Studio Visit: Amy Todman

Text and images by Varduhi Kirakosian


Even locals swearing to know every single street in the city might struggle to spot addresses in Yerevan’s confusing and congested neighborhoods. But this doesn’t seem to be the case for Amy Todman, a Scottish born artist living in Yerevan for the past two years, who, I believe, finds her way around the city better than most. 

This is my second visit to Amy’s apartment on Komitas Avenue, Arabkir district. I challenge myself to find her flat, refusing her offer to remind me of the way. Luckily, I recognize the familiar entrance where I notice wool, washed and hung to dry for sewing linen – a popular household tradition among Armenian women. 

Amy is at the door. She greets me warmly just as locals are used to kissing on the cheek when they meet. As we walk into a quiet wide room filled with small and big canvases piled up in the corners, I ask Amy whether she gets along well with her neighbors. Amy describes the nice little garden she sometimes visits and notes, “I don’t know what people think, but I’m pretty quiet and usually, I stay by myself”. That quality gives her the chance to spend time on her own and feel free to create and experiment. Amy has been trying hard to learn Armenian since she moved here from Scotland. She finds Armenian very challenging and the language barrier is limiting and makes communicating with her neighbors practically impossible. “Until I learn well, and am confident to speak Armenian, really I can make friends with only those who speak English,” Amy explains. 

“I’ve always made art,” Amy notes. She graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in 2003. Her first artworks were with textiles, which she exhibited through a number of installations. She was inspired by the process of making work that involved tactile materials like thread. In her early career she also worked in Arts education, working with a range of learners to explore what art might mean to them. For the next four years she lived in Leeds, England, and Glasgow, Scotland, where she worked on a range of public art and education projects. Amy kept the impulse to create and experiment with different media throughout the years, though she acknowledges that making art has always had a special impact on her, “driving [her] crazy in a way.”  That’s when she convinced herself to “start being a grown up,” as she puts it.

Amy’s “grown up” years brought her to various art institutions as both an educator and researcher. At the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney she looked at the connections among landscape, museums and contemporary art collections. Her passion for nature deepened when exploring plant collections at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, which formed the foundation for her Ph.D. in the idea of landscape in 16th and 17th century Britain. Amy spent several years working at the National Library of Scotland as both a curator and archivist, where she dove into their department of Manuscripts and Archives and worked with their Political Collections.

“But then I suddenly left everything. And here I am,” Amy laughs.

Right after welcoming me, she gets back to her work, sitting on the floor in the middle of her studio. I can see the full picture now: Amy seated cross-legged surrounded by her artworks, flanked by her recent sculptures and the one in progress. Amy presents me her works, excitedly showing me “The Brain.” “The Brain’’ is her recent sculpture, made of old newspapers, chicken wire, and flour and water paste (Papier-mâché). It’s quite big, maybe the size of forty human brains, and is symbolic of Amy’s journey.  “The Brain” is the materialization of that side of Amy that is more analytical, methodical, organized and makes more logical conclusions. 

“I moved to Armenia two years ago because I wanted to refocus, just make art. I wanted to feel more alive,” Amy continues thoughtfully. In 2018, with a developing creative practice, and a desire to engage with new cultures and communities, Amy wanted to work on her art, writing and archival practice in a new environment. 

“I had reached a successful point in my professional career. I loved my job, but at some point, I felt unable to continue. Even though I always realized that making art has driven me to craziness, I realized at some point, that it is also the thing that makes me want to be alive. Once I understood that, the rest was easy.”

The idea of sculpting her own brain came from a need to separate herself from her brain. “I made ‘The Brain’ to be sure it’s out there, to be watchful of it and to remind myself to let go and be a bit more relaxed,” she reflects. In contrast to “The Brain”, looking at Amy’s artworks one notices repeating patterns, forms, shapes, and colors that resemble or remind us of oranges. Oranges appear in Amy’s embroideries and on canvases. For Amy, her oranges seem to symbolize a kind of chaotic energy in opposition to her analytical self. One could say the orange motif (life full of energy, vibrance and colors) represents Amy’s choice to leave everything and start a journey to the unknown. More recently this idea has developed into a sculptural intestinal form, physically wrapping the brain and perhaps symbolizing a kind of conflict or coming together. I don’t think she’s quite sure yet what it means. 

Amy’s journey also appears in her work in the form of  a long horizontal line that stretches from one side of the canvas to the other. I spot the identical line on the wall of her studio, as well as in a tattoo running the length of her arm. Amy has more journeying to do in Armenia. “I don’t have a plan to leave Armenia. My work flows here.” She also has some ideas for collaborating with the local artists. “There is something about Armenia that gives me room for exploring things and experimenting. It inspires me to make whatever kind of art I want without too much judgment, or criticism. I feel less pressure here in Armenia and I feel that Armenia drives me forward in my artistic journey.”

Amy has been profoundly influenced by images, colors, patterns, structures and systems of nature around her.

“Sometimes I feel at home in Armenia because there are similarities to the Scottish landscape. There is wonderful color in the Armenian landscape, shades of ochre, yellow, something flat, desert, but not desert, it’s something else. The color is very unique. When you come into Britain by plane and look from above, you see and understand the way that the landscape is arranged. The landscape is, among other things, an organized area. If we understand the idea of landscape as a kind of tension between chaos and order, natural and man-made, for example, then we see it reflected in our psyche, through the landscape and places we are surrounded by. The landscape feels less regulated in Armenia, and that is interesting for me, different to what I am used to. Armenia has its own way of being ordered and arranged, but it is not clear to me exactly what that is, whereas in Britain I understand the order more.” 

Amy thinks there is more flexibility in the Armenian landscape. “I just walk around the city, look and feel. Because there are a lot of abandoned factories in Yerevan, when I walk, I have the same feeling as in Glasgow, which also has an industrial past. There, lots of old factories are repurposed as studios or similar places, and it is relatively easy for people to go in and do something: these areas seem to fit for doing some crazy stuff. I’m not entirely sure what I can or can’t do here, but I feel that these things are happening here too.” 

Not only the nature, but even the basic distinct features of the neighborhood, be it the surrounding yard, a half destroyed building, or just the solar panels of a building outside her window, appear unconsciously or knowingly in the artists’ works whether through the colors that repeat or the forms and shapes. Amy’s work is meditative and ephemeral. She explains in her artist statement that ‘using drawing, found objects and words, my work explores the delicate territories of self and other, what’s around the edge, and what lies at the heart of the matter”. She “plays between imposed external control and trust in a process”. As curator, Anna Gargarian notes, 

“[Amy’s] process is intuitive, yet disciplined. She is less concerned with the outcome (she calls her pieces “relics”) and more interested in what brings them to life. The tension we find in her work reflects a personal tension, as she oscillates between her identities as artist and archivist, intuitive maker and structure-loving analyst”. 

Amy describes herself as someone very organized and detail oriented. She loves order and routine, which are at the core of her everyday life as an artist. “There are two sides of Amy,” she tells me; “Completely creative Amy, unpredictable, and there is very orderly Amy, and her very structured work. Amy can’t be both at the same time.”

Amy takes me to another room, small in comparison to her main work space. The walls are colored bright green and there is a large window that lets in enough light to make it another perfect studio space. “Some of my works I made here.” On the small work table, I can see Amy’s collection of map drawings. While I closely observe the works, trying to grasp the details, Amy describes the significance of the process of working and archiving within her artistic practice. Her progress partly relies on a practical and ritualistic approach.

