YARAT organizes exhibitions of well-known artists [PHOTO]

By Laman Ismayilova

Azerbaijani and Belgian artists exhibited their artworks at YARAT Contemporary Art Space.

Belgian artist Michel François’ solo exhibition “Panopticon” is constructed as a dialogue between a constraining man-made device and the surrounding natural elements that symbolize our desire for freedom.

The result of the artist’s research stay in Baku, the immersive installation consists of a central part of a surveillance tower that surveys its surroundings with its cyclopean eye.

The panopticon observes everything and also reflects our presence as curious intruders or witnesses. François’ construction is inspired by the architectural model of an institutional prison control system invented by the 18th-century social theorist and philosopher Jeremy Bentham.

By replacing the windows of the circular control room with mirrors, the artist reverses the strategic purpose of the tower. In this way, François’ work can be understood as a cynical critique of today’s society, contaminated by the misuse of control devices that steal and rob images of our private lives.

The tower also reflects the objects that fill the environment around it. The remaining sculptural interventions are presented as frozen moments on an abandoned film set.

As in many of his other exhibitions, the artist is always looking for an “escape plan”. He seems to find this freedom in the uncontrollable beauty of natural elements, such as the exuberant form of an impossible fountain spitting aluminum peanuts, or the elegance of a silver fence floating in the sky like an unnatural cloud.

The same liberating pleasure is felt in viewing the repeated images of the film commissioned by YARAT and shot on location by the artist, which captures the sci-fi-like magic of Azerbaijan’s mud volcano landscape. It shows images of erupting lava, with fading gas-filled bubbles in continuous transformation. They possess a secret “convulsive” beauty that the surrealists once tried to define as “explosively fixed.” Most of the other sculptural compositions presented are made of carefully selected poor, almost mundane materials, which in some way refer to the natural resources that are the country’s true hidden treasures.

The exhibition invites us to surf the riffs of reality and everyday life, momentarily transforming us into random tourists or actors participating in the melancholic theater of the absurd. Central to his work is the analysis of how small, simple images and objects are the basic elements that decide how we as humans behave in this complex world.

Michel François.(*1956, Belgium) lives and works in Brussels. His conceptual practice encompasses sculpture, video, photography, printed matter, painting and installation.

Similar to the Arte Povera artists, François transforms seemingly uncomplicated objects and materials or traces of past events into deep-sounding carriers of meaning with great frugality. His work can be viewed as an exploration of cause and effect, showing how simple gestures can change an object’s status or have important consequences.

He has presented projects at the Havana Biennial (2015), the Belgian Pavilion at the 48th Venice Biennial (1999), the 22nd São Paulo Biennial (1994), and documenta IX in Kassel (1992). He has had solo shows at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Dia Center for the Arts, New York; SMAK, Ghent; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; Kunsthalle Bern, Bern; House of Art, Munich. He has participated in group exhibitions at, among others, the Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; Tapei Fine Art Museum, Taipei; Center Pompidou Metz, Metz; Jeu de Paumé, Paris; House of Art, Munich; Center Pompidou, Paris; and Fondation Hermès, Brussels.

The exhibition is curated by Erich Weiss, a Belgian-born artist/curator based in Barcelona. He is currently working as venue coordinator for documenta five in Kassel.

Events: March 17 – October 4, 2022

Exhibition opening: Tuesday to Sunday, 12.00 p.m. – 8.00 p.m. COVID passport is required

YARAT Contemporary Art Space also opened the new solo exhibition “İNSƏN” (HUMAN) by multidisciplinary artist CHINGIZ.

İNSƏN is an immersive project by CHINGIZ that shows different aspects of society through the prism of personal experience. As a prototype of an artist’s studio and a living and constantly evolving organism, the project represents an interactive exhibition that questions the working process. The main protagonist of the exhibition is the individual who lives and changes in harmony with time and its actions.

The artist uses sculptures and installations that serve as indicators of different situations to uncover this idea and show transformations, influences and side effects of time. Focusing on the individual and their environment, feelings, emotions, contrasts and alternatives, the exhibition highlights the core nature of the individual as the main actor and driving force behind all processes.

The artist develops the principle of personal space in an autobiographical, studio-like manner and relates the reality surrounding him. The exhibition sheds light on the versatility of human beings, but at the same time shows that an individual acts in the same way in recurring situations, which points to his peculiarity and contradiction…

The show is dedicated to CHINGIZ’s father Tofig Babayev, who inspired the artist in the most important way. The exhibition is curated by Farah Alakbarli.

CHINGIZ (Chingiz Babayev, 1964, Azerbaijan) – sculptor, painter, designer, theorist, poet and philosopher. He combines visual art, graphics, sculpture, collage, street art, installation, performance, video art and other media to explore the application of different ideas. CHINGIZ’s oeuvre is exhibited in Baku Museum of Modern Art, Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum and Vahid Kooros Collection, as well as in private and public collections across Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, USA, UK, Austria, Italy, Estonia, France, Poland, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Dominican Republic, Kyrgyzstan and Iran.

Events: March 17 – October 4, 2022

Exhibition opening: Tuesday to Sunday, 12.00 p.m. – 8.00 p.m. COVID passport is required.

Specifically, YARAT is an artist-founded, non-profit arts organization based in Baku, Azerbaijan, founded in 2011 by Aida Mahmudova. YARAT (meaning “to create” in Azerbaijani) is dedicated to contemporary art with a long-term commitment to creating a hub for artistic practice, research, thought and education in the Caucasus, Central Asia and surrounding region.

YARAT is an artist-founded, non-profit arts organization based in Baku, Azerbaijan, founded in 2011 by Aida Mahmudova. YARAT (meaning “to create” in Azerbaijani) is dedicated to contemporary art with a long-term commitment to creating a hub for artistic practice, research, thought and education in the Caucasus, Central Asia and surrounding region.

YARAT includes YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of XX-XXI centuries, ARTIM Project Space and an extended educational and public program. The YARAT Art Centre, a 2000 m² converted Soviet-era naval building, opened in March 2015 and is the organisation’s main exhibition space. The exhibition program includes new commissions from artists responding to the region. It supports and offers access to artists from the region and engages and presents established, international artists.

The Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the XX-XXI Centuries presents a series of exhibitions of works from the collections of national museums and galleries and organizes a public and educational program of events. The museum works closely with educational institutions, and museum staff introduce students to exhibitions through interactive tours, teaching them to understand and interpret art.

In October 2015, YARAT ARTIM opened, a central, accessible and dynamic space in Baku’s old town. ARTIM (meaning “progress” in Azerbaijani) showcases experimental practices and new works by emerging Azerbaijani artists (selected through open call) and international artists from the residency program. It features several small projects each year and is home to ARTIM Lab, a program that allows young artists to engage in workshops and daily studio practice to develop new ideas and works.

Education has been at the heart of YARAT’s activities since its inception.

With a dedicated public program that includes courses, workshops, lectures, film screenings, festivals, literary and theater clubs, and family weekends, YARAT aims to reach a wide audience of all ages. The public program proactively invests in building communities and promoting wider understanding and participation in contemporary art.

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