The bridge between the past and the future:
Maria Polnikova opened the exhibition 'What Happened, When' in Yerevan, aimed at reimagining the complex collective experience of the early 20th and 21st centuries
September 28 - October 1, 2023
Art Director: Maria Polnikova
Curator: Vova Serykh
Idea: Katya Nile

Fedora Akimova, Mari Akubardia, Leyli Aslanova, Anna Bochkova, Valerie Habsburg, Valeria Dauvalder, Valentina Maz, Lilit Matevosyan, Guram Sakvarelidze
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, has always been renowned for its rich cultural and artistic scene. In September of this year, the city witnessed a unique event in the realm of contemporary art - the exhibition "What Happened, When."

Maria Polnikova, the art director and producer of this extraordinary exhibition, brought her unique vision and mission to the project. A recognized art director and exhibition producer in cultural institutions such as MMOMA, House Of Narkomfin, and the Museum of Moscow, Maria Polnikova is not only a talented art director of large and culturally significant projects in the art sphere but also a passionate collector and the author of several educational programs at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. These programs focus on training exhibition curators, exhibition project managers, and art producers in culture. She is the recipient of the prestigious "Garage Museum Prize 2022" and the creator of "Zakadrom," the first and only recruiting agency in Russia specializing in recruiting personnel for the cultural industry.

"My goal in this exhibition is to make sense of the horrors of private life that artists and their surroundings have faced and to give these horrors a life not only in memory but also in public discourse. My work is aimed at creating meaning in the cultural context and making a significant contribution to contemporary art," notes Maria

Exhibition curator Vova Serykh selected works from nine artists, united by the common theme of the difficulties of private life during periods of complex social and political events. The works were brought to the exhibition in Armenia from Hamburg, Moscow, Tbilisi, and other cities around the world where their creators reside. Thus, the exhibition "What Happened, When" became a unique snapshot of collective experience through the prism of art.
Today, in our overview of this exhibition, we'll try to illustrate the shared past that unites people from different countries - coming of age at the turn of the century amid wars and chaos, mixed heritage, and constant movement within or beyond the borders of a country - a challenging collective experience that breathed life into this exceptional exhibition project. The echoes of that time still haunt us in the form of new military conflicts, discrimination, and the struggle to find common ground.
The exhibition's title is the opening lines of a poem by the artist and writer Valeria Dauvalder. Her tales tell of adventures in the mushroom kingdom or how a child "fevers a bit" dressed not in the right "swaddling clothes." Behind these playful texts lies an unattractive context: the 1918 revolution, repression, unsettled immigrant life, and later, World War II.
In the project's concept, Valeria Dauvalder's figure became the starting point for the exhibition. In addition to the texts and illustrations of the Swiss writer, the exhibition features works by artists that speak to their childhood experiences. Emigration, civil war, military clashes on the streets of their hometown, youth in a residential district - all of these narratives tell us that behind the natural child's desire for safety and comfort lies a complex social or political context.

Maria managed to create a platform for artists where they could share their experiences, explore the past, and contribute to contemporary art. This exhibition became a bridge connecting the past and the present, with Maria Polnikova as the driving force, breathing life into art and history.

The exhibition by Maria Polnikova and Vova Serykh, conceived by art manager Katya Nile, became an intriguing attempt to answer questions about our past and present, and how they influence our future. Drawing inspiration from the past, Maria Polnikova and her team created a unique experience of interacting with art, capable of reviving the echoes of times when war and chaos ruled the world and helping us relive and reconsider it.

Anna Brown