It is interesting to see how Amy makes sense of her own journey as an archivist, art historian and artist. She reflects upon the influence that each of her professions have had on her art making. As a student of art collecting and the art market, she has learned to value artworks but at the same time look beyond what is art and what is not. “What defines art?” is a question that she explored during her studies. As an archivist, Amy believes she learned to take care of each thing she makes, however insignificant something might look, and put things in order, make sense of everything as she records her daily work. Art history, she thinks, helped her to develop an analytical and critical eye on her work. She observes her works in great detail and writes about them, creating a kind of conversation between her, the art work and the written description.

When asked about her future projects, Amy notes that things will change after her exhibition in Armenia. “The exhibition that we are planning for this fall is going to be an end point and a starting point at the same time. It will be the beginning of something new.” Amy has some projects in mind which she might be developing at the IN SITU project space. She is also interested in artist residencies in general. She believes that an artist residency offers a whole new environment where different artists combine and share a whole new energy flowing through them. 

“I feel comfortable working here in my studio, I can’t say that I am attached to places, because I like moving a lot. It helps me to disturb the routine sometimes. For someone who likes following a routine, changes are needed to introduce novelty.” Though Amy likes change, she also longs for constancy and permanency, since being far away from home, the only way to develop a sense of home is to have a space where she can find herself belonging to. 

***

From September 8 to 17, join us at Dalan Art Gallery for a solo exhibit of works by artist Amy Todman that take us on a journey “From here to there” across her daily artistic practice. Amy will be at the venue daily from 16:00 – 18:00.

Dalan Art Gallery
Open Daily from 11:00 – 23:00
Abovyan 12, Second Floor

Visit to IN SITU Project Space: Narek Barseghyan

text by Varduhi Kirakosian
edited by Anna K. Gargarian

Busy rooms fill a long corridor leading to the IN SITU project space in Yerevan’s Malatia district. It’s the Gold’s Market building, serving as studio space for many artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs. Behind the doors of closely lined workrooms hide all kinds of arts and craftspeople deeply immersed into work that ranges from carpentry, wool spinning, metalwork to gold and silversmithing. One can also find storage units and even the odd food-producer on the fourth floor of this buzzing beehive. 

Narek greets me warmly, walking me through the small but well-equipped room he’s called his studio for the past three months. Brushes line the tables, and paint splatters coat the floor. Lining one wall are shelves messily stocked with sketchbooks, masks, and other artworks. To one side, tools hang on the wall above his desk – wrenches, pliers, a hammer, more brushes. An oversized sofa sits across from the shelving unit. 

Narek’s desk at the IN SITU Project Space, photocredits: Varduhi Kirakosian.

“I tidy up the room quite often. Things are in their place,” Narek notes. He tells me about one of his favorite artists, Francis Bacon, who saw studio clutter as a kind of metaphor for the creative act. Behind the chaos of an artist studio, order is hidden; a bit of clutter doesn’t bother Narek.

Narek Barseghyan graduated from Armenia’s Academy of Fine Arts in 2015. Classically trained in the department of painting, Narek’s works are figural, though he has seen a movement away from realistic representation. Narek became a part of HAYP/ IN SITU’s artist community in April 2017, when he participated in the pop up exhibit, “DOWN_shift” with two artworks. 

Narek Barseghyan, “The Last Kiss” exhibited at DOWN_shift, HAYP Pop Up Gallery in 2018. In a private collection.

Since then, he’s participated in several HAYP exhibits including a solo show in the framework of the 2018 Armenia Art Fair called “The Leather Show”, HAYP’s 2018 retrospective “12,12,12”, and a residency program earlier this year entitled “Almost Human”. He has now taken over our Project Space at IN SITU art agency which offers various opportunities for artists to facilitate research, production, exhibition, and exchange around critical artworks. The studio is available on an application basis for a determined time frame dedicated to a particular project. 

For Narek, the studio is a convenient walk from home and offers him large wall space for his oversized canvases, which can range from 3 to 4 meters in width. I ask Narek for his thoughts on artist residencies and their benefits. He explains that an artist residency grants new opportunities for exploring new settings, contexts, formats, and mediums that can be supported by new environments. This is Narek’s third residency, and second private studio residency. In 2016 Narek spent two weeks at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine (USA), thanks to the support of the former Luys Education Foundation. One of the highlights of that experience was his discovery of a deep interest in watercolor, a medium he used to hate. Narek believes that artist residencies widen the scope of an artist’s interests and expand their chances to explore and try new methods and techniques. Regardless, he can spend hours working on his own and without distractions, for him, it’s not a question of concentration. His style keeps evolving and he never stops learning. His inspiration comes from texts or lectures that he listens to while painting. For Narek, the process of painting is a good moment for him to digest the food for thought from philosophical, historical, and spiritual programs he follows on the radio. The only challenge to artist residencies, he tells me, is getting over his experience of attachment to a particular place. 

“The studio is not just a room for artists to make stuff, it’s a very intimate place where you live with your heart and mind,” Narek explains. “And once you finally integrate into a space and make it yours, you become attached to it, and leaving becomes challenging.”  

No matter what Narek does – he does it obsessively. His direction may not be clear in the very first canvas of each series, but he trusts the process. For Narek, capturing ideal details in painting used to be at the core of his early work. But in his third year at the Academy of Fine Arts, Narek started exploring new themes and forms that lead to a drastic shift in style away from realistic representation. He turned away from the classics and his original heroes, Rembrandt and Caravaggio, and towards American Pop Art and Neo-expressionist movements from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

An early work of Narek’s from 2015, pictured here in his former studio. Photocredits: Anna Gargarian.

From 2016 onwards, Narek began abstracting space and perspective to create collage-like compositions that incorporate elements of popular culture. Most of his recent work incorporates multilingual stream-of-consciousness text, vivid colors, and always a figural component (however distorted). 

Narek Barsgehyan, “Pepsi Generation” exhibited at The Leather Show, HAYP Pop Up Gallery, 2018.

Narek tells me that his figures are conceptual, characters inspired by Heidegger, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Nietzsche, and other German philosophers. His latest series are contemplations of fantasy inspired by his dreams and spiritual folk tales, that invite us to explore an alien world dominated by an ultramarine color palette. His “monsters”, distorted characters that are usually bodiless, are inspired by Kali, the Hindu goddess of death associated with sexuality and violence. In art, she is often represented as a fearful fighting figure with a necklace of heads, a skirt of arms, and a lolling tongue. A mask of Kali hangs on the wall of Narek’s studio. 

Narek’s Kali mask and some sketches in-progress, Photocredits: Narek Barseghyan, retrieved from Instagram.

Narek’s Monster obsession has spanned the past two years, and he’s explored them in different media. Always fascinated by fashion, for a period Narek created masks inspired by Gucci and their performative runway shows.

One of Narek’s masks shown here in his installation-performance, “ROT 45- Monsters” for HAYP 12 12 12 retrospective, 2018. Photocredits: Ed Tadevossian

His interest in fashion grew further when he visited New York – its museums, and even more so its design stores with their extravagantly designed shop windows. 

