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Title: On the ruins of Utopia : the political aesthetics of the Armenian avant-garde
Author: Harutyunyan, Anzhela
ISNI:       0000 0004 2668 9889
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2009
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This project aims to examine contemporary art production in Armenia since the late 1980s within the turbulent transformations from state socialism to market economy in post- Soviet Armenia. I argue that it is precisely those contexts and artistic initiatives that have failed to be incorporated into the valuation system of the international art market that harbor potential for radical art and emancipatory forms of subjectivisation. This study aims to shed a light upon the context of artistic production in Armenia which largely emerged between the ruins of the utopia of the socialist project and the failure to realize the romanticized consumerism of the capitalist West. This project is an attempt to recapture, retrieve and reinterpret the historical moment of inbetweeness which was subsequently either co-opted by the logic of the art market or simply forgotten and left out from the world map of art history. I argue that in order to reestablish art's political relevance in the age of global disillusionment from art's capacity to have an impact upon other spheres of social activity, it is essential to articulate those spaces which challenge the established notions of political art in the context of Euro-American academic and artistic discourses. This historical project provides a means to unsettle prevailing dominant (Western European and North American) accounts of the avant-garde, histories of modernism and. postmodernism, and the definitions and assumptions attached to these discourses. As well, Armenian contemporary art history points in another direction towards the history of the late Soviet years, from Gorbachev's programs of perestroika and glasnost' (1986) to the collapse of the USSR (1991). In the introductory chapter I introduce the context as well as the goals and relevance of the project both within the academic field of art history and larger political debates related to post-socialist culture. The chapter which follows the introductory chapter examines the artistic context of Armenian contemporary art since the late 1980s within the framework of late Soviet perestroika politics. It focuses on the late Soviet artists' movement in Armenia, the 3rd Floor (1987-1994). In chapter three, entitled "ACT/ivism: Political Aesthetics of Affirmation", I attempt to write as well as critically examine the history of the conceptual artists' group ACT. I want to argue that ACT's radical utopian ideal of constructing the new state as a work of pure autonomous creation harbored a potentiality for the formation of participatory politics/aesthetics in post-Soviet Armenia. In the three chapters that follow the historical contextualization of ACT, I analyze the practices of ACT's individual members David Kareyan, Narek Avetissian and Diana Hakobian after the breakdown of the group in 1996. I suggest that the group's collapse signaled the shift from a belief in socially committed art to a return to the enclosed and isolated space for creation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available