FIVE HEADS (Tavan Tolgoi)
Art, Anthropology and Mongol Futurism
September 1st – 15th 2018, Greengrassi Gallery
Opening Event and publication launch 31 August, 6 – 8.30pm
What does the future look like, or feel like, from the perspective of a yak in the coal mining district of Hovd? A Mongolian root extracted, illegal traded, and sold internationally as a pharmaceutical product? Or the toolkit of an urban shaman, securing economic fortune for professional women in Ulaanbaatar?
Five Heads (Tavan Tolgoi) is an art-anthropology exchange and exhibition based at the UCL Department of Anthropology and organised by Hermione Spriggs as part of the project Emerging Subjects of the New Mongolian Economy. Five Heads brings together the work of five anthropologists and five artists/collaborations researching and responding to the dramatic rise and fall of Mongolia’s mineral economy, exposed to the wider global commodity super-cycle and increasingly dependent on China.
The title Tavan Tolgoi (or “Five Heads” in English) refers to Mongolia’s largest coal mine, composed of five mineral-rich mounds or "heads" that lend this region its name. The exhibition maps an exchange of materials and perspectives extracted and mobilised between the geosphere and human culture, and between anthropology and art in Mongolia and London.
“It is especially in this strange nesting function, a proliferation of fictions within fictions, that we see the five heads of the art-anthropology hybrid do its important work.” – Simon O’Sullivan
The ethnographic process is itself mined and exposed in tandem with the extraction of economic data and raw materials collected on site during a series of visits to Mongolia’s largest coal, copper and gold mines and the broad-ranging areas they impact. The migration of ideas and materials from Mongolia to the UK and back again also echoes a larger migratory cycle of economic power from the West to the New East. As global cores and peripheries exchange places and rehearse histories of empire-formation, we learn of geo-ontological emergence, (im)possible capitalist futures, and alternative strategies for creative survival in the present.
Stages of extraction:
Five Heads (Tavantolgoi) is itself a process of mining and extracting. Artistic outcomes surface through four layers of extraction, migration, translation and exchange:
i) Extraction of ethnographic themes, materials and methodologies in London, reassembled as physical ‘toolkits’ for artists.
ii) Migration of ‘toolkits’ - as ethnographic fieldwork boxes - to Artists.
iii) Translation of ethnographic knowledge into artistic themes and processes, contributing to artist research in Mongolia.
iv) Exchange between Artists, collaborating Researchers and the broader public through an exhibition and public events program in London 2018, enabling further interdisciplinary dialogue and the formation of larger collaborative networks.
Baatarzorig Batjargal and Nomin Bold (UB)
Dolgor Ser Od and Marc Schmitz
Tuguldur Yondonjamts (UB/NY)
Deborah Tchoudjinoff (Lon)
Yuri Pattison (Lon)
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