Slavs and Tatars

“Not Moscow Not Mecca”
Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler Berlin, Germany | 2012

In this FSA Inspiration, we highlight the work of Slavs and Tatars, an artist collective spanning the territories of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia (Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and West Asia).

According to the Slavs and Tatars artists’ statement, thier exhibit “Not Moscow Not Mecca” examines syncretism as “the combination or amalgamation of distinct beliefs, religions, images, languages, or politics – as a third way between the two major geopolitical heavyweights of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: communism and political Islam. Hybrid genealogies are told from the perspective of the region’s fruits: from the persimmon to the mulberry, from the melon to the pomegranate. The history of the region’s flora moves beyond the anthropomorphic focus on historical personages of a region.”


From Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler’s press release “Not Moscow Not Mecca”:

“Not Moscow Not Mecca” begins the work of Slavs and Tatars’ third cycle: The Faculty of Substitution. “In The Faculty of Substitution the artists investigate the role of the sacred and syncretic as a vehicle for social change. “Substitution allows us to tell one tale through another, to adopt the innermost thoughts, experiences, beliefs, and sensations of others as our own”. In an effort to challenge the very notion of distance, Slavs and Tatars look into points of comparisons between the Orient and the Occident, modernity and Islam. Through moments of cognitive dissonance, The Faculty of Substitution discovers affinities among the apparently incommensurable and introduces histories beyond the grand hegemonic narratives of Communism and Islam.

Conceived as an installation for the Vienna Secession in May 2012, ‘Not Moscow Not Mecca’ writes the ‘collective autobiography of Central Asia through the fora and not the fauna.’ The exhibition activates fruits such as the quince, the sour cherry, the mulberry, or the watermelon as bearers of knowledge from various cultures and presents them as real and imaginary offerings in an open shrine. Each fruit stands for a linguistic, spiritual, emotional, or political form of syncretism across the steppes of Eurasia.”

Above image: Slavs and Tatars, “Triangulation (Not Moscow, Not Mecca),” 2011. Concrete, paint.


Excerpt from Slavs and Tatars’ book, “Not Moscow Not Mecca”:

Excerpt from Slavs and Tatars’ book, “Not Moscow Not Mecca”:

“Few people dare mention Marx and Mohammed in the same breath. For, what on earth (or in heaven, with or sans the 72 houris) could an atheistic economic and political philosophy have to do with a religion dedicated to the worship of the one and unique God? Does the former not continue to be the darling of leftists, who (like philandering partners, unwilling to make a clean break) keep coming back for one last chance, only to prolong the pain of all parties – while the latter takes pride in its traditionalist, some would say reactionary positions on a range of issues? Rare are the legs, but rarer yet are the heart and mind that can do splits. It is precisely such mental and mystical acrobatics that sweep us as Slavs and Tatars, not to mention Khazars, Bashkirs, Karakalpaks, and Uighurs, off our feet. […] Between the twin towers of communism and Islam lies a region alternatively called Ma wâra al nahr, Transoxiana, Greater Khorasan, Turkestan, or simply Central Asia. Like us, it too belongs to too many peoples and places at once, caught between Imperial Russia and Statist China, Chinggisid and Sharia laws, sedentary and nomadic tribes, Turkic, Persian, and Russian languages – not to mention Arabic, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets. As Maria Elisabeth Louw writes, ‘[t]he stubborn enchantedness of the world is perhaps most telling in the parts of the world where the concrete efforts to disenchant it were extraordinarily organized and profound.’ We turn to this ‘country beyond the river’ (Amu Darya, aka the Oxus) in an effort to research the potential for progressive agency in Islam. In a land considered historically instrumental in the development of the faith, but nonetheless marginalized in our oft-amnesiac era, its approach to pedagogy, to the sacred, and to modernity itself offers a much-needed model of critical thinking and commensurate being.”

Artist Bio

Slavs and Tatars is 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 practice is based on three activities: exhibitions, books and lecture-performances. In addition to launching a
residency and mentorship program for young professionals from their region, Slavs and Tatars opened Pickle Bar, a slavic aperitivo bar-cum-project space a few doors down from their studio in Berlin-Moabit, as well as an online merchandising store: MERCZbau.”