TAHIR SALAKHOV. THE ETERNAL
November 10 - 30, 2021
The Ekaterina Cultural Foundation presents the video installation TAHIR SALAKHOV. THE ETERNAL celebrating the life and career of Tahir Salakhov, who was a prominent Soviet artist of Azerbaijani descent known as a leading figure in the so-called "severe style" in painting. The video installation includes digital versions of the artist's paintings, photographs and videos from his family's archive as well as selected quotes and passages from his interviews voiced by an artificial neural network. The project was conceived and curated single-handedly by painter and sculptor Kaykhan Salakhov.
At the exhibition, the chequered life story of Tahir Salakhov, whose father was arrested on false charges and executed during the 1937 Great Purge but who went on to be awarded the honorary titles of the People's Artist of the USSR, Russia and Azerbaijan, is told through the contemporary medium of digital cinematography. A total of 22 videos cover the artist's biography while additional videos focus on his career and legacy. Around 600 photos, 500 sketches and 400 paintings were digitalized for the video installation. All the source material was handpicked by the artistβs grandson Kaykhan Salakhov.
"I let my intuition steer me and tried to cover all the aspects of my grandfather, to show him as an artist, as a person, and as a thinker" Kaykhan says.
Tahir Salakhov made an important contribution not only to 20th-century Soviet art but also to the global cultural community. In the 1980s, he was directly involved in staging exhibitions of works by the likes of Francis Bacon, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist in the Soviet Union. Salakhov is known for his portraits of composers Kara Karayev and Dmitry Shostakovich, and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. The artist's reminiscences about the people he met and the events he took part in were also included in the video installation.
Music historian Raya Abbasova's Dialogue was published in December 2020. Selected excerpts from her book were voiced by a neural network while other interviews and quotes are the recordings of Tahir Salakhov's voice. And this is how the voices of the past and the voices of the future are heard together in a single time and space.
β What do you think of betrayal, Tahir muallim? Iβm sorry to say that but it is something that happens quite often in creative communities?
β It is... But...
β You don't want to talk about it?
β No... Life punishes traitors sooner or later but I must admit that it still hurts. Why do people betray others? I guess they do it to spoil somebody else's life. But I believe in the triumph of justice. You know, you shouldn't cast dirt into the fountain especially if you plan to later use water from it.
β Has anything like this ever happened to you?
β Yes, it has. And more than once.
β And what did you do? Did you take revenge? Or did you secretly laugh at them?
β Well, no, I did not. Why should I get tired of being good when they never get tired of being evil? Many of them later realized that they had been wrong, apologized, tried to at least somehow justify what they had done. But I've never needed any of that. You need to learn to forgive people. I've realized a long time ago that it's better to lose something with someone smart by your side than to gain anything with someone stupid.
From Dialogue, 2020
The visitors of the show will be greeted by a robot named Taira 108. She runs an intergalactic museum of arts that collects creative output produced by various life forms across the Universe. The robot can speak not only about artist Tahir Salakhov's life and career but also about her own story and the collection owned by her museum.
"Everything is organized in such a way that you can't get to the bottom of it at the first go. There is a clue hidden in every single video. You need to watch all 22 video installations over and over again to decode the clues and find the logic behind them. Only the curious ones could solve the mystery of my grandfather's life," Kaykhan Salakhov explains.
The medium of the work was chosen for a reason. Kaykhan Salakhov's video installation is primarily targeted at younger people aiming to tell the story of a Soviet artist's life and career in a way they can relate to. The installation is a kind of capsule containing Tahir Salakhov's rich spiritual life and traveling in the same direction as the figures in his 1961 painting For You, Humankind. The painting took part in Tahir Salakhov's retrospective held by the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in 2008, and now the Foundation hosts the installation commemorating the artist and looking towards the future.
Tahir Salakhov (November 29, 1928, Baku, USSR - May 21, 2021, Berlin, Germany) was a Soviet, Azerbaijani and Russian painter, scene and costume designer, teacher and professor. He was the vice president of the Russian Acamedy of Arts between 1997 and 2021. He was a prominent artist of the so-called "severe style" and a recipient of numerous state awards.
He died of pneumonia aged 92 in Berlin on May 21, 2021. He was interred on May 24 at the first Alley of Honor in Baku.
Kaykhan Salakhov (b. December 8, 1993, New York City, US) is a painter and sculptor. He studied architecture at Moscow Institute of Architecture and sculpture, at Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti di Bergamo. He is the founder of the Cosmo-cybernetic movement in art. He is the winner of a UNESCO competition.