AJZ was founded in October 2009 as a non-commercial artist-run space by Nvard Yerkanian and Harutyun Alpetyan. Events taking place in AJZ are various in formats – from exhibitions, presentations, artist talks, and screenings to educational programs like workshops and lectures. In many cases it was done in collaboration with local art institutions like ICA, AICA Armenia, Utopiana.am, UrbanLab Yerevan, AFG film club, Art & Cultural Studies Laboratory, Suburb Cultural Center and others. AJZ is supported by its founders and by donations received from friends.

Originally one of the basic intentions of this initiative was the possibility for an alternative exhibition space in Yerevan, which would be available for artists and curators of local and international scene. But soon it has become apparent that there is no such a notable deficiency in representational spaces but rather a need for certain changes in conditions for artistic production. Yet this did not mean that AJZ changed its course though some intrinsic transformations could happen in time.

During its short existence AJZ could form a curatorial collective of sort, which appears time after time with different initiatives. The last project Economy of Hope was implemented in the frames of 8-th Gyumri Biennale. Nine artists were proposed 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 was 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.

Armenia in the late 1980’s was a fertile ground for many art movements in that the conditions in which a Soviet Armenian artist found himself or herself fundamentally had changed. The Soviet policies of “perestroika” (or “restructuring”) initiated in 1985 added a momentum to this process of change. A new generation of artists emerged, including those who were already showing post-soviet art tendencies. The disintegration of the USSR and Armenia’s independence further facilitated the transformation of liberal values on the one hand and nationalistic values on other. These two directions formed the main tendencies in the artistic and cultural life of the country. Almost at the same time a process of institutionalizing the various art movements began. Private art galleries, private art centers and non-profit organizations (like ACCEA and GOYAK), and cultural NGOs started to become the mediators and facilitators of artistic activity in the country.However, throughout the 2000s these processes of institutionalization stagnated and eventually a slow but noticeable disintegration started. Since the beginning of 2000s there has not been a new gallery or art center opened in the country. At least five active private art galleries have closed their doors. Disturbingly, one big contemporary art center called “Hay Art” was closed down by municipal authorities. After three years this center was reopened by other cultural actors and divided into several parts. One of these parts until today operates as an exotic zoo. Around the same time the issue of decreasing public space and green zones arose. These areas were usurped by private cafes, amusement centers, and newly constructed and privately owned buildings. Cultural activities with a strong pop culture emphasis began to be considered as only pastime entertainment for the country’s nouveaux riche “elite.”

AJZ was established in 2009 by Harutyun Alpetyan and Nvard Yerkanian with a little hope to take a small step forward in bringing artistic and curatorial practices back into the social scene. It is a non-commercial, artist-run space that affords a free opportunity for small exhibitions, presentations, and lectures. In addition, AJZ is a contact point for initiatives that activate curatorial practices.


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AJZ space in press

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