Slavs and Tatars - Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz


M HKA, Antwerpen

21 January 2023 - 30 April 2023

The project Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi'ite Showbiz (2011) by the artist collective Slavs and Tatars reveals the connection between Polish and Iranian heritage, more specifically that between the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the Polish trade union movement Solidarność of the 1980s. Both events encapsulate a major geopolitical narrative of the recent past: Islamic modernism and communism. Slavs and Tatars exhibit ten fabric cloths, which in their entirety highlight the revolutionary expressiveness of handicrafts and folklore. Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi'ite Showbiz reevaluates craft objects and practices as carriers of history, political emancipation and ideology. The banners are a donation from art collector Christian Schwarm to the M HKA.

Slavs and Tatars is based in Berlin. The collective focuses on Eurasia, that is, the area ‘from the former Berlin Wall to the Great Wall of China’, and explores its history and tensions. In particular, Slavs and Tatars analyses the way the region's identity was shaped by a clash between modernisation and tradition. Nineteenth-century imperialism and the Soviet period brought modernisation, while tradition remains fundamental in Islam, in local alternative beliefs, language politics and mythology. Through a combination of archival and evidentiary material, Slavs and Tatars exposes historical and cultural mindsets. The collective combines research with reinterpretations, associations, metaphysics, pop culture, geopolitics and humour.

 More background information can be found on the Slavs and Tatars website.

Sweatshirts and T-shirts for Iran

The museum shop is selling sweatshirts and T-shirts of Slavs and Tatars, the proceeds of which are going entirely to the Woman Life Freedom movement in Iran. The inscription on the jumpers and T-shirts is in Farsi. Slavs and Tatars: 'The T-shirts and sweatshirts feature a slogan which reads Long Live Long Live, Death to Death to. Instead of celebrating a given nation or object, it is a celebration of celebration itself. Likewise, instead of condemning a nation or person specifically (Death to X), it is a condemnation of condemnation itself.' The garments are made of 100% organic cotton. The sweatshirts are priced at €150 and the T-shirts at €75.


Saturday 22 April (11:30-12:30), Slavs and Tatars will give a lecture-performance as part of their exhibition at M HKA.  

The lecture-performance 79.89.09 looks at two key modern moments – the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and Poland’s Solidarnosc movement in the 1980s – as bookends to the two major geopolitical narratives of the 20th and 21st century, respectively – Communism and political Islam. Originally a contribution to Berlin-based biannual 032c, 79.89.09 looks at issues as disparate as the monobrow, modernity, and the Beach Boys in understanding the importance of these two moments for the greater Middle East today.  

The lecture acted as the opening salvo to Slavs and Tatars’ Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz cycle, an investigation of the unlikely points of convergence in the economic, cultural, and political histories of Poland and Iran, respectively. From 17th century's Sarmatism to the 21st century reform movement in Iran, the advent of the 24 hour news cycle to the role of crafts as citizen diplomacy, 79.89.09 presents a lateral look at the two countries in their quest for self determination. 

The lecture-performance will take place in the museum's reading room on the ground floor. The activity is free of charge and no reservation is needed.  

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