“Zara shop had more art in it than most of the museums,” Narek explains. “Clothes there weren’t just placed for sale, everything in these shops was well thought out for visual impact.” 

Narek Barseghyan, “Talis Qualis” for Leather Show.
An exhibition view of The Leather Show, May 2018 at HAYP Pop Up Gallery.
Photocredits: Alex Mirzoyan
Leather Show fashion performance, photocredits: Alex Mirzoyan.
Leather Show fashion performance, photocredits: Lush Hakobian

His interest in fashion led to a series of artworks and a fashion partnership with local designers called “Leather Show” an exhibit and fashion performance curated by HAYP Pop Up gallery in 2018.  The Leather Show fashion collection was later featured at Armenia’s MADE boutique, and Narek went on to collaborate with other designers including the “Dare to Wear” brand where he was featured as a designer-painter. For now, Narek has taken a break from the fashion world, but he’s open to coming back to it in the future.

Having difficulty finding a studio space for the past year, Narek had been working mostly in digital art up until his IN SITU Project Space residency.

He tells me that he had to confess to himself how much he missed the real process of working with the sense of touch; colors and paints. He’s made some sculptural work in studio, but points out that mastering a new medium takes years. He hopes to explore new materials, and looks forward to the chance to work with other building residents, which he hasn’t gotten around to yet.

Narek shows me some of his recently completed canvases, which he keeps rolled up, either leaning against the wall or atop a large storage unit. One by one, he unrolls the works, taking care to remove the dust and check the paint surface. As he does so, he talks about different topics in art from theater to performance, fashion, and writing. He tells me that he’s recently been doing a lot of writing, and in particular, in recording his dreams. He is as enthusiastic telling me about this as I imagine him when waking up in the middle of the night to document his nightmares. He stresses that he’s a vivid dreamer, and that his writings are so detailed that upon rereading them he sometimes wonders how much of it is recollection and how much is speculation or interpretation. 

Narek at the Project Space, photocredits: Varduhi Kirakosian.

Narek tells me he doesn’t consider himself a writer. He explains that writing his dreams occurs at a subconscious level; it’s the outcome of his immediate imagination and an exercise for better knowing himself. He’s fascinated by dreaming, and thinks of the struggles one passes through during nightmares as symbolic. Narek plans on turning his dream “adventure stories” into an artist book that would combine his writings with symbolic visuals that you can find across all of his canvases. Whether a “pause” sign, a projected tongue, or a combination of the two, Narek signs his works in his own hieroglyphics, a visual language he believes also stems from his subconscious mind and dream world.

Some of Narek’s signature symbols, photocredits: Varduhi Kirakosian

IN SITU is currently working with Narek to produce his artist book as part of the IN PRINT program. While at Project Space, Narek will be developing his book concept in parallel to his Kali-inspired canvas series. Post-residency, Narek hopes to share this body of work through a solo exhibit.

“I just love watching people enjoy what I’ve created in the right environment, with live music, and among interesting visitors. It feels awesome. Even if they don’t know I am the author, I am just glad to share the positive vibes, and it fills me with a renewed power to create.” 

The application for IN SITU Project Space residency is open on a rolling basis. To learn more about the Project Space and how to apply, visit our website here.

Interview: Lvis Mejía

Lvis Mejía is an artist based in Berlin, Germany. He works in time-based media, and is a founding member of oqko, an artist collective and label that works at the intersection of various music and visual practices. He is our featured artist this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 8, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about his meditative film essay “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end”, and what inspires him. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


HAYP/ IN SITU: Tell us about your Virtual Viewing Room Project, “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end”.

Lvis Mejía: In all honesty, I envision this work being an exercise rather than a project. I would love this to be – in a way – a pilot of an essay film, but I don’t know if I can pay tribute to that. The story is about a non-human entity that finds “something” (like a log book/writings and graphics) and tries to make sense out of it while it finds itself stuck in its spaceship waiting for the end to come. It is in the form of a visual diary that it starts “exercising the thoughts” and tries to decipher the essence and meaning of the object that it found. To find out how it ends, just follow the story.

I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end is in a way just a humble analogy to our lives. At the beginning we are unarmed, but during the process we start getting conscious about our surroundings and who we are. Nevertheless something is – at least until now  – inevitable, death (the end). This final chapter, or better said, how we cope with the cosmovision of death, determines most of our behavior in life, and therefore completely the way we live. In strength we remain fragile

The idea is to approach through an “experimental visual diary” I am forcing myself to use exclusively material from my own archive. An archive of my own. I am recycling and reinterpreting my work, and therefore a part of me. Material left in the virtual, material that never got exposed (became real) to the public eye. Like a crestomatia somehow. I decided to exclusively use found footage [of my own work], and tried to guide and interpret it in a specific direction.

HI: How does this relate to your artistic practice?

LM: Well, I have been working for a few years on the topic of “speculative futures” [of humankind] – yes I know the combination might sound redundant – but this issue both fascinates and concerns me, and sincerely, this should be a thing of global character. Leaving aside the unnecessary, almost pathetic question, “Where are we going?”. My tendency shows a rather objective-pessimism based on historical observation, critical perspective and a personal analysis of today’s standards. With this humble toolkit of understanding, I dare to conclude that the direction we are going in might not find its end soon, but all the way will be ferociously painful. 

As I mentioned above, the question of “Where are we going?”, seems unnecessary and almost pathetic to me, because it appears to be almost irrelevant for both the small “communities” capable of changing the paradigm on the paper and for the vast billions having potentially the chance to do it through action.         

In a way, this project is a family member of a pivotal writing I finished earlier this year about the shortcomings of our species, and the main argument is where the two projects merge. The writing will probably serve as part of the script to this experimental visual diary in order to reinforce the visual language.

Lvis Mejía performing at MUTEK in Montreal, 2015
“Anthropology of Amnesia” Lvis’ album (oqko label) exploring oral cultures from around the world, and their role in passing on and preserving memory.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

LM: Some rare chemistry processes in my body, getting confronted to new thoughts and experiences, fresh love and some extraordinary works of art.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

LM: As a matter of fact, it made me reaffirm more things rather than (re)discover new ones. We are quite fragile organisms driven mostly by many irrelevant and abusing meanings. When a pause is taken, imposed or seized, there is a chance to reflect, rethink, repurpose and adjust. In my personal opinion, things after confinement are just going to go on (unfortunately) back to the desired pathological consensus of “normality”. The current situation merely undressed society, exposing elemental components to ourselves. These times are just reflecting who and how we are in a more precise way. The collective does not really differ that much from the individual. There is yet so much to learn…. and paradoxically, all of that wisdom is already out there. We are just adamantly still wearing the veil. We are doomed, actually.

Pictured above, some works from Lvis’ yet unpublished photographic series, “Irrelevant Studies on Dichroic Foil” (see more works @Hayp.insitu on Instagram)

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

LM: Watching tons of films, trying to finish reading different books, meeting random people at bars and playing football.

HI: What’s your connection to Armenia?

LM: I have had the chance to work and collaborate in the last 3-4 years both with the community and great individuals from the cultural spectrum in the country, and each time has been a particular – yet interesting – challenge. 

