A Drop of Sky festival to run in Baku

By: Amina Nazarli

Commissioned by YARAT Contemporary Art Space, A Drop of Sky, the 3rd Public Art Festival in Baku will run in between June 13 and October 5.

Coinciding with the first European Games, which is scheduled for June 12-28, and benefiting from the broad international audience who will be in Baku, over this period, the Public Art Festival will give both Baku residents and visitors the chance to see a range of events held within the frame of the Festival.

Participating artists include Wafaa Bilal, Ergin Cavusoglu, Farhad Farzaliyev and Nazrin Mammadova. Artworks will be displayed at various locations throughout the city as well as through a web based technological component that explores the virtual public art platform. The festival will be accompanied by an education programme including a film club, artist talks and a two week workshop, AA Baku school: a collaboration with Architecture Association in London led by architects and AA tutors Omid Kamvari and Kasper Ax.

Curated by Sara Raza, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator for the Middle East and North Africa and YARAT Head of Education, the festival investigates how contemporary artists and audiences perceive the rapidly developing natural, scientific and technological changes currently occurring in Baku and beyond. Taking inspiration from the poetry and thinking of Russian Futurist Velimir Khlebnikov, the festival explores ideas pertaining to poetry, philosophy, astronomy, logic and illogic. Referencing the city’s rich history as a major trade port and its recent urban gentrification, A Drop of Sky responds to ideas concerning nostalgia for both the past and the future and the point at which the ancient and the modern intersect.

Launching the festival on June 13, Turkish-Bulgarian artist Ergin Cavusoglu will present a special site-specific anamorphic perspective floor drawing within the Old City entitled ‘Liquid Breeding’ (2015). The work explores both the artist’s longstanding interest in the work of conceptual pioneer Marcel Duchamp and the vertical and horizontal expansion of Baku. Cavusoglu’s drawing has been appropriated from a three-dimensional architectural model, which the artist invites audiences to walk across. The everyday act of walking is recorded by a camera, which relays these recordings onto a monitor that presents the illusion of audiences walking within a sculpture. Cavusoglu will talk at the YARAT Contemporary Art Centre on 13 June about his work for the festival.

Further probing Baku’s architectural expansion, emerging artist Nazrin Mammadova reimagines the future regeneration of the city of Baku through the medium of her video game ‘OUROBORUM’ (2015), launching in July 22, through which she invites gamers to participate in a stimulating and playful reconstruction of a new future city. ‘OUROBORUM’ is named after the ancient Greek tail biting snake, a popular symbol of the cycle of renewal, and draws on several Azerbaijani cultural tropes, ranging from histories, geometric pattern language, futuristic architecture and traditional and contemporary local music. It will be available to download for free on iOS platformsю

Farhad Farzaliyev’s neon billboard project entitled ‘GÖYDƏ GÖY GÖYƏRTİ GÖYƏRDİ/ Green Grass in the Sky Turned Blue’ (2015) launching on June 26 is a poetic tongue twister that toys with language and lyricism. By re-appropriating the language of commercial advertising through the repetitive use of the same consonants in multiple neon words Farzaliyev investigates the objects of public daily consumption and how these are sometimes absurdly processed through text, language and alliteration. In reversing the relationship between the ground and the sky the artist aims to confuse viewers both logically and linguistically and provide a humorous commentary on everyday commercialism and semiotics.

At the beginning of October, Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal will be creating a special rendition of the camera obscura sculpture entitled ‘The Hierarchy of Being,’ which was originally commissioned by Maraya Art Park in the United Arab Emirates in 2013. Bilal’s project is inspired by pioneering Islamic scientists, in particular the work of two influential Iraqi scientists in the field of optics and kinetic motion; Ibn al-Haytham and Ibn Al-Jazari, active during the Golden Age of Islam circa 750 – 1258 CE. In the context of Baku, Bilal looks at the relationship between architecture and the public as part of a permanent installation along the coastline of the Caspian Sea in Baku that seeks to slow down the motion of a city ‘on the move.’

In conjunction with the festival, a lively education programme of artist talks will commence in June. A series of film screenings inspired by science fiction and futurism will run from July to August at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre’s auditorium and open air cinema on the rooftop of YAY Gallery. The programme will include works by contemporary artists and filmmakers including Larissa Sansour, Shezad Dawood, Deniz Uster and Vahid Vakilifar. In addition, a two week special workshop orchestrated by the AA Baku School, formed in collaboration with the Architecture Association in London will be led by architects and AA tutors Omid Kamvari and Kasper Ax. The AA Baku School will be the first of its kind in the Caucasus region providing a space for architects, writers, artists and thinkers to converge and participate in an intensive workshop exploring current ideas on spatial thinking.

Public Festival Programme

13 June , 5 pm Ergin Çavuşoğlu

Artist talk at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre

13 June , 7 pm Ergin Çavuşoğlu

Liquid Breeding launches at Kichik Gala in the Old City, Baku

26 June , 9 pm Farkhad Farzaliyev

‘GÖYDƏ GÖY GÖYƏRTİ GÖYƏRDİ/ Green Grass in the Sky Turned Blue’ launches on 28 May Street, Baku

03 July, 7:30 pm Vahid Valikifar

Film screening of Taboor in the presence of the artist at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Auditorium

10 July, 7:30 pm Larisa Sansour

Film screening of Nation Estate` in the presence of the artist at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Auditorium

22 July, 7 pm Nazrin Mammadova

OUROBORUM launches at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, video room

11 August, 9 pm Deniz Uster

Film Screening of Beyond is before at the open air cinema, YAY Gallery rooftop

18 August, 9 pm Shezad Dawood

Towards of a possible film at the open air cinema, YAY Gallery rooftop

05 October, 7 pm Wafaa Bilal

The Hierarchy of Being launches

YARAT is a not-for-profit art organisation based in Baku, Azerbaijan. Founded by Aida Mahmudova and a group of artists in 2011, YARAT is dedicated to nurturing an understanding of contemporary art in Azerbaijan and to creating a platform for Azerbaijani art, both nationally and internationally.

YARAT (which means create in Azerbaijani) has commissioned over 120 projects to date, the majority of which have been in Baku, Azerbaijan. Education is at the heart of YARAT’s work, they hold artist residencies, workshops, lectures and screenings. In 2014 they launched a summer school and a new building housing artists’ studios and spaces to support their residency programme. YARAT’s programme ARTIM (meaning progress in Azerbaijani) supports young practitioners in the arts providing opportunities to curate and feature their work in exhibitions.