Slavs and Tatars art collective was founded in 2006 by artists Kasia Korczak and Payam Sharifi, but it has become an anonymous fluid group whose members keep their personal identities secret in order to emphasize their ideas, message and collective activities. What matters is not who they are, but the final purpose of their projects.
Their art focuses on the area “between two walls – the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China”, ironically determined and deliberately chosen as “a way of not taking ourselves too seriously,” they say. Delineating such a vast and diverse geographic area leads to a lack of specialization, stress being laid on becoming familiar with a new region and presenting it from a new point of view that is not taught in conventional academic settings. Knowledge does not involve a single line or a straight succession, as there are as many kinds of knowledge as there are places of knowledge.
Slavs and Tatars do not use art as a subject, but as a language, a tool by which they make available knowledge that does not fit into already existing categories, art being the chosen platform of dissemination.
In the group’s artworks show an interest in the superstitious-mystical approach of the world of the Baltic States, in old remedies that are not scientific solutions, in the revitalisation of local history and the use of language as an important aspect of storytelling. The fusion of elements that differentiate cultures is a major feature of the group’s art, a way to translate the diversity of forms, thoughts and behaviours into a single object.
The works displayed at the Chronic Desire exhibition highlight the coexistence of cultural and identity-related differences. Mother Tongues and Father Throats blurs the line between East and West by using the sounds [gh] and [kh] that do not exist in Western linguistics. The notion of cohabitation is also noticeable in River Bed, a piece of furniture representative for Iran and Central Asia, a bed on which four or five people can sit and suggest the idea of a shared space.
The coincidental similarity between artefacts is visible in Bazm U Razm, where glass combs representative of Afro culture blend with the talismanic forms of seals found around Uighur tombs in Xinjiang, western China. The work deals with the duality of nurturing and taming, order and violence as a comparison with the Turkic peoples who were well known both as skilled warriors and hospitable hosts.
In Mystical Protest, the text reading “It is of utmost importance that we repeat our mistakes as a reminder to future generations of the depths of our stupidity” can be interpreted not only as a warning to the coming generations, but also as a call to awareness for the current generations.
The Slavs and Tatars members exhibit in all corners of the world, but their purpose remains the same: to cast new light on unfamiliar cultures and perspectives, with the ultimate goal of cohabitation and acceptance of differences.