Blank History. Chingiz at the Azerbaijan Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale.

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CHINGIZ Babayev, born in Baku in 1964, lives and works in Baku. He graduated with an MFA from the Azerbaijan State University of Fine Arts in 1991. Since 1986, he has worked as a conceptual artist with sculpture, painting, graphic art, photography, video, installations, performance, design, prose and poetry, and philosophy. His work includes projects that research social, political and historical issues in an urban context.

In 1996 he established ARTS etc…, a Centre for Contemporary Culture in Baku. Subsequently, he curated several art projects, local as well as international. Since 1996 he has been a member of The Union of Azerbaijan Artists.

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He has often been elected as a board member and advisor for various international cultural organizations. Among these are: Eastern Partnership Culture Program, Step Beyond Advisor for the Caucasus countries, European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam, Expert for the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, Baku, Azerbaijan, the editorial board of CORD art magazine, France, and Board Member, Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, Baku, Azerbaijan.

CHİNGİZ’ works are held in many private art collections in Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, USA, UK, Austria, Italy, Estonia, France, Poland, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Dominican Republic, Kyrgyzstan and Iran. His work is also displayed in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in Baku, Azerbaijan; Alexander Traxler, Vienna Austria; Vahid Kooros, USA and Switzerland; Laura Condemi, Sicily, İtaly.

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For “Ornamentation”, Chingiz has presented an installation titled ‘Blank History’, covering the floor of an entire room of the pavilion with lime powder and concrete and a handmade woolen carpet at the far back wall. Strong white lights illuminate the floor, where the lime powder has been worked on as if to resemble sand on a beach or a leftover mandala. Shapes of various significance, symbols rather, of hammer and sickle, swastikas, eagles, eight-pointed stars and more, populate the white dust. They almost look like archaelogical finds, just discovered in the desert or uncovered by a windstorm and forgotten in the middle of nowhere, ever present, and yet still lost.

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Chingiz points at them, uncovering these symbols, some more well known than others, depending on where one is from. Surely all of them are identifiable with a little research. Certainly again, they all point at different historical and political events or eras in the history of Azerbaijan and the world.These effiges were like ornaments that symbolised political and religious ideology. According to the curator, the installation “appears as an approach to the concept of history and its interpretation in different historical periods. In his work he presents ornaments as mediums of conveyed historical meanings.”

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In his statement for the installation, Chingiz says:

History consists of time and a complicated system of chronological events, personalities and other documented facts. Often the same events are described in a contradictory fashion by different sources within one country, region, continent and world.

I think history is a formidable weapon in the hands of different cultures and religions when used to fight against each other.

That is why I decided to erase history and start to write it on a blank surface. In this it is a blank carpet, a space where I can start to create the image of a new history where no wars, no hunger, no borders and no events will affect the lives of millions of people.

Click here to read more on Ornamentation. The Azerbaijan Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale.

All Photographs: Chingiz, ‘Blank History’, 2013, concrete, handmade woolen carpet, lime powder, dimensions variable. “Ornamentation”, Azerbaijan Pavilion, 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia.

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