Disintegrating Progress: Bolshevism, National Modernism, and the Emergence of Contemporary Art Practices in Armenia

This article provides a genealogy of the emergence of contemporary art practices in Armenia, arguing that the very history of emersion of these practices can be seen as a complex process of disintegration of the Bolshevik political project, particularly its agenda to base art on a subtle dialectical reconciliation between the nation and the class. After this dialectic was brutally instrumentalized by Stalinist Socialist Realism, it was attacked by the National Modernists during Khrushchev’s Thaw. Later, in 1970s, from within the National Modernism itself, the first tendencies of contemporary art practices emerged. They began to challenge the conventional notions of artistic practice along the lines of a conception of art as a performative practice of liberatory subjectivization. This marked the point of the ultimate disintegration of both triumphant and tragic Bolshevik project that became a haunting specter of post-Soviet contexts.

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