SOVIET AGITART. RESTORATION, Collection of Samvel Baghdasaryan

Soviet AgitArt. Restoration at Season 18



A Poster and Photography collection from Armenia

 This exhibition journeys from Yerevan to Istanbul with and intention to underline the effective dialogue – the dialogue which succeeded in staying out of the point of references of the political powers – between the artists of Armenia and Turkey.
And this exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Hrant Dink.

The exhibition entitled SOVIET AGITART: RESTORATION is being realized 18 January- 29 February 2008 at BM SUMA Contemporary Art Center and presents a poster collection of Samvel Baghdasaryan, his art works and the documentary photographs of his student Armine. The collection consists of propaganda posters of Soviet times, with images of Lenin, Brezhnev, Khrushchev, Stalin and their original audio material.
Samvel Baghdasaryan is a pioneer, a komsomol, an artist working in the communist structures. The socio political and cultural conditions of the period was forming and creating artist’s behavior and experience. The popularity of the posters had a concrete mission. As the most important and truly propaganda machine, posters were used to have an influence on the consciousness of the multinational republics of the Soviet Union. It was an instrument serving for the change of the Soviets’ behavior, it was talking about progress, glorifying the times, governmental structure, educating the young generation andsearches for way out. One of them is reconstructing and re-embodying agitation materials by interpreting their aesthetics and using didactic meaning. Another way for Samvel Baghdasaryan is his pedagogical activity. Being artist-pedagogue he always combines his creative processes with young artists’ studies. In thiscase Samvel Baghdasaryan suggests Armine’s (his student) collaboration in his project. Armineh is searching for the remains / remainders of the Soviet Armenia that are not visible for everyone and documenting/ archiving them by photo. What is the impact of this exhibition today? showing social- cultural norms and values. There was not any event that could find its place in the agitation posters, again and again focusing people to the slogans and intentions of the Soviet Power. But there was a strained and repressive relationship between artist’s own creative process and existing political, ideological and cultural situation. The architectural stage props, basis, frontons of communist parties’ buildings, continuing with posters, postage stamps, slogans, pins, speeches stimulating masses had an outer attraction and a secret aggression. All these traces of the Soviet Union are popular still now. But this popularity did not motivate Samvel Baghdasaryan to gather the poster-collection. The question is that artist realized that he is just one of the victims of big history. This is a memory exhibition and for the young generation viewers, who cannot imagine that they have affected many lives, these posters may have a nostalgic meaning; they would evenperceive them as “pop art” of the Soviet times. Yet, these posters convey a rich material for questioning the other kind of orders and conditions that steer and determine our lives. Today, within the conditions of global politics, media hegemony, neo-liberal economies and society of spectacle, the people struggle against the insistent billboards, advertisements and slogans with authoritative, repressive and expansive ideologies that may have different strategies but the same power. The artists produce in this same environment. The remarkable attempt of Samvel Baghdasaryan to utilize these Soviet posters as a “ready made” for his installation is a way of re-constructing the memory and its documentation through artistic processes.