Modern Art as a Symptom

Nigora Akhmedova,
art critic

From 7 to 23October, 2016 the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan held the exhibition of the modern art (curator – N. Akhmedova), which was participated by artists of Uzbekistan, as well as China, Palestine, Tunisia, Ukraine, Moldova and Kazakhstan.

A conversation about modern art and its condition invariably leads to aside, where it is necessary to describe things, in strict sense far from traditional esthetics: level of its understanding, readiness to see in it reflection of painful points, affecting an economic component of support of new forms, etc. Certainly, many people, especially young, are mostly attracted in a sovriska by the intellectual side, critical discourse, special techniques of artists to use not only multimedia innovations, but, also undisguised trash material, expecting from it what is noticeably lack in the art lately. The reason of this shortage can be revealed by quoting of the famous writer: “Imagine that you have mother and she lives far away with your brother. Suddenly you learn that she is seriously ill and got to hospital. You send to your brother a telegram: what is with mother? The brother responds like this: we have a nasty weather, and skillfully describes climate of their small town. But no word about your mother. You send another telegram: “What is with mother?” The brother answers: “Transport is bad”, skillfully describing the local transport. Again, no words about mother. And so on – endlessly. No words about what really concerns us”. About the main thing, that makes art a symptom of the time, and the artist – a spokesman of his era, there is no word. The same situation was also in Europe about half a century ago, however, after modernism. In the society, along with domination of mass culture, sprouts of conceptual art had begun to shoot and usurped functions of public, as well as took upon itself an intellectual interpretation of its surrounding environment. Art, from especially esthetic, picturesque, plastic phenomenon turned into a life analysis. Each artist, certainly, is individual, and it would not be desirable, like the last ideological machine, to indicate what he should do. After gaining independence by the Republic of Uzbekistan, having accepted the pluralistic principles of development of national art, the art criticism respects autonomy and the creativity status. The art criticism put a lot of effort to understand various trends in art, which are expressed by strong and not similar at each other masters. Meanwhile, behind the seemed randomness of their manifestation, one can see the immanent regularities described by the theory researching logic of development of art of the independent states. They are defined as a change of several stages – starting with the criticism and refusal of last ideology, the art directs to vivifying sources of succession with primordial heritage of the people, plunging more and more into ideal vision of traditional culture. In our art it was a kind of “escape” from modernity to the world of high ideal, a certain attempt to find the lost harmony. After this stage, new principles of development are formed, which are adequate to modern world art process, with the tendency of entering into it. So, in the 2000-s searches of expression of identity, combining national traditions and the strategy of the western contemporary art, began in Uzbekistan. Daily and topical issues of the society became the main for small group of artists of Uzbekistan, who based on the principles of sovriska. Their projects, as well as photo and video works sent by foreign participants constituted a basis of the exhibition held in October in the Central Exhibition Hall, Houses of Photo and the Caravanserai, where 30% of the works prepared for the VIII Tashkent Biennale dedicated to the subject “Extending Borders” were exhibited. The exhibition was considered by the curator rather widely as a certain metaphor of searches of an exit beyond the limits of obsolete notions, as an attempt to actualize new views on mental, territorial, gender, ethnic and cultural problems. According to the curator, the modernity is presented not only in developed countries of the West, it would be interesting to show its understanding by artists from different parts of the world, who, maybe, do not belong to the known centers of art, but can add our understanding of the processes happening today. Actualization of the subject of borders has touched also viewers, who, facing the works of conceptualists involuntarily admitted their own narrow understanding of where borders of the modern art lie, “what is necessary” and what limits does it reach? The theme of war, refugees, racism, the situation of women were central in the projects of artists of the Oriental countries, such as light-box “Black is a new white”, video-art “NO” (Nadya Kaabi – Linke, Tunisia), photo-project “Between two rivers” by Sama Al Shaabi (Palestine), video “Borders” by Christina Di Marcia (UAE), and “Dark process” by Monir Fatmi (Morocco). The works convey a sharp personal intonation and evoke an interested reaction, and “tough”, unusual form is aimed to “scratch” the viewer during inquisitive consideration and thoughtful contemplation. Here are refugees in the video-art infinitely answer “no” at a consular department, infinitely sew in and rip again the word “borders” in the video-art by Christina di Marci, the huge photos by Sama Al Shaabi reflect humiliations and sufferings of Iraqi women, and “dark process” is a chronicle of life of an afro-American in the USA in the 1960-ies. In all this a modern artist sees an important symptom of the time, when the declared universal and symbolical values turn into tragedies of the whole countries and peoples.