It all started with a project that now resides in limbo: an audio installation at the Herouni Radio-Optic Telescope in Orgov. Ever since I have been going back consequently every year.
In my personal opinion I think Armenia has a special and prosperous panorama for the development of the art scene and market, but there is still a long way to go. Therefore, the actual moment of paving the process should maintain an experimental idiosyncratic approach without lacking professionalism.
It is crucial to potentialize the sense of unity throughout the community in order to have a common ground and not many individual players on stage. As an external person – yet a recurrent visitor – I see there is plenty of potential to sow and educate the younger generations with a global vision based on exchange and preservation of the cultural heritage avoiding endemic self-glorification. I am always happy to come back and contribute in whatever way is possible.

Lvis Mejía’s site-specific installation in Orgov, Armenia for HAYP Pop Up Gallery’s CETI Lab, 2017 exhibit exploring communications with extraterrestrial life.
Lvis and the collective at the Iron Fountain in Gyumri. A project by Sound Lab, an initiative lead by Vardan Harutyunyan and the Armenia Art Foundation, 2019.

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

LM: Lethargy and the negative-driven unfounded self-destructive criticism within the scene I have perceived.

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

LM:
– A couple of large format installation
– Shooting experimental featured films.
– Develop educational artistic programs with true social impact.
– Develop a decentralized web environment.
– Found an independent multidisciplinary research institute.
– Get a lot of land to create an independent sustainable “country”, hehe.

the list gets long…..


About Lvis Mejía:

Visit Lvis’ Virtual Viewing Room project, “I don’t know where to start, though I know where this is going to end” here.
Follow him on Instagram at @lvis.mejia
See more of his work at: www.lvismejia.com
Follow oqko artists and releases at: www.oqko.org

Lvis Mejía is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and musician born in Mexico City, based in Berlin since 2007. He is a member of the artist collective and label, oqko. Lvis’ work has shown at major museums and galleries including DOCUMENTA 13, the ICA London, the Centre Pompidou, MUTEK Montréal and the Transmediale Berlin. His academic background is in philosophy, fine arts and time based media from Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, MIT Media Lab and HfbK Hamburg. His work has brought him to Armenia several times, in 2017 he designed a site-specific installation “UNO” at the Herouni Radio Optic Telescope (Orgov) in the framework of HAYP Pop Up Gallery’s CETI Lab exhibit. In 2018, Lvís participated in a collaborative installation for HAYP’s Retrospective “12-12-12”, and in 2019 he worked as a consultant for the Armenia Art Foundation’s Sound Lab in Gyumri. Lvis believes in the capacity of artistic practice to transcend medium, while being deeply intertwined in a sense of place and community. Since 2020, he has joined the IN SITU team as a cultural consultant, with the aim of catalyzing cross-cultural exchange and proposing new perspectives and contexts for art and idea making.

Interview: Ella Kanegarian

Ella Kanegarian is a writer, art critic and curator based in Yerevan, Armenia. She is our featured artist this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 8, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about her meditative project “VREN”, and what inspires her as a writer. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


HAYP/IN SITU: Tell us about your Virtual Viewing Room project.

Ella Kanegarian: “Vren” is an attempt to poeticize the urban slang and urban lifestyle, as I have a desire to erase the linguistic snobbism many of us have towards the language of the streets, the expressions coming from the streets, e.t.c. Many of us talk like that or use words like that in our daily routine, but we may attack those who try using it in art. My strong belief is that the Armenian language really needs to be desacralized and treated as something which has a function- creating communication, expressing thoughts, ideas, emotions. Not all ideas and emotions can be expressed through the “literary” or so-called “high” language, there are many words from the streets, from the villages, from the old Armenian called “grabar” (գրաբար), which can be used now and have a right to be used, without any linguistic fascism. Language helped us to survive, but by sacralizing it, we choke ourselves with our historical past, not giving a chance to breathe free in our present.

HI: How does this relate to your artistic practice?

EK: I don`t know if i would call my writing an artistic practice, daily work, a job, or my life partner. I started writing from a very early age and I think I was almost 10 when I got published for the first time with a small poem about the mass shooting in the Armenian Parliament on October, 27 1999. I remember I was very shocked by it and wrote something to let it out. Since then I write, get published, and try out different fields.

If this can be considered an art practice, I write. Now my daily schedule is 7-10 hours. Doesn’t matter what is my topic, I must write, experiment with forms, formats, because I believe that each topic and idea has a very special form, which will help it to be spotted by those who seek that idea. So during recent years I erased by professional borders. Now, for me, there is no difference between writing a poem, song, movie script, analytical article about art, or curatorial text. It just shapes things and finds the right words. Recently I got obsessed with Sufi poetry and religious texts. I’m attracted to their laconic format and I try using that approach in different ways and different formats.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

EK: people. wind. reading. stupid people. smart people. angry and egocentric people.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

EK: Confinement is a permanent state for me, because I believe that I have never known what freedom really is. I`ve only seen the type of freedom, which is labeled as so, wrapped in a beautiful package and sold, or sometimes even gifted as a pretty desirable Christmas gift. The only thing which the quarantine-related confinement has given me is the ability to rediscover those who surround me, get rid of the waste (emotional waste), ambitions, even the people, which I no longer need, but have turned into habits.

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

EK: As I mentioned I write from 7 to 10 hours per day. For that, I need topics, people, stories. The part of my day, which is not spent at writing includes praying, chanting mantras, and whirling. So during one day, I can fly through all different religious narratives from Kali and Krishna to Buddha, Allah, and Christ. I feel very close to all of the religious rituals and they help me to calm my mind, erase unnecessary drastic emotions and concentrate. Besides I love how all of those texts are constructed.

HI: If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

EK: Establishing a Market, which will trigger real and dynamic development of both the art scene and the professional quality of the work done.

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

EK: I don’t really like the word “project” and avoid using it, “dream” also is too big for what I want. It is more of a professional desire, a goal. The first goal is writing texts that will touch people, make people feel related to something bigger than themselves, make them feel connected. This goal seems blurred, but it motivates me to try on new formats and switch to find the best platform and shape for the ideas I want to share. The second goal is to purify myself from personal anguishes and ambitions and become a pure tool, which knows how to write and transmit ideas and stories of others.


About Ella Kanegarian:

Visit Ella’s Virtual Viewing Room project, “VREN” here.
Engage with VREN at @VREN_official
Follow her on instagram at @cookingfeminist

Ella Kanegarian is a multidisciplinary creative, essayist, art critic and curator. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Theory and History, and a diploma in Art and Commerce from Yerevan’s State Academy of Fine Arts. She has contributed texts to regional magazines including Chaikhana, Inknagir, Arvestagir, and Hetq covering art, literature and music. In 2015, her text on Armenian contemporary music was featured in The Wire’s 400th anniversary edition. Her creative work includes several short films as well as plays, addressing themes of communication, nostalgia, and memory. She has curated exhibitions for artists Gayane Yerkanyan, Ashot Avagyan, Samvel Saghatelian and Narnur. She currently works on expanding her writing techniques and experiments with text writing styles and techniques inspired by her current obsession: Sufi poetry and quote writing.

