press release

Forever & Today, Inc. presents Never Give Up The Fruit, a new commission by the international artist collective Slavs and Tatars. Combining academic field research, history, languages, and culture with a sense of humor, Slavs and Tatars' multi-disciplinary work spans installations, publications, printed materials, artist talks, lectures, and events. Their work is self-described 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." Never Give Up The Fruit features a newly commissioned installation by Slavs and Tatars exhibited at Forever & Today, Inc.'s Chinatown/Lower East Side storefront, and public programs including a talk by Slavs and Tatars, "Not Moscow Not Mecca" and a children's storytelling event hosted by education programs partner Abrons Arts Center.

Focusing on Xinjiang, the westernmost region of the People's Republic of China (also known as "East Turkestan" or "Uyghuristan" to the area's ethnic Muslim Uyghurs), Never Give Up The Fruit explores the triangulation of Uyghur culture between the twin ideological poles of communism and political Islam, Russia, and China. The exhibition takes its title from the legend of the Fragrant Concubine, the Uyghur Khoja Iparhan, also known as Xian Fe. Renowned as not only beautiful, but irresistible because of her enticing honeydew-like aroma, Khoja Iparhan was kidnapped to pleasure the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Taken against her will, Khoja Iparhan refused to submit to the Emperor's desires, and in effect, she "never gave up the fruit."

Slavs and Tatars' installation takes both the legend of the Fragrant Concubine and the Uyghur Hami melon as a point of departure for the concept of resistance and self-preservation. Now ubiquitous among Forever & Today, Inc.'s neighborhood Chinese fruit stands, the precious Hami melon was historically traded along the Silk Road and sent by the Uyghurs as tribute to the Chinese Emperors of the Qing Dynasty. Featuring hanging green speckled hand-blown glass "melon" lamps within the installation, the suspended rope-knotted lamps, appearing much like the melons traded in the ancient fruit markets of Uyghuristan, are attached to a wooden ceiling structure forming Chinese characters that translate into "dissimulation."

A concept found often in Shi'a Islam, dissimulation is a permissible form of deception or strategy whereby the truth of one's beliefs or convictions is concealed to protect a believer from imminent harm and injury. The project is the newest installment of "The Faculty of Substitution," Slavs and Tatars' new cycle of work begun in 2012, a look at the syncretic and sacred as agents for change in the material world. Never Give Up The Fruit sees in the Hami melon a talismanic quality, a fruit of indulgence and resistance at once, highlighting not only the cultural but also the affective and sensorial singularity of the Uyghurs.

Slavs and Tatars' talk at Abrons Arts Center, "Not Moscow Not Mecca" further discusses the notions of triangulation, substitution, and the particularly progressive approach to Islam found in Central Asia, and the children's storytelling and coloring session features the popular Uyghur children's tales of Molla Nasreddin. Future details related to the storytelling session at Abrons Arts Center will be posted on Forever & Today, Inc.'s website.

Slavs and Tatars 
Never Give Up The Fruit
Kuratoren: Ingrid Chu, Savannah Gorton