Azerbaijani art exhibition to open at Venice Biennale

8 May 2013 12:37 (UTC+04:00)
By Nigar Orujova
A contemporary art exhibition from Azerbaijan and its neighbors, "Love me, love me not", will be open to the public in the frame of the 55th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia from June 1 to November 24.
"Love me, love me not" is an unprecedented exhibition of contemporary art featuring recent work by 17 artists from Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Georgia.
The exhibition, due at Tesa 111, Arsenale Nord, is produced and supported by YARAT, a not-for‐profit contemporary art organization based in Baku, and curated by Dina Nasser‐Khadivi, an independent curator and consultant specializing in contemporary art from the Middle East, Iran and selected areas of the Caucasus.
"There is currently equal curiosity and misconception about Azerbaijan and the countries surrounding it," Nasser‐Khadivi explains. "The works on show will provide insight into the dynamics of each nation, bringing to light forgotten aspects of history and demonstrating the breadth of vision and creativity at play within their borders."
The exhibition offers a diverse range of media and subject matter, with video, installation and painting all on show. Pieces range from those steeped in historical reference, to those with more site-specific responses through to those which are inspired by personal history.
Faig Ahmed takes the motifs found in Azerbaijani carpets as a starting point for his work, reinterpreting these to underline the rapid shift Azerbaijan is experiencing towards modernity. His thread installation Untitled (2012) deconstructs the notions of craft inherent to the traditional process of weaving, extending the usual two‐dimensional plane of the finished carpet across a three-dimensional space.
Kutlug Ataman's video installation Mesopotamian Dramaturgies/Column (2009) is inspired by the Trajan's Column in Rome and was originally commissioned for MAXXI (National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome).
It is a tower of 42 used TV screens each featuring the silent face of a villager from Erzincan in Eastern Turkey, Ataman's place of origin. This key work is both an attempt to show a story without narration as well as a tribute to the history of Anatolian people, whom he sees as silenced throughout history.
In his most ambitious project to date, Shoja Azari will show a film which recreates the Haft Paykar (Seven Beauties), a romantic epic of the 12th century by great Azerbaijani poet Nizami. Haft Paykar is an allegorical romance, which takes self-knowledge as the essential path to human enlightenment as its central theme.
Ali Banisadr will be producing his largest work to date for the exhibition, in the form of a triptych inspired by the pervasive symbolism of fire and light. These elements, prevalent in both Azerbaijan and Iran, relate to the origins of Zoroastrianism as well as the etymology of the word "Azerbaijan".
Through effective use of color and painterly control, Banisadr translates the imagery of his childhood, his extensive understanding of art history, and his sharp observations of everyday life onto canvas, capturing insightful details of humanity with movement, energy, and abstraction. Banisadr's works are housed in public collections worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Saatchi Gallery and the British Museum in London.
Ali Hasanov, from Azerbaijan, uses a contemporary appropriation of everyday materials. His work Masters (2012) features hundreds of "veniki" (brooms made of bundled twig and common in post‐Soviet countries) which are bound together to form a sculptural whole.
Taus Makhacheva will re-produce a film recently shown at the Liverpool Biennale about the abandoned Silk Road city Gamsutl (2012) through a young male protagonist who "dances" to enact the fragmented qualities of the city, now partly forgotten.
Slavs & Tatars installation entitled Molla Nasreddin The Antimodernist (2011) is a life‐size sculpture as a playground "ride" for adults and children alike and refers to the popular Sufi philosopher of the 13th century. By creating works that can be directly engaged with by the public, the collective addresses notions such as generosity and compassion through the disarming use of humor.
Molla Nasreddin also refers to the legendary Azerbaijani satirical periodical of the early 20th century, which not only contributed to a crucial understanding of national identity, but offered a momentous example of the powers of the press. In their installation Love Me, Love Me Not, the collaborative pluck the petals off the past to reveal an impossibly thorny stem: entire metropolises are caught like children in the spiteful back and forth of a custody battle, representing the evolution of the region, a theme which is at the core of this exhibition.
By bringing artists from Azerbaijan and its surrounding region together in one exhibition, Love Me, Love Me Not will create new perspectives on the contemporary art of Azerbaijan, as well as that of Iran, Turkey, Russia and Georgia.
The catalogue is edited by curator Nasser-Khadivi and Farah Rahim Ismail and contributors to the catalogue include: Nada Raza, assistant curator at Tate Modern, Nicholas Cullinan, curator of modern and contemporary art at Metropolitan Museum of Art, Negar Azimi, writer and Senior Editor of Bidoun Projects, Monica Steinberg, PhD Candidate at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, Suad Garayeva, writer and curator specializing in Contemporary Art from Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, Slavs and Tatars, a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia.
Founded in 2011 by Aida Mahmudova, YARAT is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to nurturing an understanding of contemporary art in Azerbaijan and to creating a platform for Azerbaijani art, both nationally and internationally.
Based in Baku, YARAT, (which means "create" in Azerbaijani) realizes its mission through an ongoing program of exhibitions, education events, and festivals. YARAT facilitates dialogue and exchange between local and international artistic networks, including foundations, galleries and museums. A series of residencies further fosters opportunities for global cultural dialogue and partnerships.
YARAT's educational initiatives include lectures, seminars, master classes, and the Young Artist Project ARTIM (meaning "progress" in Azerbaijani). ARTIM aims to encourage the next generation of Azerbaijani creative talent to seek a career in arts and gives young practitioners the opportunity to exhibit their works in a professional context.
Founded as part of YARAT's ongoing commitment to growing local art infrastructure, YAY Gallery is a commercial exhibition space. In line with this, YAY (meaning "share" in Azerbaijani) shares all proceeds from sales between the artist and YARAT and supports a range of national and international artists.
The exhibition is sponsored by Gilan and Jale.