GATES OF TURAN investigates the immaterial substance of memory through the sourcing of archaic cosmogonies across sacred material, derived semiology and spiritual realms. The artist draws inspiration from what he defines as a nomadic displacement, the result of early exile in his childhood following the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979 that led him to investigate his clan’s tribal past - and in this instance - the hereditary ties linking him to central Asia, Kyrgyz culture and to the myths and epics related to the idea of Turan.
Firouz FarmanFarmaian & Janet Rady
Building on the foundations of the Central Asian pavilion in 2005, The Kyrgyz Republic participates for the first time in its history as a dedicated country pavilion in the 2022 International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia with artist Firouz FarmanFarmaaian’s project ‘Gates of Turan’. Curated by Janet Rady, the exhibition investigates the immaterial substance of memory through the sourcing of archaic cosmogonies across sacred material, derived semiology and spiritual realms. The artist draws inspiration from what he defines as a nomadic displacement, the result of early exile in his childhood following the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979 that led him to investigate his clan’s tribal past - and in this instance - the hereditary ties linking him to central Asia, Kyrgyz culture and to the myths and epics related to the idea of Turan.
Mirroring the title of the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, the The Milk of Dreams, the concept of the show aligns itself closely with the curator’s statement ‘The pressure of technology, the outbreak of the pandemic, the heightening of social tensions, and the looming threat of environmental disaster remind us every day that as mortal bodies, we are neither invincible nor self-sufficient, but rather part of a symbiotic web of interdependencies that bind us to each other, to other species, and to the planet as a whole.’
Coming of age in the Parisian indie-rock and underground film scenes energized FarmanFarmaian with a fierce alternative approach to art making. After showing in NY and London in 2018 and 2019, the artist began to push forth installations that willingly transgress genres and boundaries into multivalent presentations. In Marrakech, where he is partly based, FarmanFarmaian immersed himself within the local tribal and nomadic cultures. Here he articulated his post tribal aesthetic through a sourcing-production process connecting with women of Southern and Northern Moroccan Amazigh heritage. Using processes inspired by ageless traditional techniques, FarmanFarmaian produced drawings, paintings and installations derived from wool and tent fabrics, thereby transforming archaic concepts into physical contemporary forms. These were shown at his exhibition Memorandum of the Unknown Path* in Marrakesh during the 1:54 Art Fair in 2020.
In order to elaborate on this ethnogenesis vision, the artist traveled to Kyrgyzstan in 2021. Informed by the close cultural ties to the land of his birth, he channeled his ancestral heritage into researching current day crafts practices inspired by the Kyrgyz national epic, the Manas. Travelling into the remote highland regions of YSSIK KOL and NARYN, his immersions within the tribal and nomadic cultures resulted in a collaboration with the local craftswomen and the creation of textile based installations through a multiplicity of elements including raw yak wool, felt, Kyrgyz yurt structures and locally sourced pigments. Elaborating on the multiform versatility of his post tribal explorations; his retrofuturist sensibility and preservationist planeterism, for Gates of Turan the artist has layered these traditional nomadic elements with sound and video installations, added to an additive augmented mixed reality proposal.
The symbiosis between FarmanFarmaian’s installational work, his soundscapes and film-poems involving his new experimental sonic ensemble FORRM had yet to be considered until this exhibition, so creating the first opportunity for viewers to experience it. Pieced together as a meticulous immersive ensemble, FarmanFarmaian imbues his post tribal creation with a spiritual essence. The message is embodied in the artist’s signature centerpiece, TUNDUK, a conceptual elemental monumental shafted cupola, posed as a ceremonial sacred space under which multi-genre performances are held on a white felt SHYRDAK rug.
To step into the Gates of Turan exhibition is to enter a vortex. Draped in cosmic black drapes and illuminated by a powerful interplay of cinematic strategic lighting, video mapping sequences and soundscaped sound showers, the show distorts narratives into experimental form in which individual panels, installation, audio and video blend together in a cohesive experiential itinerary.
In the ten piece KAYAKALAK panel installation, nomadic tapestries are placed to hang as imaginary tribal banners - nomadic traditional felt making techniques are here reinvented to serve the idea of a lost mythical Unitarian mandala, traveling through hand sown designs of the Oïmo, a mythical visual vocabulary revisited by the artist and produced in collaboration with the Kyrgyz craftswomen. These myths are closely connected to the Manas, and as such the banners symbolize the allied tribes of the warrior-hero Manas as he fought for freedom and independence. The KAYAKALAK banners are placed as a deconstructed corridor around the TUNDUK centrepiece, highlighting the importance of the crossed shaft that figures as Kyrgyzstan’s national emblem.
Gates of Turan offers the visitor a prism into FarmanFarmaian’s vision as a portal for communicating with the future within the ancestral; a tool for deeper spiritual reflection and a means to emphasize the need to connect to the positive trace of our presence on this earth.
Firouz FarmanFarmaian, Artist
Janet Rady, Curator
11 January 2022
* Memorandum of the Unknown Path - Théâtre Royal de Marrakech.
Public Program 1-54 African Art Fair 2020 - Jameel Prize Nominee.