The Fund for the Development of Culture and Art of Uzbekistan will present the exhibition project Tashkent Modernism. Index at the 23rd International Triennale Milano on 17-23 April 2023 in Italy’s Milan.
“Comparing Armin Linke’s photographs with some archival materials, the exhibition weaves together images and narratives of 20 modernist buildings in Uzbekistan’s capital, exploring key themes in the city’s architectural, social and cultural history. Redrawing the landscape of Tashkent through striking images, the exhibition rediscovers its modernist architecture and presents a reflection of the colonial, postcolonial and decolonial aspects of the Soviet social and cultural experiment.” – as quoted on the official website of the exhibition.
From 17 to 23 April 2023, the 23rd International Exhibition Triennale Milano will be held in Milan, Italy. As part of the Triennale Milano, the first public presentation of the Tashkent Modernism exhibition will take place. Index., initiated by the Fund for the Development of Culture and Art of Uzbekistan together with the Grace agency.
The preparation of the project was attended by international specialists in the field of architecture, and history, and experts in the preservation of cultural heritage, including the Polytechnic University of Milan, Boris Chukhovic and Laboratorio Permanente. The purpose of the exhibition is to document, interpret and preserve the modernist architecture of Tashkent city.
Using images and narratives selected by researchers from 20 buildings in the city, the exhibition explores key themes related to the architectural, social and cultural history of Tashkent and the current state of cultural heritage sites of Uzbekistan’s capital.
Soviet modernism in Tashkent is shown as a unique artistic, cultural and social phenomenon that can adequately reflect the specific nature of "Soviet modernization" in Central Asia. The project reflects the colonial, postcolonial and at the same time decolonial aspects of the Soviet social and cultural experiment. After World War II, Tashkent was designated as the capital of the Soviet East, a showcase for socialism in the East. The uniqueness of Tashkent modernism stems from the tension between the desire to embody the socialist East in architecture and the desire for a more subtle understanding of local culture by local and Moscow architects.
The exhibition consists of two intertwined parts: photographs by Armin Linke and archival documentation revealing research narratives and strategies for the preservation of modernist monuments.
The work of Armin Linke raises an important question about the nature of images. Today, photography has become not just a reflection of reality, but also an independent, multi-valued reality. The exhibition maintains a critical attitude towards the image, treating it as an additional layer. The purpose of the exhibition is to avoid the clichés that have developed over the past 15 years in the representation of Soviet modernism, when the buildings of modernism were portrayed out of context and extolled as the remains of an exotic, distant and even dead culture. The photographs of Armin Linke are not aimed at perpetuating the beauty of Tashkent modernism, but at revealing its contemporary value. Similar to Agamben's notion of "modernity", defined as a "relationship to (one's) time that adheres to it through displacement and anachronism", these buildings, erected between the 1960s and early 1990s, are perceived as powerful metaphors for rethinking the contemporary Tashkent.
The second part is the archive, which includes fragments of research materials, and analytical and conservation processes. Based on the condition of a particular building, the key themes for understanding Soviet modernism are revealed: the relationship between the center and the periphery; the role of institutions; typological, technological and material experiments; competition between republics; ideology, orientalism, transformations after independence and the current state. The archive also clearly illustrates the repertoire of cultural heritage conservation strategies that have been developed specifically for Tashkent.
The first step in implementing conservation efforts is to ensure that selected buildings are protected by including them on the national list of monuments and describing their significance. Similarly, the preservation and modernization of one of the buildings studied - the former Rest House of the Republic, which will become the new French Center and center for the restoration of art. In the near future, the Center will enter the construction phase. Finally, a cultural (modernist) route will be developed linking the modern buildings of the city, which will be accessible via a mobile application.
“Modern buildings in Tashkent still convey the social and cultural program of the past. At the same time, they are extremely modern. These buildings are very sculptural, with rather complex surfaces - outer and inner shells - that function as a set design for a larger social scenario." — Armin Linke, photographer and filmmaker.