Biennale Arte 2019 Comes to a Close

A look at Revolutionary Sensorium at the National Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia

Photo: Karen Mirzoyan

VENICE, Italy—The project “Revolutionary Sensorium” reconstructed the 2018 Armenian revolution that took the country by storm, transforming Yerevan into a space where an energized multitude exemplified just what it means to be revolutionary. 

The “Velvet Revolution” united the people of Armenia under the motto “Solidarity and Love” — one of the revolution’s popular slogans — and facilitated a climate of parity, equality and collaboration. 

Of course, the revolution did not come about in the blink of an eye. It was the accumulation of years of retaliation against the widespread corruption, social injustices, authoritarianism and other reprehensible practices on the part of the country’s former government for over 25 years. 

The exhibition consisted of three parts. The first segment featured artistic group “artlab yerevan” (Gagik Charchyan, Vardan Jaloyan, Hovhannes Margaryan, Artur Petrosyan). The Yerevan-based art collective spent the last year researching, studying and compiling data chronicling the revolution before recreating it visually. The group addressed topics such as “Revolutionary Assemblages and the Multitude,” “Violence in Revolution,” “Revolutionary Participation” and “Revolutionary Aesthetics: the Effectiveness of New Technologies and Drones.” The exhibit featured large-scale video projections across the venue’s walls. 

Photo: Karen Mirzoyan

The curator of the project, Susanna Gyulamiryan, initiated and organized the second segment, featuring videos and recordings of female experts, scholars and feminist civil society activists Gayane Ayvazyan, Ruzanna Grigoryan, Anna Jamakochyan and Anna Nikoghosyan. They engaged in thoughtful and critical discussions on post-revolution political agendas, cultural and economic issues and media bias throughout the course of the revolution. Another female participant staged a silent protest through a performance titled “Not Speaking About the Revolution for the Sake of the Revolution.” The segment also included a spoken word poetry performance titled “Revolution: The Event of Return of Reality.” 

The final element of the project was a public performance by artist Narine Arakelian, who reenacted one of the revolution’s most unique protests — the “Cast Iron Pots and Pans.” This feminist undertaking saw women in Armenia opening their windows at 11 o’clock every night of the revolution, banging pots and pans together, en masse, to stand in solidarity with disabled women unable to march in the streets. Indeed, this protest led many to point out that the revolution in Armenia could not have succeeded had it not been for the active participation of the country’s women and more specifically, their determined efforts, radical undertakings, innovativeness and fearless acts of courage. Arakelian recreated this moment along the streets and canals of Venice. 

Photo: Karen Mirzoyan

Commissioner: Nazenie Garibian, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia.
Development director: Tina Chakarian
Curator: Susanna Gyulamiryan
Exhibitors: “Artlabyerevan” (Gagik Charchyan, Hovhannes Margaryan, Artur Petrosyan, Vardan Jaloyan); Narine Arakelian 

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