MCBA is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition in Switzerland devoted to the work of Babi Badalov. Both writing and drawing, the artist’s visual poetry explores the political and poetic possibilities of language.
Words form the foundation of Babi Badalov’s work, which stretches out like an immense collage interweaving the languages and alphabets that itsunderpin his complex identity. Born in 1959 in Azerbaijan, the artist grew up at the crossroads of Azeri, Persian, and Soviet cultures. Now settled in Paris after a series of exiles that led the artisthim to explore underground Leningrad (present-day Saint Petersburg) in the 1980s, the art and culture scene in San Francisco and New York in the early 1990s, and the United Kingdom in the early years of the new millennium, Badalov still harbours a feeling that he will forever be the foreigner.
Dissecting language in its most concrete aspect – letters and syllables – Badalov reinvents a tongue that is both refuge and battleground. As the very title of the show announces, he usually works by phonetic free association in an approach that recalls certain Dadaist strategies. Mikhail Bakunin’s anarchism and Friedrich Nietzsche’s nihilism, once essential to Dada’s conceptual articulation, remain important references for Badalov. Grounded in the experience of oppression, rejection, and marginality, his body of work nevertheless tries to reconstruct a horizontal utopia in which each person is invited to free themselves from systems of domination.
There is acircularity at work in the supports he uses, whether they are recycled cloth which he paints on, or things he gleans from daily reality and makes a part of monumental collages.That porosity with our immediate surroundings indicates a deeply curious eye, both sensitive to and critical of his own day and age.
Curator of the exhibition: Pierre-Henri Foulon, curator of contemporary art, MCBAExhibition leaflet