Thuistezien 117 — 18.11.2020
Slavs and Tatars is a fascinating collective that is difficult to define, but one that draws you fully into their world of thoughts and ideas, and manages to open a myriad questions in you. It leaves you wanting to dig deeper into the topics they unearth, and with a desire for fresh perspectives on topics you thought you had already resolved. Their work delicately shines a light on a few of your preconceptions and might also leave you questioning some of the education you were given growing up, as well as some of the conversations you had last week.
Not limited to any specific medium, the collective’s far-reaching output takes the form of texts and books, exhibitions and lecture performances, and touches on a large range of topics, some political, some philosophical, some religious, some artistic. With a subtle touch they manage to draw lines between a wide range of ideas and thinkers in eye-opening and intriguing ways. They draw us into their sphere of discovery and the resulting endless interconnections in a way that is at once colloquial yet academic, fact-based yet poetic, funny yet serious. The collective’s desire seems to be one of constant unfettered learning, coloured by an instinct to move outside of their intellectual comfort zones and traverse topics that are new and fresh to them, even if they are from the long and often forgotten past, and even if they are seemingly banal or conventional. They view them through their unique all-encompassing prism, and give us a look into these thought process mechanisms offering us a subtle yet much needed jolt to our everyday thought patterns.
This is very much the case with their lecture performance ‘Al-Isnad or Chains We Can Believe In’, which they performed at West in 2016. The lecture takes us on an intellectual adventure that follows a trail of thought that travels us across the planet, across several cultures and time periods, through a world of references from across disciplines and cultures, landing on a place on the verge of performance art, however delivered from a lectern, and yet without the austere rigidity associated with academic talks. Somehow it manages to bring up references ranging from Marx, to Mohammed, to James Joyce, to David Lynch and many many more, and does so in a charming and utterly convincing manner.
And Slavs and Tatars may not give clear answers to the complexities of our world that they touch upon, and in showcasing the internal contradictions of our world they seem to veer onto the edge of contradicting themselves. But this way they lead us to see some alluring connections between disparate areas of thought within our large global worlds. They direct us to topics worth looking at through a fresh lens, and ultimately question some very important questions in us, and question some truths in us which we thought were self-evident.
James Alexandropoulos - McEwan