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08 May 2013

Love Me, Love Me Not: Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbours. Collateral Event at la Biennale di Venezia

Faig Ahmed, Untitled, 2012, Thread Instillation, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of YAY Gallery and the artist

Love Me, Love Me Not: Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbours. Official Collateral Event at la Biennale di Venezia
Produced and supported by YARAT Contemporary Art Organisaiton


Press preview:
11am - 2pm Thursday 30th May
Opening dates:
1st June - 24th November 2013
Closest vaporetto:
Bacini and Celestia , lines 5.1, 5.2, 4.1, 4.2

Sophie Furse
+44 (0) 208 969 3959

Tesa 100
Arsenale Nord

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Love Me, Love Me Not is an unprecedented exhibition of contemporary art from Azerbaijan and its neighbours, featuring recent work by 17 artists from Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Georgia. Produced and supported by YARAT, a not-for-profit contemporary art organisation based in Baku, and curated by Dina Nasser-Khadivi, the exhibition will be open to the public from 1st June until 24 th November 2013 at Tesa 100, Arsenale Nord, at The 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.

Artists featured:

Faig Ahmed (Azerbaijan), Rashad Alakbarov (Azerbaijan), Afruz Amighi (Iran), Kutluğ Ataman (Turkey), Shoja Azari (Iran), Rashad Babayev (Azerbaijan), Mahmoud Bakhshi (Iran), Ali Banisadr (Iran), Ali Hasanov (Azerbaijan), Orkhan Huseynov (Azerbaijan), Sitara Ibrahimova (Azerbaijan), Aida Mahmudova (Azerbaijan), Taus Makhacheva (Russia), Farhad Moshiri (Iran), Farid Rasulov (Azerbaijan), Slavs and Tatars ('Eurasia'), Iliko Zautashvili (Georgia)

'There is currently equal curiosity and misconception about Azerbaijan and the countries surrounding it,' explains curator Dina Nasser-Khadivi. 'The works on show will provide insight into the dynamics of each nation, bringing to light forgotten aspects of history and demonstrating the breadth of vision and creativity at play within their borders.'

The exhibition offers a diverse range of media and subject matter, with video, installation and painting all on show. Pieces range from those steeped in historical reference, to those with more site-specific responses through to those which are inspired by personal history.

Faig Ahmed takes the motifs found in Azerbaijani carpets as a starting point for his work, reinterpreting these to underline the rapid shift Azerbaijan is experiencing towards modernity. His thread installation Untitled (2012) deconstructs the notions of craft inherent to the traditional process of weaving, extending the usual two-dimensional plane of the finished carpet across a three-dimensional space.

Kutluğ Ataman's video installation Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Column (2009) is inspired by the Trajan Column in Rome and was originally commissioned for the MAXXI (National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome). A tower of 42 used TV screens each feature the silent face a villager from Erzincan in Eastern Turkey, Ataman's place of origin. This key work is both an attempt to show a story without narration as well as a tribute to the history of Anatolian people, who he sees as silenced throughout history.

In his most ambitious project to date, Shoja Azari will show a specially commissioned film which recreates the Haft Paykar, the romantic epic of the 12th century, by Nizami of Ganja. Haft Paykar or Seven Beauties is an allegorical romance, which takes self-knowledge as the essential path to human enlightenment as its central theme.

Ali Banisadr will be producing his largest work to date for the exhibition, in the form of a triptych inspired by the pervasive symbolism of fire and light. These elements, prevalent in both Azerbaijan and Iran, relate to the origins of Zoroastrianism as well as the etymology of 'Azerbaijan,' which derives from the Persian name for 'Guardians of Fire'. Through effective use of colour and painterly control, Banisadr translates the imagery of his childhood, his extensive understanding of art history, and his sharp observations of everyday life onto canvas, capturing insightful details of humanity with movement, energy, and abstraction. Banisadr's works are housed in public collections worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Saatchi Gallery and the British Museum in London.

Ali Hasanov, from Azerbaijan, uses a contemporary appropriation of everyday materials. His work Masters (2012) features hundreds of 'veniki' (brooms made of bundled twig and common in post-Soviet countries) which are bound together to form a sculptural whole.

Taus Makhacheva, will re-produce a film, recently shown at the Liverpool Biennale about an abandoned silk-road city Gamsutl (2012) through a young male protagonist who 'dances' to enact the fragmented qualities of the city, now half forgotten.

