Opening “NOR-DADA” in Venice

by Charlotte Poulain


A short three months ago HAYP Pop Up Gallery was contacted by the GAA Foundation, a Dutch non-profit organization that participates yearly in the Venice Biennale with a large-scale collateral exhibit. They wanted us to participate in “Personal Structures: No Borders”, their Venice Biennale 2017 international exhibit of art by emerging and established artists from all over the world.

As you can imagine, we were very excited about the prospect of bringing our nomadic art gallery to Venice.  But the logistics were daunting: we had to come up with a solid concept and  significant funding within a seemingly impossible timeframe. Never the less, we decided to make the leap and seize the opportunity. We selected an artist whom we thought would make a bold statement: someone highly talented, contemporary, whose creative voice would propose a fresh perspective on Armenian contemporary art.

Almost immediately we thought of Gayane. We worked with Gayane Yerkanyan exactly one year ago for our feminist exhibition, “Lips of Pride”, when we showed two examples of her “Video selfies” series. The works were made on instagram and have subtle references to Parajanov through choreographed movements and dadaist montage, while also mocking today’s “selfie” culture by appropriating a social media tool and the external gaze for her art practice. As one of our favorite works from the exhibit, we thought to follow our instinct and reach out to the artist.

Fast forward a few months, hundreds of emails, intense brainstorming sessions via Skype through three continents, and there we were: Venezia.

Over the course of the week leading up to opening, Gayane Yerkanyan spent entire days creating our site-specific installation along with our curator, Anna Gargarian. “NOR-DADA: The Grammar of Deconstruction” a neo-dadaist multi-media installation that brings together art and tech, was ready for the public eye on May 11.

Thursday, May 11, 6pm: the opening night for “Personal Structures: No Borders”. The exhibition, featuring art by over 200 artists including works by Jeff Koons and Yoko Ono, was divided into two pavilions.

An open palazzo

Thousands of exhibitions and events take place in Venice during the Art Biennale. Many of them have a cover fee, or are invite-only. Because of our HAYP philosophy, which integrates are within communities and believes in making art accessible to everyone, we were particularly happy to be participating in “Personal Structures”, one of the rare exhibitions that is completely open to the public.


Exciting art, free wine and parmesan… what else could you want? An estimated 1,500 people came to Palazzo Mora on each of its opening nights (May 11 and 12). The gallery halls were animated with artists, curators, socialites, journalists, and live art.

Performances seemed to be taking place at every corner: in a few of the rooms, on one balcony, in the garden… At some point I left one performance around Valerie Ghoussaini’s artworks, and came back five minutes later only to realize Anna had been recruited to participate.


Three floors, 150+ artists… go!

We spent some time around our installation, welcoming visitors, demonstrating the augmented reality component with the ARLOOPA app, and introducing them to the artist herself. The whole HAYP team also had the chance to walk up and down the three floors of Palazzo Mora and see the rest of the exhibition.


Many of the artists were present on both nights. It was pretty easy to recognize them since they were doing the same thing we were: hanging around their installation and looking intently at people’s reaction to it. I had the pleasure to meet one photographer, Philippe Mazaud, and we exchanged about his photo series “Sur l’Herbe”.

As we walked around meeting artists and curators, discovering art and sipping on bellinis (a Venetian graperfruit-based cocktail) it was amazing to see so many people really engage with the exhibition.

The GAA Foundation did an amazing job at putting this massive exhibition together, and working with them was a true pleasure. This entire project would not have happened without the support of our community back in Yerevan, and for this we send out a whole-hearted thank you to the Simonian Educational Foundation (TUMO), AGBU, and some key private donors who wish to remain anonymous (you know who you are…thank you!). We are so very thankful for all fo the support we’ve received, and we’re proud to participate in “Personal Structures” with an artist as amazing as Gayane! We hope all of you will get a chance to go to Venice and see it! (You have 7 months, no excuses!).

If you want to find out more about NOR-DADA, HAYP and the Venice Biennale, follow these links:

  • the entire catalogue for “Personal Structures” can be found here (look for us page 334)
  • Our special website for NOR-DADA
  • Gayane Yerkanyan’s website
  • Our Facebook page (follow us to see all our events), Instagram (we’ve been posting cool pictures of the biennale) and Twitter

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