person outside of it. In the institutional framework, we gain insights into a much broader array of artistic figures, even those not directly affiliated with the institution. An institution evolves internally, broadening its scope, while a tusovka expands only when it transcends its community boundaries..
On the contrary, such collectives also serve the crucial function of association, which is indispensable for artists. By avoiding institutional bureaucracy, they facilitate quicker and more intimate connections. They have the freedom to establish their own norms of communication, cooperation, and overall existence. Consequently, these collectives are often romanticized, perceived to embody honesty and ideological purity, built on the foundation of “pure thoughts” and “authentic” art, while institutions are seen as places with rigid structures.
Hence, despite their preoccupation with internal ideologies and elitism, tusovkas remain a significant component of the artistic community. One could argue that the Armenian artistic community is predominantly shaped by these collectives. The perceived negative influence associated with collectives often stems from the absence of diverse institutions. Without proper institutions, collectives may eventually step in to fill the gap or occupy “vacant spaces” initially intended for institutional organization.
Nevertheless, the central question isn’t solely about judging the phenomena of tusovka positively or negatively, but rather whether the established communication system among artists within the artistic community is satisfactory. This question remains open for further exploration.
Curator: Bela Poghosyan.
*Tusovka (from the Russian word тусовка) means a circle or a collective of people who are gathering together and have the same point of view and ideology, also their gatherings become some kind of a party. In the curatorial statement the curator used the word to describe the artistic communities in Armenia which have the same interest – art, and their gatherings are more likely to be parties. The curator uses the term in contrast to the terms “self-organization” and”institution”. (translator’s note)

Participating Artists

  • Anna Vahrami
  • Kima Gyarakyan
  • Taron Marukyan
  • Albert Tsughunyan
  • Valentina Maz
  • Maria Matinyan
  • Vardan Harutyunyan
15 – 29 March
NPAK, 2024