Jamal Usmanov is not a beginner in the contemporary art process, however, having for the first time gone beyond usual ethno-cultural associations, also addressed to a hot topic of war in photo-installation “Syria. Between past and future”. The artist was faced with a difficult task of the curator – to make a project in the lower room of the Central Exhibition Hall, where ceiling height with big windows reaches more than 16 meters, and the floor is a quite difficult open space. The viewer, being in an empty room and seeing no art object either on walls, or on the floor, having raised the head, sees that from above more than fifty pairs of children’s eyes are turned to him. These are eyes of children of war, who ask a silent question. They incorporate all tragedy and sense of what is happening today. D. Usmanov did what was unusual for him, but which was expected for this artist, who in each project oversteps the own bounds, which was found before. This is a capacious, visually simple and easily read out by a viewer metaphor, at the same time it is a sign of what happens to graphic forms. Memory of a person is so saturated today, associations are so active that induce an artist to a special terseness, and even a hint is enough to instantly recreate the whole. “A modern poet can contain in one line what the previous one padded out in four strophes”.
S. Dzhabbarov worked through his “start in life” and searches of acute pithiness not easily: as usual with our artists, he did not want relevance to the detriment of the aestheticized form. In the video installation “Corner”, on two screens reflecting a hunter from eastern miniature he managed to originally connect the theme of war, the power of mass media with the tradition of poetic interpretation of events in the East. Pop culture, distributing simple, entertaining products for a layman, turned into a powerful industry, for which huge open spaces in the CIS has also been opened. Therefore at the exhibition, along with tough projects of artists from the countries of the Middle East, the works touching a hot topic of identity were also allocated. Contemporary artists often solved it in an ironic post-modern discourse. In the textile project “The world of kind people” A. Nikolaev created simple images by naive and primitive art techniques. And in the series of collages “Turkic-Slavic dialogisms” the Ukrainian artist O. Kharchenko inventively presented parallels between miniature of the East and the folk pictures. D. Kaipov in his textile art objects in the form of a traditional carpet “Bunnylove” and robes “Captain Ikat” reveals problem in a “warm” human dimension, but with postmodern freedom, which foresees to combine the incongruous. Traditions and super-modernity coexist also in our life, generating, with surprising ease some bizarre combinations. The Ikat, having glittered on the most known world podiums, went down and spread out among wide layers of ordinary consumers. Therefore among refined pertains of traditional fabric a “stranger” image suddenly appears: the logo of Captain America or Batman, Darth Vader’s helmet or the mask from “Scream” movie. Mixing the esthetics of abrova fabrics, exotic for a western viewer, with codes of modern mass culture, D. Kaipova “aims to make “our owns” and “strangers” closer and more clear to each other, and at the same time she suggests a viewer to participate in an intricate intellectual game on recognition”. Respecting the canons of traditional art, using its universal language, she creates magnificent dressing gowns, which become a new “territory” where traditional creativity meets with mass culture. We received what we never had before and it impressed the public – folk art in contemporary contexts.
