Presentation House Gallery opens Slavs and Tatars Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz

Presentation House Gallery presents Slavs and Tatars Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz on view April 12–May 26, 2013.

Reverse Joy, 2013. Dyed public fountain. Sheraton Wall Center Plaza, Vancouver. Image: Andrea Demers

Reverse Joy, 2013. Dyed public fountain. Sheraton Wall Center Plaza, Vancouver. Image: Andrea Demers

The exhibition Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz traces the shared points of convergence in Iran and Poland’s respective economic, political and cultural histories. The project draws on research that stretches from Sarmatism, a seventeenth-century Polish movement, to the recent Green movement in Iran, with particular emphasis on the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and Solidarność of 1980s Poland—two key moments that bookend the stories of twenty-first century political Islam and twentieth-century communism respectively. Channeling the folklore and artisanal crafts of both cultures, Slavs and Tatars examine the potential for these modes of production to present and redeem hospitality between ideas, faiths, cultures and languages.

The elements brought together for this exhibition include pająki (originally, Polish folk objects constructed from found materials to give thanks for the year’s harvest), banners, a mirror mosaic, a book archive, a photomural, a take away newspaper and a public fountain. Central to the exhibition is Dear 1979, Meet 1989 (2011), an installation of traditional vernacular Persian riverbeds (takhts) with stands, originally used for holy books (rahlé), to display books and printed ephemera from Slavs and Tatars’ archive on the Iranian Revolution and Poland’s Solidarność. Historically used across Central Asia and Iran as collective seating, the riverbeds allows for public seating in a place sorely lacking in public space. They provide a place where workers or groups of young men and women can meet, share a meal, tea, hooka (ghalyian) and discuss political views. Here, the riverbeds serve as a resting area in the exhibition that double as a platform for reading, viewing, reflection and discussion.

As part of the exhibition, Presentation House Gallery has launched the first North American installation of Reverse Joy, a public artwork by Slavs and Tatars in which natural pigments have been used to safely dye fountain water red. Located in the heart of Vancouver at the Wall Center Plaza, this captivating work raises the many contradictory meanings associated with the colour red. It is at once playfully festive and disturbingly reminiscent of blood. The fountain also has political and religious connotations – such as the commemoration of martyrs—that resonate differently in each place it is staged.

Slavs and Tatars is an artist collective devoted to exploring the cultures of Eurasia, which extends roughly from the former Berlin Wall to the Great Wall of China. Their artwork spans several media, disciplines, and a broad spectrum of cultural forms, focusing on an oft-forgotten sphere of influence between Slavs, Caucasians and Central Asians. Their internationally acclaimed projects have been exhibited at several biennials, including Sharjah,Thessaloniki, and Gwangju and their recent solo exhibitions include Vienna’s Secession and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. They have also published several books and this project marks the North American launch of their latest book, Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz, available through the Presentation House Gallery bookstore.

This exhibition is sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts Culturally Diverse Curators Program and BC Multiculturalism Grant Program. Presentation House Gallery is grateful for the support from our funders: The Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, The City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver Arts Office, BC Gaming Commission, Metro Vancouver, Yosef Wosk Foundation.

Presentation House Gallery
333 Chesterfield Avenue,
North Vancouver, BC,
T +1 604 986 1351