Marianna Hovhannisyan (b. Yerevan) is an art historian and research-based curator, with a Ph.D. in Art History, Theory, and Criticism, University of California, San Diego (2022). She works at the intersection of postcolonial and decolonial archival and museum studies, visual culture, and critical race theories, with the focus on theories of arts, artifacts, folk/crafts, metadata, and Armenian/West Asian studies. Currently, she is the 2023-24 Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Visual and Digital Storytelling for the Carceral Connecticut Project, Wesleyan University. She was the 2022-23 Carol G. Lederer Postdoctoral Fellow at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, Brown University, and part of the seminar, “In the Afterlives and Aftermaths of Ruin,” led by Prof. Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman. She is also the 2019 recipient of the UC Critical Refugee Studies Collective award and often collaborates with Prof. Anne Gilliland, Director of the Center for Information as Evidence, GSEIS Dept., Archives and Information Studies, UCLA. As the first EU-funded Hrant Dink Foundation Fellow, she conducted original research in the American Board Archives (Turkey). This resulted in her curatorial exhibition Empty Fields, design concept by artist Fareed Armaly (SALT, Istanbul, 2016), a project, which uncovered a century-old museum collection dispersed due to the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Other research grants and curatorial fellowships include the Getty Consortium Seminar, Kadist Art Foundation, and Center for Experimental Museology, V-A-C Foundation; recent talks—John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities & Cultural Heritage, UCLA School of Education & Information Studies; Dept. of Art and Design, Rutgers University. She is a member of AICA-Armenia and CAA.
The Recipient of the 2023 Chancellor’s Dissertation Medal for the School of Arts and Humanities, UCSD
Hovhannisyan’s dissertation, “Double Assimilations, Empty Fields, and Orphan Objects: Mapping Armenian Erasures and Displacements Through Archival Metadata and Folk Culture,” was completed under the direction of Professors Mariana “Botey” Wardwell, Lisa Cartwright (chairs), Norman Bryson, Anne Gilliland, Amelia Glaser, and Bill Tronzo. Her dissertation critically engages with Armenian historiography as a modern example subjected to epistemic and colonial violence through forced displacement, archival silences, and cultural appropriations. Specifically, she explores the trans-imperial fragmentations of Eastern and Western Armenians in West Asia as manifested in their historical and contemporary displacements and erasures as Indigenous, national, refugee, and survivor subjects. Through studying the politics of archival metadata and in alliance with Black feminist, Indigenous, and global studies scholars and curators, her work imagines new historiographies of subaltern, diasporic, transnational, and trans-indigenous identities, and epistemologies.
This approach to archives informs her 2016 curatorial exhibition, Empty Fields (commissioned by SALT Cultural Center, Istanbul). The exhibition originated from her research in the American Board Archives in Istanbul cataloging the missing archival data fields for “unknown” Western Armenian materials. In the process, Hovhannisyan uncovered fragments from the natural science collection of the mission-led Museum of Anatolia College which had been dispersed during the 1915 Armenian Genocide, as well the forgotten legacy of its curator, Armenian-German scientist, and survivor, Prof. Johannes Manissadjian. Based on this, Empty Fields, located the ideas of fragments as archival and epistemological erasures in the discourses of metadata, digital humanities, and postcolonial museology.
Earlier curatorial projects include Archive-Practice, a collection of artifacts and interviews mapping the formation of Armenian contemporary art after the 1991 Independence from the Soviet era; the 2012— exhibition (Gyumri International Biennale, Armenia, 2012); collaborative projects and co-curatorial contributions include A Step Aside exhibition (Angle Art Contemporary gallery, Lyon Biennale, France, 2011), A Journey the East exhibition (Arsenale Gallery, Poland, 2011), and Soviet AgitArt. Restoration exhibition (BM SUMA Contemporary Art Center, Turkey, 2008).