The black-and-white photo-project “Idols” by A. Shalbaev contains the same problem of pervasive passion of youth for the western mass-cultural signs and logos. Empty rooms with silently standing teenagers showing T-shirts with logos become a metaphor of that ideological emptiness, which is filled by cheap products of pop-culture. Such projects as “Victory on the border” by Stefan Russu (Moldova), installations “The first teacher” by S.Tychina and “Stops” by R.Klyaer, video work “NOTaul” and “Pilgrim” by Kazakh artists S.Tashbayeva and S.Bayaliyev deal with the problems, which are common to the Post-Soviet countries. In the project “Altar” by Z. Mansurov, a monitor, which has become for many people a “window” into the narrow world of Network, is endowed with the meaning of a new religion. In the installations it is presented rather representatively – on black velvet, with glamorous shining words, as if the artist ironically overestimates its value.
During preparation of the exhibition, the work with photographers of our country, despite a large number of interesting masters, showed one shortcoming. To such kind of exhibitions they should be prepared in the full-scale, that is examine a particular problem, considering their work with the camera as a tool of the own personal philosophical statement. This is exactly the modern biennial format. At the exhibition the photo-works by A.Akhmedyarov, Yu.Vedenin, and V.Zhirnov exploring every life were interesting. V.Zhirnov’s photo-project made an attempt to explore the everyday life of Petersburg in its different guises. Old myths about the favorite city are debunked by images of obtrusive advertising, and its symbols become “participants” in this phantasmagoria: dollar sign appeared over the spire of Peter and Paul Cathedral, and the Yusupov Palace “was honored” to become a place of advertising of glue “Moment”. For the photographer a viewpoint on the modernity is more important than sustainable and ceremonial myth about the imperial capital, and life of its citizens in the images of old men and abandoned front doors are more important than tourist sightseeing and architectural complexes. In the project “Space which is not existed” by Yu.Vedenin usual fragments of a city – endless stairs, crossings and streets – turn into a sort of refined modernist geometry, and lines of concrete constructions and urban structures are endowed with a black-and-white abstract play. It is interesting that these easily read lines and forms are turned by the artist into a kind of labyrinths of searching the own “I”, lonely and dramatic.
In the modern art you can notice the need to consider hidden and sensual as opposed to purely analytical and political gestures. The ability to find sensual images and metaphors according their force of influence is much more significant, than the concepts and words, as in the video diptych “Face” and “Cocoon” by B.Ismailov and the project by D.Rakhmanbekova. At first sight, different in character and technology of representation, they show an amazing revelation, poetic enlightenment of a certain hidden sources of mentality of the people, which always present in the modernity.
T.Akhmedov’s project “Hidden” exhibited in the Caravanserai is a story about how difficult is to find “inside oneself” an equilibrium point if he is adjusted not to soften and “tint”. How to live having separated the profane sphere of consumption from immaterial internal condition. All this “hidden” and impulsiveness of the artist are reflected in the art objects combining painting, collage made of any cheap tinsel, as well as texts. T. Akhmedov as if reveals also what is hidden behind deliberate “facade” of art – various fragments, references, paraphrases to a suprematism, Oriental poetry, all this exists like a kind of routine art. All this is expressed in the project somehow impulsively, his “reading” is procedurally, and he, in a good sense, is chaotic as an organic state for a person. And if the concept of “inalterability of the work” meaning that nothing could be added or subtracted, is often good for classical art, then for the modern art – not always good. The viewer wants to discover new meanings, looks for their variety, instead of the well-known – an element of chance. Today in the sovriska integrity as a principle of art measurement, its understanding as a certain structure, definiteness are in less demand, but concepts of a polysemy, infinity, uncertainty and approximation are increasingly appreciated. It is clearly sensed by Kazakh artists, whose works reveal natural thirst for overcoming any of “defined contours.
Along the works of the famous artists marked by participation on the most prestigious art venues, there were projects of such young artists as “5+” group, S.Astakhova, Yu.Vedenin, N.Babadzhanova, S.Erkinov and others. The exhibition marked a new milestone in development of the modern art of Uzbekistan, showing the rich creative potential of its artists, their spiritual relation with tradition of the people and attention to the urgent problems of the modern world. The presented projects show the aspiration of the Uzbek artists to be integrated into a perspective of modern culture.

Comments are closed.