Myths of the West and Myths of the East

Issue #3-4 • 1817

“Myths of the West and Myths of the East “was a theme of III Tashkent Biennale held on October 1-20, 2005 in Tashkent. Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan and Tashkent Hokimiyat were its organizers. Seventy five artists from twenty six countries took part in the action. Installations, video works, painting and graphic works were exposed in Central Exhibition Hall, Center of Modern Art, National Gallery and Caravanserai of Culture.

The international jury included Chairman Andre Nakov (France), famous art critic; Makhmud Akhmad Attiya (Egypt); Han Hyun-Sam (Korea), Chairman of Modern Art Association; Masut Fatkulin (Russia), Chairman of International Confederation of United Artists; Paolos Polis (Greece); Doctor Akbar Khakimov, Academician AA Uz and Doctor Nigora Ahmedova (Uzbekistan).

Tashkent Biennale-2005 announced the winners in Center of Modern Art on October, 5

Grand prix was given to Ahmad Nadalian Ali (Iran); the first place was given to Vyacheslav Useinov (Uzbekistan) and the second place – to Chung Kil-Hwan (Korea).

Special prize of ICAU (Russia, Moscow) went to Faizullahon Ahmadaliev (Uzbekistan); special prize of Association of Artists (Korea) was given to Jamol Usmanov and special prize of AA Uz – to Korinna Schnitt (Germany).

Diplomas of ICAU were given to Morgan Showalter (USA) and Elen Driskol (USA), Maria Dolores (Spain), Gilad Shahar (Israel), Tafaf Khalil Ibrahim Elabd (Egypt), Katerina Barabouti (Greece), Corinna Schnitt (Germany), David Zaripov (Russia), Babur Ismailov and Alexander Nikolaev (Uzbekistan).

All participants got diplomas of participants.

Here are some interviews with organizers of the exhibition, participants and members of jury.

Andre Nakov (France), Chairman of Jury:

This is not my first biennale in Tashkent. I would like to remark that Tashkent biennale changes quickly and positively. The last two exhibitions and today’s differ much. It is wonderful, that the exhibition represents different directions and styles. Certainly, the biennale has not developed own style and image yet, but it means that everything is waiting ahead.

Numerous video works were a feature of the biennale which again confirmed active art processes in the region. Two years ago I wished that artists pay more attention to this perspective field. I see now that my wishes have come true. I think, that master-class of Corinna Schnitt from Germany became interesting for the artists working in video art. New avant-garde directions are important for Central Asia for in fact traditions and stereotypes of thinking are very strong here and impede integration in world art process. Uzbekistan artists try to enter global tendencies, but their art activity often has marginal character. It is difficult to depart from traditions and video helps much to do that.

It is also important so that curators and artists might permanently work between biennale.

As for awards, the jury discussed it in quiet and friendly manner without disagreements. Actually, the first place is not so important. The main thing is the exhibition itself, exchange of ideas and creative searches. Choice of prize-winners is always a compromise. We wanted not only to choose the best work, but to accent those tendencies which were reflected in this work. In this context, I think, it was logic that Grand prix was given to video work.

I congratulate all participants of biennale on the art festival. I also would like to wish that next biennale go out the halls to streets of Tashkent. I hope also to see more sculpture at the next Tashkent biennale and above all I wish peace to all of us.

Ahmad Nadalian Ali (Iran), participant of the exhibition, Grand Prix winner:

My decision to go to Uzbekistan was connected with my intrapersonal feelings. For a long time, I have been studying the art of your region, especially the period of the Temurids. I used some classical elements of this heritage in my works. I am sure that artifacts are very important for conceptualization of the present. I am happy that my native land is Iran and at the same time I feel sympathy to Uzbekistan as our ancestors came from steppes of Central Asia. We have much in common. History and culture of our peoples are inseparable. All these feelings were promoted when I arrived at Tashkent.

I brought video work “Death of fish”. Now video-art is one of the most popular in Iran though it arose in our country just five-six years ago. In general, I prefer combination of video, environments and installations which give the opportunity to use a form, sound, space and movement… Themes of nature and ecology are congenial to me. These are eternal themes. Everybody in any place of our planet understands them. My works aspire to send impulse from the past to the future by means of media-art.

I would like to express my gratitude for high estimation of my work and to wish good luck to Uzbekistan people.

