Projects 98: Slavs and Tatars

Aug 15–Dec 10, 2012


Slavs and Tatars. Slavs. 2005. Screenprint, composition (irreg.): 40 15/16 × 25″ (104 × 63.5 cm); sheet: 45 1/4 × 32 5/16″ (115 × 82 cm). General Print Fund. © 2012 Slavs and Tatars
  • MoMA, Floor 2, Exhibition Galleries Exhibition Galleries

Slavs and Tatars is a collective of artists who identify “the area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China”—a vast landmass where Europe and Asia merge—as the focus of their work. First organized as a reading group in 2006, the group has lived and traveled in the region, which has been realigning itself since the collapse of Soviet Communism and has experienced escalating tensions between Eastern and Western identities—here, populations, allegiances, and languages are all in transition. In exploring the area’s expansive historical narratives and transnational relationships, Slavs and Tatars forgoes a strictly analytical stance for something more associative, intimate, and playful. Their projects stage unlikely combinations of mediums, cultural references, and modes of address; books and printed matter figure prominently in their work, as do contemplative, librarylike installations where visitors may consider their publications. Slavs and Tatars has devoted the past five years to two cycles of works, one celebrating the cultural complexity of the Caucasus, the other the unlikely heritage shared by Poland and Iran. Beyonsense, their piece for Projects 98, is the newest installment in a third cycle, The Faculty of Substitution, on the revolutionary role of the sacred and syncretic.

Beyonsense is named after a translation of zaum, a hybrid word coined by early-twentieth-century Russian poets to describe nonreferential and sensorial verbal expression. Here the collective aims to address the potential of language, in its mystical, spiritual dimensions, to both clarify and complicate communication across cultures, histories, and geographies: “We imagine that language is always revelatory, but it can hide as many meanings as it can reveal or divulge.” The letters ח (Hebrew), Х (Cyrillic), and خ (Arabic)—the foci of the collective’s recent research—are the work’s protagonists: three characters united by the single vocal sound that all of them represent. For the installation, Slavs and Tatars has created a reading room of reversals. The front area contains objects grounded in the group‘s literary interests; passing through hanging carpets, visitors enter a darkened, meditative space featuring its text pieces and printed publications. The suspended light fixture is inspired by a work that the American artist Dan Flavin made for a New York mosque. A selection of the group’s books, including the most recent title, Khhhhhhh, is available to read in seating areas.

The exhibition is organized by Gretchen Wagner, The Sue and Eugene Mercy, Jr., Assistant Curator, Department of Prints and Illustrated Books.

The Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series is made possible in part by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art. Additional generous support for this exhibition is provided by the Sharjah Art Foundation. Special thanks to Pasargad, New York.


  • Press release 3 pages


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].