Sometimes the best way to understand an intelligent subject matter is to ask stupid questions. According to Slavs and Tatars, the world traveling Eurasian-based art collective, it is indeed one way to create intrigue. Opening January 15th, Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston serves as the North American host for Mirrors for Princes, an evolving multimedia exhibition by the collective, complemented by the first-ever lecture-performance series in Houston.
The collective began in 2006 as an informal reading group, describing itself as "a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China” known as Eurasia. Since then, aside from having eight books published and being exhibited around the globe, the group's lecture-performances have been presented extensively throughout the United States—from art institutions like the MoMA in New York and Detroit Institute of Art to universities like UT Austin and UCLA.
The title, Mirrors for Princes, comes from a medieval genre of advice literature for rulers that offered instructions, aphorisms and reflections on how to rule a nation, from economics to etiquette, astrology to agriculture.
Telling a story of Eurasian conflicts and relations, the multimedia exhibition— which includes presentations in Zurich, Abu Dhabi, Edinburgh, and Brisbane, and concludes its international tour at Blaffer—touts a large six-channel audio installation, a series of sculptures and a reading space all having to do with the etiquette of language and an early genre of political science or advice for future kings.
"The act of reading—whether literally, figuratively, architecturally, liturgically—remains central to our work," the group explains of their ideology. The group also translates literary tropes and vernacular objects like religious furniture and tools into artwork to further their position.
The collective offers four performance-lecture series at locations throughout the city, which are coordinated by the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Ever the system-bucking group, Slavs and Tatars describe the way they like to tell a story: "We like to ask stupid questions to rather smart subject matter."
Jan 15–Mar 19. Free. Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building. 713-743-9521. blafferartmuseum.org