The Pavilion of Azerbaijan at the 54th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Zeigam Azizov by Ilari Valbonesi.
ZEIGAM AZIZOV on Symposium – Installation, Venice Biennale, 2011:
Starting from my earlier work entitled “Migrasophia” (from migration+philosophy) my project addresses the condition of people’s movement as it is motivated by the philosophical discourse on images. My new installation “Symposium” continues this struggle.
In the situation of globalisation people and cultures are connected via images. This kind of connectivity challenges the mode of artistic production at both ends of the spectrum. On the one hand there are images used to communicate, which are not necessarily artistic, but nevertheless coexist alongside with images created by artists. On the other hand there are images produced by artists that can stand in a different relationship to images that are circulated in shared devices on the Internet.
The difference can be seen in relation to the production of images, which privileges some people as contributors to the new history and others as negotiators of this history. In contemporary art practice contributors are artists from non-Western backgrounds who are included in the
production of art as they represent otherness by familiar artistic means, while artists from the West are considered as negotiators of this history. This is what I call “image colonialism”. If in the 1990s many non-European artists living in the West were commissioned to go back to their countries of origins to create images cheaply and then to sell them for a small fortune to Western art institutions, today national participation in art forums plays this role by bringing these images directly from the “home towns” of artists.
2. There is a second visible change in the mode of production of art, which is now not linked to consumption as was the case with late modernism. There is now a contribution-oriented perception, which is not about producing or consuming but about an aesthetic of sharing. This is
a new social environment asserting a new industrial economy, which makes a shift from the consumerist society to the society of contribution. This economy became possible by the organisation of digital technologies known to us as YouTube, Face book, and Wikipedia etc. The contributor, who combines technologies of intellect and culture, does not produce or consume, but shares already existing forms and ideas.
3. In order to play safe there is a necessity of being open to everything, without necessarily welcoming them. The only stipulation is that everything that is accepted is not substantial: coffee without caffeine, safe sex, globalisation without global citizens etc. Among these de-substantiated
entities there are also images that are deprived of their symbolic efficiency. As images replace the real, the real circulates around and across them as spectres. Just as decaffeinated coffee refers to natural Brazilian or Ethiopian coffee as nostalgic substances, images refer to their origins as spectres.
4. In Symposium the image of childhood is articulated by images only, while personal memories cannot be shared or directly narrated, as they become the spectres of time. Besides, the only way of making true art is addressing the relationship between these images and spectres of the real.
Therefore my work refers to the place of childhood, articulated in images, sealed and stored in boxes for import and export, where childhood returns as a spectre, as well as to the image colonialism, which can be understood as “accumulation by dispossession”.