Critics’ Picks

View of “Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz,” 2013.

View of “Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz,” 2013.

Los Angeles

Slavs & Tatars

Gallery at REDCAT
631 West 2nd Street
February 10–March 24, 2013

Slavs and Tatars’ “Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz” explores the exchange, similarities, and differences—actual, past, and imagined—between the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Polish Solidarity movement of 1989, and the Iranian Green movement in 2009. Exhibiting Polish-derived work, carpeted reading platforms, and a selection of print material, the collective here furnishes the viewer with an eerie awareness of one’s own place within a gaggle of global conversations—the size and scope of which extend far beyond the Anglo-(Western) European frame.

Slavs and Tatars’ key strength is the diversity of registers in which it operates: The current exhibition presents works that employ lightness and humor while also retaining a willful opacity (unless you speak Persian or Polish); an accompanying publication manages to be both research-heavy and comical; and the group gave a series of lecture-performances leading up to the opening of the show. The series in particular is a generous move that acknowledges the transitory nature of art publics’ attention. It is also especially apt given that Slavs and Tatars originated in 2005 as a publishing and research collective dealing with Eurasian complexity and communication—over borders and mountains, but also through time, well before the group began producing art.

Followers of the group will be both pleased and unsurprised by the work on show at REDCAT. Many pieces have been circulating through exhibitions and publications for years (for example, Resist Resisting God dates from 2009). This repetition and reiteration doesn’t feel tiresome, since novelty isn’t an issue for Slavs and Tatars. The objects point outward to a body of research and reverse ethnography (evidenced by the group’s concurrent Olivian Cha–organized entry in the Works Sited series at Los Angeles’s Central Library) so instead of repetition one gets the sense of a project crawling its way forward into several different pasts.