At the Fifths Anniversary M&TVA Ceremony (December 2010), the award in the Best Show of the Year nomination went to the “ART Week Style.Uz” project implemented by the Forum Foundation of Uzbekistan. As part of the art week programme, the “Aristotle’s Riddle” exhibition invited its participants to present original methods of artistic exposition such as installation, photo- and video-art, happening, sculpture, and graphic arts. At the ceremony, Dr. G. Karimova, Chair of the Forum Foundation Board of Trustees, announced that the award would be given to Academician A. Khakimov, the mastermind behind the idea of the exhibition.
The idea behind the project is connected with the Aristotle’s teaching about mimesis – the rules in art where the main criterion is imitation of nature and reality. This doctrine underlies the development of the world’s entire realistic art. For all its progressiveness, the mimesis theory asserted the absolute value of imitation and restricted the artist’s freedom of imagination and his independent vision of reality. In his discussion about the canons of art in picturing natural phenomena and living beings Aristotle argued for the importance of adhering to the actual shapes and sizes of the objects portrayed: “A creature extremely large cannot be beautiful for the reason that it cannot be observed at once, and its unity and integrity is lost to the observer, as if the animal were ten thousand stages long”. So, according to Aristotle, a picture of a cow 2000 km long (one stage equals 200 meters) does not fall under the notion of art. Despite the humour of the example, it concerns the key conceptual issue of art – the confinement of individual capabilities and creative imagination of the artist to the established dogmas.
The history of the world’s art knows of deliberate departures from these rules (Gothic, Mannerism, Baroque, Impressionism, Cubism, etc.), aiming to preserve independence of art space and creative self-expression of the artist. This confrontation with ancient aesthetics culminated in surrealism and Russian avant-garde and was vividly expressed in the art of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali and in Kazemir Malevich’s Black Square. This anti-mimetic tendency became dominant in all European art of the 20th century, contributing to the conceptual development of contemporary postmodernism art.
In the last century, Uzbekistan arts evolved within a rigid framework of socialist realism with its roots in the ancient aesthetics of mimesis that largely suppressed the artist’s inner quest. With the attainment of independence, Uzbekistan artists could expand their notion about the boundaries of art and explore its new principles and forms characteristic of the modern day.
Given the broad spectrum of the subject-matter, the exhibition participants focused on a single theme – the image of a cow, which they were supposed to interpret in a non-realistic manner. Diyor Razykov (“Milk Powder”) tackled this artistic challenge very well. An installation made of two black pipes and a piece of white canvas looks more like a part of an industrial building rather than animal. The work draws attention to the rapid progress and ever increasing pace of life overfilled with all kinds of half-stuff and convenience foods. Ultimately, the author sees the whole of nature as similar technocratic structures.
Quite fitting to the concept was “The God’s Cow” by Sherzod Rajamov who divided the cow made of wood chipboard into two pieces and put them against the walls of the two exhibition rooms. It created an illusion that the Rajamov’s artefact circumnavigated the globe. Besides, the author reflects upon human open-mindedness and imagination, finding it unnecessary to establish boundaries to compositional integrity.
Boundaries were successfully destroyed in another work too. The present author presented a curatorial project “Biology”, the central installation of which was a banner with a cow print, stretched over a column. The cow’s body was doubled and looped into itself, so that the viewer walking around the column could not find the animal’s limbs. There was an infinite cow. The work symbolized boundless human imagination. The “Biology” project included another two compositions implemented with the involvement of artists Bobomurod Egamov and Shahrukh Ganiev. Continuing the theme of dimensions, the authors set a site where a giant animal was grazing not so long ago. Observers were invited to complete the image of the creature in their imagination. From the reflections on the not-so-distant future the idea of a cyber-cow was born. The screen was showing video of a cow chewing on grass, and wires and tubes connected a computer to an udder. A notice next to it urged everybody to try the new generation milk – pasteurized and enriched with extra vitamins. The purpose of this project was to create anti-mimetic pieces.
Constructive solution singled out an installation by Ulugbek Halmuradov, “Main Function Udder”. Wooden bars repeated the shape of a giant udder. Hypertrophy of the image focused more on functional rather than aesthetic qualities of the animal. The author intended to emphasize the importance of idea itself over its implementation – one does not need to give much thought to whether shapes and colours are accurately reproduced, but pays attention to the proper communication of the idea. This approach enabled the artist to easily divert from the cow character
It is noteworthy that several artists made their debut in modern art at the exhibition. Nevertheless, the works they presented turned out to have conceptual value. For example, the two photographs by Elzara Muzafarova (“Optical Illusion”), one of which shows a man with the shadow of the cow, and the other shows it the other way round. This playful device raised a complex philosophical issue about deceptive appearances of the visible world. The author asserts the importance of the invisible and urges us to take in and analyze not only things that lie on the surface.
The other participants of the exhibition were artists Kurban Narhurozov, Shukhrat Abdumalikov, Tatiana Fateeva, Inna Sandler, Nuriddin Rasulov, Pavel Makarov, and Nigora Sharafkhajaeva, who presented interesting variations on the proposed concept theme.
According to Academician Akbar Khakimov, the mastermind of the project idea, the Aristotle’s Riddle exhibition was aimed at encouraging Uzbekistan artists to develop a non-standard vision and interpretation of the world and reality, and their capacity for finding original solutions to art problems. The event enabled an objective assessment of their true creative potential and presented an opportunity to gauge the level of development of the post-modernist trend in the national art.