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Slavs and Tatars, Kitab Kebab (The Dairy Horde), 2016, books, metal kebab skewer, 35 × 29 × 57 cm

Punk Orientalism
Exhibition on from 10 November 2018 to 17 February 2019

The artists in Punk Orientalism challenge outdated perceptions about the geography, territory, and personal and political identities of those living in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Iran and the Middle East and their International diasporas. Long seen either as societies subsumed by the former Soviet Union, or serving as its client states, the exhibition uses the theme of non-conformity—the “punk” rejection of state authority—to investigate and explore a changing society and its evolving norms in the post-Soviet period. Through works in photography, video, sculpture and installation pieces, text-based art, and other new media, the exhibition demonstrates how these artists create or engage with approaches to modernism that is rooted in the customs and cultures of the region or draw on both Soviet and “Oriental” influences. In particular, given the wide range of countries and cultures swept up by the former Soviet Union, the show explores the concept of one East looking at another East.

One thematic component at play in many of these works is a wry sense of humour, essential to any critique of institutional authority, particularly in an authoritarian context. For example, the artist collective “Slavs and Tatars” incorporates humour alongside geopolitics, as in their mixed-media sculpture Kitab Kebab (Sarmats and Tsars) (2013), which shows a literal skewering of different books from cultures around the world.

Another essential component to these works is the use of bricolage or bringing together different discarded materials in a collage-style format that creates something entirely new. Aikaterini Gegisian’s works use this method, creating what the artist calls “photographic ready-mades”, drawing on separate and unrelated images that convey a different meaning when linked. Gegisian’s Falling Tight I (2014), showing what may be a ballet dancer or circus performer’s arm linked to a rocket launchpad by the water, ties together the enforced veneration for the “space race” with the idea of human performance and control. Rokni Haerizadeh uses this approach, too, with the series Subversive Salami in a Ragged Briefcase (2013-2014), adding distorted, rebellious figures onto staid landscapes or streetscapes that explores ideas around protest and resistance.

Aikaterini Gegisian, Falling Tight I, 2014, Photographic readymades, archival material, 29.8 x 42.5 cm

Critiques of power, an essential element of a punk aesthetic, are embedded in works such as the site-specific installation by Uzbek-born Vyacheslav Akhunov whose constructive style embraces both Cyrillic and Oriental mantras as a form of protest against Soviet instated strictures leading up to the Afghan invasion of 1979. As exemplified in the large-scale work “Breathe Quietly” (1976-2018) a sequence of eight large scale Cyrillic characters made from plywood that serve as a monument to the artist’s long-time struggle with state and authority.

Punk Orientalism presents artists who work addresses issues of colonialism and Soviet imperialism, revealing new avenues into history and geopolitics that are timely and relevant to understanding the current social and political climate,” said Sara Raza, the exhibition’s curator. “Bringing together an array of critical voices that slice through oversimplified narratives of history and place, these artists also speak to the wider influence of the former Soviet Union in Iran and parts of the Arab world, to shape a different understanding of the ‘East.’”

In addition to the exhibition, there will be many opportunities for visitors to learn about and experience these works through study, reflection and dialogue, including: a curator-led tour of the exhibition, English, French and Russian language tours and conversations, an Educator workshop, and a rotating series of artist films in the Gallery’s Shumiatcher Theatre.

About Sara Raza:

Sara Raza is an award winning curator and writer on global art, and was the winner of the ArtTable New Leadership Award for Women in the Arts (2016). Sara was the Guggenheim UBS MAP curator for the Middle East and North Africa and curated “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, (2016), which travelled to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan in 2018. Sara has curated exhibitions and projects for several international biennials and festivals, including the Tashkent Biennial, Uzbekistan “Rhizoma: Saudi Pavilion, Venice Biennale (2013); and Baku Public Art Festival Azerbaijan (2015). She has organized a number of exhibitions for Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah. Formerly, Raza was the head of education at Yarat, Baku, Azerbaijan, founding curator at Alaan Art Space, Riyadh and curator of public programs at Tate Modern, London. Sara is the West and Central Asia editor for ArtAsiaPacific.

About MacKenzie Art Gallery

The MacKenzie Art Gallery is Saskatchewan’s original public art gallery: an immersive centre for engaging people through transformative experiences of the world through art, with an ongoing focus on Indigenous culture and diversity. The MacKenzie is located in Regina’s Wascana Park, Canada’s largest urban park and home to the Provincial Capital Commission. It is located within Treaty Four territory, the traditional territory of the Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboine and Metis, and a home to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people. The permanent collection, which includes the University of Regina’s extensive collection, contains over 5000 works of art spanning 5000 years of art history.

The MacKenzie is grateful for the support of the South Saskatchewan Community Foundation; Canada Council for the Arts; Saskatchewan Arts Board; SaskCulture; the City of Regina; University of Regina.

For more information contact:

Deborah Rush, Director of Communications
MacKenzie Art Gallery
3475 Albert St. Regina, SK, Canada
1-306-584-4250 ext. 4284

Facebook: MacKenzieArtGallery
Twitter: @atTheMAG






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