Reality is one of the most questionable concepts. It consists of facts and reflections, attitudes, and ideas. The reality, which is about to change, or has just changed, is even more questionable. So how do we approach it?
Revolution (from the Latin word revolutio meaning ‘turn around’) is an act of changing a reality and is always paired with either violent or non-violent forms of erasing the old narratives and bringing in the new ones.
Revolutions whether in progress or as existing historical facts, always attract attention and become a topic of discussion.
But how do we approach these or capture them? How do we archive or document these through the lens of art?
And how do we talk about them, especially when they are still in the process of bringing about the changes they aimed for, and the results are not yet digested?
The five artists representing Armenia have witnessed the process of change known as the ‘Armenian Velvet Revolution’ and are sharing their personal experiences on the wavering reality that became part of the experience of the whole country, which is still in the process of changing.
2018. Velvet Revolution by Mirzoyan
2018. Velvet Revolution by Mirzoyan is a series of black and white analogue photos representing the events labelled the ‘Armenian Velvet Revolution’ by the media.
They play with the idea of documental objectiveness and convey an artistic approach that shows reality as an adjustable event.
The work is highly inspired by documentary representations of 1968’s Prague Spring and the May 68 events in Paris.
Click on the images to view enlargements from 2018. Velvet Revolution series
Mirzoyan – an independent photographer whose lenses have captured numerous conflicts, from ongoing political and social problems around the world to the inner dialogues an individual may have. He is one of a small number of Armenian photographers and has developed an international career winning three major awards from the Magnum Foundation: the ‘Emergency’ grant, the Magnum Caucasus Award, and a full scholarship for the New York University/Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights Program.
The Significance of the Event is Revealed Only Through Time
“Strong and iconic photos aren't only driven by the composition or visual approach. They are part of actual events: their significance depends on the significance of the events themselves. And the significance of the event is revealed only through time.” Mirzoyan
Feeling Fear and Excitement at Once
“The feeling of revolution is a specific feeling, compared to when you feel lost, or when you feel like you are on the edge of losing something either valuable or familiar. That feeling is always double-sided, you both feel fear and excitement because you instinctively realize that you will not see your environment and even yourself the same anymore.” Mirzoyan
Political posters are a series of visually catchy and rudely textured expressive works, which are a distant reflection on the events they document.
These works mix the freedom of street art gestures with the intentionally untidy approach of a perfectionist.
Click on the images to view enlargements from the Political Posters series
Gayane Yerkanyan – a graphic designer and typographic artist based in Amsterdam. She graduated from Yerevan’s Academy of the Arts and continued her studies at the Utrecht School of the Arts, where she gained a Master’s Degree.
Her poster works revolve around Armenian letters and phrases, playing with their visual representation and adding new meanings to them.
Revolution Is Not Just Governmental but also Individual
“ I have a naive belief that revolution is not just governmental but also individual. When individual people have the strength, willingness and ability to reinvent themselves from within; to review and decide a set of values that they want to move forward with.” Gayane Yerkanyan
It’s a Restart of the System
“Revolution – let's call it a ‘reset’ in technical terms – is like an audit of values, attitudes towards a certain situation, mindset and mentality: when you decide what values you want to carry on as a nation, what should describe you, and what traditions and habits you should let go of. It's a restart of the system.” Gayane Yerkanyan
Revolutionary Carpet Tryptich
Revolutionary carpet triptych is three sections of canvas artworks, where comic book approaches towards narrative are mixed with the ornamentalism of Armenian carpets. The comic book visual storytelling, combined with the daring imagery of street art, shows the event in its process, without depriving it of its impulse and layers.
Click on the images to view enlargements from the Revolutionary carpet triptych series
Davit Kochunts – contemporary Armenian painter born in 1988 and a graduate of Terlemezyan College. In 2019 he won the Presidential Award for Best Artworks of the Year for his paintings.
You Have to Change the Life Itself
“If we aim to change anything, we should start from a life itself. If we, artists, don't show life, how are we even able to change the life? If we don’t want to live in already existing patterns, then we should take risks in making new ones.” Davit Kochunts
The Heroic Is Always Paired with Things You Choose to Forget
“The event in the process of its making and development stage consists of many sides: heroic ones and the ones you choose to forget – because they might not be something you'd like to remember. My work aims to bring the event to its details without deconstructing it. Showing simultaneously its pieces and how they all are interconnected.” Davit Kochunts
Superhero series of canvas paintings are done with a hyper-realistic devotion to detail and an ironic gaze at Armenia’s socio-political events. Here, the western comic book style political heroes are represented in an environment inspired by iconic landscapes of Armenia created by prominent Armenian painter Martiros Saryan.
Click on the images to view enlargements from the Superhero series
Sedrak Velikodny – a Yerevan-based contemporary painter, started his career as a stage designer. His first work as a student was Khatabalada, a tragicomedy that later became a cult classic. He holds several awards for his works and scenography, including the Anahit national film awards and Artavazd theatrical awards. His latest painting project is a witty reflection of the life of contemporary Armenia with all its issues and its gaps between the past and present.
We Still Need Heroes
“However times change, heroes are still needed and are still believed to have an unconditional power to change everything, even our lives.” Sedrak Velikodny
Expectations Are Part of Any Revolution
“Expectations are part of any revolution. We expect drastic and quick changes, sometimes seeing our leaders as superheroes and not understanding that revolution is just an opportunity for a change.” Sedrak Velikodny
The Great Armenian Beauty
The Great Armenian Beauty is a series of artworks in which the idea of change is shown through images of women covered with the national flag.
Here, the artist refers to a female body as the ultimate symbol of change and transformation with the flag-covered faces representing a new, yet unknown future arriving after those changes.
Click on the images to view enlargements from The Great Armenian Beauty series
Samvel Saghatelyan – a Yerevan-based multidisciplinary artist who started his journey in the art world in 1988, at the brink of the collapse of the USSR and Armenia’s independence. His topics revolve around the standards that people face both as individuals and as socially constructed citizens – and the clashes between the two; while his work balances the urge to sharpen the colours of reality – revealing the grotesque – with his sentimental need to blur the negativity within it.
Revolution Is a Science
“Revolution is a type of science; a science which isn't tangible in its essence, but at the same time brings tangible results.” Samvel Saghatelyan
The Real Revolutions Happen Within
“Real revolution happens within, inside your body and mind. It is a readiness for a change and not the expectation of changes.” Samvel Saghatelyan
However interesting and breathtaking the changes in reality seem to be, by approaching it, by trying to capture it on film, with paint on canvas, or even by describing it in words, all we do is approach ourselves and our ideas about how the world should or shouldn't be.
This is what makes art in the process of change so vibrant and real: we continually see different approaches and opportunities of dealing with our reality.
This exhibition contains images relating to the experience of a peaceful revolution. The Yerevan Biennial Art Foundation and Google Art & Culture do not take any side on the matter and do not endorse any political party involved in the events documented or represented by the exhibition.