SLAVS & TATARSA Monobrow Manifesto (Rostam vs Bert), 2010, PVC, print, helium, diameter 300 cm. Courtesy the artists.

Slavs & Tatars

Iran USA Poland
Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

Partially obscured by a vertical row of green fluorescent lights, Slavs & Tatars’ six-meter-long banner in the window of Tate Modern’s Level 2 Gallery in November read: “It is of utmost importance that we repeat our mistakes as a reminder to future generations of the depths of our stupidity.” Printed in glow-in-the-dark paint on rows of Persian prayer cloths, the letters of the piece, Mystical Protest, (2011),were visible at night along the Thames during the run of the two-institution, Tate-Salt collaboration, “I Decided Not to Save the World” (11/4–1/8/12). A combination of funny, serious, pessimistic and cautionary, the piece, as a prediction, seems both reasonable and apt, particularly after a year marred by renewed economic decline, violent protests and nuclear accidents.

While they would never be so explicit or didactic—their slogans remain coyly evocative—Slavs & Tatars manage to be in the right place at the right time. The collective describes themselves as “a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia,” and their output has ranged from printed materials and publications to ever-more ambitious installations and sculptures. Their installation at the Sharjah Biennial (3/16–5/16), Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz (2011), a courtyard pavilion with banners that married slogans from Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979 and Poland’s Solidarity trade-union movement of the 1980s, as well as colorful signs exclaiming “Long Live Long Live! Death to Death to!” debuted just as Bahrain’s Shiite uprising was underway. Their publication Molla Nasreddin: the magazine that would’ve could’ve should’ve (JRP | Ringer, Zürich, 2011), which garnered critical interest from both within and outside the art world, revived the satirical, early 20th-century Azeri publication that lambasted the hypocrisy of politicians and religious figures during the region’s period of modernization.

With upcoming projects about the mazars, Islamic mausoleums, of Bukhara, Slavs & Tatars head to New York for the New Museum’s “Generational” triennial in February, back to Istanbul’s Salt in March for the second part of “I Decided Not to Save the World,” followed by the Vienna Secession in May, a “Projects” show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in August and the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart in September.