Vyacheslav Useinov (Uzbekistan), artist, 1st place of Biennale:

I am so glad that jury appreciated my work. I think it means recognition of my creative potential. I represented a composition of “Constant” which combined two elements – traditional painting and installed object. Installation of “Constant” – a spiral of gigantic burnt matches was already exposed at the exhibition of actual art “Constellations” in Tashkent under financial support of Swiss Agency on Cooperation and Development. Now it is added with painting works from Series “History of one picture” which has been done for last eleven years. Both installation and painting are rather self-sufficient. However, combination of painting and modern forms of art seemed interesting to me. The combination of so realistic landscapes of sunny day and brutal spiral installation influences provocatively and creates emotional atmosphere and feelings which, actually, are essential to any creative act. How well was my idea realized – spectators will estimate.

I considered necessary to accompany each part of the composition with author’s annotations as words are also acts of creative self-expression.

Participation in international forums like this is important for any artist. Important is a dialogue of artists and their relation to your own work and searches. Such dialogue determines further development of art. In this behalf I was interested in works represented at Biennale. In particular, the object of Polish artist Alexandra Gieraga representing pictures collected together as if they are stored in deposits. At first sight ordinary subjects suddenly obtained unusual sounding. The works of Prize-winner of last Biennale Ulan Djaparov were interesting in context of our time. Djamol Usmanov’s installation as usually is penetrated by spiritual power. Dialogue, interaction and change of creative ideas and different concepts emphasize significance of such exhibitions. I would like to express my gratitude to its organizers. I had a chance to know better creative searches of artists from many countries and to get new impulse to further creative work. Han Hyun-Sam (Korea), member of Jury, participant of the exhibition:

I participated in three Tashkent biennale, therefore I can see it in progress. While the first exhibition had a little indefinite idea, the second was much better organized. As for the last exhibition, it surpassed all my hopes. First of all, the list of participating countries confirmed its international status. The works were very interesting and represented many genres and styles. I think, that these installations, video and photo works, painting and graphic works can make honor of any international biennale. I am not only a member of Jury, but also a participant of the exhibition (my photo works are devoted to nature), therefore I would like to note a good exposition.

Interesting were works of Uzbekistan artists. They reflected today’s realities and searches for new expressive means. I always admire at their creative approach, positive philosophy and high level of performance. As for Korea, new art forms, such, as installations, video and photo works are getting more and more popular. Evidently, video-art is one of the most perspective. Its founder is the Korean artist Pek Nam-Chung who lives and works in America. Video-art obtained a status of independent field thanks to him. History of video art is short, but, global interest to it proves its promising outlook.

I think the jury should choose a winner in each genre, for example, in video-art, painting, installation etc. My attention was drawn by the composition of “Constant” by V. Useinov in Central Exhibition Hall. It was very emotional and caused thinking over sense of life. I think everyone can interpret it in own way. At the same time, its materials, texture, technical and light solutions are very original. I would like to wish success to all participants of Biennale.

Makhmud Akhmad Attiya (Egypt), member of Jury, participant of the exhibition:

The exhibition impresses so much! Art processes in Uzbekistan could amaze everyone. When I came to Tashkent six years ago, I did not see any avant-garde tendencies. This biennale demonstrated a high level of art, including Uzbekistan and extensive list of participants which brought very interesting works.

The role of biennale in promotion of art life can not be exaggerated. In Egypt, biennale started in the 1940s in Alexandria and Cairo. Due to that, new art directions got development, including abstractionism, surrealism, symbolism, etc. Tashkent biennale again exposed that today’s palette of art genres is much richer.

It is pleasant, that the exhibition involved many young artists. Perhaps, they are not so experienced against the famous artists, but their creative potential is obvious.

I would like to mention the interest to video art. Central Asian artists successfully work in this field. Perhaps, some worry that video works can supersede such traditional arts as painting and graphics. However, I am sure that different arts promote development of each other becoming a new impulse. As for me, I keep my priorities – painting and collage. I am sure that this forum promoted dialogue of cultures and further development of Uzbekistan art.

Pako Mesa and Lola Marazuela (Spain), participants of the exhibition:

This is our first visit to Tashkent. So, everything seemed very interesting. The exhibition distinguished by a list of participating countries as well as by works, which reflected contemporary trends of world art. As for Spain, now different art directions are popular, first of all, avant-garde – video and photo-art, installations, etc. Video-art arose at the 1970s, but active development began in the 1990s. Today this is one of the most actual art having become international. Traditional painting is not so popular among our youth. They prefer new means of expression. For example, at Venetian Biennale, the Spanish artist Santiago Sera represented the closed pavilion with one entrance, but without exit that symbolized cruelty of life and hopeless situations which sometimes happen. Social themes concern our artists, but nevertheless first are themes far from critical moments – altruism, humanism and easy life. For example, video work by Lola is connected with experiment at opera where five singers tried to create such resonance of voices that was able to destroy fragile towers from glasses and vases.

