Ġoisum’s works often deal with the colonial past and present in the North Caucasus, and its layers of memory, finding discreet yet powerful means of expression. ‘Fearsome’ is the translation of the Russian word ‘Grozny’, which was given to the city after the name of a fortress that was founded by the Czar’s general Alexei Yermolov in 1818 for the subjugation of mountain peoples in the Caucasus. The artist’s gesture of evoking this meaning in the city’s historical and recent context alludes to the colonial policies in the region that have continued to this day.
The installation consists of Soviet-era street signs the artist has collected from Grozny following the Chechen wars which began in 1994 and continued until 2009. Some of them have paint falling from them others have been pierced by bullets, holding memories that cannot be openly articulated. Although the Russian-language street signs might still be remembered from the streets of the Latvian cities in the recent past, differently from the Baltic States Chechen resistance struggles did not bring with them the desired independence. From a destroyed city Grozny has been rapidly transformed into a restored center with new buildings and renamed streets. Continuing its neo-colonial policies, the new regime has sought to erase the traces of the past, yet their testimonies find complex and telling forms in this art work.
Aslan Ġoisum lives and works in Grozny, Chechnya. He employs various artistic media—mainly the moving image, sculptural installation and paper-based techniques—that articulate the collective and individual upheaval marking the North Caucasus history. This inevitably entails analysis of the colonial legacy of the Russian Empire, in all its guises. His recent exhibitions include: Blood and Soil: Dark Arts for Dark Times, Contemporary Art Centre (Vilnius, 2019); Beautiful World, Where Are You?, 10th Liverpool Biennial (2018); How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien (2017) and People of No Consequence, Museum of Contemporary Art (Antwerp, 2016).