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We're a team of eight artists, curators and critics with a broader network of art professionals on the post-soviet, post-communist and diasporic spaces. With our ability to grasp, to describe and to invert the sensable, we might be your best collaborator.
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Mission

 

TransitoryWhite is a journal of overlapping, multi-voiced accounts documenting peripheral artistic productions.

The project was launched in 2017 by a group of curators, art specialists and artists from Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia living in Berlin/Vienna. 

We aimed to create an intersectional platform for discussing decolonization, post-neoliberalism trauma and the possibility of dispersive views on the so-called post-communist territories.

Since 2019, the platform has also operated in the trajectories of migrant and post-displacement discourse, expanding its activities from the geographical pole "East" to the global. In response to the growing nationalistic discourse, it is crucial for our investigation to represent artists and theorists with different identities and ideas for the future. In this way, TransitoryWhite emphasizes the productive interaction between different multitudes rather than dualities. 

TransitoryWhite understands whiteness as a metaphor for colonialism, or as a white, self-contained exhibition space where the hierarchy of discourses and images is prejudiced. Instead, we turn to the idea of White Noise; a signal or constant disturbance, something cacophonic, turbulent and restless which fluctuates and transforms our perspectives.

Contributors

Laura Arena

Laura Arena is a Level 3 Reiki practitioner certified and licensed in the state of New York. She's a graduate of the Art of Energetic Healing School located in Manhattan with spiritual teacher and master healer Suzy Meszoly. Next to being a Level 3 Reiki practitioner, Laura is a multidisciplinary artist, activist, designer, and curator based in Brooklyn, New York. Arena’s work encompasses photography, video, installation, writing, and social interventions with a focus on storytelling, human rights causes, gameplay, race, and identity. She has exhibited in galleries and festivals worldwide and has participated in events in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Arena has attended residencies and workshops in Greenland, Iceland, Romania, Hungary, Palestine, Turkey, and the United States. 

In 2021 she will be mapping the Chakras of Berlin as an artist in resident at Z/KU (Center for Art and Urbanistics).

Read her article: CHAKRAS OF TBILISI

Mariya Dmitrieva

Mariya Dmitrieva is an artist, independent curator, and cyberfeminist. She is a co-organiser of Studiya 4413 in St. Petersburg, Russia, a self-regulated, artist/activist-run platform functioning as an intersection of diverse social strata, queer-crip optics, artistic mediums, contemporary critical thinking, and adequate political action; Maria is a member of N i i c h e g o d e l a t ‘ (Donoothing), a network of flickering, horizontal laboratories of political imagination researching and redescribing ideas around work ethic, machine vs human relations, and connectivity between utopian and real, and initiator of Free mapping project, a digital platform calibrating alternative culture-political landscape of self-organised liberal associations/projects, and coordinator of p2p&hackercare, a translocal agency.

Read her articles: TRANSBOUNDRY MIGRATION OF CARE: PANDEMIA AFTER 8TH OF MARCH (EN), ТРАНСГРАНИЧНАЯ МИГРАЦИЯ ЗАБОТЫ: ПАНДЕМИЯ ПОСЛЕ 8 МАРТА (RU)

Ina Hildebrandt

Ina Hildebrandt is an art historian and cultural journalist.

Read her articles and interviews: ON THE LOOP

Ivan Isaev

Ivan Isaev is an independent curator, based in Moscow. He curated platform Start, Winzavod, season 2014-15, and “Leaving Tomorrow” exhibition (2015, Moscow), participated at Infra-Curatorial Platform at 11th Shanghai Biennale (2016). He is a co-founder of «Triangle» curatorial studio (Moscow, 2014-2016) and later initiated platform blind_spot. Ivan Isaev is now a curator of Garage Studios program at Garage MCA, Moscow.

Read his article: THE LAST SPARKS

Anna Kamay

Anna Kamay is an independent curator and cultural manager hailing from Yerevan, Armenia. Anna organizes community-based art projects with the goal of using public space and art to meet local needs and manages Nest Artist Residency and Community Center at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Yerevan.

Read her article: JUGGLING DINOSAURS, 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, (IT WOULD BE) NICE TO MEET YOU, TOO

Victoria Kravtsova

Victoria Kravtsova has studied International Relations in St. Petersburg and Berlin. In Berlin she is active in NGO projects in Eastern Europe, co-organizing seminars and exchange programs in the fields of environment, human rights, gender equality and civic education. Victoria receives a scholarship from Heinrich Böll Foundation and is engaged in writing her thesis “Between the ‘posts’, out of the void” where she traces the travels of the contemporary feminist discourses to and from Central Asia.

