The exhibition follows the traces of the Steppe and Silk Roads through time. Objects from the museum’s collections illustrate historically important epochs and aspects: archaeological grave goods from the Tang period point to one of the heyday periods of the Silk Road trade, while objects from the 13th/14th centuries from China and Iran point to the last peak phase of the trade routes at the time of the Mongol Empire. Textiles, everyday objects and photographs convey an impression of Central Asia at the time of the scientific rediscovery of the “Silk Roads” in the 19th/20th century.
Objects of different time levels are set in relation with narratives, interviews, video documentations and artistic works of the present: rapid developments meet slow narratives and thus illuminate connections of the “New Silk Road” and the “Steppe Corridor” with the historical routes. Works by contemporary artists play a special role in the exhibition.
The complementary exhibition multiverse (17.5.23 – 14.9.23) is dedicated to the artist Nomin Bold and the artist Baatarzorig Batjargal; both are among the most outstanding contemporary artistic personalities in Mongolia.
The exhibitions are organized in cooperation with the research project “Dispersed and Connected” (FWF/PEEK AR 394-G24) funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
Project management & curation: Maria-Katharina Lang (Institute for Social Anthropology, ÖAW).
Concept & Design: Maria-Katharina Lang & Christian Sturminger.
Nomin Bold and Baatarzorig Batjargal are among the outstanding Mongolian artistic personalities of the present. Often working side by side in their studio in Ulaanbaatar, independent visual worlds rich in detail are created over a period of months with multi-layered cosmologies.
Different time levels and spaces are condensed and interwoven on one canvas. This is also a peculiarity of Mongolian painting art, which contains elements of Buddhist art and Mongolian miniature painting. Based on their skills with historical techniques, and their further development and modification, Nomin and Baatarzorig are painting about the effects of globalisation, the Anthropocene and our increasingly fragile environment. Their works present a tensed yet fluid vision, the result of the interplay between animism and a disenchanted nature on the one hand, and a galvanic nexus of Mongolia situated between China, Russia and the West, on the other. Overlapping Buddhism and shamanism, these paintings show us a multiplicity of universes, dreams and apocalyptic in which animals, spirits, deities, humans and hybrid beings (co)exist.
Nomin Bold & Baatarzorig Batjargal are part of the group of contemporary Mongol Zurag artists, yet this classification does not do justice to either of them. Both graduated from the same master class for Mongol Zurag (Mongolian imagery), a “traditional” painting style, which was itself a constructed safe-space during the 20th century repressive Soviet-influenced phase. This space allowed to explore non-traditional issues and transmit and preserve elements of Mongolian and Buddhist painting art.
Nomin and Baatarzorig elude unambiguous categorisations in their art by creating their own visual worlds in flux.
(M.-K. Lang, 01.05.23)
Exhibition at Weltmuseum Wien
Heldenplatz, 1010 Vienna
The exhibition Dust & Silk. Steppe and Silk Roads invites visitors to a multi-layered search for traces through history and the present and asks about the connections of the historical routes with the “New Silk Road”.
Neither today nor in the past does it concern only one road or silk as the singular good. Rather, it was and is a loose, changing network of routes by land and sea that connects China with Europe and other parts of the world.
The term “Silk Road” was coined by German geographer and cartographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877. Not only silk but also tea, gold, jade, china and horses were transported on paths through the steppe and deserts between Asia and Europe. In addition, also weapons, musical instruments, Golden Peaches, “wild apples” and spices as well as ideas, religions, art, dreams, knowledge, diseases, conflicts and dust were in motion. Today, it is also about contact, movement and transport, albeit with other speeds and wares. Large-scale infrastructure projects are shaping the regions of the steppe and silk roads, bringing not only dust but also raw materials to the surface. In Europe, China’s planned, global infrastructure network, the “Belt & Road Initiative”, is often called the “New Silk Road”. The exhibition presents its objects to track these movements and relationships between Asia and Europe, and to establish new connections between various topics and places. Against this backdrop, the exhibits also reflect the interests of the travellers who brought them to Europe. The exhibition juxtaposes more than 200 historical objects, artworks and photographic recordings with contemporary artistic positions and current research documents. The exhibits include outstanding collection pieces from the Weltmuseum Wien, numerous loans from national and international museums and collections, and the works of contemporary artists.
Exhibition concept & design:
Maria-Katharina Lang & Christian Sturminger
Floor map, table map & film montage
Umida Akhmedova, Baterdene Batchuluun, Nomin Bold, Johannes Heuer, Dilyara Kaipova, Paul Kolling, Khosbayar Narankhuu, Tatia Skhirtladze, Marylise Vigneau, Jack Wolf
Maria-Katharina Lang & Christian Sturminger
Exhibition at MARKK Museum am Rothenbaum
Rothenbaumchaussee 64, 20148 Hamburg
Magnificent fabrics and ikat weavings made of silk, tea and “wild apples” found their way to Europe on the legendary trade routes of the Steppe- and Silk Roads.
Today, the transport and trade connections are of interest under different auspices. Large-scale infrastructure projects are shaping the Asian regions of the steppes and Silk Roads, bringing not only dust but also raw materials such as coal and gold to the surface.
Exhibits from various museum collections bear witness to the historical connections and exchanges between East and West and reflect the interests of the travellers who brought them to Europe. Impressive film and photographic recordings, interviews and travel notes from current research relate the historical observations and themes to contemporary issues and lifeworlds.
In this combination of current perspectives with historical material – ethnographic as well as archaeological objects and old photographs – and contemporary works of art, surprising and hardly noticed stories are told. The exhibition, designed as a walk-on imaginary map, invites visitors to trace paths and movements between East and West and to perceive new relations between topics and places.
Concept & Exhibition Design: Maria-Katharina Lang & Christian Sturminger; Exhibition maps: Johannes Heuer
Selected videos by M.-K. Lang & C. Sturminger on show at the Steppen & Seidenstrassen exhibition at MARKK