Victor Miziano (Russia) Chief Editor of “Art Magazine”, guest of Biennale:

All of us can see that Tashkent biennale is rising. If some action happens the third time, it means that it has taken place. Certainly, the dialogue with recognized international forums like Istanbul, Lyons and others is still ahead because of the Tashkent project is surviving its beginning stage, but progress is obvious. Its advantage is that Tashkent Biennale was represented as international but not just local event. That added the interest to it. For example, in America there is Whitney biennale, provincial and local by definition. Tashkent biennale represents itself as international. Nevertheless, Tashkent biennale chiefly represents the east – such countries, as Iran, Azerbaijan, Kyrghyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. These countries have not integrated yet to world system of international exhibitions, and their participation gives distinctive to Tashkent biennale. Artists from America, Poland, Germany, Spain and others participated too. However, exactly involvement of eastern countries caused the interest to this international forum. Such list of participants defined a niche of Tashkent biennale and provided interest to it.

As for further development of this biennale, its organizers should first think over exact direction of development. This issue is serious enough. The matter is that there are different models of today’s biennale. For example, Venetian biennale combines a major project and different national representations. Only curator is preparing Istanbul biennale. Each time a new curator sets a theme and character of expected exhibition. Famous biennale of “Manifesta”, organized by special committee in Amsterdam, changes a hosting city. As you can see, there are different models, and Tashkent should develop own. I would like to note that originality of biennale is not only in its geopolitical orientations. It is not enough. The main thing is necessity to develop own model. This problem is serious not only to Uzbekistan curators. Conferences and discussions on this issue are held in Russia too.

Another important point, work should not be stopped after exhibitions. This is a permanent process. It is absolutely wrong to come down to organization of exhibition each two years.

Thus, I would like to formulate the most topical problems and issues – how must biennale operate between exhibitions, does it need a permanent curator or to assign each time a new person, is it required a conceptual core or not. In general, the last biennale was significant achievement. It confirmed itself as international action. Now it is necessary to think over how to make it original and interesting to the world.

Akbar Khakimov, Academician of AA Uz, member of Jury:

This is the third biennale and that is important as testifies to already formed tradition. It is necessary to note that the last exhibition represented more countries, than earlier. However, the main thing was not quantity but the level which cardinally differed by novelty of ideas and projects. It is remarkable that the exhibition was organized in several exhibition halls, each of which represented some direction. Central Exhibition Hall hosted a core of the exhibition – installations and video works. I think, this section caused the greatest interest. This fact influenced not only spectators, but also members of the jury. Major prizes were given to the artists represented in CEH.

It is necessary to note success of Uzbekistan artists. As a matter of fact, they determined innovative searches in many respects. I could relate Djamol Usmanov, Vyacheslav Useinov and Fayzulla Akhmadaliev to such leaders. Their projects revealed high professionalism combined with ability to think. Each work of these artists exposed their definite stand on social problems and events as well as aspiration to influence the world around.

In general, the exhibition represented many interesting works by artists from Central Asian and other foreign countries.

Besides aesthetic value, the exhibition promoted further development of national art in avant-garde forms adequate to tendencies of global art process. I would like to mention master-classes as positive innovations of the last biennale aimed to information exchange.

I think that success of any biennale much depends on a concept offered by its curator. In this regard, much merit belongs to curator of Tashkent biennale Nigora Akhmedova who tried to develop and improve each exhibition. Certainly, there were some formal problems. In particular, a ceremony of awarding must be better organized. However, in general, the festival of arts was successful. I wish to involve more participants in the next biennale. I think it might be interesting to leave from exhibition halls for streets of the city and to set projects in landscape environment.

Nigora Akhmedova, Doctor of Arts, Curator of III Tashkent Biennale.

Tasks and ideas

This is third Tashkent Biennale that allows to estimate it optimistically as traditional. When we touches upon tasks we must remember that almost each Biennale is supported by state and so, has important cultural and political tasks. It is a rare chance when progressive tendencies, sometimes venture projects and curator’s initiatives promote positive image of the state, express its tolerance and progressive cultural policy. What is more important that orientation of Biennale to actual art, which is often denied and became art for experts, is officially recognized and financed from the state budget. Moreover, many state structures support and promote organization of the international exhibition. It is necessary to grow, extend geography of participants and to develop the exhibition conceptually. The last Biennale had a new format. All Tashkent exhibition halls were involved. More than 70 participants exposed works in CEH, MAC, Caravanserai of Culture and Gallery of NBU.