Read her articles and interviews: EMBRACE YOUR ANTITHESIS, WANDERING POETICS OF CENTRAL ASIAN MESTIZAS, WHERE THE ROSES GROW, Interview with Madina Tlostanova Part I and Part II, БУМЕРАНГ КОЛОНИЗАЦИИ

Melikset Panosian

Melikset Panosian is a writer and translator from Gyumri, Armenia. He participated in artistic projects focusing on the troubled past of Gyumri, borders, conflicts and consequent traumas since 2012. Panosian contributed to a number of literary magazines in Armenia such as Queering Yerevan, Gretert and Yeghegan Pogh. He also participated in the translation of Hannah Arendt’s “We refugees” into the Armenian language. Melikset Panosian’s published works include art book “Out In Head” (2012), “Silent Stroll”, a novella he authored in 2014, and the Armenian translation of Kardash Onnig’s “Savage Chic: A Fool's Chronicle of the Caucasus” published in 2017.

Read his article: (IT WOULD BE) NICE TO MEET YOU, TOO

Leah Peirce

Leah Peirce (b. 2002 in Berlin, Germany) is a Berlin-based poet, with Georgian and English background.  She works with words, sound, images and performative art. Her multilingual poems explore the fluidity of languages, the barriers they bear, how language holds culture and visa versa.

Read her poetry: LEAH PEIRCE

Daria Prydybailo

Daria Prydybailo is a curator, researcher, founder of the TRSHCHN platform and co-founder of the NGO Art Matters Ukraine.

Read her article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, ВАГІТНІ РЕВОЛЮЦІЄЮ, ВЗАЄМОПОВ'ЯЗАНІ ТА ВЗАЄМОЗАЛЕЖНІ

Thibaut de Ruyter

Saltanat Shoshanova

Saltanat Shoshanova is currently pursuing her Master's degree in History of Arts at the Free University Berlin. Her research interests include art in connection to queer and feminist theory, queer migration, decoloniality and post-Soviet space. She is an activist and co-organized several queer feminist conferences in Vienna and Berlin.

Read her article: ON LANGUAGE OF SUPREMACY: MEDINA BAZARGALI IN CONVERSATION, 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, ÜBER SPRACHE DER VORHERRSCHAFT: GESPRÄCH MIT MEDINA BAZARGALI (DE)

Julia Sorokina

Yuliya Sorokina is freelance curator of contemporary art, lecturer, tutor, author of texts, lives and works in Almaty, Kazakhstan. 

Read her article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE

Antonina Stebur

Antonina Stebur is a curator and researcher. She studied visual and cultural sciences at the European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania) and at the School of Engaged Art of the art group "Chto Delat? (Saint Petersburg, Russia). She is a member of the artist group #damaudobnayavbytu ("Woman comfortable in everyday life"), which examines the feminist agenda in the Russian and Belarusian context. She has curated a number of exhibitions in Belarus, Russia, Poland, France and China. Her research areas and curatorial interests are: community, re-composition of everyday practices, feminist critique, new sensibility, grassroots initiatives.

Read her articles: ICH LIEBE DICH!, ANOTHER PRODUCTION DRAMA, МЫ СЁННЯ ЗНАХОДЗІМСЯ Ў ІНШАЙ ВЫТВОРЧАЙ ДРАМЕ, 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE

Annika Terwey

Annika Terwey is a German-Italian new media designer & artist. She studied visual communication at the Berlin University of the Arts and graduated from the new media class. In her work, she is exploring new forms of communication through interaction design, video installation and exhibitions. Her interest range from environmental science, new technologies and human perception.

Read her article: ON LANGUAGE OF SUPREMACY: MEDINA BAZARGALI IN CONVERSATION, ÜBER SPRACHE DER VORHERRSCHAFT: GESPRÄCH MIT MEDINA BAZARGALI (DE)

Alex Ulko

Alexey Ulko was born in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in 1969. After graduating form Samarkand University with a diploma in English he obtained an MEd TTELT degree from the University of St Mark and St John (UK). Since 2003 he has been working as a freelance consultant in English, Culture Studies and Art for various cultural organisations. Has been making experimental films since 2007 and is an active writer about Central Asian contemporary art. His current artistic interests: experimental cinema, photography, visual poetry. Member of the European Society for Central Asian Studies, the Association of Art Historians (UK) and the Central Eurasian Studies Society (USA).

