photographed by grisha petrosyan
Can you tell us about your apartment?
It's quite new, we've been here for around three years. We bought it like four years ago, then we did a renovation and it really started a new chapter.
Do you live here with your brother?
Yeah, this is a family apartment actually, but mainly me and my brother live here. When my mom comes to Armenia, she stays here and my grandparents often visit us, so they also stay here as well. I think I could not live with my family for a long time but we can perfectly do that with my brother, because we grew up together, we're very close friends, and we also kind of feel each other's privacy and rhythm. So when there is anyone else other than my brother and me in this place, I feel like there is someone else, even if it's my mom or my grandmother.
What about us?
You're guests, but like if someone else is staying, even a very close person, I feel like there is someone else. But when it's me and my brother, we just do our own things and we’re super chill.
Have you done the renovation?
Yes, when we bought this place, it was just an old Soviet apartment. But there is a special thing about it's location, I was born and grew up around this place, Kasyan Street. I loved that apartment of ours, but we sold it a long time ago. Then we moved to another place, a huge place that I didn't really love, and after some life-changing events we just bought this flat mainly because of this area, super special and warmest childhood memories.
Tell us about what you do.
That's a difficult question, I don't like talking about it. I mean I can talk about that but I don't like being identified with whatever I do, because I do not consider myself a professional. I'm trying to curate art and cultural projects now. I'm working with artists who are developing projects, exhibitions, but I don't consider myself a professional curator. What I do is around art and culture and some kind of social activism.
How did you get interested in contemporary art in Armenia, because it is not the biggest scene let's say?
I didn't grow up in an environment of artists. My grandmother from my father's side was a piano teacher but I don't really remember her being an artist. I was 16 I think or 15 when I appeared in Tumo Center for technologies and that's where I learned about cinema, animation, photography and this kind of stuff. Also, as a kid as you could see from my box where there are a bunch of things, me and my friends were all kind of artistic but just like you know, entertaining ourselves like making things for example writing poetry, that kind of stuff. Yeah, it was TUMO and then I decided to be a film director.
But you don’t do directing now, right?
It was the second year I realized I hate this university. I hate the system and I Didn't really like making films. I was very much interested in other subjects like social studies or cultural studies, literature, art history etc. And I found this internship in Antwerp to go there. But before that, I also had a short course of Contemporary Art and Media History in Medialab, which was a non-formal educational program. I was in these non-formal educational programs all the time, because I realized I don't like the education I'm getting, and I was, like, craving to get something else. Like, appearing in Europe because everything was happening there, and I was just, like, going to all these museums and exhibitions all the time. I was meeting with artists, hanging out with them. And while I was still studying, I learned about curating. I actually didn't know what it was until six years ago. You don't really have that profession in Armenia. And I decided that I don't want to, like, create something. I'm more into researching things and collecting things and working with already existing, like, distinct materials. And I also had some skills that are very much, like, curatorial, like communication, creative thinking, but also strategic things.
What about your collection of journals?
I'm a big collector of random artsy things, ha-ha. I just love collecting anything to which I have some kind of intellectual or emotional attachment. And those magazines, I just found them recently in an old book store where they sell Soviet contemporary art and cultural magazines. It was a very special phenomenon during the Soviet era, because there are so many restricted things in it. I don't actually know how they managed to publish it for so long. The literature and the ideas and the art they were presenting, it was very much against the ideology. I know some people who did that, and they were people who were totally against the system. I want to show my kids one day that there was something like this in Soviet Armenia. There were these people who were resisting this fucked-up system in a very subtle, crazy and beautiful way.
So you don't want people to buy these magazines and make collages out of them?
No, ha-ha, I hate collages. I don't like them.
Which artists worked in these magazines and what about the contemporary art scene in Armenia?
Grigor Khachatryan, who is quite old now, he's 70-something. He's a very inspiring figure, actually. He remains the artist that I am really happy that he was in the scene. And he's very crazy, he seems to be detached from society, but he was very much into it. So definitely I appreciate him being there. There were also some exhibitions that I liked in Armenia. There's this artist, Edik Bogossian. I have one of his books where he worked with the comments from the internet on Pashinyan's Facebook live streamings. He created poetry based on those comments. Two years ago he had an exhibition where he brought stuff from post-war Karabakh. Shooted car doors and other objects, all these materials were put in golden big luxury frames. I really loved that exhibition because it was very much about what we were going through as a country. We’re still in there. And there is another thing, I cannot really objectively rate Armenian artists because I know most of them in person. Then I know the context. I'm super empathetic towards this context. So, if there is anything happening here, if it's not too cringe, for example, like Artkvartal, which is very cringe, and I've told them about that. You know, I think that we should be more open and communicative with each other both in general and especially as artists and cultural practitioners. I'm trying to visit even the worst exhibitions and cultural events. I know that it's going to be bad, but I go there and I meet these people and I talk to them because I think it's important to kind of exchange some thoughts.
Any interesting exhibitions here?
Recently, there was an exhibition of South Caucasian artists here. I was so happy that the exhibition happened because I'm 100% for establishing some kind of dialogue in the region. And if we can have an exhibition in Armenia where there is featured Azerbaijani artists, I think that's a big success, yeah. And my perception of art today in Armenia is very political and social, which I would love not to be so because. I'm interested in other kinds of art as well, which doesn't have any, let's say, very specific political or historical background. It's more like it captures something bigger and massive. In Armenia, you can't really, if you have a basic problem of existence because you may be just, shot or displaced because there is war, you can't think about some abstract things.
Can you tell us what you wear at home?
What do I wear? Um, since my childhood I have had a love for pajamas. And I manage to have like three of them. I never care what I wear at home really.
Your gorgeous shoe collection, when do you dress up?
I also have clothes that are very extra but I can never make myself actually wear something a bit even extra to go out in Yerevan because everywhere you go, you see the same people - in the shops, in the streets, at the hairdresser, at the hospital, at bars, clubs, Friday nights. And it's a bit of cringie to dress up for your hommies, ha-ha. I never wear all this stuff in Yerevan. But I have had this habit since my childhood. I really love dressing up and watching myself in the mirror. Of course now it's a luxury because I don't have much time you know to dedicate to it. But um when I'm having this me time at home which is precious for me and I enjoy it.
Anything else you want to tell us about?
I love having my favorite people here and I need to be like friends-friends with people to have them as guests. When my friends come we have the best time and conversations. We love this place because we generate the best emotions here, safest, most beautiful, caring and honest. Sometimes we get together and watch movies. I love trashy pop culture, it's not not a secret. I think everyone knows that, ha-ha. We watch trashy shoots Armenian mostly of course from like an early childhood and it's interesting to follow how this trash is nostalgic for us. I think when we're watching that we're not experiencing negative emotions, we're experiencing familiarity and we somehow relate to that.
I really like something on your shelf, it was a little statue of a man. Can you tell us about that?
Sure, I was once at an exhibition in Yerevan and there are these figurines on the floor. I just got one of them and the artist came and he just presented it to me. He said that it was the representation of little kids' soldier toys. He made like civilians who are actually fighting for their civil rights and freedom based on this concept of toys. I'm very much into this kind of ideology, now I'm reading and listening to lectures and talking a lot about the global society and world order, I don't know why. I believe in reforms, and I’m trying my best to believe one day things are gonna be better. Thank you very much, ha-ha.