With Slavs and Tatars, the Kunstverein Hannover presents an artists’ group that evolved from a reading circle in 2006. Language analysis and the question of identity formation therefore play a prominent role in their both analytical and sensuous-humorous works. The group is mainly interested in the geographic region of “Eurasia” comprising a multitude of different ethnicities, languages and cultures, which they define in a rather unorthodox way as the area “ lying east of the Berlin Wall and west of the Chinese Wall.” Forgotten moments of Slavic, Caucasian and Central Asian history of culture provide the raw material for their works. Intensive research—the survey of archives, research trips and scholarly analysis forms the basis of the collective’s works, which take on various forms: from expansive installations and immersive sound pieces, to special artists’ books to lecture performances.
The indoor and outdoor installations of Slavs and Tatars frequently offer the audience an opportunity to pause for a moment, to come together and enter into a discussion, as is the case, for example, with Mother Tongues and Father Throats (2016) or PrayWay (2012). The latter, a hovering carpet folded in the middle, is at once a sculptural installation, a sitting area and a polemic platform. The work combines the sociable atmosphere of a tea house with the reference to the sacred Islamic Quran stand, taking up seemingly opposing elements and uniting them as an invitation towards conviviality.
Elsewhere, the carpet serves as a bench seat depicting the letters of the Arabic alphabet and the corresponding parts of the mouth used to articulate the letters. Based on humorous publications, the visitors are invited to inform themselves about the history, specific features and differences of the phoneme (kh] that has different characteristics in the Semitic, Cyrillic, Turkish, and Arabic alphabets. The Love Letters series (2013–15), on the other hand, is based on drawings of the Russian poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky and addresses the Turkish language reform from Arabic to Latin script conducted by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1928, as well as the transformation of the Arabic alphabet to Latin and subequently Cyrillic in the Soviet Union. It becomes evident in an impressive and humorous way, how language is employed as an instrument of rule, what linguistic acrobatics such changes demand and which losses and communication barriers accompany them.
Since 2011, works of Slavs and Tatars have been presented in numerous solo exhibitions throughout the world, among others, 2017–2016 with Mouth to Mouth: CAC / Vilnius (LT), SALT / Istanbul (TR), The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle / Warsaw (PL); or 2016–2014 with Mirrors for Princes: Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston / Texas (USA), The Art Gallery at NYU Abu Dhabi / Abu Dhabi (UAE), GfYK / Leipzig (DE), Kunsthalle Zürich / Zurich (CH).