Brexit. Trump. The Refugee Crisis. Never before have we had as much discussion about nationality and borders as we have had in 2016. These are issues that preoccupy much of the work in Azerbaijani visual artist and poet Babi Badavov’s Partisanism. On entering the exhibition space in the reception area of Tensta Konsthall, visitors are greeted with images and hand-drawn words such as ‘discrimiNATION’ and ‘Musulman-Musulwoman’ combined to form huge collages on the walls.
These word tapestries touch on issues that are particularly pertinent to Badalov. Born in Lerik, a small town in Azerbaijan close to the Iranian border, Badalov spent much of his education and subsequent work immersed in foreign cultures. In the 80s and 90s, he developed his artistic practice in St Petersburg, where he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts before travelling around various cities in the US and Europe.
It was from this unique viewpoint that Badalov’s artistic vision began to take shape. By mixing the languages of the different countries he encountered, he holds various cultural mentalities up against each other. In a very low-key way, Badalov makes some big points: language barriers are explored and oppressive norms examined through a jumble of often misspelt and fragmented typography and images.
Badalov’s recent exhibitions include For the wall, for the world (2016) at Palais de Tokyo, Paris and Poetical Activism (2015) on tranzit.hu, Budapest, among others. He also participated in the biennial Manifesta 8 in Murcia. After a residency in Gwangju, South Korea, in the summer of 2016, Badalov had a large installation at the 11th Gwangju Biennale.
Words: Daisy Fernandez