Read his article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, THE SHIFT OF THE PARADIGM IN MODERN CENTRAL ASIAN ART, THE OTHER EAST

Lolisanam Ulug

Lola Ulugova (Lolisanam) has been an activist in Tajikistan since 2000.  She was the founding director of Tajik Bio-Cultural Initiatives a non-governmental organization dedicated to Tajik arts and environmental issues. In 2013, she wrote and produced the nation's first 3-D animation film, a short designed to promote awareness of environmental issues among children. Previously, she has produced several cultural DVDs archiving Tajik dance and biocultural diversity; was a Field Production Manager on the documentary Buzkashi! By Najeeb Mirza (Canada); from 1999-2005 was the manager of Gurminj Museum. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Turin, Italy and an undergraduate degree in Russian Language and Literature. She was a Global Cultural Fellow at the Institute for International Cultural Relations of the University of Edinburgh in 2017-18 and participated in Central Asian-Azerbaijan (CAAFP) fellowship program at the George Washington University at Elliott School of International affairs in 2019.

Read her article: 2019 CURATOR'S CHOICE, NUDE ART AS A MIRROR OF SOCIETY

Katharina Wiedlack

Katharina Wiedlack is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt University Berlin. Her research fields are primarily queer and feminist theory, popular culture, postsocialist, decolonial and disability studies. Currently, she is working on a research project focused on the construction of Russia, LGBTIQ+ issues and dis/ability within Western media. http://katharinawiedlack.com

Read her article: IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO MAKE FILMS QUEERLY THAN TO MAKE QUEER FILMS

Олексій Кучанський

Олексій Кучанський - дослідник і критик експериментального кіно та відео-мистецтва, есеїст. Живе і працює у Києві. Цікавиться політиками комунікативного експериментування, екософією Ф. Ґваттарі, не-есенціалістською екологічною теорією, постгуманістичним фемінізмом, процесуально-орієнтованою філософією. Колишній учасник активістської ініціативи Occupy Kyiv Cinemas - руху проти комерціалізації і знищення комунальних кінотеатрів Києва. Співавтор художнього проекту komaxa. щоденник резистентності - лабораторії молекулярного страйку в умовах цифрової праці.

Читайте його статтю: КАМУФЛЯЖ. ПЕДАГОГІКА КСЕНОФІЛІЇ

 

Kundry Reif

Kundry Reif is an aspiring curator, artist and cultural sciences academic.

Read her articles: I am not toilet paper, ARTISTS FROM CENTRAL ASIA (EDITORS PICK)

People

Ira Konyukhova

Ira Konyukhova is an artist, writer and instagram feminist activist. She studied Physics in Moscow and fine art in Mainz, Reykjavik and Media Art and Media Theory at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (HFG), which she finished with diploma in 2017. In her practice, she explores the connection between female sexuality, pop-resilience and colonial technological practices which are embodied mainly but not only in video, sculpture and installation. Her works have been presented on various international festivals and exhibitions, including DocLisboa, Athens Biennale, Teneriffa Espacio del Arte, Exground Film Festival e.t. Konyukhova was a grantee of Rhineland-Palatinate Media and Film Promotion Prize, BS Projects Residence Program as well ifa travel grant.

Ina Hildebrandt

Ina Hildebrandt is an art historian and cultural journalist. Born in Kazakhstan, she grew up as a so-called Russian-German in the south of Germany. After spending years of total assimilation she developed a strong interest in her cultural roots. Several long travels and stays took her to Easter-Europe over Russia to Central-Asia. Thereby she started to focus more on those regions also as art historian and journalist. She lives and works in Berlin. 

Tamara Khasanova

Tamara Khasanova is an emerging art professional and aspiring young curator. Born in Ukraine into a Ukrainian-Uzbek family, and later moving to the UK and the US early in life, she was exposed to various social dynamics while perceiving everything through the lens of her cultural legacy. This experience led her to question ideas surrounding cultural hegemony, national identity, and globalisation in the context of Post-Socialist states. In her professional and academic practice, she is concerned with a lack of representation of Eastern European and Central Asian regions on a large scale and committed to developing a sustainable dialogue between parts of the world so dear to her heart. Currently, she is doing a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Studio Art in San Francisco, CA. She starts her M.A. program in Curatorial Practice at the School of Visual Arts, New York this Fall.

Pavel Metelitsyn

Pavel Metelitsyn is a software engineer and developer focusing on interactive data presentation, user interfaces and web technologies. He is driven by the idea of making the information more accessible through interactivity and gamification. Working together with creative agencies he implemented interactive multimedia stations for Neues Historisches Museum, Frankfurt/Main, made a kiosk app for a permanent exhibition at Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Frankfurt/Main. Besides that, he works with a wide range of clients from FinTech Startups to national research institutions, helping them to collect, process and present the business information. Pavel holds an M.Sc. in Mathematics.

