ECONOMY OF HOPE at 8th Gyumri International Biennial of Contemporary Art

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english | armenian
Project by AJZ in the frames of 8th Gyumri International Biennial of Contemporary Art

The project Economy of Hope organized by AJZ proposes to explore the phenomenon of hope not only as it appears in our mind emotionally, but also a commodity of sorts, a product of the gap between desire and its (im)possibility. It is an attempt to deconstruct those systems that complete the production, sale and consumption of hopes in certain socio-economic condition, such as one can experience living in Armenia. The artworks brought together propose different ways of approaching hope both as a motivation for supporting personally or collectively experienced desires, and as a commodity produced and imposed on us by different systems such as religion, local superstition narratives and traditions or new capitalism that enforce consumer-driven models of the economy of hope.

DSC_6783.JPGThe above mentioned idea of commoditized and monetized hope is realized and developed in Bank of Hope, an online project by Steven Levon Ounanian, presented in this show with a series of four promotional videos and banners. A clerk alike black suited man tells about Bank of Hope describing it as an online storage and redistribution center for hope. Slogans appearing in both videos and banners attract with their offer services available even in afterlife. Applying to the strategy of absurd exaggeration mixed with delicate humor, so characteristic of him, Ounanian develops a sort of indication of not only impending upon but also existing though unrealized perhaps undesirable developments in our social life.

DSC_6952.JPGNvard Yerkanian in her project Alternative Market plays up with this idea of commodification in another way representing hope put in the circulation. Dispersed over the city paper-made advertisements announce buying, selling and exchanging of large variety of hopes. Very notable one offers ‘to exchange the hope for not leaving Armenia with hope for getting a job’. Attached with telephone number these ads look verisimilar and only their content and message betray their absurdness and provocativeness. Thus exploring this virtual hope turnover displayed by its direct demand and supply Nvard Yerkanian also displays common hopelessness about changing social, economical, and political conditions existing in Armenia – hopelessness that in such a large scale is manipulated by different political forces.

DSC_7032.JPGKarén Mirzoyan in a special way represents his project Don’t Try to Live placing it in post-election context of city of Gyumri in Armenia. A series of videos is made of the voice of people telling personal story of their unsuccessful suicidal attempts, which is supplemented by a photographic image-series. Some of these images used in the video supplemented with a fragment from the text of the story are also displayed outside printed in monochrome format and stuck on the walls and vitrines. Placed in the same way like the advertising posters with candidate face during pre-election campaign in Armenia – three or four same posters put all together in a line – these posters do not promise us anything but strongly remind us about that big gap existing between the life promised by politicians and the reality.

Fool Tool a film by Nork Zakarian shot in May 2012 just days before the first democratic presidential elections in the history of Egypt takes into consideration a commodity like falafel to describe the current situation of the country before and after the January 25th 2011 revolution. Claimed to be the national food of Egypt since pharaonic times, falafel or ‘taameya’ – as people in Cairo call it – is a very cheap meal made from ‘fool’ (beans) whereas in other countries it is made with hummus (peas). The Egyptians, known for their humor, put a twist on the word ‘falafel’ to criticize the role of the ‘felool’ (old regime remnants) for propagating this cheap food to keep the people full enough just to get by. With the upcoming elections under way, they now have the choice to not get fooled.

.DSC_6855.JPGDSC_6795.JPGThe newly emerged Armenian band The Deenjes makes use of local classic poetry in their songs, often interjecting the recorded voice of the relevant poet reciting his or her poetry into the song. One of them, according to the poem titled Now everything is pointless is notable by its desperate lyrics, music and video. The state of hopelessness emphasized in the lyrics intensifies with furious music, and is eventually fulfilled with the video track. Apparently the whole work is meant to allude to the insoluble fact that the rapacious order of interrelations in our society is far from being overcome, both in its hidden or unconcealed usage. Violence of any kind, forced labor, mental exploitation still make up the core of our life. ­­

On a personal level the hope often take up the role of determining factor for our actions. But obviously the connection between hope and action is not quite direct. Lucie Abdalian in her work I/they love/hate you/them attempts to reveal the complex process of actualization and evaluation of own hopes, in a context of complicated relations with other. The work consists of a conversation between her different selves who have done something that is now discussed and criticized by another her, with whom the author is currently identified. This voiceover is overlaid by her recent portrait drawings put together and animated, so that these similarly sketched personages illustrate this self-conversation. Pertaining to one individual but radically personificated these speaking selves prompt us about the same state, experienced but mostly not perceived though.

DSC_6815.JPGIn her recent work Numen Isabelle Vicherat touches upon a specific instance when desires and hopes are generated for a particular person and then immediately consumed and rendered in an imaginary way, on the spot during a séance of ‘coffee cup reading’, a sort of domestic ritual well known in a wide geography from the Balkans to the Middle East. Revealing – as Isabelle Vicherat describes – ‘archetypal codes and a strong symbolism in predictions, where connections with the language of the dream or the collective unconscious can be found’ Numen also displays the mechanism of this specific real-time hope production and consumption, as well as articulates our common proclivity for taking this passive role of receiver and consumer of imposed hopes.

DSC_6695.JPGMika Vatinyan in his Singing Fountain Brought to Exhibition Space points at another, this time public ritual in the everyday life of the city, presenting it as a common practice of suggestive reception and consumption of surrogate hopes produced by current political power. This water spectacle that attracts thousands of spectators every day is accompanied by a motley soundtrack from operas, ballets and local classics such as Aram Khachaturian to pop music and nationalist songs. By putting these videos in the exhibition space Vatinyan invites the visitor to experience the spectatorship of both kinds of events: mass entertainment such as the singing fountain as a certain symbol of constantly erecting state that relies on the ideology of stability and art events such as exhibitions and fairs. As different as they are, they both provide a false hope for actual developments in a certain sphere – social and cultural.

All these works consider hope from different points uncovering its different aspects. One can argue overused idea of commoditized hope both in the concept of the project itself and also in some of the works comprising it. However reflecting the hope also from this perspective it becomes possible to find out some other viewpoints of reality.

Harutyun Alpetyan


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