Slavs and Tatars is a collective of artists whose multidisciplinary works function as by-products of connections they establish between seemingly disparate subjects. Working from a variety of sources that include visual, audio and archival material, the collective’s practice uses performative investigations to present hybridized cultural affinities between Slavs, Caucasians and Central Asians, consistently demonstrating a mashed-up lexicon of anthropological artifacts and pop culture.
Kitab Kebab (2012) neatly invokes the collective’s presentation of diverse ideas within a succinct form. Literally translated as ‘Book Kebab,’ the sculpture stacks a series of books on religion, philosophy and language and skewers them with a flat, pointed metal shaft. With When In Rome (Do As The Romanians Do) (2010), a deliberate slip of terminology begins a highly visual exploration into the resonances of the Romani gypsy culture in the context of European modernity: a series of slabs engraved with the work’s title are arranged on the floor strewn with loose coins – “not for beggars, but believers as is found strewn across icons of Orthodox Christianity.”
Slavs and Tatars’ commitment to a cross-disciplinary approach is central to their practice, stemming from a desire to discuss complex discourses, prompting a multiplatform approach that provides different levels of access.
Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz consists of flags and banners that explore the unlikely shared heritage between Poland and Iran, specifically in the revolutionary potential of crafts and folklore behind the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the actions of Poland’s Solidarność, or national trade union, in the 1980s. Slavs and Tatars consider these two events the “bookends to the two major geopolitical narratives of the recent past, the communist project of the 20th century and Islamic modernism in our current age.”
By drawing attention to certain areas of Europe and Asia’s communal history, the collective demonstrate the potential for peaceful coexistence. They contend that, “if we are to believe there is somehow a clash between the East and West, or between Islam and the West, then it makes sense to look at perhaps an area in the world where these have co-habited successfully.” For them, geography becomes a metaphor and point of departure for something bigger — lost histories, accidents, oversights, or mistakes. Geography can also be a provocation, an occasion to think again.
Founded in 2006, Slavs and Tatars have exhibited widely, with solo shows at Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012), Tate Modern, London (2012), Vienna’s Secession(2012), Moravia Gallery, Brno (2012), Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten, Belgium (2011) and forthcoming solo engagements at the Dallas Museum of Art and GfZK, Leipzig. The collective has published several books that incorporate archival and experimental research, texts, original pieces, and innovative design. Their work features as part of several collections including the Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE, the Museum of Modern Art New York and the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw.