7th Garage International Conference: Post-What? Neo-How? Contemporary Configurations of the Former Soviet Space




Considering Azerbaijan’s art community as a collective consciousness consisting of five levels (or strata) and resembling a mandala, the speaker performed an original analytical introspection, shifting attention from the more peripheral levels to the central, vacuous one…

Despite the fact that 28 year have passed since disintegration of the Soviet Union and the union’s former countries have more or less integrated into the global community, a certain whole that constitutes a common mental field of this geocultural space still exists. It doesn’t matter whether we call it the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, or the Eurasian space. The main thing is that the peoples inhabiting this territory will, one way or another, continue to interact with each other on various levels and independently of changing political environments. Since contemporary art operates as the most mobile and transnational form of culture today, it is extremely interesting to analyze its internal architectonics. The structure of the art community of one of the former Soviet countries, Azerbaijan, can (with certain reservations) be extrapolated onto the situation in other post-Soviet republics. Although it is possible that the situation of art in these countries may differ. However, there is some certainty that the questions posed by contemporary artists, curators, and thinkers are universal for all the players on the field. What (if anything) makes the contemporary art of these countries contemporary and of interest to the international art world? How successful have the artistic elites of the former Soviet countries been in overcoming their secondariness (for which read “inferiority complex”) within the authentic Western cultural context and in freeing themselves from the image of exotic (aboriginal) cultures that may be popular in the West? And how legitimate is it to discuss contemporary art in the framework of national cultural formats when it has long been personalized par excellence?





Teymur Daimi (b. 1966, Baku) is an artist, filmmaker, and philosopher, and head of the Drawing Department at the Art College of Azerbaijan State Academy of Arts. In 2000, he defended his Candidate’s degree thesis at the Institute of Philosophy and Law of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. In 2006, he was the co-editor of the international contemporary art journal Cord. In 2007 and 2011 he was part of the team which developed the concept for the Azerbaijan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and in 2009 his work was featured in the Azerbaijan Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. He is the author of Finding the Way (1996) and numerous texts on contemporary art for various art journals, including Moscow Art Magazine, Focus, Cord, and Loop. He has created and directed a number of experimental films and the feature-length film The Last One (2011). He lives and works in Baku.



Researchers, curators, and artists from across the region will explore the legacy of Soviet cultural policies, strategies for integration into the international context, models of institutional development, and discursive regimes around the local and global and the national and postcolonial across the space that was until recently referred to as “post-Soviet.”

In 1990, the so-called “parade of sovereignties,” a series of declarations of sovereignty by constituent parts of the Soviet Union, marked the breakdown of the relatively unified Soviet cultural space into numerous independent entities. In the run-up to the 30th anniversary of the “parade,” the organizers of the 7th Garage International Conference have invited participants in those events from the 15 countries that gained independence to review the results of the cultural trajectories set in the 1990s and 2000s. Until recently, both the time following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the space formerly occupied by it (and sometimes even that of the Eastern Bloc countries) were referred to as post-Soviet. Today, this term no longer feels relevant. A new sense of cultural community between the former Soviet republics has emerged despite political conflicts, post-colonial traumas, and national differences. This community has yet to find a name, and the resulting terminological uncertainty will be the subject of several papers, whose authors will examine the limitations of existing terms and discuss alternatives.

Conference speakers will also share their experience of cultural institution building on the ruins of the Soviet system or the foundations laid by international institutions in the 1990s; discuss questions of national representation and international cooperation; look into DIY and artist-run initiatives across the former Soviet space; and review cultural development strategies based on state and private support. Alongside historical case studies, participants will discuss projects and practices of the last decade, which were often driven by people born after 1990. The program also includes several art interventions.    

The program of the 7th Garage International Conference was developed with the aim of contributing to a deeper understanding of recent cultural developments across the region. The conference is the latest in a series of projects bringing together the Museum and cultural institutions in the former Soviet Union, which also includes the Garage pavilion at Astana EXPO-2017, contributions to the program of Tselinny Center of Contemporary Culture in Almaty and Center for Contemporary Art in Tashkent, and collaborations with artists and independent curators organized as part of the Museum’s exhibition, publishing, research, and public programs.

The conference is organized by Ekaterina Lazareva and Andrey Misiano, Garage curators.

Conference Speakers: Hrach Bayadyan (Yerevan, Armenia), Aleksei Borisionok (Minsk, Belarus), Boris Chukhovich (Montreal, Canada), Teymur Daimi (Baku, Azerbaijan), Georgi Derluguian (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Anders Härm (Tallinn, Estonia), Nikita Kadan (Kyiv, Ukraine), Inga Lāce (Riga, Latvia), Viktor Misiano (Moscow, Russia), Stefan Rusu (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan), Kęstutis Šapoka (Vilnius, Lithuania), Yulia Sorokina (Almaty, Kazakhstan), Madina Tlostanova (Linköping, Sweden), Alexey Ulko (Tashkent, Uzbekistan), Vladimir Us (Chisinau, Moldova).