Public Program of the School of Emergencies at ICA Yerevan 06.11.-12.11.2023
Lexicon of Emergencies:
A Proposal for a Mending Kit
Opening of the exhibition project of the School of Emergencies
initiated by Chto Delat collective.
06.11.2023 at 19-00
The Chto Delat collective has always insisted on the educational value of art. Directly inheriting the Romantic tradition, which asserts that it is art that allows people to transform - to become different, to open up to the world in its tragic contradictions and together create new worlds in which the human vocation to freedom, the right to dignity, justice and equality are realized.
For the exhibition at ICA Yerevan, we have prepared an exhibition consisting of works created within the School of Engaged Art, which operated in St. Petersburg from 2013 to 2022. It has now ceased to exist, and the teaching staff of the School and most of its graduates have been forced to leave Russia. In this new situation, the question of what forms of pedagogy, what learning practices are possible in a world doomed to dramatic and terrifying changes has become acute. How can we preserve and change our communities? To whom are they addressed? Is it even worth continuing symbolic practices and expending public resources on them when there is so much grief around?
We respect the position of those who have decided that this is a time to do only social work, helping the victims and trying to mend the terrible destruction of homes, bodies, and communities. But at the same time, we believe that this urgent work must go hand in hand with our reflections and attempts to make sense of what is happening, to create languages that resist the destructive, dehumanizing tendencies of the time. Therefore, after emigration we decided to create the School of Emergencies, and its realization in Yerevan is structured in such a way that the exhibition will include the works of the participants of the current educational process stretched over two months and will be completely changed by the time the School ends.
The structure of the exhibition is conceived as an open form to be filled with new statements, which will not necessarily have a traditional material embodiment - it can be documentation of actions in the urban environment, performances, poetic statements etc. In other words, this space is conceived not as a finished composition, but as an open-ended structure. Within it, the participants of the School and its guests will be able to work and meet with the public, which we hope will also be interested in getting involved in the process of creating a new lexicon of emergency situations.
The screening and discussion of the film “Undead”
by Keti Chukhrov
07.11.2023 at 19-00
Keti Chukhrov will introduce the film and will be present at the discussion via zoom.
In war zones and at sites of frozen conflicts, a gulf arises between those who leave for other places, those who are destined to stay behind, and those who benevolently come as their civilized saviors. Keti Chukhrov’s poetic film revisits the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992–93, in which Russia supported the separatists.
The film’s protagonist is a young artist who left her hometown years ago as a refugee, and is now returning, commissioned by a Western institution to make a film on survival strategies. The town is devastated, and its inhabitants are destitute. Misunderstandings and inner conflicts arise between the perspective of the contemporary artist and those whom she was commissioned to document. We usually expect that the bereaved might be noble in their hardship. The protagonists of the film are not. They are sarcastic and nasty. We also think that the semi-indigenous sites like this should produce mainly vernaculars. The site in the film, along with the vernaculars, emits the languages of the universal culture, revealing how these two combine after the crash of the empire.
The discussion will dwell on the issues of de-colonial reconsideration of the post-socialist societies.
Film produced in 2022, HD, 35 min.
English subtitles. Camera/editing – Alexei Shemiatovsky, Line producer – Mikhail Sedov, Sound – Victor Timshin, with Evgeny Kapustin, Keti Chukhrov, Yuri Vasiliev, Sergey Epishev, Laran, Olga Shirokostup, Sirbey Sangulia, Irina Sajaia. Translation – Anastasia Osipova.
Produced and commissioned by Steirischer Herbst.
Keti Chukhrov is an art theorist, philosopher, playwright. Her latest book Practicing the Good: Desire and Boredom in Soviet Socialism (2020) deals with the impact of socialist political economy on the epistemes of historical socialism. Chukhrov’s work as a playwright incorporates poetry, drama, performance, music, and video. Her films Love-machines (2013) and Communion (2016) made after her dramatic poems were featured at the Bergen Assembly (2013), Specters of Communism (James Gallery, New York, 2015), and the Ljubljana Triennial U3 (2016). Her film «Undead» and the play Global Congress of Post-Prostitution premiered at steirischer herbst ’22 and 19.
