Why did i found it

with Nazareth Karoyan

After being a storage keeper of the first ever museum of modern art in the Soviet Union, (opened in Yerevan in 1972), having  co-founded and edited In Vitro magazine (first Armenian publication on the contemporary art issues), taking part in the dissident group “Black Square” activities and opposing conservative discourses of subjectivity at Yerevan Modern Art Museum, one of the most interesting Armenian art critic and the free-lance curator Nazareth Karoyan in 2005 has established the National Association of Art Critics  – later called AICA – Armenia – to reconsider the importance of the cultural criticism and its influence on the public sphere in the context of post-Soviet system.

CaucasusArtMag: It will be interesting to hear from you about the leading circumstances to AICA Armenia?

Nazareth Karoyan: There has always existed a problem of the bond between the contemporary art and the Armenian society. I mean the public in the wider sense of the word which lives apart from the processes most of the time. Mainly it happened because the lack of qualified translation and interpretation, that magic stick which has strength to create the communicative bridge through the art and society. In our case there was a lack of qualified critics which led to the minimal influence of art on the society as well. So the starting point for AICA Armenia appeared to be the critic itself, coming from the artists. They criticized the critics for not representing, or interpreting their works and ideas in a proper way. The association was organized right for developing the critical thinking – as the reaction on the critique of critics.

CAM: You founded art critics and curators school with the AICA Armenia… How do you see the heritage of the Soviet Union socio-cultural environment and its influence on the present?

N. K.: It should be said that the reason of above mentioned was not only the collapse of USSR. The roots come from much more deeper history of Soviet Union, where we lived. The regime of totalitarian government never itself accepted the right versions of critic; it was just not in demand. And what is critic in the theoretical way? Of course it’s a professional subjective view… But because of the reason that the subjectivism was mostly understood in a negative than the positive way, the intellectual work was on the second plan in USSR. The subjectivism, as the attitude to the world, to the social-politics or any environment in art, has been held under the control and critics for a long time. And the personal side of the subject was taken as the secondary. The collective perception, collective acting and everything connected to collectivism ideology were on the first place… That’s why we knew it was necessary to create the special resources and the structure for developing critics from the starting point. First of all we set up the summer schools for curators. This action was also a form of evaluation for the not equal situation existed in the artistic exchanges sphere and representation of the art outside of Armenia. Previously, curators were choosing the artists without any context, history or agenda. They were exhibiting the particular elements, neglecting all the details which create the context of the whole situation. Of course, this representation appeared to be very shallow on one hand and crooked on another. The attitudes between the local art scene and the global exhibition politics or curators behavior had not only the subjective but the objective reasons as well. The fault was not only in separate practitioners who carried out the exact mission but also in the condition of having no colleagues in Armenia – local curators, local experts and so forth… Coming out from this point we decided to create the local resources and set up the short summer seminars, summer school for curators. In 2008 we changed the format of this school and made it longer term as the two weeks program was too short and gave a very low result. The only advantage was receiving young curators from abroad…

CAM: You mean the curators who were arriving to Armenia because of the school…

N. K.:  True, most of them were just through with the Academies, Universities or other art schools and had the relations with the students from the local art educational platforms without any sufficient knowledge. They were creating own networks, getting acquainted with Post-Soviet or local contexts and of course it was working for them, but Armenian participants couldn’t really benefit from this… That’s why we decided to extend the term of the school to six months for the next step – it was the elementary pilot program. In 2009 we already had the one year education and after – two years experimental course.

CAM: So, you already should have sufficient number of graduated students…

N. K.: Now we have the graduated students from all these experimental programs. The first six months program was graduated by four students, one year program – by eight and again four students were through the first two years program; in fact, there were more students who didn’t graduate… about thirty seven of them… Five or six of our graduated students are already involved in the art activity. They collaborate with the artists, work on projects or at the institutional organizations independently… In addition, this year we started to work on creation of the contemporary art institute on the basis of these experimental programs which is to be not only the educational but the projects institution as well. Among the educational programs we have the theoretic researches laboratory as well. So, we work with full program this year.

CAM: It can be said that your aim is to create a kind of more powerful theoretical base, is it your priority?

N. K.: Of course, the theoretical basis plays the crucial role in the fact that the artists complain on critics. If the theoretical part of the education is paid adequate attention, getting the exchange within the art and the public will become easier… In the other hand, some critics often tell us: “you are all the time curators, curators, curators… You should work with the artists as well”. The first subject in our educational program was the art history, the second – art critics and the third curatorial work. All these are somehow among the public and art. I think if not in 2013, next year we’ll have the disciplines connected to multimedia as well… We also have to take under the consideration that the contemporary education in academic institutions is very low and we should work in the direction of educating the artists specially. We see that many artists do not have the certain knowledge to use the informational technologies, to work with internet to circulate their work in the figurative meaning. I think the next or the next after next year we’ll arrange to educate this kind of artists who really want to work on new technologies.