In the 1400s, the Venetian ambassador Giosafat Barbaro travelled to and wrote extensively on Azerbaijani cities and the court of Shah Uzun Hassan. By complete coincidence, the Azerbaijani not-for-profit arts organisation YARAT – which means “create” in Azeri – chose to locate its collateral event for the 56th Venice Biennale in Palazzo Barbaro, the ambassador’s former residence. The connections were only uncovered later, with the help of one of the two exhibiting artists, Rashad Alakbarov, and the curator, Suad Garayeva.
The exhibition, which comprises site-specific installations, is set to take visitors on a journey through time and space, bringing to the fore centuries of exchange and conflict between east and west and Baku and Venice. Alakbarov is showing some of his typical architectural and sculptural interventions, where meticulously placed metal structures stand before light sources and cast hidden messages on to the walls and floors nearby. He has also filled one room with a series of bridge-like staircases, which visitors must traverse to reach the remainder of the exhibition.
Kazakhstani-born artist Almagul Menlibayeva’s multi-screen film installations tell the story of Mukhtarov’s Palace, a beautiful Venetian Gothic building in Baku, which was erected by the oil magnate Murtuza Mukhtarov for his beloved wife, Lisa, in 1912. Following the Soviet invasion eight years later, Mukhtarov took his life.
Ironically, the building now houses the main marriage register office in the city and is informally known as the Palace of Happiness.
As Garayeva explains, the exhibition seeks to present a historical and cultural superimposition of Baku and Venice, with Palazzo Barbaro as the third artist.
The Union of Fire and Water
Commissioned by YARAT
Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
Palazzo Barbaro, San Marco, 2840 Venice
9 May – 22 November 2015
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
Stay of life in Venice
Survival is perhaps the message of the 2013 Venice Biennale, but confusion of aims, contradiction of purpose and confounded icons prevail in the spread of national Pavilions throughout the city centre, across the canals.
Outside In: 55th Venice Biennale
In the alleyways of Venice, street vendors are touting a new product – a globule of goo, which when thrown at the pavement splatters into a seemingly irreconcilable fried egg shape, but over the course of five seconds, reforms itself into a perfect sphere. It’s something of a metaphor for the force of descent on the city of a mass of art every two years.
Richard Long: Walking and Marking
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Edinburgh, in time for the Edinburgh Festival 2007, is currently staging an outstanding recent retrospective exhibition on Richard Long. There is a curious irony here: never has Long's work been so superbly exhibited anywhere, as in the NGMA's present building - this neo-classical Schinkelesque mid-l9th Century former school building.
Daniel Buren and his Invention Trajectory
Daniel Buren has had a stimulating and now distinguished continuity in Britain. The arrival of his exhibition, 'Invention II', at Modern Art Oxford recalls a long association, firstly with MOMA Oxford (1973) and in the pages of Studio International. His own texts here are notable for their clarity and perspicacity.
A Runaway Girl at Home in New York: Louise Bourgeois at the Guggenheim
Louise Bourgeois, a travelling retrospective marking the artist's nearly 100 years of living and more than seven decades of art-making, is an ambitious project. Opening in October 2007 at Tate Modern in London, the exhibit appeared at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and now is installed in expanded form at the Guggenheim in New York. The museum's singular Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda, with its spiralling ramps, emphasises Bourgeois's prevailing modes of operation: recalling, recreating, reworking, revisiting and re-examining.