Fragments on a Geopoetics of Northern Eurasia
As if We Had Buried the Sun in the Sea of Stories - both exhibition and research project - weaves an endless fabric of narratives from artists, curators, writers, and connoisseurs of traditional cultural practices from the vast landmass of northern Eurasia.
The project traces the many worlds that coexisted and coexisted there, often in spite of or in opposition to the repressive monolithic ideas of the changing regimes-from the Russian Empire to the USSR to contemporary Russia-that controlled large parts of Eastern Europe and Central and Northern Asia. The contributions spring from diverse biographies and spaces, overlapping and mutually enriching in their sheer richness.
Out of this shared engagement emerges new cultural and political frames of reference for a region still shaped by the infrastructural reality of the 'Russian Broad Gauge'. With a gauge of 1520 mm, these railroad tracks cross the territory of more than a dozen countries that were in the territory or sphere of influence of the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union.
From a world of many names to many worlds hidden under one in that one - recently called post-Soviet - space, As if we buried the sun in the sea of stories shows fragments of a new geopoetics - freed from official versions of territorial control and mechanical replication of prefabricated attitudes. It invites processes of collective memory, the revival of cosmologies and disappeared bodies of knowledge, the contemplation of the networks of all those who defy imperially drawn borders, the formation of collective resistance, and ultimately an imagining of futures that can be lived, survived, and enjoyed.
Given this geographical reference, the project's title seems a bit eccentric: its source of inspiration is the poem "The Blesséd Word: A Prologue on Kashmir" by Kashmiri author Agha Shahid Ali, which he dedicated to his violence-ravaged homeland in 1990. Written at a time when the USSR was disintegrating, the text opens with a quote from the Polish-Jewish-Soviet poet Osip Mandelstam. The title of the exhibition is an amalgamation of verses from Ali's and Mandelstam's poems. Ali's words, expressing the tragedy of his people and the longing for a lost homeland, recall another loss in another time and another country (accentuated by another betrayal of revolutionary ideals) in Mandelstam's poem, written in Stalinist Russia. Ali sings of his country, evoking its name in eighteen different phonetic and graphic variations. The exhibition is under the sign of this rhythmization of times and places, as well as the polyphony of meanings - especially in times of Russia's renewed imperial aggression.
This project was conceived in collaboration with curator Iaroslav Volovod, who researches the colonial history of the Russian Empire and the USSR; artists and curators Nikolay Karabinovych and Saodat Ismailova; and historian Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, whose research focuses on the former Soviet sphere of influence.