Armenian Centre of Contemporary Experimental Art, Yerevan

Organised by Lusadaran Armenian Photography Foundation

Curator: Vigen Galstyan


“The concept of progress must be grounded in the idea of catastrophe” – Walter Benjamin, 1939

Encompassing diverse approaches and aesthetics, ‘Industrial symphony: photography and the post-industrial era’ looks at how perceptions about the industrial epoch have transformed in Armenia since the cataclysmic historical changes of the early 1990s.

Born in 1839 as a product of the industrial revolution photography became the paramount visual means in delineating the relationship between humanity and industrial progress throughout the 20th century. When it came to re-imagining and analysing the place of industry in the post-modern age it again became imperative. Both conceptual and documentary photography have greatly influenced current paradigms about labour relations, the technological sublime and the complex legacy of industrial modernities.

The 19 contemporary Armenian photographers included in this exhibition continue to investigate the ruins of Leninist, Stalinist and Khruschevian utopias which define the Armenian and the post-Soviet landscape. The disastrous effects of these ideologies on the environment and people are still deeply felt today. Yet, nostalgia for collective labour that made these enormous machines of modernity possible is also quite palpable.

Being more cautious and dispassionate than in the past, the primary issue raised in contemporary photographic works is whether the vacuum left after the industrial collapse can be filled at all. Is this emptiness significant in itself, like a painful document, a metaphor… or can the memorials to the ‘proletariat’ be transformed in our post-utopian age? Perhaps these intimidating, overwhelming but often magnificent spaces can attain a new, equally useful function as sites for the imagination: as factories for dreams.

Opening on the 3rd of December, 2011 at the Armenian Center of Contemporary Experimental Arts in Yerevan (ACCEA) ‘Industrial symphony: photography and the post-industrial age’ encompasses various disciplines, approaches and aesthetics, from latest photo-journalistic series to conceptually informed, neo-expressionist and formalist studies by 19 contemporary Armenian photographers. Collectively, all the works looks at how perceptions regarding the industrial era have been transformed since its demise in Armenia in the early 1990s. Comprised of over seventy works, the exhibition is also a unique overview of the multifarious ways in which contemporary photography is developing in Armenia. As curator Vigen Galstyan states in the exhibition’s brochure, “the primary issue that comes through these recent surveys of industrial sites/symbols in Armenia and elsewhere is whether the vacuum left after the industrial collapse can be filled at all. Is this emptiness significant in itself, like a painful document, a metaphor… or can factories of labour be transformed in our post-utopian age? Perhaps these intimidating, overwhelming but often magnificent and awe- inspiring spaces can attain a new, equally useful function as sites for imagination: as factories for dreams.”The exhibition consists of two parts. It includes works by contemporary photographers from the past twenty years and a small retrospective section of works from the 1960-70s by a classic of Armenian industrial photography, Hakob Hekekyan . A virtual and print-on-demand versions of the catalogue will be available in February.


The exhibition also has a competitive section. The jury, comprised of art historian Vardan Azatyan (Armenia) and film historian Chaga Yuzbashyan (France) will present prizes in two categories. ‘Lusadaran’ award for contemporary photography is an acquisitive prize to the value of US$550. It has been generously sponsored by Armenian entrepreneur Vachagan Petrosyan. A second, non-acquisitive prize to the value of US$250 has been nominated by www.photo.am portal’s creator Art Ghazaryan. The project has been greatly aided by generous financial assistance from Vahagn Nazaryan (Australia) and Hakob Vardanyan (Australia). The media-partner of the exhibition is www.photo.am.‘Industrial symphony’ will remain open from the 3rd of December to the 27th of January 2012.