Republic of Armenia Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
Artists: Haig Aivazian, Nigol Bezjian, Anna Boghiguian, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, Ayreen Anastas and René Gabri, Mekhitar Garabedian, Aikaterini Gegisian, Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, Aram Jibilian, Nina Katchadourian, Melik Ohanian, Mikayel Ohanjanyan, Rosana Palazyan, Sarkis, Hrair Sarkissian
Curator: Adelina Cüberyan von Fürstenberg
Commissioner: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia
Deputy Commissioner: ART for The World, Mekhitarist Congregation of San Lazzaro Island, Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Italy, Vartan Karapetian
Venue: Monastery and Island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni
This year marks the centennial of the Armenian Genocide by forces from the Ottoman Empire, which present-day Turkey, the offshoot of the Ottoman Empire, denies ever happened. For the Armenian Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia remembers the occasion by forefronting the concept of “Armenity”—a complex and irregularly constructed self-identity of the displaced diaspora of genocide survivors and their ancestors. On display is a collection of work by artists connected to the diaspora from various countries in Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. The installation itself takes place in the Armenian Mekhitarist Monastery, on a small island southeast of Venice that’s accessible by vaporetto.
Exemplary contributions to the pavilion include those by Nina Katchadourian and Aram Jibilian. In Accent Elimination (2005), Katchadourian probes the psychology behind elective assimilation by purchasing the services of accent coaches (who advertise heavily in diasporic communities) and then training her parents to speak “natural” English. Jibilian, a photographer and social worker in New York, presents a series of works from 2008–15 investigating the multivalent legacy of famed Armenian painter Arshile Gorky: in meticulously arranged images, Jibilian and his family inhabit symbolically rich spaces while wearing masks painted to look like Gorky—exposing the self-effacement and disguise required of genocide survivors and questioning the legacy of past tragedies on the artwork of future generations.