Sascia Reibel

Sascia Reibel is a graphic and product designer. Her focus lays on printed matter, especially books and posters, with a strong dedication for typography. She engages in projects within the field of culture, art, and education. She studies communication design at the University of Art and Design Karlsruhe and has also studied in the design master program of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. Her work has been honoured with several awards, including «Most Beautiful Swiss Books», «Most Beautiful Books from all over the world», «Bronze Nail, ADC», as well as the «Badge of Typographic Excellence, TDC New York.

Thibaut de Ruyter

Thibaut de Ruyter is a French architect, curator and critic who lives and works in Berlin since 2001. In the last ten years, he has organized exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Bochum, Museum Kunstpalais Düsseldorf, Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt, HMKV in Dortmund, EIGEN + ART Lab and CTM in Berlin, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź and CRP/ in Douchy-les -Mines. One of his latest projects is a travelling exhibition co-curated with Inke Arns for the Goethe-Institut: « The Border », that calls into question the dividing line between Asia and Europe in the former Soviet states. Since 2017 this exhibition was exhibited in St Petersburg, Moscow, Tashkent, Almaty, Krasnoyarsk (u.A.) and ended its trip in Erevan in 2019. His areas of interest range from new media to spiritism via "exhibitions that are not exhibitions". Most of his projects are related to everyday, pop or underground culture. He has been the German correspondent for the French magazine artpress since 2003.

Iryna Dzhava

Iryna Dzhava is a teacher, translator, cultural project manager and marketing specialist. Her vision is better and accessible education to everyone. She is emphasizing the importance of the Humanities in our education. Iryna is interested in art and literature. She is the one to show you, how to create your very first etching picture and to inspire you to look deeper into the biographies of some famous people of the last century. Iryna was collaborating with TransitoryWhite as a UX- and marketing adviser between January and October 2020.

 

Chinara Majidova

Chinara Majidova graduated from the International Law Department of Baku State University in 2010 and has since worked as a writer, painter and video artist. She has been a contributing photojournalist and writer for the Ajam Media Collective, working on projects such as Mehelle charting the disappearance of the historic Baku district called Sovetski, and for Chai Khana, a multimedia platform covering diverse events and issues in the South Caucasus. She has also participated in a number of local and international group exhibitions spanning art and journalism and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Cultural Heritage Policy and Management at the Central European University in Vienna. Chinara was doing an internship at TransitoryWhite in July 2020.

Daria Prydybailo

Daria Prydybailo is a curator, researcher, founder of the TRSHCHN platform and co-founder of the NGO Art Matters Ukraine. Her background includes +7 years in leading cultural institutions of Ukraine such as National museum complex Art Arsenal and CCA PinchukArtCentre, as well as independent curatorial practice with a strong focus on the body in contemporary art, sensual turn, sound art, and in-situ projects. She worked on large-scale international projects such as International forum Art Kyiv, the First Kyiv Biennale of contemporary art ARSENALE 2012, and Ukrainian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. Daria was working with TransitoryWhite as an editor and advisor on Ukrainian art scene since December 2019 till October 2020.

Willi Reinecke

Willi Reinecke is a film director, writer, and researcher on Lev Vygotsky's Psychology of Art at the Institute for East European Studies (Freie Universität Berlin). He is teaching at Szondi-Institute for Comparative Literature and Institute for East European Studies. He worked as assistant director of the documentary film "Familienleben" which premiered at Berlinale 2018. The film was nominated for German Documentary Film Award and was awarded prizes at Saratov Sufferings Festival (RU) and Neisse Filmfestival (GER). He's currently working on documentary films for Institute of Contemporary Art Yerevan and Deutsche Gesellschaft e.V. Willi was collaborating with TransitoryWhite as editor and adviser since March 2019 till July 2020.

Sholpan Zhanuzakova

After a 20 year career in the global corporate sector, Sholpan gained an MA Degree in Contemporary Art in 2017. She is based in London and is currently an independent researcher. Her trans-disciplinary research interests include Industrial Colonization of Kazakhstan and The Effects of Colonialism on Language. Sholpan holds an MBA Degree and consults in Art & Business Strategy & Communications. She worked at the Education Department of documenta 14 in 2017. Sholpan holds a university degree in Language Studies as well. Sholpan was helping with sales strategy in November 2020.

