‘In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can’ I read on a fortune cookie saying found among my papers at Tadino 6 apartment from which the project Ta(r)dino 6 takes its name. The previous evening, I was back from Venice with good news: we are bringing ‘Turandokht. Radio Riddles’ at my friend’s private garden situated within a walking distance from the Accademia Bridge and Campo San Stefano where traditionally Azerbaijan National Pavilion is located. Back in 2017 I lived for a week of Venice Biennial professional preview in the guest house inside that garden. It impressed me with its calamity, scents and all possible hues of green. Liselotte Hohs, the current owner of the garden and the 16th century mansion had a lot of fascinating stories to tell: she bought the estate from artist Ernst van Leyden when she decided to move to Venice. The garden inspired many: Amadeo Modigliani and Fabio Mauroner drew each other’s portraits there, Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein were frequent guests. The stories were plenty and so was Campari mixed with white wine.
Back then I have already contaminated the minds of artist Farhad Farzaliyev and poet Leyli Salayeva with the idea to make a project dedicated Turandot, the protagonist of eponymous opera by Giacomo Puccini and to use artistic means to reveal little known fact that the plot is rooted to Nizami Ganjavi’s ‘Seven Beauties’ poem (1197). My obsession with Nizami is dated back to 2012 and by 2017 I digged in sufficient academic research on this matter and made a video animation for Milli Irsimiz Youtube channel. For the art project we had a particular place in mind – the Music Room in Royal Pavilion in Brighton and I have been discussing a very vague concept with the director trying to persuade her that the project is meant to take place there… but in vain!
Time was passing: from trio we grew into what I now call ‘a fantastic four’: Jahangir Selimkhanov joined the project igniting creative spark in Farhad and together they finalized the sound material significantly enriching it with new compositions and commissions whereas Leyli has made a compilation of her poetry in English that we translated into various languages.
In December 2017 we inaugurated our sound installation as ‘Vertigo’ in the Shirvanshahs Palace. It was a playground: we observed, reflected and discussed the project. The conclusion was made that the project deserves continuation, but none of us had time and energy to deal with it. Turandot was calmly waiting for her time to come. Time to time I would get melancholic thoughts that the project deserved better international visibility.
In response to the open call from Ralf Rugoff’s team, I have submitted ‘Vertigo’ for the main pavilion ‘May you live in interesting times’. When I received a rejection letter from La Biennale di Venezia, explaining that the artwork did not fit in the curatorial concept, I decided to bring it at all costs to Venice. I had a consent of the rest of the team, however, joggling dozens of things at a time, it was not until April that I have realized that the time is ticking and that window of opportunity is closing down. I had several scenarios and locations, but none of them had a definite confirmation or costed a lot of money.
I decided to have this project under Ta(r)dino 6 umbrella and to follow its core principle – high impact with no/little investment. We have rebranded the project by developing new visual image and changing the title and making it speak to itself – ‘Turandokht. Radio Riddles’. We have improved the sound by mastering the files in Moscow. But the most brilliant was to get rid of the heavy equipment and pack the whole exhibition in a suitcase: Turandot challenged us with a necessity to minimize the installation time and transportation costs. For Venice our team consisted of Farhad, art manager Olga Seleznyova who I initially lured with promises of having processo and Aperol at Grand Canal and then disclosed the plan to conquer Venice, and friends from Transitory White platform – Irina Konyuxova and Pavel Metelitsyn who we asked to make video and photo documentation of the event.
As we learned that May 9, 2019 is the opening day of Azerbaijan National Pavilion, we decided to leverage our physical proximity with the Pavilion and announced our date. On April 29 straight from Marco Polo airport I appeared at the doorsteps of Liselotte asking to support the first independent project from Azerbaijan. The rest – is history.
Our visitors noted that they did not want to leave the garden and on average spent thirty minutes listening to ‘Turandokht. Radio Riddles’ – unprecedented luxury given how many events and openings were in Venice simultaneously.
Personally to me, on May 9, 2019 the Venetian garden became the sanctuary for ‘Turandokht. Radio Riddles’ and after seven years Turandokht was set free. It is a start of a journey and we hope to seize the opportunities to bring ‘Turandokht. Radio Riddles’ to other venues. If anyone is interested to support us in our mission, we are happy to have a chat.
Müəllif: Əsli Səmədova
Fotolar: Irina Kontuxova, Pavel Metelitsyn