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The journey of the ‘painterly real’, 1987–2004

The book addresses late-Soviet and post-Soviet art in Armenia in the context of turbulent social, political and cultural transformations in the late 1980s, throughout the 1990s and in early 2000s through the aesthetic figure of the ‘painterly real’ and its conceptual transformations. It explores the emergence of ‘contemporary art’ in Armenia from within and in opposition to the practices, aesthetics and institutions of Socialist Realism and National Modernism. The book presents the argument that avant-garde art best captures the historical and social contradictions of the period of the so-called ‘transition,’ especially if one considers ‘transition’ from the perspective of the former Soviet republics that have been consistently marginalized in Russian- and East European-dominated post-Socialist studies. Throughout the two decades that encompass the chronological scope of this work, contemporary art has encapsulated the difficult dilemmas of autonomy and social participation, innovation and tradition, progressive political ethos and national identification, the problematic of communication with the world outside of Armenia’s borders, dreams of subjective freedom and the imperative to find an identity in the new circumstances after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This historical study outlines the politics (liberal democracy), aesthetics (autonomous art secured by the gesture of the individual artist), and ethics (ideals of absolute freedom and radical individualism) of contemporary art in Armenia. Through the historical investigation, a theory of post-Soviet art historiography is developed, one that is based on a dialectic of rupture and continuity in relation to the Soviet past. As the first English-language study on contemporary art in Armenia, the book is of prime interest for artists, scholars, curators and critics interested in post-Soviet art and culture and in global art historiography.

Resurrected ghosts, living heroes and saintly saviours on the 3rd Floor, 1987–9 4
Angela Harutyunyan

The ‘painterly real’ of contemporary art 2 The ‘painterly real’ of contemporary art: resurrected ghosts, living heroes and saintly saviours on the 3rd Floor, 1987–94 The cultural vanguard of the officially sanctioned opposition This chapter discusses the 3rd Floor – an artistic movement1 of the late Soviet and early independence years in Armenia (1987–94) – in its complex relationship with the cultural politics of the perestroika period, the official art of the Union of Artists of the Soviet Republic of Armenia, and the changing world of the late Soviet years

in The political aesthetics of the Armenian avant-garde
The conceptual horizons of the avant-garde in Armenia
Angela Harutyunyan

Between the ideal and a hard place 1 Between the ideal and a hard place: the conceptual horizons of the avant-garde in Armenia Art as the avant-garde of the contemporary This chapter interrogates the historical relationship between ‘contemporary art’ and the ‘avant-garde’ from the perspective of late Soviet and post-Soviet cultural discourses. Further, the chapter defines one of the key conceptual figures of the book, the concept of the ideal in a historical materialist understanding. From a historical materialist perspective, concepts do not precede or even

in The political aesthetics of the Armenian avant-garde
Open Access (free)
Soviet things that talk
Yulia Karpova

preoccupied the minds of state and Party authorities, experts of different profiles and ordinary people. However, state socialism not only provides fertile soil for ‘new materialist’ and ‘object-oriented’ design histories. It also offers a theoretical precedent: the concept of a ‘comradely object’. This idea developed within the Russian avant-garde of the 1920s and proved resilient, lasting well into the late Soviet period. Comradely objects and overlooked subjects One branch of the Russian avant-garde in the early 1920s is known as ‘productive art’ (proizvodstvennoe

in Comradely objects
Open Access (free)
Design and material culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s
Author: Yulia Karpova

The major part of this book project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 700913.

This book is about two distinct but related professional cultures in late Soviet Russia that were concerned with material objects: industrial design and decorative art. The Russian avant-garde of the 1920s is broadly recognised to have been Russia’s first truly original contribution to world culture. In contrast, Soviet design of the post-war period is often dismissed as hackwork and plagiarism that resulted in a shabby world of commodities. This book identifies the second historical attempt at creating a powerful alternative to capitalist commodities in the Cold War era. It offers a new perspective on the history of Soviet material culture by focusing on the notion of the ‘comradely object’ as an agent of progressive social relations that state-sponsored Soviet design inherited from the avant-garde. It introduces a shared history of domestic objects, handmade as well as machine-made, mass-produced as well as unique, utilitarian as well as challenging the conventional notion of utility. Situated at the intersection of intellectual history, social history and material culture studies, this book elucidates the complexities and contradictions of Soviet design that echoed international tendencies of the late twentieth century. The book is addressed to design historians, art historians, scholars of material culture, historians of Russia and the USSR, as well as museum and gallery curators, artists and designers, and the broader public interested in modern aesthetics, art and design, and/or the legacy of socialist regimes.

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The origins of Russian documentary theatre
Molly Flynn

with a dearth of directors and theatres willing to stage the new works, gave way to what John Freedman has called ‘the myth of the collapse of modern dramatic writing’ (1997: xiv). Many late-Soviet playwrights never overcame the obstacles to becoming post-Soviet playwrights. Those who did successfully navigate the transition, such as Liudmila Petrushevskaia and Vladimir Sorokin, gained the freedom to print their previously unpublishable work, often turning their attention away from the stage and more exclusively to novels, stories, and film. As Beumers and Lipovetsky

in Witness onstage
Abstract only
Angela Harutyunyan

European-dominated post-socialist studies. Occupying a sphere distinct from other social and cultural spheres of productive activity and yet inextricably connected to social institutions, contemporary art in Armenia has become a negative mirror for the social: art has been viewed as that which reflects those wishes and desires for emancipation that the social world has been incapable of accommodating in both late Soviet and postSoviet contexts. Contemporary art’s status as a negative mirror is due to its particular historical emergence in transnational (Soviet) and

in The political aesthetics of the Armenian avant-garde
Abstract only
Rustam Alexander

people, the government relied on educational methods. One of these consisted of encouraging people to ‘work on oneself’, that is, to work towards self-transformation and self-perfection. Popular Soviet brochures on ‘working on oneself’ started to appear in the late 1950s and proliferated during the late Soviet era. 14 The authors of the brochures offered a variety of methods on how one should work on oneself, and according to Kharkhordin they all included three main stages: ‘self-evaluation’, which included ‘the realisation of certain personal deficiencies’, then

in Regulating homosexuality in Soviet Russia, 1956–91
National post-conceptualism, 1995–98
Angela Harutyunyan

of communication in a big and brave new world without curtains, walls or other physical and mental barriers. And even though each epoch has its own characteristics, for Grigoryan it evolves through the contributions of individual geniuses over the ages. As mentioned above, Grigoryan’s identification with Euro-American contemporary art was symptomatic of the 3rd Floor’s role as an aesthetic and ideological ‘translator’ of ‘Western’ social, political and cultural values into late Soviet and post-Soviet Armenia, as the Other of everything that denoted The revenge

in The political aesthetics of the Armenian avant-garde
ACT’s procedures of ‘pure creation’, 1993–96
Angela Harutyunyan

presented contemporary art as a triumphant heir to heroically dissident art, one that draws its resources of political subversion from its predecessor, albeit in new conditions of liberal democracy. Consequently, according to this institutionalized narrative, the 1990s mark the arrival of contemporary art, now liberated from ideology and free to enter the logic of the market. In short, the narrative of ideological resistance has often become both a symbolic and a monetary currency through which late Soviet art practices have been institutionalized in the post-Soviet era.6

in The political aesthetics of the Armenian avant-garde