26th October 2020

Тайный музей профсоюзного и рабочего движения

article

Алексей Борисёнок
ru

8th October 2020

Надия Кааби-Линке. Возвращение к себе

interview

ru

1st October 2020

Aqil Abdullayev ilə müsahibə

interview

az

28th September 2020

Snap Out of The Past

interview

Interview with Agil Abdullayev
en

24th September 2020

Unfinished protest

interview

en

8th September 2020

День имеет право на конец

article

Вика Кравцова
ru

26th August 2020

Центр постсовесткой реабилитации

interview

ru

18th August 2020

Belarus streikt - Brief an die Arbeiter*innen

article

Anatoli Ulyanov
de

15th August 2020

Зварот культурных работніц і работнікаў Беларусі

article

by

14th August 2020

Within the borders

article

Olga Davydik
en

13th August 2020

Спусковой механизм

article

Антонина Стебур
ru

6th August 2020

МОЯ ВАГИНА. СВОБОДА ЕЕ ГОЛОСА

article

Галины Рымбу. Алина Копица.
ru

23rd July 2020

Adieu, Utopia

interview

Interview with Diana U
en

14th July 2020

Solidarity Asunder

article

Alex Fisher
en

8th July 2020

The Presence of Absence

article

Nadia Tsulukidze
en/ge

1st July 2020

The reality of real bodies

article

Sasha Shestakova
en

30th June 2020

THERE IS MORE THAN ONE GARAGE IN THE WORLD

article

Thibaut de Ruyter
en

26th June 2020

18 мая

article

Рух Зильберштерн
ru

18th June 2020

The Other East

article

Alexey Ulko
en

15th June 2020

Бумеранг колонизации

article

Виктория Кравцова
ru

9th June 2020

Hiding in a plain Sight

article

Sasha Shestakova
en

7th June 2020

Не-чужеродность чужих

article

Ира Конюхова
ru

6th June 2020

Аварийное оповещение

article

Тамара Хасанова
ru

5th June 2020

Вагітні революцією, взаємопов'язані та взаємозалежні

article

Дар'я Придибайло
ua

28th May 2020

ARTISTS FROM CENTRAL ASIA

text-only

our very special and very well selected editors pick
en

21st May 2020

Zero Line Of Sight

interview

Interview with Bella Sabirova
en

14th May 2020

PULLING OURSELVES OUT OF THE SWAMP

article

By Meder Akhmetov, Darina Manasbek, Philipp Reichmuth
en

5th May 2020

SLIT YOUR THROAT IN A SEMI-FICTIONAL FOG

article

Alex Fisher
en

30th April 2020

I am not toilet paper

interview

Conversation with Moldavian artist Tatiana Fiodorova
en

21st April 2020

Nude Art as a Mirror of Society

article

Lolisanam Ulugova
en

17th April 2020

Exit from the Colony Farewell to the Empire

article

Lesia Prokopenko
en

14th April 2020

Камуфляж. Педагогіка ксенофілії

article

Олексій Кучанський
ua

7th April 2020

The last sparks

article

Ivan Isaev
en

6th April 2020

Leah Peirce

article

en

29th March 2020

Трансграничная миграция заботы

article

пандемия после 8 марта
Мария Дмитриева
ru

25th March 2020

Transboundary migration of care

article

pandemia after 8th of March
Mariya Dmitrieva
en

9th March 2020

(It would be) NICE TO MEET YOU, TOO

article

Anna Kamay and Melikset Panosian
en

5th March 2020

Open Letter by PinchukArtCentre Trade Union members

article

en

26th February 2020

The shift of the paradigm in modern Central Asian art

article

Alexey Ulko
en

4th February 2020

Embrace Your Antithesis

interview

Interview with Slavs and Tatars
en

1st February 2020

Chakras of Tbilisi

article

Laura Arena
en

29th January 2020

2019 Curator's choice

article

en

17th January 2020

On the loop

interview

Interview with Gago Gagoshidze
en

23rd December 2019

"Мы сёння знаходзімся ў іншай вытворчай драме"

interview

Работай Больше! Отдыхай Больше!
by

5th December 2019

Another production drama

interview

Interview with WORK HARD! PLAY HARD! working group
en

20th November 2019

Wandering poetics of Central Asian mestizas

interview

Interview with Krëlex Zentre
en

6th November 2019

Conversation with Julieta Aranda and Anna Kamay

interview

en

1st November 2019

Über die Sprache der Vorherrschaft

interview

ein Gespräch mit Medina Bazargali
de

29th October 2019

Where the roses grow

interview

Interview with Almagul Menlibaeva
en

25th October 2019

On language of supremacy: Medina Bazargali in conversation

interview

en

10th October 2019

Madina Tlostanova on decolonizing the post-Soviet, exotization and political imagination(s)

interview

part two
en

1st October 2019

There Is Sex After Soviet Union! (German)

article

Ira Konyukhova
de

26th September 2019

Madina Tlostanova on feminism, coloniality, returned pasts and reimagined futures

interview

part one
en

6th September 2019

It is more important to make films queerly than to make queer films

interview

en

1st July 2019

Juggling Dinosaurs

article

The precariousness of motherhood in arts
Anna Kamay
en

24th June 2019

Interview with Elene Abashidze

interview

en

14th June 2019

Unfortunately, we cannot pay for your flight and accommodation

article

Thibaut de Ruyter
en

28th May 2019

Ich liebe dich!

