Art, Mobility and Enlightenment

Utopiana.am within its SPACES project presents

Art, Mobility and Enlightenment:

From “Travelling Studio” to “Locomobile”
lecture/workshop by Vardan Azatyan

 that will take place on 9th of November, at 17:00 at Utopiana.am
/19Baghramyan 2nd deadlock/

I have always been interested in recurrences that happen all of a sudden. Unaware of their precedents, they are unaware of being a recurrence. Søren Kierkegaard believed that there is no such a thing as repetition, and Gilles Deleuze thought that repetition is a possibility of difference. What would the history of differences look like? What would be the history of the actions and formations that transcend historical time? This would be a history of anti-histories.

Armenia is in a regime of ahistoricity,  a regime of the violation of time and memory. Commonly this condition is described by the prefix “post” (post-Soviet, postcolonial, postsocialist, etc.), or dubbed as “transitional”. However, without ignoring the specificity of this historical condition, ahistoricity itself lasts long enough to acquire its own history, the history of erasures, rewriting and reemergence, of fundamental uncertainties and disconnections, contingency and rapture. Perhaps there is no connected and consistent history at all. If it ever was, it would be a historical narrative, rather than a history. Ashot Hovhannisyan, while writing the history of Armenians from below, was interested in understanding this history in terms of a complex relationship between history and narrative. At the same time, he was perfectly aware that one of the specificities of the history of Armenians is that it is fundamentally “episodic”. Nonetheless, as Hovhannisyan, we do not have to retreat in the face of contradictions and contingency. Rather, we may attempt at what I referred to as the history of anti-histories. This is the goal of my theoretical contribution to the Locomobile project.

Locomobile is a car. It is a moving location which aims to “move”, to stir the location it heads to.  Locomobile is a car-laboratory, equipped with certain tools necessary for what the initiators conceive as a “cultural decentralization”.  This mobile laboratory of contemporary (art) technologies (video and photo cameras, editing and development devices, computers etc.) will interact with the communities outside the capital Yerevan, in the regions. This is an activity that borders with Enlightenment and rises fundamental and thorny questions concerning the legitimacy of the Enlightenment project, neo- and self-colonization, the relevance of the didactic function of art and so on. However, it is also clear that this initiative stems from the same postcolonial/postmodern ideals of mobility and delocalization, nomadism and connectivity. It appears more than “contemporary” and appears as a kind of novel rapture in the state of affairs in Armenia. And precisely because of this it unwittingly revives an entirely forgotten “episode” in the history of Armenian art of the twentieth century, a project by a painter Gabriel Gyurjian called “traveling studio” of 1939. The “travelling studio” was also a car, a car that was equipped with all kinds of instruments for painters, it too had an aim to decentralize art and artists, establish active and dynamic interactions with the people living in the regional parts of Armenia, mount in situ exhibitions and organize discussions about art amongst other endeavors.

How is it possible to relate those two so similar initiatives that have no conscious or historic connections with each other? What are the points of their intersection and divergence? How should we deal with the fundamental questions about Enlightenment as well as the social function of art that we face while relating those cases? And last but not least in what ways these interrogations might contribute to the self-awareness and effectiveness of Locomobile?