Joseph Grima, Space Caviar and Sheida Ghomaschi: Dixit Algorizmi—The Garden of Knowledge

Joseph Grima

Joseph Grima, Space Caviar and Sheida Ghomaschi
Dixit Algorizmi—The Garden of Knowledge

April 23–November 27, 2022

Uzbekistan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
Quarta Tesa Arsenale, Castello

The Art and Culture Development Foundation (ACDF) of the Republic of Uzbekistan is pleased to present Dixit Algorizmi—The Garden of Knowledge at the 59th International Venice Biennale. Throughout the course of the exhibition, the pavilion will be recast as a space of gathering and exchange that will host a public program of events, workshops, performances and conversations critically exploring the under-examined origins of the ideas and technologies that define our era. Curated by Joseph Grima and Space Caviar (Camilo Oliveira, Sofia Pia Belenky, Francesco Lupia) and Sheida Ghomashchi, featuring new collaborative work by Abror Zufarov and Charli Tapp along with a robust program of workshops organized with the Center for Contemporary Arts in Tashkent, Dixit Algorizmi—The Garden of Knowledge marks the country’s first pavilion in the Biennale Arte, and opens less than a year after Uzbekistan’s debut at the the 17th International Venice Architecture Biennale.

Dixit Algorizmi places a particular focus on the concept of the algorithm—an invention responsible for much of the way the modern world operates—and its originator, the 9th century polymath, “father of algebra” and “grandfather of computer science” Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, who was born and raised in the present-day Uzbek city of Khiva. The word “algorithm” originates from Algorismus, a mangled Latin transliteration of al-Khwarizmi. Al-Khwarizmi’s influence in Europe led to the popularization of algorithms, Arabic numerals, decimals, and algebra. Dixit Algorizmi shares its title with the Latin version of his seminal text on algebra, and translates to “Thus Spake al-Khwarizmi.”

The pavilion’s physical centerpiece, an indoor installation reinterpreting the millenia-old formal tradition of Persian and Babylonian gardens, references the place where al-Khwarizmi developed most of these major studies: the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Dixit Algorizmi’s “Garden of Knowledge” will be designed by Space Caviar.

During al-Khwarizmi’s time the House of Wisdom was an intellectual center of the Islamic Golden Age and locus of cross-cultural exchange, best known today for producing translations of Greek, Arabic, and Persian texts. Its defining landscape features were its geometrically-planned gardens of the Islamic and Persian tradition. The dreamlike mirrored surfaces and symmetries throughout Dixit Algorizmi’s layout recall the reflective pools of water at the heart of every Islamic garden.

Complementing the internal landscape of the pavilion will be a commissioned soundscape developed as a collaboration between Uzbek musician Abror Zufarov and Paris- and Tokyo-based artist and composer Charli Tapp. Their new sound-based project explores how artificial intelligence responds to data sets of non-Western music. The Uzbek classical style’s sharp departure from Western musical theory is occasionally processed by musical AI algorithms as noise rather than music, creating instances of musical glitch art. In their new collaboration, Tapp’s computer-controlled piano will be fed classical Uzbek compositions known as makoms (or maqams) written by Zufarov, generating an endless musical work that will self-play on Tapp’s modified Yamaha CP80 over the course of the exhibition.

By design, Dixit Algorizmi does not present any permanent works of the plastic arts. Instead, the pavilion’s spatial and sonic “Garden of Knowledge” will host a rotating program of workshops and public events with artists, academics, writers, performers, historians, and other practitioners whose work engages with technology and its effects, organized in collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Arts in Tashkent (CCAT). The program of events will be announced ahead of the Biennale Arte.

Dixit Algorizmi—The Garden of Knowledge is supported by Saida Mirziyoyeva, Deputy Chairwoman of the Council of the Art and Culture Development Foundation of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and commissioned by Gayane Umerova, Executive Director of the Art and Culture Development Foundation of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

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