Interview: Gayane Barkhudaryan

Gayane Barkhudaryan is a visual artist, lecturer at the Terlemezyan College, and art conservator based in Yerevan, Armenia. She is our featured artists this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 2, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about her photographic contemplation “An Observer’s Look at the Creases”, and what inspires her as an artist. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


HAYP/IN SITU: Tell us about your VVR project, “An Observer’s Look at the Creases”:

Gayane Barkhudaryan: This project has a direct connection to my studio/bedroom, where I live with my subjects and two easels. I start in front of my easel, then I find myself on the floor, and then at my pillow as I search… That’s how the idea for “An Observer’s Look at the Creases” came about. The objects and photos are rearranged in the room and in my head, leading me to the creases of the Tolors reservoir.

Artist statement about the project:

The creases are a place – a water reservoir- where every aspect is reconfigured during the basin’s flooding and drainage. Vast surfaces are layered underground, born of multiple fluctuations․ The golden folds continue to coagulate, decompose, and reimagine new surfaces. The observer (me?) takes comprehensive and scattered memories from the place, revived in the form of a photographic review. From the patterns of nature to images that take on new meaning, how is it that we first artificially disrupt a landscape, and then struggle to resuscitate it, again through artificial means…?

Images featured in her Virtual Viewing Room project from the Tolors water reservoir in Sisian, Armenia.

HI: How does this relate to your artistic practice?

GB: My practice is about looking at imaginary images and reality from different angles. This project helped me to once again reconsider the relationship between man and nature. Sometimes we value artificial nature more than nature itself, I am in favor of the idea that we should leave nature alone.

Above: Series of untitled works in mixed technique on paper (watercolor, pastel and graphite), 2020.
Above & Below: “Is this a hamam?” silk screening on paper and fabric, and performative action for HAYP Pop Up Gallery, “12-12-12 Retrospective” in 2018.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

GB: People, nature, architecture, sculpture, almost anything can inspire me. For example, when I’m working on several different creative processes in parallel, it already occurs to me how I can combine their differences to create another work. I love that sequential and complementary creative process, which allows me to continuously review and revisit my work. Specifically in relation to this project, nature was the inspiration. In the [Tolors] reservoir basin, we see repetitive waves, contours and the arrangement of successive and complementary soil layers.

Above: Gayane at work on a conservation site in Meghri. Photo by Ed Tadevossian, courtesy of the artist.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

GB: Restriction is an attempt to reconcile oneself, to adapt, and to rediscover old wounds.

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

GB: In my free time, I like to visit other cities in Armenia [outside of Yerevan] in search of tasty new visual images: Soviet-era curtains, fabric patterns, dishes, posters ․․․․etc.

Above: Her inspiration…Images courtesy of Gayane Barkhudaryan.

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

GB: Maybe to restore our senses – to more sincerely feel, listen, and see ․․․

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

GB: It’s more a wish than a dream. I would love to travel with other artists – go on walks through small towns, and infect them with art. 

Gayane with a friend in her birth city of Sisian, Armenia.

About Gayane Barkhudaryan

Visit Gayane’s Virtual Viewing Room project, “An Observer’s Look at the Creases” here.
Follow her on instagram at @barkhudaryan_gayane

Gayane Barkhudaryan is a visual artist who lives and works in Yerevan. She studied fine arts first at the Terlemezyan Art College, followed by the State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia (Yerevan) where she has a Masters in Painting. She mostly works with painting, illustration, and print media and is inspired by ancient forms and motifs as seen in architecture, textiles, and the natural landscape. Gayane has exhibited at numerous institutions in Armenia, including exhibitions at the Artists Union, the Armenian Center for Contemporary and Experimental Art (ACCEA/NPAK), the Terlemezyan Gallery, the Albert & Tove Boyajian Exhibition hall, HAYP Pop Up Gallery, and Gyumri’s Still Gallery. She was also featured at the Lucy Tutunjian Art Gallery in Beirut. In addition to her work as an artist, Gayane is a lecturer at the Terlemezyan College, and works as a conservator at the Research Center of Mural Conservation.

Interview: Tigran Amiryan

Tigran Amiryan is an independent curator and contemporary culture researcher with a Ph.D in Literary Studies. He is our featured artists this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 2, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about his auto-narrative sketch “Skin Crisis”, and his philosophy on the marriage of science, literature and creative practice. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


Tigran Amiryan, photo retrieved from Chai Khana

HAYP/ IN SITU: Tell us about your VVR project “Skin Crisis”, where did the idea come from? 

Tigran Amiryan: For many years I have been dealing with memory and recollection. It is of great interest to me how memory is formed and destroyed – whether individual or collective memory- how it transforms, how individual and group memory is formed, how amnesia occurs, and so on. Skin memory and human-reality relationships / boundaries continue to remain my focus. 

FIRDUS: THE MEMORY OF A PLACE by Tigran Amiryan. This memory-book is about the Firdusi street, the last vernacular district in the center of Yerevan. In addition to research articles, the book includes stories of local residents and family photo archives.
Tigran at his book signing of “Firdus: Memory of a place”

HI: Could you expand in particular on the idea of a text as an artwork?

TA: The topic of memory does not belong to one discipline or one language. Often this phenomenon, being multifaceted and multi-layered, requires researchers to use different languages ​​and methods. There are two scripts that are familiar to me, the mix of which allows for a more complete expression: literature and scientific language. With “Skin Crisis” I decided to push the boundaries between these two languages, as a means to remove the boundaries between our bodies during the last difficult months [of quarantine].

HI: How does this relate to your research and artistic practice?

TA: I develop my academic and creative practice in parallel. For example, I teach French literature, semiotics, etc., and at the same time, I’ve developed a number of projects in which I combine anthropological and literary approaches, concepts and artistic expression.

“Memory Square”, an essay on the memory of place by Tigran Amiryan.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

TA: I incorporated different concepts into “Skin Crisis” that refer to various ideas by Didier Anzieu, Julia Kristeva, and Gilles Deleuze. It’s well known that Anzieu was engaged not only in psychoanalysis, but also in literature, through which he tried to understand the basics of self-analysis. Kristeva also works constantly between the two disciplines, creating both fictional and philosophical and psychoanalytical texts. As for Deleuze, he always claims that all philosophies and scientific works carry an important creative engine, without which it is impossible to create a philosophical or meta-language.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

TA: Isolation is a new attempt to perceive space.

HI: When you’re not writing or researching, what do you enjoy the most?

TA: The sea.

“Atlantic” series. Photo credit Tigran Amiryan, courtesy of the artist.

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

TA: In Armenia and everywhere, we need to get rid of cultural tribalism. More democratic and transparent art!

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

TA: All my projects start with dreams and seem to come true. I don’t dream much, I have already started working on my next project which involves photography and memory.

Сimetière des fontaines” (Fountain Cemetary) by Tigran Amiryan.


About Tigran Amiryan:
Visit Tigran’s Virtual Viewing Room project, “Skin Crisis” here.
Follow him on instagram at @l_oriental
Find him on behance

Tigran Amiryan is a Professor of Contemporary World Literature, co-founder and president of CSN lab. He is a semiologist, literary critic, curator, contemporary culture researcher and multidisciplinary artist. Author of numerous articles on postmodern genres of literature, interdisciplinary analysis, contemporary comparative analytics, sociology of literature, etc. Tigran’s main interest revolves around the issue of narrativization of both individual and collective memory in contemporary culture, artistic (fictional) representation and history of the Self, biographies, urban space and environment that keep the memory of people’s lives despite being constantly subjected to oblivion and destruction. Tigran realized a number of art and research projects across several countries, Armenia, Georgia, France, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Morocco etc. Amongst his projects are “Memory square” (Kazakhstan), “Kukia Alphabet” (Georgia), “Firdus: The Memory of a Place” (Armenia), «Cyprus archive. Postcard from the land of care» (Cyprus).

