Coveted for its infamous trade routes, squeezed between empires, and battered by the major ideologies of the 20th and 21st centuries, the Caucasus and Central Asia offer a rare and urgent celebration of complexity and pluralism in a world increasingly seduced by the conventional and the orthodox.
Slavs and Tatars’ curatorial début, Art Dubai’s 2014 edition of Marker focused on the Caucasus and Central Asia through a regime of portraiture: faces, places, and traces—from mid-twentieth-century painting to contemporary drawings and sculptures. Portraiture calls for an immediate, if unassuming, discursive introduction through physiognomy, rituals, or geography. Throughout both Western art history and the Islamic tradition, representation is a fraught phenomenon: we turn to it to organise the world while struggling against this very problematic organisation.
A range of platforms – including a national museum, an artist-run platform, and an online archive — were invited to participate in a Eurasian version of a tea-salon or chaikhaneh, inviting viewers to engage with the portraits as artifacts, scenography, and as works unto themselves. Each tells a different story of identity, faith, nationhood or language — and how these are interiorized, masqueraded, ritualized and ultimately stretched to supersede today’s brittle identity politics as to what it means to be a Muslim, Christian, Jew, or Abkhaz, Uzbek, and Armenian.
ArtEast (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
Asia Art+ (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
North Caucasus Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Art, NCCA (Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Russia)
Popiashvili Gvaberidze Window Project (Tbilisi, Georgia)
YARAT Contemporary Art Organisation (Baku, Azerbaijian)
Marker 2014 also featured additional contributions by IADA International Art Development Association (Almaty, Kazakhstan/Paris, France) and Mardjani Foundation (Moscow, Russia).
Education partner: Caspian Arts Foundation