top of page

Azerbaijan Pavilion
Biennale Arte 2024

Curatorial text


In 2024, La Biennale di Venezia, the world’s most important exhibition of contemporary art, will open for the 60th time. First mounted in 1895, this event invariably attracts worldwide attention – from both professionals and general public. La Biennale di Venezia is an event that has historically become an indisputable marker of new trends on the global art scene and the artists who present in their works an image of modernity. Every two years, this huge festival of contemporary art offers the public a programme of exhibitions, presenting, in addition to the main curatorial project, national pavilions from many different countries.


This year La Biennale di Venezia will take place from 20th April to 24th November. The title of the main project – Stranieri Ovunque (Foreigners Everywhere) was taken by Adriano Pedrosa, the event’s principal curator, from the title of a series of works by the Claire Fontaine creative collective, which struggled against racism and xenophobia in Italy in the early 2000s. The famous Brazilian curator justifies his choice as follows: “The backdrop to this Biennale is a world replete with numerous crises related to peoples’ movement and life across countries, nations, territories and borders.

This is reflected in the dangers and pitfalls of language, translation and ethnicity, expressed in differences and inconsistencies in identity, nationality, race, gender, wealth and freedom. In this landscape, the phrase Foreigners Everywhere has (at least) double meaning. Firstly, wherever you go, wherever you are, you will always encounter foreigners – they/we are everywhere. Secondly, no matter where you find yourself, you are always foreigners.”


From Caspian to Pink Planet: I Am Here, the exhibition in the Azerbaijan Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia, represents a unique response to this thesis. Its optimism lies in its thesis that a person can be present everywhere – physically and/or mentally. Even as a stranger, the power of imagination and empathy enables one to master (or settle) in an unfamiliar environment and take root there.


It is a great pleasure for me to curate the Azerbaijan Pavilion this year with Luca Beatrice, curator and critic of contemporary art, professor of art history at the Albertina Academy and the Institute of Applied Arts and Design (IAAD) in Turin. Azerbaijan has presented its national pavilion every two years since 2007 and this year, at the 60th La Biennale di Venezia, the Azerbaijan Pavilion is in Campo della Tana, a house built in 1579 in the Arsenale district, one of the two main areas traditionally housing national pavilions.

The three artists represented in the Azerbaijan Pavilion this year are from different generations and use different means of expression and technique. However, their works selected for display at the Biennale touch, in one way or another, upon situations intertwining reality and fantasy in which an individual must overcome alienation and achieve a sense of belonging within the observed/imagined space.


Irina Eldarova asserts that women are initially foreigners... Getting married... Moving from their parents’ home... Sometimes even their country....


And she herself, born in Moscow, met her husband at studies in St. Petersburg. She moved to his homeland, from northern classical to southern eclecticism, with its uniquely sunny intoxication, sea-salt flavour wind... and ‘aroma’ of oil....


The latter, Azerbaijan’s ‘flesh and blood’, once made this fringe of tsarist Russia a world centre for the extraction of ‘black gold’. Much later it would acquire additional colour – an eclectic romance, attractive to the many who laboured to build Oil Rocks. A city on stilts... And no less a foreigner surrounded by the Caspian Sea...

Oil changed both Irina Eldarova’s professional development and her destiny, becoming the basis of one of the artist’s extensive series: Girls Prefer Oilmen, its leading image the world’s most famous blonde – Marilyn Monroe.


This series tells of a non-realist, fictitious meeting and love between two heroes mythologized in the mass media. East and West, of the 1960s and 70s – a typical male worker from the offshore oil fields in the Caspian Sea and the Hollywood idol Marilyn Monroe. The appearance of a foreigner in the scenography of already romanticized industrial everyday life creates a special semantic intrigue.


Eldarova once more experiences the young Muscovite’s process of adaptation as a foreigner to a different culture. One in which she has to write a new story for herself...  In this story, the most unlikely scenario of pop symbol meeting ordinary Baku oilman can happen. The ephemeral feminine and the brute force of hard labour. Two foreigners from two worlds far apart... Enchanting colours. So much humour. So many associations. A combination of two myths, daring in concept and implementation – the bright ideals of communism and the American dream – the air of unreality. As experienced by those who find themselves in an unknown environment. Where only kindness and attention give one the strength to become oneself in a new place that one day becomes home...

Vusala Agharaziyeva deliberately chose for herself the challenge of being a foreigner; leaving Baku and travelling to a place that is a direct illustration of the theme, Foreigners Everywhere... The history of Ivanovka, where the artist now lives and works, is of a community’s mass resettlement to preserve its religious identity, creating a village unique but integral to multi-confessional Azerbaijan. And two centuries later it is difficult to give an unequivocal answer as to who and what are the “foreigners” here... Even whether they are such...


The cacophony of the capital city, expressed in monumental murals on its buildings, brought Vusala Agharaziyeva’s art to a conceptual awareness of the uniqueness of surrounding space. Working through changing styles and forms, materials and applied surfaces, the artist resolved her search for her own creative “noise”.


The appeal of mural art urged her to rise above the earth’s surface, reproduce her own worlds, and here she consistently develops the detail of her imaginary space, acquiring the contours of her Pink Planet. This is reformatted by the artist into rose-tinted glasses, presented to those who are ready to create their own vision of an alluring utopia.

“...Only beautiful souls can live in a pink world. These souls preserve the tenderness of the whole planet and the sincerity of creativity. Wear your glasses as your visual centre... people may laugh at you. They are drowning in their fears and the opinions of others, while you sail on a magical ship on a beautiful Pink Planet, writing the history of the world in words, colours, sounds and actions.”


In addition to Vusala Agharaziyeva’s illusory and childlike, idealized Pink Planet, the exhibition includes replica-variations on a given theme, presented in a variety of media by artists both professional and amateur – and aged from 5 to 50 years.


Rashad Alakbarov’s work is dualistic in content, as confirmed by his many years of research into the play of shadow and light, symbol and text, word and meaning. And so, within the framework of Foreigners Everywhere, the artist has embodied a personal rethink – what is it to be a foreigner? Because Rashad never considers himself to be such anywhere... being free regardless of location...


His large-scale installation I Am Here! with all the power of thought invested in precise turns, conveys the artist’s main message – that the world around us will always be assigned the role of foreigner.

The artist recreates the oppressive atmosphere of our movement in a labyrinthine city of cramped and predetermined trajectories that are set by the rhythm of the structures into which we are forced to fit and which are imposed on us from the outside.


It is precisely this that a person discovers and learns; as soon as they turn the next symbolic corner, they find themself in an unfamiliar place... Because that person, with all their depth of individual perception, retains their self... Only the perspective, circumstances and duration of the journey taken change... And, again, an allegorical rethink to address... This forces them to seek their place again, testing their readiness to discover themself... Surmounting the fear of the unknown around the corner... Thus, the foreigner...


Rashad Alakbarov, experiments once more with form, his economy of line seeming to urge all those making their way in confined space to look for the way out, not under their feet, but by lifting their eyes. Only there can they find a symbolic mirror indicating the true direction through a foreign world.


This comes only from recognising themself as the single dynamic constant at any point on the planet. As the artist confidently and pragmatically asserts, a person is indigenous everywhere, endowed with the right to deal with the next turn, adapting it to themself, to prove to the world what is inevitable: I Am Here!... It is only necessary to want to recognise the challenge...


Regardless of where a person happens to be – from the actual, harsh, everyday life in the oil fields of the Caspian Sea to the illusory, childlike and idealized Pink Planet, they always have the right to declare,

I Am Here!

bottom of page