Despite strong government-led art institutions, Baku’s art scene was missing a truly independent and community-based space for artistic experimentation and professional development. While the large institutions in the city offer opportunities to young artists, they are limited and cannot fulfill all of the needs of the art community.
Launched on February 1, 2019, Ta(r)dino 6 Art Platform aims to fill in the niche. With a gallery in the historic old city of Icherisheher and a vintage flat near the urban core of Baku’s downtown, the platform fills the niche in providing art professionals the opportunity to explore their ideas in depth. Programs to date include commissioned site-specific artworks, artist talks, professional coaching and workshops by local and international artists and curators to help grow Baku’s emerging art community and to support the discourse on Azerbaijani contemporary art.
Ta(r)dino 6 Art Platform caught international attention with Turandokht. Radio Riddles migrating sound installation that was labeled an ‘alternative Azerbaijan pavilion’ during the professional preview of the 58th Venice Biennial.
The project was presented in the oldest and largest Venetian private garden within less than a month by a small group of enthusiasts. Coincidentally, a private garden was within walking distance from the Accademia Bridge and Campo San Stefano, where the traditionally Azerbaijan National Pavilion was situated. As a result, an opening of the National Pavilion on May 9 was chosen for showcasing Turandokht. Radio Riddles. The sound installation resulted from an earlier collaboration between artist Farhad Farzaliyev, poet Leyli Salayeva, musicologist Jahangir Selimkhanov and curator Asli Samadova. The amount of work and number of collaborators – over 40 actors, musicians, composers – involved in the creative process makes Turandokht. Radio Riddles one of the most complex artworks ever made in Azerbaijan. The project was inaugurated in December 2017 in Shirvanshakhs Palace, a 15th century UNESCO World Heritage site. However, the creators felt that they had not yet found their audience: it was lost in medieval architecture and the main audience were tourists accidentally walking in the room with the sound installation.
Turandokht. Radio Riddles transfuses the reality with a carefully constructed multiverse filled with music, environmental sounds, poetry recitals and interviews aired simultaneously in five transmissions that can only be heard with the aid of a radio-and-headphone set. It is an immersion into the carefully constructed fantasy world of a present-day Turandot, a protagonist of Giacomo Puccini’s eponymous opera. Centuries-long transformations of the original story, a part of the Seven Beauties’ poem (1197) written by Azerbaijani poet and philosopher Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209), are traced in the sound installation which is an allegory of the shifts in gender attitudes and cross-fertilizing cultural mutations taken place throughout human history. The sound material is mixed and distorted along with text, creating a variety of possibilities to experience and interpret the artwork.
Almost like an initial message in the game of Chinese whispers, Nizami Ganjavi’s plot has passed through countless transformations over the centuries. The creators of Turandokht. Radio Riddles have taken the process further, to imagine what kind of person Nizami’s protagonist, a smart and astute princess, would become in modern times; what would her thoughts and essence be? As a result, they have created a composite portrait of someone simultaneously strong and vulnerable. The sound installation thus immerses the listener into a carefully constructed fantasy world of a present-day Turandot, a protagonist of Giacomo Puccini’s eponymous opera and one of the most recognizable works based on Nizami’s plot. Centuries-long transformations of the story are traced in the sound installation which is an allegory of the shifts in gender attitudes and cross-fertilizing cultural mutations that have taken place throughout human history. For example, tenor arias are sung by sopranos, European 19th-century classical music is performed on medieval Azerbaijani instruments, due to English grammar construction some texts are gender-neutral. The sound material is mixed and distorted along with text, creating a variety of possibilities to experience and interpret the artwork. The artwork touches many hot buttons of modern society in a series of interviews and poetry recitals: culture and self-identity, solitude, empowerment, relationships and balance with oneself and outer world, setting priorities. These topics make Turandokht. Radio Riddles a multilayer piece that requires time and concentration.
The Venetian garden opened up new possibilities and pushed the creative boundaries for artist Farhad Farzaliyev who engages in anthropological research on the Azerbaijan cultural context and the cataloging of striking forms of neo-folklore. With the nonlinear narration and overlapping sound, Turandokht. Radio Riddles offered a unique experience to each visitor: interaction is personal and unique since one’s body placement, even its slight tilt or move would affect what a person would hear in a given moment. The further one walks and the longer one listens to the radio emissions, the deeper and more confessional they become. For numerous visitors Turandokht. Radio Riddles was perceived as a poetic multiverse of possibilities and a refuge from reality, a spiritual delve into a polyphony of sound in an attempt to reach catharsis.
The role of Asli Samadova as a curator of the project and founder of Ta(r)dino 6 Art Platform was to consolidate the right people and resources to create high-impact events within minimal time and limited resources. Since the Venice event doing ‘high impact projects with little or no investment’ has become the main priority of Ta(r)dino 6 in promoting contemporary art from Azerbaijan.
* Azerbaijan polyphonic folk music traditions. In total, there are seven main modes aka. mugham (Rast, Shur, Segah, Shushtar, Bayaty-Shiraz, Chahargah, Humayun)