article

Antonina Stebur
de

17th May 2019

Interview with Anna Vahrami

interview

en

23rd April 2019

Artist Portrait: Anastasia Akhvlediani

portrait

en

13th April 2019

Artist Portrait: Alisa Berger

article

Thibaut de Ruyter
en

21st March 2019

Faig Ahmed

interview

de

18th March 2019

There Is Sex After Soviet Union!

article

Irina Konyukhova
en

11th March 2019

Interview mit Samvel Saghatelian

interview

de

8th March 2019

Artist Portrait: Salome Dumbadze

portrait

en

4th March 2019

Interview mit Chinara Majidova

interview

Klang des Brunners vor einer Fassade
de

26th February 2019

East Wind - Art in the Former Soviet Republics

article

Thibaut de Ruyter
en
Anama deyin, balası qayıdacaq birazdan (Tell my mother, her baby will be back soon), still, 2018
Courtesy of the Artist
Buna görə, mən zor uşaqlarla oturmuram (That’s why I don’t hang out with the cool kids), group performance, 2019
Courtesy of the Artist
Buna görə, mən zor uşaqlarla oturmuram (That’s why I don’t hang out with the cool kids), group performance, 2019
Courtesy of the Artist
Installation view of the "Women with moustaches and men without beards," 2019-2020
Courtesy of the Artist
Müasirlikdən sonrakı cəmiyyətin iki çırtması (Two snaps of the post-modern society), still, 2020
Courtesy of the Artist
Installation view of the "Women with moustaches and men without beards," 2019-2020
Courtesy of the Artist

Changes unearth now. You hear the snap of garden-fresh pea pod from afar - and here they are, crisp and juicy - ready to amend the obsolete. Agil Abdullayev, true to his beliefs in the alteration of the art scene in Azerbaijan, shared his thoughts on obstacles he had to face, future plans, and current conditions in the interview with Chinara Majidova.

Chinara Majidova

You are an interdisciplinary artist who now explores yourself as a curator. Recently you launched the online platform ÇAĞDAŞÇILAR, based on discussions about contemporary art in Azerbaijan. What are the primary mission of this platform and future plans for it?

Agil Abdullayev

ÇAĞDAŞÇILAR is an art critical platform that brings together local contemporaries (artists, as well as art crowd hanging here and there) for critical discussions. It’s something I had been thinking, writing, and planning for almost two years since I moved back to my hometown in Azerbaijan in late 2018. I guess as it happens to everyone coming back home after studying abroad for a long time, I was very much focused on recollecting memories, friends, and colleagues and looking in-depth on what I missed in the four years of my absence. One of the key things that didn't change, left unnoticed, and still harms artists in our local art industry, is the absence of a constructive cross-disciplinary approach to art-making and its management.

 

Anama deyin, balası qayıdacaq birazdan (Tell my mother, her baby will be back soon), still, 2018
Courtesy of the Artist

It's a globally unsustainable industry, but when we keep complaining and directing our issues at the wrong places without valid research or accurate sources, this small art industry in Azerbaijan might disappear or fall into predicament. To me, this whole situation felt like an endless dark tunnel, guiding us to nowhere. That's when I thought the scene is asking for a platform like ÇAĞDAŞÇILAR, to discuss and document our current post-modern art scene.

 

Buna görə, mən zor uşaqlarla oturmuram (That’s why I don’t hang out with the cool kids), group performance, 2019
Courtesy of the Artist

Today, we have four people on a team. We aim to establish a new and creative outlook on criticism by inviting local cultural professionals and art crowd to review ongoing local contemporary art exhibitions, education, art management, and artsy gossip. ÇAĞDAŞÇILAR’s discussions attempt to redefine the way art is presented nowadays and encourage artists to engage with criticism in the digital age, as well as to approach criticism by connecting to the art makers and goers through emotional and sensorial stories designed to provoke inspiration and debate. We also work on our ACA (Azerbaijani Contemporary Artists) database consisting of more than 300 artists (including but not limited to curators, painters, sculptors, directors, illustrators, photographers, art critics, and teachers). I would say that one of the main long term goals of ÇAĞDAŞÇILAR is to increase knowledge on the artistic and cultural heritage of Azerbaijan, as well as expand the recognition and outreach of Azerbaijani artists worldwide.

