Punk Orientalism

When 10 Nov 2018 - 17 Feb 2019
Where MacKenzie Art Gallery
3475 Albert St
Regina Saskatchewan S4S 6X6
Canada
Enquiry +1 306 584 4250

Curated by Sara Raza

Punk Orientalism brings together diverse artistic voices that actively embrace non-conformity and resistance. The exhibition focuses on the spaces and places associated with the former Soviet Union. It presents 15 artists hailing from the region: Central Asia, Caucasus, and the Middle East, long seen either as societies subsumed by the former Soviet Union, or serving as its “client” states. The exhibition uses the theme of non-conformity—the “punk” rejection of state authority—to investigate and explore a changing society and its evolving norms in the post-Soviet period.

The exhibition is inspired by the dual titular concepts: “punk” and “orientalism.” It functions as a collage uniting “punk” movements and strategies that can be traced internationally in popular visual culture from the 1970s onwards. Featuring a spectrum of recent artwork, projects, text based art, and media, Punk Orientalism presents a forum for diverse artistic voices from a complex and multifaceted part of the globe. These artists have actively challenged state and academic policies, mapped new territories and formed new artistic movements.

The idea of “punk” is coupled with a critical study of “orientalism” and its historical association with imperialist assumptions of knowledge concerning the “East.” Revisiting ideas that were meticulously put forward by the late writer and intellectual Edward Said within his literary masterpiece Orientalism (1978), Punk Orientalism expands the territory of the Near East, upon which Said’s thesis was based, to explore the regions of former Soviet possessions in Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as the USSR’s complex relationship with the Arab world, Iran and Turkey.

The exhibition is organized as intersecting ideas that converge to create alternative pathways for accessing social and political history and knowledge from a post-Soviet standpoint. Within the works on view, artists challenge history and the resonant impact of imperialism, which is explored through architecture and monumentality, language and text, fiction and reality, recreation and sport and overt and covert forms of protest against the status quo. Reflecting on a number of important historical events from the 20th century such as the Cold War, the invasion of Afghanistan and the establishment of a proxy war in the region, coups and revolutions and an ongoing competition to establish dominance in space exploration, Punk Orientalism examines history as both a conduit for revisionist thinking and revolt. By doing so, Punk Orientalism sheds light on recent political events in the region and beyond, providing resonance and insight to life in the early 21st century.

—Sara Raza, exhibition curator

Artists included in this exhibition include Farhad Ahrarnia, Vyacheslav Akhunov, Nazgol Ansarinia, Babi Badalov, Ali Cherri, Ergin Cavusoglu, Inci Eviner, Aikaterini Gegisian, Rokni Haerizadeh, Taus Makhacheva, Mustafa Hulusi, Erbossyn Meldibekov, Shahpour Pouyan, Slavs and Tatars, and Ala Younis. A billboard installation by Mustafa Hulusi entitled Pomegranates (2014) will be on view in Regina (12th Avenue and Albert Street) until February 8, 2019.

Sara Raza is an independent curator and writer on global art, and was the winner of the ArtTable New Leadership Award for Women in the Arts (2016). Sara was the Guggenheim UBS MAP curator for the Middle East and North Africa and curated But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, (2016), which travelled to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan in 2018. Sara has curated exhibitions and projects for several international biennials and festivals, including the Tashkent Biennial, Uzbekistan, Rhizoma: Saudi Pavilion, Venice Biennale (2013); and Baku Public Art Festival Azerbaijan (2015). She has organized a number of exhibitions for Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah. Sara is the West and Central Asia editor for ArtAsiaPacific.

The MacKenzie Art Gallery is Saskatchewan’s original public art gallery: an immersive centre for engaging people through transformative experiences of the world through art, with an ongoing focus on Indigenous culture and diversity. The permanent collection, which includes the University of Regina’s extensive collection, contains over 5,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of art history.

Photo courtesy of the organizer.

For more information, please visit the the gallery’s  website.