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Marine Martirosyan

What Prospects will the Venice Golden Lion Award Have for Armenia?

On May 9, Armenia won the Venice Biennale 2015 Golden Lion award for Best National Participation. The pavilion curator for Armenia was Adelina Cuberyan von Furstenberg, who curated around the theme of “Armenity.” The chosen name wasn’t a random one—it comes from the French term Arménité, which is used by French-Armenian youth to portray the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. 

The Armenian pavilion is installed on the island of San Lazzaro in Venice, and 18 artists represent Armenia. Von Furstenberg described the group as a “transnational” assembly. The only representative from the Republic of Armenia is sculptor Mikayel Ohanjanyan, although he currently lives in Italy.

Ohanjanyan participated in the 12th annual International Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2010. His work Limen #1 won First Prize in the 2010 Targetti Light Art Collection international competition. In 2011 he participated in the “Art Is a Game” exhibit in Venice where his work described as Augmented Reality, which combines sculptural form and digital code, was displayed.  

Ohanjanyan’s special installation at this year’s pavilion in Venice is titled “Twelve” and includes 12 structures placed around a 12-meter diameter. 

When he was asked what kind of acknowledgement does Armenia deserve for the Golden Lion award and how does the Armenian pavilion distinguish itself from others, he said: “The requirements for earning the prestigious Golden Lion award, I think, are an important combination of factors: 1) the concept of the exhibition, 2) the level of professionalism of the artists’ creations around that theme and concept, and 3) the terrain, in other words the island’s living history. These three factors, in a proportionate and sensitive manner, are part of an already important profile of the island, which can properly present the contents, quality and theme of the exhibition to the viewer. I think that’s how the pavilion crucially distinguishes itself from other pavilions.” 

“My participation in this year’s biennale, aside from being a great honor, will leave a lasting impression on me and in the way I conceptualize and realize my work. It will only lead me along a very interesting, long and fruitful journey,” Ohanjanyan said.

 

We also spoke with Ruben Arevshatyan about Armenia’s victory. In 2011 he was one of the presenters of the Armenian pavilion at the54th Biennale in Venice. He also curated the Armenian pavilion at the 2010 International Architecture Biennale in Venice. 

Mr. Arevshatyan, Armenia has been participating in the Venice Biennale since 1995. Did you expect Armenia to win the top prize at the 56th Annual Biennale? 

First of all I want to congratulate the Armenian pavilion on the occasion of winning the prize. The Golden Lion awarded for the Annual Venice Biennale for contemporary art is the same type awarded for best architecture, for theater and for film (the Venice Film Festival is just as prestigious as the Oscars and Cannes). Try to remember when Armenia has ever won such a top prize at any such venue. This is the first time.

Aram Jibilian (USA), Gorky, a life in 3 acts (i.birth)

The Venice Biennale competitions are always unpredictable. I remember when two of my friends left the Venice Biennale and Film Festival after they opened and were called back a day before the award ceremonies so they could be there to receive their awards. 

This year’s pavilion artists had expectations of havingone of the most interesting pavilions at the contemporary art Biennale in Venice. This was a well thought-out, conceptual plan of action that entailed 18 artists of various artistic views pooling their talent under the “Armenity” banner.  They were able to present an inclusive, complex and multifaceted cultural visionto convey small, nevertheless highly personal stories. Their united thoughts and feelings were showcased in the global spotlight. 

What prospects will this prize present to Armenian artists?

This year’s win is giving high visibility internationally to Armenian contemporary artists, Armenian culture and innovations happening both in Armenia and the diaspora.  For contemporary art, this multifaceted visibility represents one of the modern worldwide socio-cultural, political and economical undertakings within the context of active performance. 

Hera Büyüktaşcıyan (Turkey), The Keepers

The success of the pavilion has placed the existing ties and cultural dialogue between Armenia and the diaspora on another level, thereby deepening, extending and incorporating international contemporary art in culturological discourse. 

In other words the train of progress is very encouraging.  The only thing left is for both the Armenian public and communities in the diaspora to accept this huge, unprecedented victory for a segment of Armenian culture, since there tends to be a cautious, or even a skeptical public perception of contemporary art. The potential of contemporary art, which is being discussed more and more, was brought to full attention in this year’s Biennale.  I hope that Armenia will comprehend the importance of this year’s pavilion as well as the art and architecture pavilions of recent years and that an official approach can be taken to promote the significance of theinstitution of contemporary art in Armenia.