NEW: curatorial collective of the Central Asia pavilion addressed several question on the issue of national participation at the Venice Biennale to international art professionals. Read the experts’ answers here ›››

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Central Asia at the 54th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan

Lingua Franca/Франк тили

4 June – 27 November 2011

10.00 - 18.00 (Every day except for Monday)
Address: Palazzo Malipiero, S. Marco 3199-3201
Entry: Salizada Malipiero. Vaporetto station: San Samuele


Testing Universality

The exhibition project of the Central Asia Pavilion, Lingua Franca/Франк тили presents the works of artists from four Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Central Asia Pavilion is a public initiative, not affiliated with any state institutions, therefore, unlike most other national participations, it doesn’t represent an intersection of artistic and geopolitical agendas. The team of artists, curators and administrators of the Central Asia Pavilion in 2011 involved individuals living in eight different countries on three continents, which being unique on the one hand, implied a number of institutional, artistic and ethical challenges on the other. The formulation of a clear and sophisticated concept for the exhibition, based on the artworks, which have been generated in four national contexts with significant and rapidly growing differences between them, was a challenging, yet inspiring task for the project curators.

The aforementioned institutional specificity of the Central Asia Pavilion and the specificity of the Venice Biennale itself, which is endlessly criticized, yet still one of the world’s biggest art forums, gathering a wide range of international, local and individual ‘understandings’ of art, led the curatorial collective to the concept of the project which was, somehow, meant to test art for universality. As the starting point of our reflection we picked up a metaphor likening art to lingua franca – a kind of a common language, uniting artists from different parts of the world.

Universality claims to be unique and united, while the quest for universality has always occupied various intellectual terrains – religious (universality of belief), cognitive (universality of intellect), communicative (universality of language) and creative (universality of art). Although different in nature, these universalities were not impervious to one another. Belief appealed to science, art exploited religious symbolism and rituals, religion worshiped Logos, etc. In the general quest for universality common to artistic practice starting with modernism, special attention was given to the relations between visual form and natural language. Questions like Is art similar to language? or the opposite – Does art compensate verbal limitations? - multiplied and transformed: If art is similar to language, how can one verify the authenticity of artistic expressions? If art is not similar to language, how universal is its compensatory potential to express what cannot be expressed in words?

The exhibit project of Central Asia Pavilion presenting the works of eleven artists is the result of intensive research of a hundred art projects submitted by fifty artists, and, thus represents a sort of selective anthology of art universals. Our attempt in testing universality proved, however, the ambivalence of art in the function of lingua franca. The exhibit involves two approaches – Lingua Franca. Experiences of Universal and Frank Tili. Foreign Affairs. The first presents art works in six categories of universality – atomic, mixed, metaphoric, primitive, representative, and a specific category, marked by curators as l’innommable (unnamed). Projects presented in this section of the exhibit explore the formal and conceptual potential of art to produce universally comprehensible meanings. Lingua Franca. Experiences of Universal summarizes approaches inspired by the practices of historical avant-garde, which among its most significant aspirations, strove to turn art into a universal means of communication. References to the universal experiences of historical avant-garde, in particular its Central Asian ‘dialect’, are integrated into the exhibit through a special project – a retrospective video presentation of artworks and documents from the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Lingua franca, as the historical language of trade and diplomatic relations in the Mediterranean of the Middle Ages is a common illustration of the utopian concept of global language. However that very historical prototype as well as ‘lingua francas’ of today’s world like English for example, had always been the language of Franks (франк тили, if translated into Turkic languages of Central Asia), foreigners, others, aliens. This aspect of arts, taken as a model for universal communication, is explored in the section Frank Tili. Foreign Affairs. Projects that built up this part of the exhibit reveal unobvious or sometimes just unnoticed expressions of power. They explore contemporary universals in the aspects of language hegemony, domination and appropriation of the universal potential of art and new media by authoritarian state machineries.

B. Chukhovich – O. Shatalova – G. Mamedov
Montreal - Rudny - Moscow


54th Venice Biennale   © 2010-2012 Central Asia Pavilion