SPACES was a three year project promoting the artistic and cultural actions in Public Spaces as well as re-articulating public spaces for artistic and cultural use. The project was funded by the European Union through the Eastern Partnership Culture Program. Along with organizing participatory art events in public spaces, the project carried out various processes of networking, social research, policy debates, mapping, etc. Those actions were organized in six participating countries; Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as in Croatia and Austria from December 1st 2011 until November 30th 2014.
In order to successfully implement those actions, SPACES collaborated with cultural and public workers, artists and activists of early mentioned post–socialist countries and Europe.
Utopiana was the Armenian partner of SPACES project. The local curatorial team represented Nora Galfayan and Taguhi Torosyan in close collaboration with Nvard Yerkanyan, Harutyun Alpetyan, Vahram Aghasyan and Anna Barseghian. Considering local (political, social and cultural) situation, Armenian curatorial team initiated and realized following actions.
Public Space Events
Developing the Caravan concept, in the rhythm of six months, SPACES project travelled from one city to another – among all participant countries. On October 8–12, 2013 the Caravan stopped in Yerevan, Armenia, where the Public Talks event took place.
The Public Talks brought together artists, curators, students, and researchers in order to review the social and political processes of the past 20 years and the consequent alterations of the “Public”. The participants made talks on the issue of modernity/modern condition in the post-socialist context; focusing on the transformation of the public sphere during and after the Soviet period. In addition to these, the program was enriched by talks, presentations, artistic interventions and flesh mobs in public spaces, cultural policy debates, walking tours and study visits to independent cultural institutions. See the program.
Out of the bigger Caravan event, smaller public space events and in situ art projects took place on the regular basis throughout the whole project. The topics of smaller events questioned the role and importance of the Public Space in the contemporary socio–political processes.
Among such projects it is worth to mention series of cultural events implemented in Mashtots Park to support the emerging those times Mashtots Park Civic Movement.
The series included;
- Photo exhibition “Public / Private”
- Open Source Bookstore and Library. Later, the project was developed within the Transformer project visiting Gyumri, Ijevan, Vanadzor and Chambarak towns.
- Public Readings
- “Sweet 60s” — presentation by Ruben Arevshatyan
Another big event was SPACES participation in the 8th International Gyumri Biennale in September 2012. Following projects were part of the Biennale program;
- Exhibition Like That: Green and Black
- Spatial Occupations — video projection and public talk by Oliver Ressler
- Take the Square by Oliver Ressler
- Euphoria by Vahe Budumyan and Arevik Martirosyan
- Recitando by Romana Schmalisch & Robert Schlicht
In collaboration with Arevik Martirosyan, SPACES implemented the project Living with Shushanik Kurghinyan. Aiming to feminize the public spaces the project implemented public readings of the texts by the Armenian feminist writer Shushanik Kurghinyan and stencil graffiti of the same texts in different parts of the city. The first public event of the project took place in the fountains of the Republic Square metro station. Later the project has been implemented also in other towns of Armenia, and in various public spaces.
Enlarging its geography the SPACES project has organized also several public spaces events, mappings in Gyumri, Ijevan, Vanadzor and Chambarak towns of Armenia in collaboration with Transformer project.
Local Air Lines Poster-Calendar
Local Air Lines project / Armenia
Together with artists, social and cultural workers and architects various maps were developed of the spaces that would be practiced for artistic and cultural activities. In Armenia, mapping of the abandoned local Airline was carried out by artists Karin Grigoryan and Vaghinak Ghazaryan. The project started on October 2013 ending on February 2014. Throughout the project, the artists considered it important to emphasize the history of local aviation in Armenia, as it would be an interesting way of overcoming the historical and ideological ruins of the past. After long researches and journeys around former Armenian local airlines, the artists ended up with a video work, a map and a booklet containing photo essays and texts referring to the historical background of the local airlines. See the booklet and the calendar.
Residency program was focused on development of a cultural exchange and dialogue between artists and cultural workers from different regions.