Slavs & Tatars' installation entitled Molla Nasreddin The Antimodernist (2011) is a life-size sculpture as a playground 'ride' for adults and children alike and refers to the popular Sufi philosopher of the 13th century. By creating works that can be directly engaged with by the public, the collective addresses notions such as generosity and participation through the disarming use of humour. Molla Nasreddin also refers to the legendary Azerbaijani satirical periodical of the early 20th century, which not only contributed to a crucial understanding of national identity, but offered a momentous example of the powers of the press. In their installation Love Me, Love Me Not, the collaborative pluck the petals off the past to reveal an impossibly thorny stem: entire metropolises are caught like children in the spiteful back and forth of a custody battle, representing the evolution of the region over time - a theme which is at the core of this exhibition.
By bringing artists from Azerbaijan and its surrounding region together in one exhibition, Love Me, Love Me Not will create new perspectives on the contemporary art of Azerbaijan, as well as that of Iran, Turkey, Russia and Georgia.

The catalogue:

Edited by curator Dina Nasser-Khadivi and Farah Rahim Ismail, contributors to catalogue include:
• Nada Raza, Assistant Curator at Tate Modern
• Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Metropolitan Museum of Art
• Negar Azimi, writer and Senior Editor of Bidoun Projects
• Monica Steinberg, PhD Candidate, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
• Suad Garayeva, writer and curator specializing in Contemporary Art from Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
• Slavs and Tatars, a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. The collective's work spans several media, disciplines, and a broad spectrum of cultural registers (high and low) focusing on an oft-forgotten sphere of influence between Slavs, Caucasians and Central Asians.

Love Me, Love Me Not is produced by YARAT contemporary art organisation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion and nurturing of contemporary art in Azerbaijan.

For press information and images please contact:

Anna Cusden or Sophie Furse at Pelham Communications
Tel: +44 20 8969 3959
Email: or

Helpful information:

Title: Love Me, Love Me Not
Location: Arsenale Nord, Tesa 100, Venice, Italy
Exhibition dates: 1 June until 24 November (open to the public)
Vaporetto stop: to get to Arsenale Nord the closest are Bacini and Celestia stops, vaporetto lines 5.1, 5.2, 4.1, 4.2
Directions to access:
By cliking the link below you will find a map with Tesa 100 pointed out.

About YARAT Contemporary Art Organisation:

Founded in 2011 by Aida Mahmudova, YARAT is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to nurturing an understanding of contemporary art in Azerbaijan and to creating a platform for Azerbaijani art, both nationally and internationally.
Based in Baku, YARAT, (which means CREATE in Azerbaijani) realises its mission through an ongoing program of exhibitions, education events, and festivals. YARAT facilitates dialogue and exchange between local and international artistic networks, including foundations, galleries and museums. A series of residencies further fosters opportunities for global cultural dialogue and partnerships.
YARAT's educational initiatives include lectures, seminars, master classes, and the Young Artist Project ARTIM (meaning PROGRESS in Azerbaijani). ARTIM aims to encourage the next generation of Azerbaijani creative talent to seek a career in the arts and gives young practitioners the opportunity to exhibit their works in a professional context.
Founded as part of YARAT's ongoing commitment to growing local art infrastructure, YAY Gallery is a commercial exhibition space. In line with this, YAY (meaning SHARE in Azerbaijani) shares all proceeds from sales between the artist and YARAT and supports a range of national and international artists.

About the Curator:

Dina Nasser-Khadivi is an independent curator and consultant, specialising in Contemporary art from the Middle East, Iran and selected areas of the Caucasus. Originally a 19/20th century Orientalist art specialist at Christie's, Dina began to work with Middle Eastern and Iranian Contemporary art in 2006, developing an international platform for the artists by organising numerous awareness-raising initiatives, such as the landmark symposium An Introduction to the World of Iranian Modern and Contemporary Art held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles in the fall of 2010. With projects that have included curating private collections and advising major institutions, Dina divides her practice between New York, London, Geneva, and Dubai.

Over the last three years Dina's shift towards the Caucasus region has been driven by an affinity with the people and culture of Azerbaijan, a neighbouring country of her native Iran, and her interest in the artists who belong to the growing contemporary art scene in Baku in particular.