Slavs and Tatars
Friendship of Nations
10.12.11 – 22.01.12
Artist collective Slavs and Tatars reveals the often neglected cultural common ground between Slavs, Caucasians and East-Asians, and humorously but polemically scotches univocal Western interpretations. The show visualizes alternative spheres of influence between these cultures through a balanced collection of works brought together under the label Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz, and is in part a further elaboration of the project of the same name that was presented at the Sharjah Biennial 10 earlier this year. The title refers to – and is simultaneously an attempt to subvert – the patronizing Soviet-Russian notion of “дружба народов”, literally the “fraternity of peoples”, or “friendship of nations”.
Presenting works in different media, Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz uncovers Iran and Poland’s shared history. Against the background of two crucial geopolitical shifts – the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and the fall of communism in 1989, heralded by the Polish Solidarność movement – the revolutionary potential of handcraft and folklore is activated and explored as a source of mystical protest. This subject was first explored in 79.89.09., a project initiated in 2009 that consisted of a series of lectures, a contribution to Berlin-based magazine 032c, a newspaper edition that is being reprinted for the KIOSK show, and the mirror mosaic Resist Resisting God (2010).
The dome room is taken in by a series of colourful, handcrafted banners boasting reinterpreted, creolized slogans stemming from Persian and Polish culture. Arrayed to confront the visitor head-on, these banners seem to univocally propagate their message. What emerges is a mosaic and associative interplay of elements from both high and low culture, and an intertwining of politics and tradition. The exhibition surpasses the typical theoretical discussion on language and identity by referring to notable sidetracks of history, pointed one-liners and a liberal manipulation of patterns, power structures and language. Slavs and Tatars’ creation and combination of disparate mental spaces and rituals is inviting and encourages dialogue. The mirror mosaic creates a kaleidoscopic space for reflection. While Dear 1979, Meet 1989 (2011), with the accompanying newspaper 79.89.09., presents a place of rest for the visitor, and reveals the underlying context of what is on display here. The mobiles or pająks refer to the pagan Polish tradition that celebrates the yearly harvest with similar votive decorations. The upside- down tree shapes, much like the banners, are ‘creolized’ with Iranian and Polish designs and materials.