Armenia’s ghost galleries
Cover Story, March 2018
Incidents (of Travel) – Latitudes collaboration with Kadist – returns with a dispatch from Yerevan, Armenia. The itinerary leads us on something of a ghost tour. Photographs and reportage unearth the fragmented memories of galleries and art spaces that no longer exist. This haunted dispatch is the fruit of two-years of meticulous shared inquiry by curator Marianna Hovhannisyan (currently based in San Diego) with Vardan Kilichyan, Gohar Hosyan, and Anaida Verdyan, alumni of the former Studio College of the National Center of Aesthetics in Yerevan.
The sturdy wooden doors that initiate the story were once the entrance to the Ex-Voto Gallery. From 1994–1996 it was a focal point for Armenian contemporary artists associated with the generation of the Independence period. Among the other sites, we learn of the former Hay Art cultural center. The 1970 building it inhabited from 1997–2007 is shaped like five enormous barrels, and was later used as a reptile house. At 28 Amiryan Street, there is now a yoga studio. Yet this was formerly akanart Gallery, a dynamic hub for critical practice that involved many thinkers from the Armenian diaspora.
Marianna, Vardan, Gohar, and Anaida tell us that these closures and once “forgotten pieces of art histories” are a testament to neoliberal economic policies put in place since the independence of Armenia from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the ongoing disinterest of the state in supporting contemporary art. Each of the tenacious initiatives that they researched depended on friendship, personal sacrifice and the enthusiasm of the art community.
Incidents (of Travel) explores the chartered day-long travel itinerary as a format of artistic encounter and an extended conversation between curators and artists. An expanded phase of a project devised by Latitudes in 2012, the online iterations are conceived through offline fieldwork and as expanded studio visits. Previous editions have reported from Chicago, USA; Jinja, Uganda; Suzhou, China; Lisbon, Portugal; Terengganu, Malaysia.