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Artists at War
Artak Gevorgyan - Armenia
Testimonies of creative minds affected by brutalities of our times
In early 1980’s the emergence of “Street art” slipped art out of the traditional
art exhibition venues of galleries and spaces into the open and public
walls of streets. Surfaces of commuter trains became the new exhibition halls, capturing wider audiences and making more immediate impact with at times political messages and
empowerments of a peoples or groups. The street art and graffiti meshed into
the open canvases of talented artists who brought their message to the neighborhood street walls where the message's impact was instant for a captured audience that were most impacted. The street artists gained fame and recognition for the delivery of the
message as much as for their artistic talents.
For a superb history of street art read Jorge Martin’s article in Hyperallergic
Artak Gevorgyan – is a member of the Armenia-based Counterattack Art Group - which has been very visible with their street art against social and political injustices in Armenia.
Tell me about Counterattack project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
Counterattack Art Group was created in 2012 -- we chose “counterattack” to mean counterattack to the illegal regime, counterattack to the criminal oligarchic system in the country (Armenia).
How many artists are part of this project?
We are three in the project. The idea of the group was already created by a friend of mine, Herbert Gevorgyan before I returned from compulsory military service. Once I was back – three of us – Lusine, myself and Herbert brought the idea to life.
Is someone funding this project?
We haven't had financial problems, but we of course need financial assistance to continue our work. Mostly we don’t spend much on the work, but sometimes we need some funds to carry out a certain project.
We work with the public – each member of the society including me is the public – so we work for and with the assistance of the public. So if there is a need for support we turn to the public.
What type of public support do you get? Do you have Followers, Donors, Supporters?
I do not have donors, but yes a lot of supporters and they support our works and what we do, so when we need to raise public awareness we turn openly to it via social media.
What is the goal of your project?
The goal is to target the Armenian authorities and raise political issues in and with the public in Armenia.
What type of political issues do you raise with your art?
The political issue has no type, so whenever there is a public dislike or disagreement with the authorities - we are there expressing it with our works, e.g. there are political prisoners in Armenia, and we have portrayed their faces on the walls of Yerevan – so in case someone does not recognize, they should via our street art.
Tell us about yourself, your early childhood – your life in Armenia before you got involved in politics and political street art.
I was born in Yerevan, Armenia. I can assure you that I had a childhood not very different from other children around the world -- choose a common childhood of anyone and you can ascribe it to me.
What’s your first memory of war, discrimination or injustice that inspired you to take arms with art?
The first memory of injustice and "war" is the actions in 2008, post election period in Armenia when the authorities used police force to falsify election results and took up guns and snipers against their own population.
Read more about the March uprisings here
This was before I went into the military service. Later while I served in the military, I recognized the faces of these authorities - I got interested in political and social issues and could differentiate the evil that the authorities do and how corrupt they are- and when I returned from military service, I was filled with negative thoughts and emotions against the authorities so I decided that I should do something about this -- I should start something – I should move something.
How did you begin your artistic work?
At first I did not stress the artistic angle, I was involved in politics. During that time the society was totally involved in the politics as the presidential elections were falsified and there were thousands of people in the streets demanding justice.
Later I chose art because it was most convenient for me it was in my nature and I enjoyed the street-art as a means of uprising
Were you trained as an artist?
I do not have any artistic training. I graduated from high school – that’s the extent of my education.
It is art with the help of which I struggle against the authorities in Armenia. So that’s how my work turned into political art.
How did you come to select street art as your media – what are some of the topics or events that are the inspiration behind some of your artwork?
I chose street-art since it does not demand much money. My inspiration is the financial and political hardships of my fellow countrymen. I want to express the frustration felt by the population in Armenia – so the authorities can be aware – can see – and hopefully understand the hardships of the masses they are ruling with an oppressive regime.
What do you want to convey with your political art? Do you hope to awaken or resolve the political injustice in Armenia through your art?
Art has power -- so I am empowered. My art does not disturb anyone except the authorities.
What was your life before you embarked on this mission to awaken the public and work against the authorities through your artwork?
I had a normal, careless life as most people in Armenia.
This regime “helped” me to stand strong on the ground as an artist. They provide me with more than enough topics. I feel how important I can be as an artist expressing my thoughts with my art on the street walls.
How has injustice changed you as a person?
In general wars, discriminations and injustices are happening in the world to exercise and circulate power and at the top of all this is capitalism.
I have always been positive and yes I have remained the same and I am able to express my frustrations through my art.
Is your art a testimony for the next generation of Armenians and youth?
I do not explain anything I just create and I leave it to public’s judgment. I have no fashion or barriers or others. I mean I do what I find proper for the situation and close to my nature as an artist.
What are your hopes for the future of Armenia?
I do not do any work for future hope -- I create and act in the present and for the present time.