Waters of Mesopotamia: A Turtle in Ten Seconds
08.11.2023 at 19-00
Lecture and seminar
The lecture focuses on the spatial and memorial transformation of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the context of the ongoing war in Northern Kurdistan. In 2008, the Turkish government announced dozens of ‘Security Dams Project’. The dams are to be built on the Turkish – Iraqi border and a few valleys in the central region of Northern Kurdistan. The construction of these dams would in effect block PKK militants’ entry paths, hinder and restrict their movements, and disrupt the logistical support from locals. The presentation aims to capture different relationalities and temporalities of this particular place, around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. A manual handbook of drawings envisions both submerged and emerged elements in relation to the dam projects in upper Mesopotamia.
Rojda Tugrul is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher based in Vienna, whose practice focuses on the notion of identity in relation to space and time. Her doctoral dissertation sought to analyse the effects of war on ecological and cultural heritage within the socio-political framework of Kurdish territories. Whilst examining the spatial transformation and deterioration of the habitat as a trace of change in the culture and collective psyche of society, her work also explored the politics of art, the autonomy of artistic representations, and the power of images. Rojda holds an MSc in Veterinary Studies and she graduated from the PhD-in-Practice Program in the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
Ayreen Anastas & Rene Gabri
Outliving Genocidal-Denialist Futurity
09.11.2023 at 19-00
We will assemble together to merge two threads, wounds we tended to over the last years with our Conference in Shards (responding to the initial Azeri invasion of Artsakh in 2020) and a Conference of Butterflies (reimagining solidarity and thinking paths of exit with the struggles throughout Palestine and in the face of Israel’s bombing of Gaza in 2021).
We propose as a heading: Outliving Genocidal-Denialist Futurity.
We feel the urgent need to make time and space to think through these two genocidal processes, intensifying, unfolding in the span of a month: Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Artsakh’s Armenians and Israel’s intensified drive to obliterate Palestinian life.
As we have articulated since we started testing assembling collectively in 2020, we do not see ourselves organizing events, nor those who join as attending events. We are attempting instead to open a space to think critically together and help one another orient our struggles wherever we may be.
Ayreen Anastas & Rene Gabri are artists and together with many friends, caretakers of 16 Beaver. Located two blocks below Wall Street، it has since 1999, it has been a center for rethinking art, life, politics and their interweaving. Since 2013 and 2015 respectively, they have been developing with friends in the south of Italy and in Armenia transversal spaces for encounters, for study, for expanding the senses, questions and practices that may better confront the immense challenges of our times, our worlds.
The City of Tomorrow
10.11.2023 at 19-00
Lecture and seminar
Within the last two decades the subject of Soviet Modernist Architecture has been continuously gaining an enormous international interest in the professional circles becoming also a theme for wide public discussions. This growing interest has been conditioned by several factors. First, there was a global discovery of a new, vastly rich strata of modernist architectural heritage which was detached from the Western historical master narrative as a result of the Cold War. It has become an issue of international researches, publications, conferences and exhibitions such as Local Modernities, Soviet Modernism / Unknown histories 1955-1991, Trespassing Modernities, The City of Tomorrow, etc. Besides that, it became an issue of local monuments protection, which also meant that the subject of scientific/historical/cultural import also intruded into the political, economic reality of post-soviet localities generating far-reaching civic activist movements and enlarging the scope of discourse. The researches of Soviet modernism were spreading out beyond the frames of architectural history exploring the complexity of political, social, economic and cultural contexts of multifarious Soviet localities. Such a diversified critical analysis of history exposed the contradictory aspects of the Soviet project that once undertook an emancipatory political mission of building an alternative life order based on social justice, deprived of exploitation, colonial and imperial domination, class conflict and national antagonisms. However, the gulf between the theory and reality developed quite a different state and a society that at the end was far more than skeptical in the very possibility of such an alternative social order.
While the researches of Soviet modernism were evolving and deepening the scope of their explorations, the post-soviet reality had another fatal spin in the process of its transmutation. The second Karabakh war and the war in Ukraine heralded not only the final disruption in the collective memory of the former Soviet societies concerning their common past but it had also somehow drove the reality into the atmosphere of premodern eras.
