Cast Iron Pots and Pans public performance by artist Narine Arakelian (Photo credit: Serge Bantea & Viktor Polyakov)

Armenia Presents Velvet Revolution at 58th International Biennale di Venezia

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VENICE, Italy — The Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia at 58th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, May-November 2019, was named “Revolutionary Sensorium.” It was an artistic and analytical representation of the Armenian revolution of 2018 and brought together artists, scholars, and activists to reproduce the revolutionary events and reflect on them.

This three-part project was composed of a video installation by “Artlabyerevan” art collective; a public performance by artist Narine Arakelian; and critical reflections and creative manifestations by scholars and queer, feminist activists in a video series titled “Dialogues about Revolution and Power.”

“Artlabyerevan” explored the ideas and phenomena central to the Armenian revolution, which include the role and motives of the “revolutionary multitude;” the performative nature of revolutionary events; the essential role of digital technologies and drone shots for political mobilization and revolutionary action; state repression and police violence against revolutionary protests. To create an illusion of re-participation, the art collective live-streamed the flow of visitors into the exhibition space, projecting their images onto the screen of their video installation.

Artist Narine Arakelian reenacted one of the revolution’s most unique forms of protest — the “Cast Iron Pots and Pans” initiative. This undertaking saw women, from all walks of life, opening their windows at 11:00 p.m., every night of the revolution, banging pots and pans together, en masse, all throughout Yerevan, and other major cities of the country. Arakelian recreates this moment along the streets and canals of Venice involving over 50 female volunteers. Indeed, while street protests formally ended at 11 p.m. to avoid provocation with police, women brought the revolution to the private space.

Susanna Gyulamiryan, curator of the Pavilion of Armenia, collaborated with female experts, researchers, scholars and queer feminist activists from Armenia to create her “Dialogues about Revolution and Power.” In it, Gayane Ayvazyan and Anna Nikoghosyan presented analyses on the 2018 revolution in Armenia; Anna Zhamakochyan recites the poem-manifesto “Revolution: An Event of the Return of Reality;” and Ruzanna Grigoryan declares, in a slogan-like statement, that she is “Not speaking of the revolution for the sake of the revolution.” The series provides a platform for important discursive reflections and creative interventions.

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