Interview: Kima & Nareh

Kima Gyarakyan and Nareh Petrossian are visual artists currently living and working in Armenia. They are our featured artists this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 2, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about their project “Loveless” and their philosophy as an artistic duo. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


HAYP/ IN SITU: Tell us about your VVR project, “Loveless”.

KIMA GYARAKYAN + NAREH PETROSSIAN: “Loveless” is about the repetition of images as a metaphor for a similarity of days. What does repetition give us, or why do we repeat the same actions and deeds? Through our composition, we have tried to represent the human feelings, words, actions and repetition of thoughts in everyday life.

“Armenian Pattern” by Kima Gyarakyan, marker on canvas, 100 x 85 cm, 2019.
Detail from “Armenian Pattern”.
Nareh Petrossian, “սերսերսերսերսեր” (“SerSerSerSer”, or lovelovelovelove) posted to @Hayp_pop_up during her instagram takeover of our platform.

HI: How does this relate to your artistic practice? Can you tell us more about your collaboration as an artistic duo?

KG/NP: Nare + Kima = a work of art. 

We have been thinking and talking about art and works of art together for a long time. We complement each other. By collaborating, we put aside our sense of self, authorship or concerns for copyright, we ignore our own ego. We create art that belongs to everyone.

Kima’s reflection held up by Nareh. Photo courtesy of Kima Gyarakyan.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

KG/NP: Everything and nothing.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

KG/NP: During confinement, we were able to understand and appreciate things we hadn’t noticed before, or took for granted. We became aware of how fear can be a limitation for us. And in order not to limit ourselves, we try to transform those fears into art.

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

KG/NP: Everything we do is somehow linked to our art. Even if we’re not making art, the feelings we experience – the pleasures, the good, the bad..these things we live – always lead us back to art and the creative process. 

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

KG/NP: Everything is right even when it’s wrong. Art will change as long as we change.

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

KG/NP: Of course we have projects that we haven’t implemented yet. But it’s too soon to share…any thought or project can be realized only when the desire and the moment mature. But one thing we’re interested in doing more of for sure is bringing art out into the public space, in the streets.

Kima Gyarakyan, site-specific installation curated by HAYP Pop Up Gallery for URVAKAN Festival 2019. Note, the installation was painted over by public officials for its “inappropriate content”. Photocredit: Anna Mkrtchyan.
Detail of Kima Gyarakyan, site-specific installation. Photocredit: Anna Mkrtchyan.

About Nareh Petrossian and Kima Gyarakyan:
Visit Nareh & Kima’s Virtual Viewing Room project, “loveless” until June 21, 2020.
Follow them on instagram @nareh.petrossian, and @kimagyarakyan

Kima and Nareh are emerging contemporary artists who are “inspired by everything and nothing,” as they put it. They have a shared interest in exploring themes from everyday life, and are particularly inspired by how its repetitive nature serves as a catalyst for introspection. Though they’ve studied together since high school at the Terlemezyan Art College, and again later at the Fine Arts Academy of Yerevan, their partnership as an artistic duo began recently over the past few months. They believe that in order to make art that belongs to everyone, it’s important to be able to put aside the ego. For them, collaboration is an essential part of this process. 

Kima’s works are a reflection of her inner world: her emotional state and feelings. Above all she values the process of making art: finding harmony and a sense of unity while “in the flow”, a state that she also describes as a “blankness” in which she loses herself. Kima has had several solo exhibitions at Dalan Art Gallery, Visual Gap Gallery, and Terlemezyan Gallery. She had a joint exhibition with @Yerevantropics curated by IN SITU in the framework of the 2019 Armenia Art Fair. 

Nareh’s work revolves around abstract and universal themes. She is interested in color, volume, and how to incorporate playfulness in her compositions. Most recently, her work has focused on love. Her practice synthesizes the universal and the specific, in hopes of making her work relatable and engaging to audiences. Nareh has participated in several exhibitions at the Terlemezyan Gallery, the Hovhannes Tumanyan Museum, as well as the 2019 Urban Art Festival by Visual Gap Gallery and the Goethe-Centre Yerevan.

Interview: Gohar Martirosyan

Gohar Martirosyan is a conceptual and performance artist currently living and working in Armenia. She is our featured artist this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 2, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about Gohar’s project and what inspires her as an artist. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


HAYP/ IN SITU: Tell us about your VVR project, “Presence”.

Gohar Martirosyan: My research started from communication: what is really missing in our communication and how to improve it. It’s well known that we are living in an age of over consumption of information, and we live our lives jumping from one event to another. It’s how we try to blur our inner suffering, and events become our behavior. We get more and more individualistic and isolated and we translate our communication via a language of ego sublimation. 

Related to that, [my work] questions how a physical dimension is necessary to create healthy communication. It’s in part related to the Corona Virus, but I think we were in the same state even before. I’m talking about the body, and trying to see if it can be a solution or not. It’s mostly an open question: do we need to share presence or consciousness?

Monsters, a series of digital drawings on analogue photographs taken of the city of Gyumri, empty in the wake of confinement.

HI: How does this relate to your artistic practice?

GM: My artistic approach is to talk about common issues via my personal experience. I think it’s the only way to talk about something from a hidden point of view, and to reveal the abandoned side of the conflict. I think that we are a product of social and common memory. We are created for sure by our societies. So each of us is a module of society, which is why I take myself as a product of experiment. First of all, I practice on my own self. 

HI: What do you mean by abandoned side of a conflict?

GM: I’m inspired by inner conflict and external conflict. I’m looking for the side that is missing, and I try to bring it out via my practice to show a more complete picture. That’s what inspires me.

“Criminal Case: Love”, an installation in which Gohar analyzes the end of her relationship through objects that were gifted to her by her ex-boyfriend. Gohar looks at love as a criminal act, and in particular the death of her ego in the framework of a patriarchal society.

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

I discovered that we should invent new media to communicate with one another, and I think that in some way it’s the mission of art as well. For example, when we remove vision, like if we cannot see each other, we replace it with imagination. And our imagination becomes stronger in order to compensate [for lack of sight]. I think we become more sensitive to each other and somehow the distance makes us see more clearly. I don’t want to call it Telepathy, but it’s something where we enter a new dimension and we explore it, and we’ve all became explorers. That’s what I really appreciate during this time.

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

GM: What do I enjoy the most….? Hmm…actually, I think that for each person, to work on what he really likes – what makes him happy or what is pleasant for him – that is the really hard work. And I think we should reveal for each of us what we really want from this life. That’s what I enjoy doing. I love to discover what can make me satisfied, and I like the idea of purification, because when we’re overloaded with memory and information I think we should sometimes get rid of it and open up new space inside of us. I’m thinking of these practices – how to open the space, make room – for new information. That’s what really makes me feel good.

“Dragon” was a performative installation that took place on the Rhine in Dusseldorf, Germany. The performance looks at the illusionary shape of freedom, like a kite flying in the air but controlled by a thread held in someone’s hand.

