by Anna K. Gargarian
HAYP Founding Director & Curator
As we start 2019 filled with inspiration and vital energy to expand our work at HAYP Pop Up Gallery in a different format, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on our last Pop Up exhibition.
Where to start?
We started planning HAYP 12 12 12 Retrospective with the full awareness and conviction that this would be our last HAYP Pop Up. Our experience, intuition and insight as a team is leading us in a new direction that I’ll get to later, and we wanted to mark this transition with a project that would be both introspective and open.
Inaugurating the show on December 12, 2018 was not arbitrary. Our very first HAYP launched on December 12 in 2014. We’ve come a long way since, not only in terms of the number of projects and collaborations, but especially in our learning. You could say we’ve developed a sort of informal methodology to pop up exhibition.
Personally I have learned tremendously, both as an individual and as a professional. From learning Armenian (of which I spoke none at the start), to learning the cultural nuances of people and work relations in Armenia. A dear friend told me before I moved to Yerevan, “You know Anna, I’ve never been to Armenia but I’m guessing it’s not too different from Jamaica, in that I suggest you learn to manage your expectations”. He was exactly right.
Reflecting back, this friendly advice in some ways underlines the core of why and how I curate. A deep interest in exploring the ways that we communicate and connect with others, and the role of perception in how we understand and relate to ideas, is at the core of all of our past HAYP Pop Up projects. HAYP Pop Up’s dynamic model allowed our curatorial team (myself and the amazing Hasmik Badoyan since 2017) to constantly disorient ourselves and our viewers, forcing us to look at things differently – with fresh eyes, and responsive expectations.
Caravanserai: from theoretical framework to reality
In celebrating four years of HAYP, it seemed fitting to embrace the “caravanserai”, or historic pitstop for nomads, as a conceptual framework for our last show. Dynamism, multiculturalism, exchange, communication, perception, and chaos came together in this “bazaar” format.
Though it’s one thing to state an exhibition theme in a catalogue or wall text, it’s another thing altogether for it to come through in the experience felt by artists and audiences. In this case, I can confidently say that HAYP 12 12 12 truly embodied the caravanserai. This was largely due to our location, which Hasmik discovered, the former marketplace on top of the Barekamutyun Metro Stop. Structurally, it evoked the architectonic layout of the typical 16th century Caravanserai, with a central social courtyard and surrounding niches. Location-wise, its position above the most frequented metro terminus highlighted the relationship between transportation, travelers, and places of refuge. But what struck me most in this project was the role of our common space, or courtyard (“hraparak” as we informally called it), in shaping a unique energy for the gallery.
The “Theatre of Ideas” really was a stage for exchange of all sorts, and the actions, encounters, and mood were in constant movement. Each performance, event, workshop and activity dramatically transformed that central space in a very real, physical, and energetic way.
The balance between dynamism and stasis is particularly important for me, and has been a concern as we model our future art space. I’ve been asking myself, “if we have a permanent structure, will we lose the freshness and dynamism of our pop up?”. HAYP 12 12 12 helped answer that question and abate this fear. I feel more confident now that we can create the feeling of transformative change within a permanent space.
The Container: Thoughts on our future
This brings me to my last reflections on space, change, and creativity in a series of thoughts that I would like to call “the Container”. I’m appropriating the term from authors Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski, and Flowers, whose book Presence explores how major innovators effect deep systematic change within organizations, societies and governments. A particular passage marked me as I think of our next steps for 2019:
“The principle of the container as transformative vessel is present in nature, too. Within the cocoon, just as within the alchemist’s container, something ‘melts’ in order to transform itself into something new. The creation of new life often requires a specialized ‘container’ because established systems are naturally hostile to the ‘other,’ the ‘outsider,’ the ‘alien’. The normal chemistry of an adult human body would be toxic to an embryo, just as the mainstream culture of an organization is often toxic to the innovators it spawns. And when the organizational immune system kicks in, innovators often find themselves ignored, ostracized, or worse.” (Presence, 2008)
This passage brings to light several key conclusions: 1) innovation produces an alien product, 2) that product is by nature in conflict with the existing system, 3) a safe space is required for “other” forms to fully flourish, otherwise they will be squashed before they have the chance to spread their wings.
These are precisely the reasons why we want to open a permanent space.
Though we thrive off the exploratory nature of nomadic projects, Hasmik and I are also hungry for a stable “container” that will provide us (curators and artists) the safety to develop ideas that are off the beaten track to their full extent, fiercely uncensored, and in total freedom.
To take the cocoon metaphor a step further, we are also deeply aware of the potential danger of the totally self-guarded vessel. Amongst the points addressed in our discussions with artists at our Theatre of Ideas at “HAYP 12 12 12 Retrospective”, was the cautionary advice to stay open to new projects, artists, and opinions, and to not become closed-in on ourselves. This is a point well-taken.
We hope to remain fully aware of our environment, and aim to challenge ourselves and continue our legacy of disruption and disorientation in order to continue cultivating fresh perspectives. And if we don’t, or if we forget, we ask upon you, our community, to remind us, challenge us, so that we can keep learning, looking, and questioning from new perspectives.