Chinara Majidova

Could you please tell us more about your latest project Two Snaps of Post-Modern Society? What is the project about? How did you select and cast interviewees and film characters? What was the reason behind your choice to make a piece about the gender role in Azerbaijani society, and why do you find it necessary?

Agil Abdullayev

In the last five years, educators in the women's rights field have redefined activism through hard work on gender equality. It took a new form of collaborating and influencing each other, made by small steps for significant changes. So my interest was to observe to what extent these improvements had an impact on the peripheries. I wanted to see whether this amazing work and voices of activists based in the capital reach the regions, and what these voices achieve in the villages with no electricity. Even though the result varied from my initial idea, the Two Snaps of The Post-Modern became my first documentary film. For this, I traveled to Qakh in the north, then Selibur, known as a village situated in Azerbaijan's highest peak. Also, traveled, perhaps, to the two most conservative regions in the south - Lerik and Lankaran. Mostly, I stayed in small neighborhoods for a few days learning about their local lifestyle, and sometimes getting into "tough conversations'' at the dinner table. For instance, questioning why female members do not sit at the table with the rest of the family. I was trying to emerge into their culture as much as possible in the short period, without forcing them into my narratives while making them feel comfortable around me and the camera.

 

Buna görə, mən zor uşaqlarla oturmuram (That’s why I don’t hang out with the cool kids), group performance, 2019
Courtesy of the Artist

The film juxtaposed against the interview with Aysel Akhundzade, one of the founding members of the feminist channel Femiskop; she is aware of the problems women face today on every level in such a patriarchal country like Azerbaijan. Questioning the performance of  the activism in gender equality in post-modern society with consideration to Azerbaijan and history of the Western feminism, as well as relations between city and village, public and private, the film highlights the issues regarding women's right in Azerbaijan, from our daily lives to major issues, such as catcalling, sexism, gender bias, economic inequality, access to equal opportunities, the lack of girls’ education, early marriage, and others. Women are involved in all parts of society, but some matters affect them more than others -  from the power of the women's vote in politics to the participation in the decision-making on reproductive rights and the pay gap. Hence, it was and is vital to bring this to focus andl tell a story of how female identities are shaped here within current radical cultural and historical complexities, and how the misogynistic behaviors are traumatizing all of us, and not only women.

Chinara Majidova

Two Snaps of Post-Modern Society, we often see your signature techniques: green curtains and symbolic animation. What was the idea behind using these techniques as artistic tools? Does it mean something to you?

Agil Abdullayev

Oh! That’s easy. As a person with ADHD, I tend to make referential visuals that keep me, and the audience focused on watching the video until the end. I also think it  makes the film lighter when stories are visualized with and from different contents.

 

Installation view of the "Women with moustaches and men without beards," 2019-2020
Courtesy of the Artist

But the chrome key always played a role of free-imagination and softness in my works, which sort of allows the audiences to see whatever they want behind the person on the video, and it expands our views based on the told story topics.

Chinara Majidova

What was the starting point for you in your practice?

Agil Abdullayev

Post-traumatic painting. I wasn’t in a very good place in my life when I started making art, and as cliché as it sounds, it was painting. It was the most accessible medium I could find in the art shop near my university, where I studied computer engineering. Today I am happy, and I haven’t made a single painting in the last six years. Ideally, I would love not to label myself and leave this to others. Still, I guess in today’s interconnected world, being categorized as an interdisciplinary artist fits with what I am doing. I make art that mostly manifests through video, performance, photography, screen-print. I also write essays, and I am a researcher, curator, and visual thinker who tries to develop employable skills like adaptability, open-mindedness, self-management, problem-solving, and resilience.

Chinara Majidova

Nowadays, you are one of the artists in Azerbaijan who works on projects about queer culture. Your recent project, “Loud Sirens of the Caspian Bodies” was presented at the Salaam Cinema Baku. Tell us more about this project. What was the outcome of the exhibition for you? To what extent do you think the public in Azerbaijan open to discuss and accept queer community?

Agil Abdullayev

Her name is Rashida. Lady Adele Rashida Baghlava. She is my teenagehood alter-ego that I came up with when I had my first sexual experience. She sort of stayed with me ever since then, even later, when I fully accepted my queer body and identity. But when I was telling about her to my dear friend Christos (who is a drag queen in between many things), he suggested creating Rashida physically and making a photo-performance with her, which was very unusual for me as I had never seen physically any of my alter-egos or imaginary friends. That’s how this whole work was done. Later, upon my return to Baku, I showed a heavily edited version of Loud sirens of the Caspian bodies in Salaam Cinema’s opening exhibition. Images in the piece reflect cultural, historical, and social impacts on forming our queer bodies and identities.