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

I don’t see myself as a critic, but rather a solution finder. I wouldn’t change anything because everything that exists, exists as it is in the right time and in the right space dimension…but…during our gatherings for our new platform, “Antibodies”, we are discovering that the Armenian art scene is separated into groups. In Armenian dialect we call it “Taifaz”. Those groups feel stronger together, there is some common practice inside of it that I really love, because you feel more protected when you are inside of a community, but I think that we shouldn’t be so insecure, and we should become more open to communicate and more confident to engage each other. So yes I would like to find a map connection between groups and blur these borders between us.

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

I’m really thinking about how to invest in a new medium of communication. I’m really thinking about a digital project that would be a platform where we can exchange, propose [ideas], and get what we need. It could be for a social project, or an art project…A truly collaborative platform. Another thing I think about is how Art has the power to solve huge issues, including political issues. I’m thinking currently about the mount Amulsar, and I would like to develop some interactive performance that would integrate art in a non-artistic site. I’m really experimenting with this idea.  


About Gohar Martirosyan:
Visit Gohar’s Virtual Viewing Room project, “Presence” until June 14, 2020.
Follow her on instagram @goharmartirosian
See her graphic design work on behance

Gohar Martirosyan lives and works in Armenia. She was born in Gyumri and grew up in Eastern Europe between Poland and Belarus. She studied at the Academies of Fine Arts of Krakow (Poland) and Yerevan (Armenia), and has presented her work in galleries, museums and exhibitions across Europe and the Middle East including the STANDART Armenian Art Triennale (2017), Gallery 25 (Gyumri), DEPO gallery (Istanbul), Weltkunstzimmer (Dusseldorf), Future2 Gallery (Vienna), and Gallery Dela (Tehran) among others.
Trained as a painter, Gohar has been making multimedia installations since 2015 including plastic works, light installations, and site specific and performative installation. Her artistic research addresses the fragile and opaque area where the public and intimate parts of our lives clash and merge. This work often takes her to open-air and natural spaces of cultural and historic significance, like Mount Aragats in Armenia, the Juist Island in the Northern sea, the Mush district in Gyumri, or the breach on the Rhine river in Dusseldorf.

Gohar works with symbols, archetypes, artifacts, spaces and artistic gesture as vehicles for exploring the human experience. She is particularly interested in the co-existence of modern and ancient life, where humans build themselves inside of history. Her practice is a continuous poetic questioning of social norms, and the limitations of individualistic societies’ “cult of separation”. Gohar’s overall goal is to create emotional mind-body experiences that explore who we are – personally and socially – as a means to help collective and collaborative cultures emerge.

Interview: Samvel Saghatelian

Samvel Saghatelian is a multi-disciplinary artist currently living and working in Armenia. He is our featured artist this week on the HAYP/IN SITU “Virtual Viewing Room” platform, a space for online artworks from June 1 – August 2, 2020. In this interview, we learn a little more about Samvel’s project and what makes him “tick” as an artist. Scroll down to the very bottom for a complete bio.


Samvel Saghatelian, Photo credits: Anush Kocharyan.

HAYP/IN SITU: Tell us about your Virtual Viewing Room (VVR) project.

SAMVEL SAGHATELIAN: “My VVR project addresses the drastic socio-political changes in human confrontation. The project is based on the “Metamorphosis” series, which dates back to the great changes and upheavals of the 90s: the collapse of the Soviet Union, [Armenian] Independence, war, and post-war reality. At the center of it all is woman, and in particular, the female body. She is more flexible and adaptable to different situations. A woman’s body is able to undergo change, no matter what context. I see the female form as a symbol that transcends and goes beyond gender to become a universal symbol for bodily transformation or metamorphosis. For me, beauty is genderless. But this specific bodily power, of flexibility, is definitely feminine.”

HI: How does this project relate to your artistic practice?

SAM SAGA: The series is as connected to my practice as it is to the revolutionary events of 2018. We experienced a liberation of ourselves and our bodies; an expansion in our identity that was more complete, united and self-sufficient. We became a fully flourishing body.
Before the revolution we were divided, not only as a nation but within ourselves. Blossoming happens when you find that unity within yourself. You don’t need to look for answers elsewhere- it’s in you. Once you have that, nothing can stop you. Not even a viral epidemic, just as the cholera epidemic did not prevent the “body” of the Italian Renaissance from flourishing.

HI: Who/what inspires you?

SAM SAGA: Everything related to man-nature, man-universe, man-man, man-society, man-politics, and of course, love and sex…

HI: What does confinement mean to you? Have you (re)discovered something during this time?

SAM SAGA: Restrictions, pressures, traumas, illnesses, viruses, and everything that creates limits ultimately encourages new creative horizons. For me, regarding the Corona situation in particular, two important issues came up. A need for a connection with nature, and an awareness of a crisis of humanism. I’ve found in this a chance to be redefined, reborn and recreated.

 “Metamorphosis: Floating bodies of lovers ”, 2019. Acrylic on canvas, 157x190cm

HI: When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy the most?

SAM SAGA: It depends if you’re in art or not. If you’re in it, then the creative process is continuous, even if you’re not actually making something in that moment. I enjoy watching movies, sex, exercising in the woods among the trees, conversations with different people, being with my family and kids…

HI: If you had a magic wand, and could change one thing about the art scene in Armenia, what would it be?

SAM SAGA: I would make it so that law and enterprise would promote art as a priority in state policy. Art is politics and politics is art.

HI: What is your dream project that you haven’t had a chance to work on yet?

SAM SAGA: There are many! “Karahunj” is a public art concept and multimedia sculptural project that I would love to implement in Yerevan or, for example, in Los Angeles. Also related to public art is a concept series called “Architectural Monsters” that I would like to implement as real architectural buildings in Armenia, the USA and Dubai, but also on the planet Mars. I also could imagine making great mural art projects with these latest flowering figures [Metamorphosis series], or turn them into land art. Also on my dream list: I would love a private exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery.


About Samvel:
Visit Samvel’s Virtual Viewing Room project, “Metamorphosis” until June 7, 2020.
See more of his art at Samsaga.com

Samvel is an architect by training, and his three-dimensional approach shines through in his paintings, collages, and site-specific installations. His work often revolves around the body politic, and in particular, the female body as an allegory for society’s conflicts, struggles, as well as beauty and generative potential. Samvel’s career as an artist started in 1988 at the brink of the collapse of the USSR and Armenia’s Independence. A part of the 90s avant-garde in Yerevan, Samvel’s early work touched upon national survival, patriotism and ideologies dealing with the individual’s place in society. After moving to the US in 2002, Samvel was an active member of the LA artist community, exhibiting at the Garboushian Gallery, Mouradian Gallery, La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Avenue 50 Studio, Black Maria Gallery, and the Bruce Lurie Gallery among others. As of 2014, he has been living and working in Yerevan, inspired anew by the country’s political and societal shifts, and blossoming, outspoken youth. His recent works include “Transromance”, a bawdy and sarcastic collage series exploring the body, desire, and power relations; “Borderline Reality”, a collaborative project with inmates at various penitentiaries in Armenia; “Personal & Political Protest Signs”, an explicit typographic series; and “Homo-communication: The Hole” sketches, drawings, and sculptures exploring man in the universe and the universe in man. Samvel’s VVR project is part of “Metamorphosis”, a primitivist series that muses on man’s return to nature.


