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Slavs and Tatars is a collective devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. Their enquiries bring to light and recontextualise the often forgotten relations of influence between Slavs, Caucasians and Central Asians. Their work spans various media and disciplines, and  they use material from different cultural registers, from historical documents to contemporary pop culture references.

The exhibition Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz is their Canadian debut. It traces a shared genealogy between Iran and Poland, starting with two transformative moments of the late 20th century: the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and the Solidarność movement of 1980 in Poland. Presented in varying forms that range from the newspaper 79.89.09 to public projects, the elements brought together for this exhibition include pająki, banners, river-bed sculptures, photo mural, a fountain and mirrored mosaics.

Can you read what the mirrored mosaic below says? What does its peculiar message mean to you?

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Click on the image to learn more about the history of mirrored mosaics and consult the most recent Slavs and Tatars publication

There will be an opening reception for the exhibition, with the artists in attendance, on April 12th at 7 pm.

Of course, Slavs and Tatars don’t intend to speak for people of Slav or Tatar origin, but their identity makes us question how cultural histories are represented, how relationships between them are understood, and how various histories can be brushed under the carpet. It also makes one wonder: who’s actually behind this nebulous collective, spanning vast distances across a continent, and delving into centuries of historical documents? Here’s a glimpse: in this interview, Payam Sharifi takes us through late twentieth-century Iranian and Polish history, and how relationships between these histories were addressed through graphic elements and slogans migrating from one heritage to another.

 

For more information on this project, and interesting snippets of Iranian and Polish history, why not browse through the Friendship of Nations book? You can downloaded it form the Slavs and Tatars website here!

One project poking fun at how a small cultural difference can take on opposite connotations is Slavs and Tatars’ A Monobrow Manifesto. Below are two images from the work’s installation for the Frieze Sculpture Park, in London’s Regent’s Park and a photo from its encore appearance at the 10th Sharjah Biennale, in the United Arab Emirates.

Slavs and Tatars take us through some of the history of this surprising bridge of hair: ‘The monobrow is an epiphenomenon through which we can demystify the conflict between West and East often accepted as received wisdom. If in the West, the monobrow has been associated with delinquent behaviour (Victorian England) or werewolves (France), in the Middle East and the Caucasus, the monobrow is a sign of virility and sophistication. That is, if in the southern parts of Eurasia, the monobrow is hot, in the US and Europe, it’s clearly not.’ (from the S&T website)

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