Pickle Bar presents Slavs and Tatars
Since its founding in 2006, the art collective Slavs and Tatars has demonstrated keen insight into polemical issues in society, paving new ways for contemporary discourse through their unique form of knowledge production, which includes popular culture, spiritual and esoteric traditions, oral histories, modern myths, as well as scholarly research, all focused on an area East of the former Berlin Wall and West of the Great Wall of China, known as Eurasia. Starting as a book club, Slavs and Tatars has developed a distinctive practice around in-depth research cycles, which spans historical and cultural enquiries, academic research and translates them into various forms of creative expression, such as artworks, lectures, performances, and literary works. Over the past five years, Slavs and Tatars have expanded their already capacious practice of exhibitions, lectures, and publications to include a mentorship and residency program for emerging professionals from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. A further initiative has been Pickle Bar, both in its permanent space in Berlin as well as pop-ups worldwide, expanding their Eurasian platform beyond the confines of traditional institutions.
Slavs and Tatars has developed over the past years an extensive art practice and knowledge production. Their cycle of research ‘Pickle Politics’ looks at fermentation as an evolving process of creative agitation which produces works, events, experiences and knowledge by feeding off itself. This dynamic lends additional depth to their exhibition at West Den Haag, an art institution located in the political heart of the Netherlands. It's precisely the symbiotic process that Slavs and Tatars exemplify which offers a new context for the polarized political opinions and inventories that arise in modern times due to fear of change, acceleration and impermanence in both public and private spheres. Resulting in increasing demand for homogeneity, national identity, stability, and tradition. A Slavic version of the aperitivo bar serving simultaneously as a performance space, Pickle Bar was launched by Slavs and Tatars in 2020, seeking to delve into the practices and symbolism associated with fermentation to construct a political narrative using the notion of decay, rotting, and sourness, as a key to a different, less pasteurized account of modernity.
Thanks to modern interventions, from the fridge to preservation with food additives, our food can be purified from its living environment, and the risk of contamination can be tightly controlled, extending its shelf life. Alternatively, rich traditions of fermentation, which the region of Eurasia in particular is known for, offer yet another relationship to the food. Acid-producing and decomposing bacteria alter the initial character of the food product, enabling it to undergo souring and transformation, making each product unique in taste and enriched in healthy probiotics. Embracing change and decay rather than avoiding them, the process of fermentation always seeks to create new living environments.
In the Pickle Bar, the artists and public engage in a dialogue through anything concerning the tongue, from ingestion to speech.
From this context, the installation ‘Pickle Plaza’ at West becomes a departure point from which to reflect on notions of hospitality and regionalism critical to the collective’s works. The contributions of Pickle Bar alumni extend further the collective’s interest in ingesting and vocalizing political agendas within the regional remit of Eurasia. From the subversion of language to the use of attire as a political statement, each work looks at the limits of ideologies and the edges of belief systems within the sour, if not salty, setting of Pickle Bar.