Virtual Viewing Room is made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

An Interview with dienacht magazine + publishing

In preparation for our upcoming workshops with dienacht publishing + magazine, we asked Founder, Calin Kruse, and Editor, Yana Kruse, to tell us a little more about their work, and the importance of photobooks.


 

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HAYP/IN SITU: Tell us how dienacht publishing started and what it’s about.

dienacht: We showcase carefully selected photographers through a limited circulation of beautifully produced books. dienacht started with “dienacht magazine” in 2007, a photography magazine featuring, as we put it, “timeless” photography work, not necessarily most recent or most popular.

Some years later it grew into “dienacht publishing” with the first book Dead Traffic by Kim Thue (2012) as a natural process and desire to feature a large body of work in printed form. Now there is also a “dienacht °Lab”, an education platform offering mentorships and workshops on photography and photobooks.

dienacht means “night” and we are indeed interested in everything hidden, shadowed, unknown. We seek to find and reveal in the form of photobooks. That’s why we like to discover the new and unknown, which adds too our excitement of holding a Workshop in Armenia (first time!) this October.

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Dead Traffic, by Kim Thu. Published by dienacht publishing. Photo courtesy of dienacht.

HI: How did the concept of the magazine change/develop over the years, and how does it differ from the photobook?

The magazine was always very personal to Calin, so we guess it has changed with his taste. But the concept hasn’t changed – the idea is still to show a mix of photography portfolios of different genres and also art from different fields. A book has more space to show more works, and also find a language through different materials. A magazine “hosts” different series and offers limited space for a limited number of photos.

HI: How are you coping with the quarantine, personally and professionally?

D: Well, it seems to be a challenge for everyone on the planet and for us at dienacht too. All our plans for the upcoming months have been either cancelled or postponed. We were planning to visit artbook fairs in Shanghai and Tokyo and hold a number of Photobook workshops, including the one in Yerevan. However, in this dystopian time we’ve just released the new book by Latvian photographer Arnis Balcus Myself, Friends, Lovers and Others, which is a kind of portrait of the generation, probably the last one before social networks and over-conscious self-presentation. We’ve also launched live streamings with photographer and photobook makers on our IG account. And together with HAYP we also came up with a way to get in touch with photographers in Armenia before our major Workshop (postponed till October) via online Portfolio Review Session. So, life goes on!

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Myself, Friends, Lovers and Others, Arnis Balcus. Published by dienacht publishing. photo courtesy of dienacht.

HI: What is in the book format that makes it special for you as a photographer? How did you get into making photo books?

D: It depends, not every project needs to end up in a book, it is important to find the right “language” for each project – this can be an exhibition, a projection, an installation… or a book. It is the last step to give a project a shape, and not only in terms of editing and sequencing. The materials you use, the size, papers, binding, cover, all these things shape your project. Finding a “language” for every project was the idea for making photobooks from the very beginning.

HI: How do you choose/discover photographers for your publishing projects?

D: We travel a lot for art – to photobook fairs and photo festivals around the world where me meet people and see works that might resonate with us. The Portfolio review sessions and private mentoring sessions we offer can also be a way to show the work to publishers and curators. Photographers are also welcome to submit their works to our “online portfolio” on the website and just to share their work via e-mail. We usually have no more than 6 Photobook Workshops a year, where we might also get inspired by the project and dummy to turn it into a real photobook. We’ve published this way quite a few photobooks lately and there are more to come.

HI: After mentoring so many photographers, and giving portfolio reviews, what is the most common mistake photographers do?

D: Many photographers tend to be too attached to their work, which really can be limiting in terms of seeing broader possibilities of the work. That’s why feedback is crucial. And openness to consider a fresh approach, too. However, a photographer should try to find a mentor that can really understand or resonate with their work, not just any good professional in photography (since everybody has their own preferences). It shouldn’t be a wide circle of friends either, they are not your real public.

Another thing that happens a lot, is that many photographers come with archival materials, which are not theirs. It isn’t necessarily a mistake, and it can definitely suit a certain project, but we think now there’s an overuse of it, just because it’s easy – you don’t need to do it yourself.

HI: What is, in your experience, the best way for a photographer to be picked up/noticed by a gallery or a publishing house?

D: Being active in general, we’d say could be one of the best ways to be noticed by a gallery or a publisher. Being part of the community, visiting talks, festivals, communicating with people from the field, getting feedback on your work through portfolio reviews and workshops, researching the field is by all means helpful. Many photographers also find it very handy and “effective” to actually present their project in a book format as, firstly, you can easily send it by post to any institution or professional you like and, secondly, it gives the work a certain degree of coherence and also shows a potential curator or publisher a vision on how the work can be presented. Not every project actually needs to end up as an exhibition or – similarly – as a book! Or there are projects that work much better in the book format and worse as an exhibition.

It is also important to pay attention that your work should suit the gallery or publisher you want to work with. Not being exactly the same (because we don’t want to publish twice the same project), but speaking a similar language to what we [the publisher] published before. It means that we have a public for your project, while also showing that you care about who you want to publish or exhibit with. We get so many applications with fashion photography or architecture. It only proves that these photographers never dealt with what we do or took a look at our website. It doesn’t make a good impression.

HI: What advice would you give yourself as a young photographer?

D: Nothing. Or: find what your difficulty is, and find solutions for it. There are too many advisors and too many wisdoms for one’s future out there. Everyone should go their own way. All we can do is guide or help out with what is now.

HI: Your advice to photographers who don’t have access to high quality materials, equipment, or printing?

D: We print books in absolutely different ways: pricey offset and very cheap, for instance Riso printing. It [Riso] is a sort of copyshop type of printing (used mostly in illustration) that can work great with grainy images, adding a certain roughness and freedom to them. It all depends on the project. You don’t necessarily need a fancy design shop to find amazing block paper or cover material, you might find one at the local food market- it happened at a dienacht workshop in Mexico. Calin also very frequently wanders around construction markets and finds cool materials (and much cheaper, as you can imagine, than in a proper design/paper shop). So, just check your attic and local small markets and stores for unexpected treasures!

HI: What are 3 of your favorite photo books ever made?

D: It’s always the last 3 books we bought. Now that would be: Continuum, by Paul Cupido; Sleep Creek, by Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth; and Widening Circles, by Charlotte Thömmes.

HI: What are 3 favorite books you produced as dienacht?

D: We can’t pick three favorites, each one has a special meaning. But here are two that were turning points for us:

Noctunes by AM Projects was our first big success (and a huge risk). Wild by Ren Hang, since it re-contextualizes the photographers’ photos (and because his photos are just great). And always the last published book, it’s like a newborn baby.

Since Calin self-publishes, he really likes some of his own hand-made books too. Examples are Kammer, Lametta, and Tier.

HI: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us that we haven’t asked?

D: Be brave!


 

HAYP/IN SITU is hosting an online Portfolio Review Session for Photographers working and living in Armenia on April 20, 2020. Limited spaces available. Deadline for application is April 14. Learn more here.

In the fall of 2020 (or pending the subsiding of current travel and socializing restrictions from COVID-19), we are hosting a Photobook Masterclass workshop with dienacht in Yerevan, Armenia.

Our collaboration with dienacht publishing is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Goethe-Centre in Yerevan, and the JHM Foundation.