 

Müasirlikdən sonrakı cəmiyyətin iki çırtması (Two snaps of the post-modern society), still, 2020
Courtesy of the Artist

My content becomes heavy and bitter in attempts to discover my identity and its cultural, social, and historical complexities. It is contrasted with queerness, although my visuals are relatively mild and subtle. They are not very “queer,” which might be overly controversial content for Azerbaijan. Most of the questions coming from the public were related to Rashida’s gender. People would ask if “it’s a girl or boy.” In one of the works, Rashida stands in the hall while the framed pictures around her convey her sexual desires. At this point, I think art in Azerbaijan has an enlightening educational purpose; therefore, as long as we as artists have the privilege of influencing people’s bits of knowledge and understanding about gender and sexuality, we have to be very careful with how we do it, so we don’t fall into the rabbit hole of creating new clichés about LGBTQ+ communities that can potentially harm them, while most are looking for acceptance. 

Chinara Majidova

In May 2019, you curated a group show “Women with mustaches and men without beard.” Please share your thoughts with us on curatorial experience? What difficulties did you encounter  during the curatorial process? How did your  experience of being an artist help you curate the project, and would you like to continue?

Agil Abdullayev

It was the first time I curated an exhibition in Azerbaijan that opened at the same time with Salaam Cinema's queer and feminist film festival “IN-VISIBLE,” hence it was very crucial for me to bring together artists whose practices are loud and queer. The exhibition opened the discussion on the eastern queer history, the new shape of gender and sexuality in Azerbaijan’s culture and politics, and how these changes have influenced concepts of family, love, nationality, marriage, and citizenship..

 

Installation view of the "Women with moustaches and men without beards," 2019-2020
Courtesy of the Artist

At the time, I was also a managing member of Salaam Cinema. While working with such artists as Rene Matić, Ilkin Huseynov, Taus Makhacheva, as well as artist collectives AZAD LGBTQ and EQUALS was very smooth and joyful, there was a clash with directors of the space during the management and installation, which made the environment feeling toxic. I was feeling very anxious and responsible for the exhibition's every tiny detail all the time. At that point, Salaam Cinema was trying to institutionalize the place, which I think is a rubbish thing to do when your space is already loved as an alternative and independent art space. The whole experience made me feel upset but at the same time helped me to recognize why we have so few curators in Azerbaijan, leaving me feeling sorry for those 3-4 local curators working in this sector.

Chinara Majidova

What are you working on at the moment?

Agil Abdullayev

In my daily activities, I am mostly focused on the management of ÇAĞDAŞÇILAR, as it is all very new for me. For the past two years, I have been researching the local contemporary art scene and currently working on finishing my essay. The essay plays a role of a VR guide that navigates a viewer through a tall building allowing them to explore the artistic community. It is the third part of my research, which initially comprises four parts that deal with analysing the art scene of the last decade in Azerbaijan. The research is focused on the scene that once was dominated by exclusivity but now centered around the positive radicalism of inclusivity. However, we can’t observe these changes being followed in the management of organizations and artistic communities.

 

 

 

Currently living and working in his hometown, Agil Abdullayev manifests his practice by blending conceptual essays, humor, and social commentary through a combination of video, installation, and performance. Agil’s works were shown in group and solo exhibitions internationally. Abdullayev was  selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2018 and was a recipient of Attic Residency by One Throsby Street in Nottingham, UK. He was awarded individual project grants by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, BKA Eastern grant for Summer Academy in Salzburg, and Cittadellarte for Community Based Projects, in 2019. In 2017, alongside artist and curator Emily Simpson, Agil co-founded the online residency and exhibition space WUU2? He was  a member of the independent art and film space Salaam Cinema Baku from 2019 to 2020. Agil Abdullayev is a founder of the critical thinking and artists’ discussion platform “Çağdaşçılar” that was launched in May 2020.  

 

Chinara Majidova graduated from the International Law Department of Baku State University in 2010 and has worked as a writer, painter, and video artist ever since. She was a contributing photojournalist and writer for the Ajam Media Collective, working on projects such as Mehelle charting the disappearance of the historic Baku district called Sovetski, and for Chai Khana, a multimedia platform covering diverse events and issues in the South Caucasus. She participated in several local and international group exhibitions spanning art and journalism and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Cultural Heritage Policy and Management at the Central European University in Vienna.

 

Editing&Translating: Tamara Khasanova

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