Marianna Hovhannisyan is a research-based curator and a Ph.D. candidate in Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the Visual Arts Dept., UC San Diego (supervisors: Prof. Norman Bryson and Prof. Mariana Wardwell (Botey)). Hovhannisyan works at the intersection of visual culture and contemporary art with the focus on the critical museum and archival studies that converge at the politics of metadata, postcolonial theories, memory studies, and new historiographies.
Hovhannisyan has explored archives as conflicted sites in nation-state building narratives by uncovering ‘unattended’ objects and scripting ontological and geopolitical gaps. Her exhibitions align the curatorial work with the research. Particularly, she has developed an ongoing research that both registers and activates absences with “Armenian” (national, post-/Soviet, Eastern/Western, “native minority,” refugee, or diasporic). Such concerns are reflected in her 2016 curatorial exhibition, Empty Fields (exhibition design by artist Fareed Armaly), commissioned by SALT Cultural Center, Istanbul. The exhibition was originated from her research in the American Board Archives in Istanbul reflecting on the contemporary agency of the available content by uncovering the dispersed natural science collection of the mission-led Museum of Anatolia College and the forgotten legacy of its curator, Armenian-German scientist, Genocide-survivor Prof. Johannes “John” Jacob Manissadjian. Currently, she is developing Curating Archives, Curating Slippages project awarded a research grant by the Critical Refugee Studies Collective (2019). The project is supervised in the scope of Center for Information as Evidence, GSEIS Dept., Archives and Information Studies, UC Los Angeles.
Another key curatorial project is Archive-Practice, a collection of artifacts and interviews mapping the formation of the Armenian contemporary art after the 1991 Independence from the Soviet era. Other curatorial works include: 2012— exhibition (Gyumri International Biennale, Armenia, 2012); collaborative projects and co-curatorial contributions include A Step Aside exhibition (Angle Art Contemporain gallery for Lyon Biennale, France, 2011), A Journey the East exhibition (Arsenale gallery, Poland, 2011), or Soviet AgitArt. Restoration exhibition (BM SUMA Contemporary Art Center, Turkey, 2008). Since 2017 she is the caretaker of the art works and archives of the contemporary artist Samvel Baghdasaryan (1956–2017), a member of the first Independence generation in post-Soviet Armenia.
Recent research grants, awards, and curatorial fellowships include: the UC San Diego Institute of Arts and Humanities and the Critical Refugee Studies Collective awards, Getty Consortium Seminar, the first EU-funded Armenia-Turkey Fellowship by Hrant Dink Foundation (Istanbul), Kadist Art Foundation (Paris), and Center for Experimental Museology (V-A-C Foundation, Moscow); recent talks—UCLA GSEIS seminars; Dept. of Art, Design and Visual Studies, Boise State University.
Hovhannisyan holds an M.A. in Global Arts at the Visual Cultures Dept., Goldsmiths, University of London (2013–14) and a B.A. in Art Knowledge, Dept. of Fine Arts, Armenian Open University (2003–07). She is a member of AICA-Armenia.