The lecture will focus on the project “The City of Tomorrow” that was the last large scale research and exhibition on Soviet modernist architecture.
Ruben Arevshatyan is an artist, art critic and curator. He is the president of AICA-Armenia and teaches at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Yerevan. He has published widely on contemporary art, architecture, and theory - mainly around topics and on issues of urban and cultural transformation focusing on Post Socialist contexts. Member of the editorial board of www.red-thread.org e-journal. He has curated and associated a number of projects like Great Atrophy, Parallel Reality, Local Modernities, Soviet Modernism 1955-1991/Unknown History, Trespassing Modernities, A Parallel Modernity (as part of the framework of the São Paulo Biennale 2014), The City of Tomorrow (travelling exhibition that was shown in 2019-2020 at the Architectural Museum, Yerevan, Palace of Arts, Minsk, New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, ZK 19, Novosibirsk), etc. In 2011 he was the curator of Manuals: Subjects of New Universality – Armenian National Pavilion in 54 Venice Art Biennale and in 2014 he was the curator of The Capital of Desires – Armenian National Pavilion in 14 Venice Architecture Biennale. Author and curator of Sweet Sixties international research project. He led the scientific restoration project of Sevan Writers’ Resort in the frames of Getty Foundation’s Keeping it Modern program.
Lives and works in Yerevan.
The stunted screen: the battle for language on the Armenian screen
11.11.2023 at 19-00
Lecture and seminar
Soviet cinema was not merely an attempt to create what, for a time, was the largest centralized industrial film system of the 20th century. It was also a platform and a vital mechanism for enabling the slow, or 'organic' appearance of the pan-national, all-socialist universal language which, in effect, meant the transformation of Russian into the colonial lingua-franca of the socialist world at large. The cinemas of the Soviet national republics testify to the process through which the totalitarian state instituted this grandiose 'civilizational' project, resulting in both stunted modalities of cinematic self-representation and the inadvertent self-exposure of The Central Party's colonialist imperatives. Soviet-Armenian cinema exemplifies this conflicted history due to its strong foundations in both a unique linguistic and cultural traditions, and existence as a product of USSR's ideological, socio-political programs. Outlining the dilemmas faced by the local film industry throughout its seven-decade development under the communist regime, this presentation argues that Armenian cinema evolved into a circumscribed medium of cultural communication, which was largely unable to 'speak' for the people it was meant to represent, while also managing to regularly expose and resist the colonial systems of its linguistic disempowerment. The consequences of this struggle still impact the tumultuous evolution of Armenia's post-Soviet, film culture since, to this day, there has been little scholarly discussion, or even awareness of the colonial frameworks of its formation. Hence, untangling the knotty causes of this 'stunted' condition requires a sustained critical reassessment of the relationship between spoken language, literary narratives and the ideological politics of Soviet cinema from a range of post-colonial positions that can help us understand the dissonances of ex-Soviet Armenian screen as a manifestation of totalitarian oppression, cultural hybridity and indigenous resistance.
Vigen Galstyan is an art historian and curator based in Yerevan with a PhD in art history from the University of Sydney. Since 2005 Vigen has been realizing various large-scale research and scholarly projects dedicated to the history of Armenian photography, cinema, design and modern art, among which is the ‘Lusadaran’ Armenian Photography Foundation and 'ManBan' Visual Culture Archive. Since 2006 he has authored numerous exhibitions, film programs, essays and catalogues on the history of photography and modern Armenian art. Among these is the first exhibition devoted to Armenian film poster art (2006, National Gallery of Armenia), ‘Photography and Everyday Space’ (2011, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney) and the first Armenian retrospective exhibitions of the great masters of Armenian photography Gagik Harutyunyan (2017) and Abdullah Freres (2023). Between 2016-18, Vigen oversaw the creation of ‘Lusarvest’ research database on Armenian photography (www.lusarvest.org) – the primary documentary source on the subject online. Between 2020 and 2023 Vigen served as the Head of Heritage Department at the National Cinema Centre of Armenia and is currently the director of ManBan Archive, as well as the founding curator of photography at the National Gallery of Armenia.
Exhibition in transition
Final reception and discussion