The experts say that if the exhibition took place three times it has defined principles and orientations. Each Biennale has own super tasks. We also took into consideration both our internal problems and international context. First of all, it is necessary to contact our artists to new tendencies. It will bring Uzbekistan to world integration and international projects. It is known that many our artists are passive to quickly changing world and as if isolate from innovations. Famous French critic A. Nakov says: “This new world creates own system of impressions which can not be reflected by means of classic Venus”. Unfortunately, many our artists stop at once found successful solution in picture, especially, if it was sold. It becomes a top of development and beginning of self-imitations. Biennale has no commercial goals, but it is “a scene” where everyone can represent oneself best. Therefore we took orientation to promotion of projects related to actual art and new technologies. Logic was that we moved Iranian artist Ahmad Nadalian Ali to nomination of Grand Prix of III Tashkent Biennale for his video work touching upon topical ecological problems interpreted within traditional Iranian mythic and poetical ideas.

Video works of artists from Russia, Spain and USA represented different tendencies of contemporary art. At the same time ethno cultural mentality traced in new forms and technologies. Heritage was shown through citations practically explaining such concepts of postmodernism as palimpsest. V. Miziano was absolutely right saying that video “much taking from visual aggression of cinema, has new suggestive force: perception of video projections within limited and blacked space becomes actually difficult emotional test (neither ready-made nor object and traditional installation did not know that). …Catharsis and meditation which seemed absolutely removed from modern figurativeness again come back with video boxes”. So, we tried to invite foreign video artists to show how artists of the West and East interpret the richest layers of own culture by today’s artistic means. Therefore, selection of works first was done on general theme – “Myths of the West and Myths of the East”. This general theme involved works realizing different creative ideas. In fact, ancient and today’s art as if arises from myth. European consciousness aspires to go away from mythology and at the same time generates new myths. Oriental consciousness as if exists in myth, traditionally attaching to definite historical and cultural mythological system. The exhibition exposed all these contrasts.

I informed the participants on the theme in advance. Many artists specially prepared projects; the others already had correspondent works. For example, Katerina Barabouti from Greece specially created performance based on her own myth. Photos by Manty Albani (Greece) represented non-tourist places of Athens creating a new image of the city-museum out of traditional myths. The project “Wall of History” by Chung Kil-Hwan “removed” idealization from great historical persons in slightly provocative manner.

At the initial stage, when nobody knew us, we invited by countries. It was important to have this or that country in our list. Now we have opportunity to choose participants. However, this problem still remains. It is still difficult to enter a system of developed biennale and overcome snobbery of many western artists. It is still difficult to prepare facilities required for innovative projects.

The famous art critic from France Andre Nakov helps much. He personally brought works of American artist Helen Driskol and headed the international jury. He sees potential of our Biennale and our artists, which, he thinks, are finding “niche” in contemporary art. On October 5, 2005, grandiose exhibition “Dadaism” was opened at George Pompidou Center in Paris. Nevertheless, Nakov, one of its organizers and authors of the catalogue, decided to go to Uzbekistan and support Biennale.

Important was also visit of Victor Miziano, master-class curator from Russia. He is an author of curator projects of Russia at Venetian Biennale, Sao-Paulo and “Documente”. Miziano told about his experience of interdisciplinary project – intellectual laboratory of artists, philosophers and about searches for new forms of cooperation with artists out of exposition. Some artists were interested and saw a new level of creative experiment, the others denied and left the hall. Miziano first visited Tashkent. I think that his ideas on principles of Biennale and possible ways of our Biennale are positive. At the same time he was surprised by conservative sights at art and by a fact that we have just few video artists.

Environment

Cultural event of such scale as Biennale is not just action important for artists. I think it is important achievement of our country and unique opportunity of dialogue. This is an opportunity to get know experience of our foreign colleagues and to correlate self-estimation. At the same time this project has revealed how some our artists resist to new and don’t want to know different art. It is possible to see video projects in our halls only once in two years – all the other time is given to traditional painting. The others cannot accept the fact that practice of artistic boards has become past and a curator is to select works. I would repeat again that all of us should get benefit from this international exhibition, instead of envy or compete with artists from the other countries. In fact this is a good opportunity of develop area of our activity. This is – master-classes for our institutes and meetings with students; materials and articles – for mass media, new names – for TV; contacts and experience – for critics and journalists. When all of us obtain professional approach and ability to cooperate, only then true creative atmosphere will be created.

Prepared by Elmira Valieva

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