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© Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters, a project by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, 2020. Project Partner: MiC.
All archival images and photographs taken at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii are used with permission from MiC-Ministry of Culture-Archaeological Park of Pompeii. Any copies or reproductions are strictly forbidden.

Anna Boghiguian, with Marianna Vecellio. One Night, One Hour

Commitments 18    06•05•2021

Anna Boghiguian
One Night, One Hour, 1997-2020
pencil and watercolour on paper
16 x 12 cm each page
Courtesy the Artist

On the occasion and in the context of Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters – first contemporary art programme conceived and produced by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii – the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Torino, and Pompeii have initiated a collaboration that includes, among other activities, the invitation and the commission of an unpublished contribution by the artist Anna Boghiguian, published simultaneously on the Pompeii Commitment portal and on Digital Cosmos of Castello di Rivoli. The contribution was drafted by Curator Marianna Vecellio, who co-curated with Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev the solo exhibition and its monograph Anna Boghiguian (19.09.2017 – 07.01.2018).

Anna Boghiguian’s contribution is introduced by a narrative essay by Marianna Vecellio (page 2).

Home Page Image: Anna Boghiguian, One Night, One Hour (detail), 1997-2020. Courtesy the Artist


Anna Boghiguian (Cairo, 1946), the daughter of an Armenian watchmaker, grew up in Heliopolis, a district of Cairo in the middle of the desert. From 1964 to 1969 she studied political science at the American University in Cairo. Then, in the early 1970s she moved to Montreal, Canada, where she attended Concordia University, studying art and music. Her works date from the 1970s onwards, the early ones consisting of collages of images and words, taken from the pages of newspapers and magazines. Reference to and the use of printed materials led the artist to reflect on the combination of writing and drawing, which she went on to develop in later works, that take the form of artist’s books and notebooks, drawings, paintings, sculptures and environmental installations. Using different media and materials, including photography, handwriting, encaustic painting, collage and the recycling of objects found, the artist interprets the experience of travelling and the perception of the places and communities in which she lives or which she encounters, linking past and present, fiction and documentary, belonging and displacement. Boghiguian uses her cosmopolitan consciousness and personal sensitivity to take a stand against the mechanisms and codes defined by globalisation: she observes and narrates the social, human and political conditions of the contemporary reality with which she grapples, and also explores the digital and globalised world, in search of possible historical connections. As Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Marianna Vecellio write, “Boghiguian’s graphic works are anti-aesthetic and Dionysiac because they privilege an immediate and emotional form of verbal and visual communication, contrary to an academic style linked to a notion of classical, Apollonian beauty.”. Moreover, as demonstrated by her contribution to Pompeii Commitment, “Everything Boghiguian makes is a book, whether it looks like a book or not”, initially bound or composed on books she has come across, then developed into ‘leporelli’ (accordian-shaped booklets) and in scattered sheets and multi-material constellations that follow upon one another like the “frames of a film”. Recent solo exhibitions include: SMAK-Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent (2020); Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin (2017, her first extensive retrospective exhibition presented in 2018 at Sharjah Art Foundation and Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, and in 2019 at Tate St. Ives); Index-The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Stockholm (2017). Boghiguian, who was nominated for the eighth edition of the Artes Mundi Award in 2018, has participated in numerous periodic and biennial exhibitions, including: the Armenian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2015); Istanbul Biennial (2015); São Paulo Biennial (2014); documenta (13), Kassel (2012); Sharjah Biennial (2011). Her works have been shown in group exhibitions at international institutions such as: Centro dos de Mayo, Madrid (2016); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2015); New Museum, New York (2014). Her works are in the collections of important public museums such as Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; MoMA-Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, among others.

Pompeii Commitment

Anna Boghiguian, with Marianna Vecellio. One Night, One Hour

Commitments 18 06•05•2021

A One Night Spontaneous Reaction


Towards the end of the summer of 1997, between August and September, Anna Boghiguian was in Pompeii, visiting the archaeological excavations of the ancient site. That day, she had decided to go to Naples to take a stroll, buy some art supplies, have dinner and then return to Pompeii. When she arrived at the train station in Naples, however, she discovered that the last train home was not in fact that same evening, but at dawn the next day and, since she had no proof of her identity – having left her documents at the hotel in Pompeii where she was staying – she realised that she would have to spend that night at the station, waiting for the next day’s train.

The station kiosk had some tourist guides and second-hand books on sale. Among them was a small volume on Pompeii, published in the 1960s by the Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato (Italian Polygraphic Institute) and edited by Amedeo Maiuri. The guidebook, which suggested itineraries in the midst of maps and historical notes, bore the title POMPEII in capital letters on its cover. The author, whom Rossellini had been set on having as an actor in Journey to Italy, in the scene where the casts of the two lovers were found, was an archaeologist, as well as being a fine scholar and a poet. He had been born at the end of the 19th century in Ciociaria, in the west of Lazio, and appointed, in 1924, Superintendent of Antiquities of Naples and the South and Director of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. He was credited with having brought to light almost two-thirds of the underground site of Pompeii together with nearby digs at The Phlegraean Fields, and in Herculaneum and Capri.

Born in Cairo in 1946 to a family of Armenian origin and brought up partly in Egypt and partly in Canada, the Egyptian artist was always on the move in the late 1990s. Interested in interpreting her travelling experiences, she had focused her approach on a combination of writing, expressionist drawing, casually travelling and concentrating on the perception of places, jotting down, especially in those years, drawings and notes with a cinematographic structure in notebooks, exercise books and makeshift materials such as recycled paper and second-hand books.

Having decided – or rather, being forced to – spend that night at the station, Anna had bought the book in English to pass the time while waiting for the train the following day. Suspended in that atmosphere, she had concentrated on life around her, on the spontaneous closing activities of the station, on the shadows that slowly came to inhabit it at night, on the vagrants propped up against the empty carriages, warmed by sleeping dogs. Boghiguian’s aim was to record the signs that seemed to express a curious continuity of thought between the imperturbably finite nature of the real world and the quest for a solution: that of the mystery of Pompeii and the enigma of eternity and sacrifice that had rendered it immortal.

In the pencil and watercolour drawings sketched on the pages of the book, a powerful flow of ghost-like empty shapes came to life: the ordinary human beings at the train station – reduced to abstract silhouettes and outlines – recalled the erased identities of the bodies turned to ash by the eruption of the volcano. In these sketched scenes, there was more than the human being: there was a progression of shapes that had lost substance. Human beings, animals, sheds, carriages, trains and then buildings: the station itself had become a mould, a cast, the remains of a real life, the story of a disappearance and reappearance, the evocation of an ambivalent reality that belonged to a system of signs that appeared both chaotic and generative, ordinary and allegorical, but above all circular.

Found twenty years later, unearthed from the piles of composting memories in Anna’s house, these images form a crescendo that contains all the mysterious poetic force of the history of Pompeii. Discovered during the ‘excavation’ of the artist’s memory, these drawings are the story of one night’s spontaneous reaction, a journey into the regeneration and survival of signs.

Marianna Vecellio