VALERIYA IBRAYEVA
Art historian and Critic (for more than 10 years Valeriya has headed the Centre of Modern Art, in Central Asia)
Buro247.kz, Online publication
«Wedding Ceremonies of the East and the Sexual Revolution of Faig Ahmed»
Faig Ahmed, one of the most popular artists of modern Azerbaijan, the author of the famous psychodelic carpets, unexpectedly began to research the theme of eastern rituals. His exhibition "It Is What It Is" in the art-centre "Yarat" is dedicated to gender relations which are viewed in relation to national rites and their sexual implication. Art historian, critic, and author of Column BURO 27/7, Valeriya Ibrayeva visited the exhibition and saw the eastern woman as the sacrifice of a ritual.

There is much in common between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. They share a sea, a past, and a history – that of the ancient Turkic, as well as the recent colonial; Soviet and post-Soviet. Traditionally, ethical and aesthetic preferences are close. Faig Ahmed, known first of all as "the master of transformations" ("Artchive"), is the author of amazing psychadelic objects created from a base of traditional eastern carpets. Ahmed started to research these traditions of rituals in such a way no one had dared to before.
On November 10, the vernissage of the exposition "It Is What It Is" took place in the art centre Yarat. This time the artist turned his view to quite a different theme- the research of ritual ceremonies which still exist in the regions of Azerbaijan, focusing his attention on gender relations. The name of the exhibition stems from an old Azerbaijani saying meaning a neutral relation to something. Nevertheless, the artist reveals the sexual sounding of the wedding ceremony, breaking the cultural codes that are aimed at hiding their secret meanings by generally accepted ritual acts.

Passing through tens of white lacy curtains, the symbols of secrecy, visitiors stare at a striking object: a carpet named "Virgin"- an indispensable part of a bride's dowry. It looks as if it's swollen with menstrual blood; the symbol of sexual maturity.

In the centre of the hall there is an installation titled "The Biggest" which consists of the models of the traditional wedding present - a sugary head. Its general significance is to wish the young couple happiness, wealth, and a sweet life. However, its obvious phallic form, originating in ancient pagan ceremony, is stressed by the recurrence as well as by the various sizes of "the gift". In this context the name of the work emphasizes the generosity of the giver at first sight and also gains sexual- emulative characteristics.

The exhibition is arranged quite elegantly – the dazzling white space of the exhibition hall, the bright colours of the objects, the curtains, the sugar, the white shed in the video "Social Anatomy", shelves for tea glasses, vases and bouquets all pulsate rhythmically at the expense of red inclusions which are undoubtedly connected to the main metaphor - blood. The red stream of threads running from the upper pillow crowns the pyramid of mattresses – the installation "9 Nights", demonstrating all possible meanings of the number "3" and its multiples- sacral, ritual, gynaecological.

The expressiveness of colour and its metaphoric essence become apparent through the intermittence of black notes. Thus, in the work "Silk Road, unfinished white and red are united with a black plait. Hidden meanings abound: the silk making as a prerogative of men, silk scarf used only by women to cover their hair or face, and transition from girlhood to the status of a married woman. This last which is outwardly represented by covering of the head, can't conceal the first impression- actually the idea of "The Origin of the World" by G. Kurbe.

Retrieving the primordial meaning of initiations from civilization's strata over centuries, the artist doesn't give definite estimate, although the hasty conclusion – that a woman is a victim of ritual - is on the tip of the tongue.

The name of the exhibition "It is what it is" also belongs to the category of hidden meanings. Located in a small recess the exposition of drawings is covered with red panties doubling as curtains- the same panties boys put on after circumcision. The installation is called "A Small Wedding" and includes ladders where one can climb and open the drawings made by the artist himself, as well as by the boys who have had this operation. The drawings are outright enough. Faig Ahmed's own drawings can even be characterized as cruel. Thus, in one of the paintings a knife is depicted plunging into a phallus which is circled with Arabic inscriptions.

Equalizing the positions of a man and woman through the analysis of ritual ceremonies, through penetration into the secrets of their initial meanings, and by peeling back the curtains the artist accomplishes a sexual revolution. He speaks of the secret, the hidden, the allegorical; he tells what is not acceptable to talk aloud about in the so-called East. Yes, this is Faig Ahmed's statement: that the aim of art is to break the laws.