Early contemporary art in post-soviet Mongolia, Where is the Green Horse galloping now?

An essay by Tsendpurev Tsegmid, made available by Afterall Journal for the duration of Five Heads (Tavan Tolgoi): Art, Anthropology and Mongol Futurism fiveheads.art

Tsevegjav Ochir, Ekhiin tsagaan setgel (Mother’s White Mind), 1968, oil on canvas, 78 × 57cm. Courtesy the Mongolian National Art Gallery, Ulaanbaatar

1998 was my first year as an art student. I was only eighteen years old. Art in Mongolia was taught as something you learn how to make. There were rules to follow: art was meant to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. At the time, I was studying Mongol zurag, a strict form of miniature painting derived from Buddhist thangka art, and the idea of producing artworks beyond the borders of my stretched cotton was unimaginable for me.1 This changed when Dalkh-Ochir,2 one of the founding members of the Green Horse Society, started to visit our art school to meet with students. My teacher warned us about him and told us not to meet with him or listen to his words. Allegedly, his words could confuse young art students about what art was, and rumour had it that we were in danger of being ‘brainwashed and losing our way’. There was this implicit fear of the unknown amongst some of our teachers, which inevitably led to an intense fascination in students like me. I became curious about the development of contemporary art and became interested in learning what the Green Horse Society’s founders had to say about it. Since then, the enigma surrounding this group hasn’t faded and my naïve interest has gradually turned into one of my academic research enquiries.

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read more at: https://afterall.org/journal/issue.44/early-contemporary-art-in-post-soviet-mongolia-where-is-the-green-horse-galloping-now-

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AoOA exhibition ‘Third House’ at Titanik Galleria, Finland

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Laura Cooper, Nomadic Glow – Video Still , 6mins (2014)

Third House is a triangulation of works by Spriggs (UK), Nieminen (FI) & Cooper (UK/US), three female artists who met in the Orkhon Valley of Mongolia. The trio share a site-specific interest in humans’ relationship to animals and nature; they explore and reconfigure the human desire to organize and control a given territory.

All three artists traveled to Mongolia as part of LAM 360 degrees, the third Land Art Biennial. They took different approaches to making work as visitors to this landscape, responding to the site and the people they found there through subtle, performative and subjective interventions. The resulting installations, interactions and gestures have developed through a re-working of primary documents extracted from the site: documentary video, photography, collage, writing and maps.

Spriggs, Nieminen & Cooper share interests in the specific relationships formed between nomadic people and their herds of animals. These modes of communication, control and collaboration with animal herds have evolved through a history of animal husbandry and the negotiations involved in close cohabitation of land and territory. The works exhibited in Titanik provide an opening into the foreclosed “middle kingdom” of nomadic perspectives, and the processes of translation and transition that allow these perspectives to travel locally and (if only partially) internationally as art. The artists collectively inhabit Titanik as the Third House proposed by Anselm Franke: “Everything happens in the middle, everything passes between the two, everything happens by way of mediation, translation and networks, but this space does not exist, it has no place. It is the unthinkable, the unconscious of the moderns.” [1]

The works in the exhibition have their origins in intimate contact with the Mongolian landscape and the systems of cohabitation and control that its inhabitants have created over time. The artists each translate those systems into different visual languages and spatial arrangements, employing a mixture of diagrams, charts and framings to explore the dynamics of the Mongolian landscape and its inhabitants’ nomadic pastoral way of life. In doing so Spriggs, Nieminen and Cooper work against the gigantic effort of purification responsible for the organization of the social and natural into increasingly separate domains—”an effort whose official languages have systematically obscured the work of translation“; a “middle kingdom… as vast as China and as little known”.

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