"Lingua Franca" takes stock of the identity research in Central Asian countries
VENICE - One of the most talked about problems of the artists coming from Central Asia - the ex-Soviet Union countries, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - is the identity research. They are countries that have regained autonomy only recently and more than others have been able to tell about the fight and disorientation condition they were forced to face every day.
"Lingua Franca" - the theme chosen for the 54th Biennale Exposition of Art by Boris Chukhovich, Georgy Mamedov and Oksana Shatalova - is a smart attempt to give the problem some perspective. The word derives from the Arab expression "Frankish language", which denoted in the Middle Ages the language of crusaders. The three curators use it to represent a global, universal art, marked by sources contamination (religions coexist in the prayer Bosphorus Prayer, while the nomadic tent of Korpeshe-Flags is made of different countries flags; both works by Said Atabekov); by a reference to traditions (in World of Kind people by Alexander Nikolaev), and by an imaginative, pre-verbal and metaphorical language (in Fish by Nikolaev or L’innomable by Marat Raiymkulov). Surely, this was the dream of the historical avant-gardes, not by chance cited among the exposition sources (the Suprematism in Sport Geometrisms by Natalia Andrianova, or Rgb by Alla Rumyantseva and Aleksey Rumyantsev; the documentary on censorship The Desert of Forbidden Art by Tchavdar Georgiev and Amanda Pope).
Nevertheless, there is the other side of the coin. If, on the one side, a common koine facilitates cultures exchanges, on the other it levels off the comparison, annulling its specificity. A language that we want to be absolutely universal, necessarily loses its contact with the territory (see Mutation by Yerbossyn Meldibekov). If we get to the bottom of the matter, we find out it has a political character: A nation expresses itself through a language; to suppress it means to deny its identity with the aim to assert a new cultural hegemony (the English school in Frank Tili by Artyom Ernst). Vice versa, not knowing the dominant language means to be excluded and marginalized (the Vietnamese artist of Our Friend Va Ngog by Adis Seitaliev). Past and future, modernity and tradition mix, contending for the complicated identity field. Finding a balance, then, is the purpose and bet of all emerging countries.