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To No One and to Two
Slavs and Tatars
Artwork 2023
Installation photograph that shows Slavs and Tatars’ multi-part installation ‘To No One an to Two'. At the back is a painted mural on a white wall that features the phrase “To the Public or Nobody, the Well-known,” at the front, a painted wooden L-shaped platform with aluminium inlays, and posters pasted along the sides.
Artwork: Slavs and Tatars, To No One and to Two (2023). Aluminium, wood, mimeograph print on paper, mural. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.
Artist Slavs and Tatars Title To No One and to Two Date 2023 Materials Aluminium, wood, mimeograph print on paper, mural Dimensions Dimensions variable Credit Courtesy of the artist

To No One and to Two pays homage to the 18th-century German philosopher Johann Georg Hamann, a radical theologist who resisted the Enlightenment’s call for reason in favour of affective, humorous, and mystical experience. “My coarse imagination,” Hamann wrote, “has never been able to conceive of the creative spirit without genitalia.” Central to the installation is a republished edition of Hamann’s essays, with an introduction by Slavs and Tatars, centred on the limitations of secular knowledge and the value of faith and sexuality in philosophy. Hamann’s essays do not make for easy reading. As Slavs and Tatars said in conversation with Francisco Berzunza, “Hamann was the first writer in Western history to write deliberately not to be understood. He didn’t believe in clarity. He believed in – not obfuscation – but he always talked about how he wanted his readers to be swimming like an archipelago. He didn’t want to create land between the texts. He wanted people to swim the distance between them... What’s really interesting about Hamann is his relationship to sentiment and emotion, an unabashed approach to sentimentalism… You see this kind of transparency you don’t often witness in philosophy, this laying oneself bare in an emotional sense without compromising on intellectual rigour.” 

A geographically unlocated collective whose individual members like to remain anonymous, Slavs and Tatars articulate their position as “a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia.” The book – as object and mechanism – is primary to Slavs and Tatars’ work, which began in 2006 as a reading group centred on out-of-print literature from Eurasia. The collective’s multivalent research-based practice finds form in publications, lecture-performances and exhibitions that parse the region’s histories and ideologies as traced in its languages. Holding competing truths and disparate claims in proximity is primary in their research strategy, which traverses myths, oral traditions, esoteric imaginings, spiritual expressions, and scholarly philosophy, to produce syncretic understandings of the cultural and political shifts that have shaped the East-West borderlands. Theirs is an archival and restorative project; a way of accounting for and insisting on Eurasian presence, while gesturing to the limits of knowledge, explanation, and logic in reflecting the region’s multiplicities.