Five Heads (Tavantolgoi) is an art-anthropology exchange and exhibition based at the UCL Department of Anthropology and organised by Hermione Spriggs and as part of the five-year project Emerging Subjects of the New Mongolian Economy. Five Heads brings together the work of five anthropologists and five artists 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 Tavantolgoi (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.
The artists are invited to engage with themes and materials delivered to them in the form of ethnographic fieldwork boxes, forging site-specific and politicized responses to the material, while drawing on their experiences of the Mongolian ‘wolf economy’. The artworks generated through this process contribute to a new wave of cultural production in and around Ulaanbaatar, reflecting the diverse ethical projects and strategies that come to flourish in the face of dramatic environmental change and wild economic fluctuation. Here 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 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, 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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