For the Moravian Gallery and the Brno Biennale 2012, Slavs and
Tatars is proud to present, Khhhhhhh, a reconsideration of
pedagogy, progress, and modernity via the perspective of a single
phoneme. Difficult, if not impossible, to pronounce for most of the
Western hemisphere, the phoneme kh offers a
particularly rich insight into language not only as an evolutionary
threshold but also as a metaphysical one. Through this
particularly pesky guttural sound, Slavs and Tatars attempts to
resuscitate the sacred character of language, from the devotional
act of reading to the ritual of the printed word. Equal parts
affective and analytical, research and original work, Khhhhhhh
explores the thorny issues of knowledge versus wisdom, the
immediacy of the oral versus the remoteness of the written word,
and doctrine versus pedagogy at the heart of the collective's
practice and research. A multi-platform exhibition, Khhhhhhh
balances the needs of the legs, that is the body, as well as the
mind, with a publication, a lecture, and an installation touching
upon notions of sacred hospitality and generosity.
The linguistic equivalent of Molla Nasreddin, the sufi wise man-cum-fool explored in Slavs and Tatars' recent publication, the phonemekhis a decidedly transnational character: found prominently in Semitic, Arabic, Slavic, and Turkic languages across Eurasia. In Persian, as the common root of the words 'self' and 'God', it conveys the sense of the gnostic often overlooked in common understandings of Islam. In Hebrew, it is the primary phoneme for the word life (chaim) not to mention an important platform for numerology. Throughout their publications, installations, lectures and sculptures, Slavs and Tatars' practice has extensively turned to language as a polyphonic tool for disruption, humour, and unexpected meaning. Here, they turn to the pioneering work of Velimir Khlebnikov, whose transrational studies of language (zaum) earned him the endearing epithet of the Russian dervish, to map out a playful and polemic study of letters as metaphysical agents, their sounds as atavistic agitators.
Slavs and Tatars are firm believers in humour's potential to seduce and critique at the same time, one hand throwing dust in our eyes as the other hoses us down with water. Similarly, Khhhhhhh aims for no less than the release of the pedagogical from its traditional confines and its infiltration across the various stages of work. Through an equally affective and analytic approach, Khhhhhhh will advocate learning through living and living through laughing.
Khhhhhhh is the newest installment in Slavs and Tatars' recent cycle of work, The Faculty of Substitutionwith recent installments at the GfZK, Leipzig; New Museum Triennial, NY; Secession, Vienna; and upcoming solo exhibition at the MoMA, NY. After devoting the past 5 years to two cycles, namely, a celebration of complexity in the Caucasus (Kidnapping Mountains, Molla Nasreddin) and the unlikely heritage between Poland and Iran (Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi'ite Showbiz, 79.89.09),The Faculty of Substitution-replacing one thing for another, telling one tale through another-looks at substitution in the widest sense, from al-badaliya to reverse joy. Adopting the inner-most thoughts, experiences, beliefs, and sensations of others as one's own,The Faculty of Substitution offers a subtle, sophisticated rethinking of self-discovery in an effort to challenge the very notion of distance, as the shortest length between two points.