Visual art: Slavs and Tatars – Lektor (4 stars)

Visual art: Slavs and Tatars – Lektor

The 11th century leader’s ‘self help’ manual provides the inspiration for new exhibition at the Collective Gallery

Lektor is an unsettling and obscure installation by artist collective Slavs and Tatars which resists easy reading.

Language is at the core of their practice and forms the foundation for this multi-layered display, exploring the contemporary relevance of the 11th century secular texts known as Mirrors for Princes. The texts offered advice for future leaders on subjects such as speech, education and belief, which the artists consider to be a precursor to modern self-help manuals. This display features passages from a Turkish Mirror for Princes text titled Kutadgu Bilig (Wisdom of Royal Glory) which focused on both the power and perils of the human tongue.

In the darkened dome space, a series of Persian rugs have been arranged into a circular shape on which six mirrored speakers resembling book stands face into the centre, each playing a recording of ‘Kutadgu Bilig’ in a different language – in Uighur, Turkish, German, Polish, Arabic and Scottish Gaelic.

Each language relates in turn to a gallery where the work will be / has been on display. In this context, the original text becomes almost incomprehensible and takes on a lyrical, abstract form. The subtle vocals relate to the Russian ‘Gavrilov technique’ of using a steady, male narration, and create a space for quiet contemplation, although the option of sitting in the centre amidst the rugs and recordings rather than teetering around the edges would have markedly improved the experience.

On one side of the gallery an unrecognisable, suggestive glass object sits on a plinth. It makes reference to a passage from Kutadgu Bilig on the importance of the union of tongue and heart in a true and compassionate leader. The two organs appear to twist and merge into one another, referencing the hidden meanings within the layered vocal recordings.

Open: Sat 25 Apr–Sun 12 Jul.

Slavs and Tatars: Lektor

New work from the art collective, exploring the Mirrors for Princes: handbooks of medieval advice for rulers, advising them on etiquette, leadership and other important subjects. It takes the form of a multi-channel audio installation.

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