Not Moscow, Not Mecca (Show)

The story of syncretism and Central Asia’s particularly progressive approach to Islam from the perspective of the flora and not fauna of the region. A shrine of fruits–both real and imagined–including The Mulberry, The Watermelon, The Quince, and The Cucumber, among others–invite visitors to engage with the exhibition intellectually but also sensorially, at Vienna’s Secession, 2012.

 

 

The Faculty of Substitution

 

The Faculty of Substitution, Slavs and Tatars’ third cycle of work, looks at the role of the sacred as a vehicle for concrete social change. Not Moscow Not Mecca examines the potential for religious and ideological syncretism across Central Asia while Khhhhhhh examines the notion of sacred hospitality thru a single, wily phoneme; Beyonsense tells the story of the modern thru the mystical via the unlikely story of a Dia Sufi mosque, Dan Flavin and Velimir Khlebnikov.

 

The Faculty of Substitution urges for not only intellectual acrobatics but also metaphysical ones: to cultivate the agility, coordination and balance necessary to tell one tale through another, to adopt the inner-most thoughts, experiences, beliefs, and sensations of others as one’s own, in an effort to challenge the very notion of self-awareness and distance, as the shortest length between two points.

Before the Before, After the After

Industrial foam, concrete, water-resistant paint, 145 Ø x 72.5 cm. Edition of 1 + 1 AP, 2012.

A fruit of caricature, of the Other, the watermelon is used as a racist shorthand for African-Americans in the US, in Russia they recall the contested Caucasus, and in Europe the countries of origin of the migrant populations, be it Turkey, North Africa.”

Placed in two pots by Robert Oerley at the entrance to their “Not Moscow Not Mecca” at the Secession, the watermelons call on visitors to experience the exhibition not just cerebrally but sensorially and affectively.

 

The Fragrant Concubine

Hand-blown glass, paint, bulb, electrical socket, 27 x 18 cm (each), in bunch of 8. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

Named after Xian Fe, the concubine from kidnapped from Uiguristan, China’s western-most, Muslim region, by the Qianlong Emperor, who requested the hami melons to remind her of home. Xian Fe never gave in to her suitor and the hami melon lights remain on in honor of her resistance. 

  

How-less

Needle-work, silk, cotton, 200 x 120 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

“You Know of the How / I Know of the How-less” is attributed to Rabia al-Adawwiya, a Muslim saint and Sufi mystic. Considered to be one of the first female Sufis, she is credited with pioneering the notion of Divine Love, central to the veneration of God in Sufi Islam.

  

Dunjas, Donyas, Dinias

Fibreglass, steel, 52 x 30 x 25 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

Long-standing Serbo-Turkic enmity make peace in Dunjas, Donyas, Dinias: the word for the fruit “quince” in Serbian–dunja–is a common name given to women as a symbol of beauty and happens to be the homonym of “world” in Arabic and Turkic, donya.

 

The Offering

Carved wood, aluminum plate, inflatable rubber balls, 75 x 50 x 50 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

The role of hospitality is key to all three Abrahamic faiths. Yet, the root of hospitality is both guest and hostility. Here, a plate of inflated watermelon balls highlights the playful tension within the very notion of welcoming a guest into one’s home.

 

Holy Bukhara (Queen Esther Takes a Bite)

Reverse mirror painting, mirror, 70 x 100 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

Moving example of the syncretism – be it linguistic, religious, or ideological – found in Central Asia. Bokhori yeh Sharif is an homage to the Jews of Central Asia, aka Bukharan Jews, whose language (Boxori) provides an unlikely collision of Persian dialect with Hebrew script. Revising the epithet of Central Asia’s holiest city, Bukhara yeh Sharif, meaning “Holy Bukhara,” with one letter celebrates the language and the city’s pluralist approach to Islam.

  

Hanging Low (Bitter Sweet)

Fibre-glass, foam, steel, 110 x 140 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

Hanging Low pays homage to the conflicted relationship to memory, to pluralism, to joy thru mourning through the puckered lips of someone who smiles backwards.

Józef Wittlin’s Mój Lwów (My Lvov) laments the loss of the plural identities, languages, and affinities of a city that was Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and German and warns of memory’s selective, if unstated, agenda. He speaks of the strange mix of the sublime and the street urchin, of wisdom and cretinism, of poetry and the mundane—as a special indefinable taste, as bitter-sweet.

 

The Dear for the Dear

Hand-carved wood, etching, needle-work, silk, 30 x 40 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

According to an Egyptian Proverb: Life is like a cucumber: one day in your hand, the next day in your ass.

 

The Crown

Needle-work, cotton, feather, inflatable rubber balls 30 x 30 x 20 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

Modeled after the branch of a mulberry tree, whose fruits are white or black, Long Live the Syncretics dangles ribbons delicately as a nod to the progressive, syncretic approach to Islam in Central Asia, where Buddhist, Hindu, and pantheist rituals are incorporated into the belief system.

 

Long Live the Syncretics

Steel, paint, silk ikat, 150 x 320 x 100 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP, 2012.

Modeled after the branch of a mulberry tree, whose fruits are white or black, Long Live the Syncretics dangles ribbons delicately as a nod to the progressive, syncretic approach to Islam in Central Asia, where Buddhist, Hindu, and pantheist rituals are incorporated into the belief system.

 

  

Not Moscow Not Mecca (installation view), Secession, 2012.

 

Not Moscow Not Mecca (installation view), Kraupa-Tuskany, 2012.