Between August 30 and September 30, 2013 Georgia based sound artist Katharina Stadler was at the residency in Yerevan. Being engaged in the art educational scene in Georgia, the artist was interested to compare the Armenian experience. This issue has been touched in the “Nazareth Karoyan on dialogue with Katharina Stadler” on art educational issues were accomplished in collaboration with ICA. The artists also implemented a sound art workshop with Utopiana’s Medialab students entitled as “Baghramyan soundscapes on the Map” as well as other interesting events: Wartehallen.
In October 2014, SPACES hosted Gruppa predmetiv: artist and architects Ivan Melnychuk and Oleksandr Burlaka (Ukraine). During the residency the artist/architects have researched on how the architectural heritage and the urban context in the post–Soviet Armenian space are transformed in, and sometimes erased from, our collective memory. They have also studied the correlations of ideology and architects today. The Artists implemented public talks and presentations to talk on their research and previous works.
Another interesting collaboration was the residency of Architecture students from London Metropolitan University and their teaching professor Torange Khonsari. The group of architects together with the students of Yerevan State University of Architecture and Construction worked out a printed guide and made proposals on how to use and protect Besedkas in Winter. The workshops have been accompanied by several public talks and lectures held by Torange Khonsari on Public Spaces and Urban Takeovers.
Successful experience of participatory cultural policy Spaces borrowed from countries of the Western Balkans, specifically Croatia. Taking the Croatian example as a model (that shifts according to the local context and adapts to particular needs), it organized informal groups/ hubs of cultural operators and experts in all the countries, to engage with them in the discussion, creation and advocacy for advanced cultural policies. A major aim was to propose structural changes that improve and further develop the non-institutional culture in the region. Slobodne veze/Loose Association became the Croatian partner of the project. In frames of projects the local authorities were called to communicate with the independent scene.
Main results of the project were a Policy Brief in English with recommendations for cultural policies and strategies on regional, national and trans-national level. The Policy Brief has its summarized version and versions in Armenian, Georgian, Ukrainian and Moldovan. Also, the project created a platform for dialogue between institutionalized and non-institutionalized actors and key players in four countries!
The participants of the policy forum were often representatives of cultural organizations or groups. As a result, cultural policy initiatives emerged, directed towards the development of the new cultural scenes in the different countries and their relations to similar scenes in the neighboring countries (but also to the specific policy and developmental practice in other European countries).
The SPACES Social Study established a reflection line to the actions carried out in public spaces and set them in a broader context. In parallel to the above mentioned, researchers, activists, artists and architects worked on specific subjects in the four countries, contributing to the research with an interdisciplinary approach. Below you may find the research articles produced from the SPACES Armenian team of researchers.
- Gendered Space and political Statement in Armenia by Arevik Martirosyan.
- Disclaiming and Reclaiming the Public by Ruben Arevshatyan
- Mapping Friendship: the Challenges of the Contemporary Art Scene in Armenia by Taguhi Torosyan
SpacesTV was a project initiated by the Armenian participants of the program. It created a common ground for sharing art related material from Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and beyond, with wider audiences, promoting fields for critical thinking on public space, politics and society. Video diaries, interviews, clips, video installations find their place in SpacesTV, by enlisting the actions of the Spaces project.
All the programs were accompanied by press and media work, from press releases and press information tools, folders for journalists, visual and written material, especially in the context of the main caravan programs.
- Booklet of Local Air Lines Project Armenia, mapping of abandoned airports in Yerevan, by Utopiana.am, printed in Dec. 2013
- Calendar of Local Air Lines Project Armenia, mapping of abandoned airports in Yerevan, by Utopiana.am, printed in Feb. 2014
- SPACES Catalogue: “SPACES. Cultural Public Sphere in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine”, English, 208 pages, 2014
- SPACES Policy Paper: “Imagining the Public. The Status and challenges of the Independent Cultural Actors in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine”, English, 95 pages, 2014
- SPACES Policy Paper in Armenian
- Between the Public Sphere and Öffentlichkeit (in Armenian)