The Mountain of Tongues

Format: Research project, texts, films
Dates: Oct — Dec 2022
Language: English
Publication: Online

Research, text, film: Aslan

Research Proposal

Queerness exists everywhere and in all times, yet there are places I cannot safely go unless I hide my Queerness and hope it is not detected. In The Mountain of Tongues I will investigate how to step into these places and times with my Queerness intact by imagining and creating versions of them that are as Queer as I am. My research will focus on the Caucasus — known as The Mountain of Tongues. I am drawn to its languages and landscapes but afraid of its notoriously violent Queerphobia. I ask if, as a Queer person, I can express this attraction and fascination by imagining a Queer version of this place.

I have seen only one photo of my mysterious great grandfather. I know only that his name was Gyorgi and my grandma said he came from Southern Russia — the Caucasus perhaps. He died long before I was born. If we lived at the same time, would he want to know me? Or would he be another place I cannot go to without hiding my Queerness? From October to December 2022, I will attempt to ‘travel’ without travelling and have ‘conversations’ with people who are distant and unreachable. I will collect images, film, and biographies from the Caucasus as well as the sounds of its languages and music. I will record my imagined encounters as diary entries, short writings, short films, and performative experiments. I hope these alternative Queer geographies and histories, blurring fact with fiction, can later be shared with audiences in an accessible and emotionally connected way.



— Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal, Chechnya: A Small Victorious War, Pan Books, 1997.
— Wojciech Jagielski, Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya, Wydanictwo WAB, 2004. Translated by Soren A -Gauger, Seven Stories Press, 2009.
— Åsne Seierstad, The Angel of Grozny: Life Inside Chechnya, J W Cappelens Forlag, 2007. Translated by Nadia Christensen, Virago Press, 2008.
— Thomas de Waal, The Caucasus: An Introduction, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 2019.
— Mark Gevisser, The Pink Line: Journeys Across the World’s Queer Frontiers, Picador, 2020.
— Laurie Essig, Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self, and The Other, Duke University Press, 1999. 
— Kim Tallbear, Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging & the False Promise of Genetic Science, University of Minnesota Press, 2013.
— Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets — An Oral History, Random House, 2017.
— ed. George Hewitt, The Abkhazians: a Handbook, St Martins Press, 1998.
— Amjad Jaimoukha, The Chechens: a Handbook, RoutledgeCurzon, 2005.

— ed. David J Getsy, Documents of Contemporary Art: QUEER, The Whitechapel Gallery & The MIT Press, 2016.

— Howard I Aronson, Georgian: A Reading Grammar, Corrected Edition, Slavica Publishers, 1990.
— Howard I Aronson and Dodona Kiziria, Georgian Language and Culture: A Continuing Course, Slavica Publishers, 1999.
— John Colarusso, A Grammar of the Kabardian Language, University of Calgary Press, 1992.
— George Hewitt, Georgian: A Learner’s Grammar, Routledge, 1996.
— George Hewitt, Abkhaz: A Comprehensive Self-Tutor, LINCOM GmbH, 2010.
— Zura Dotton & John Doyle Wagner, A Grammar of Chechen, Duke University Press, year unknown.
— Johanna Nichols, Ingush Grammar, University of California Press, 2011.  

— German Sudalaev, I am a Chechen!, Vintage, UK, 2012.

— Carlotta Weber, Europe, Let’s Speak Out for LBGTI Rights in South Caucasus, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, 2016.
— Silvia Stöber, Georgia: Between Modernity and the Middle Ages, Heinrich BöLL Stiftung, 2013.
— Various Authors, Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group Publications Archive, WISG, updated 2022.
— Sasha Raspopina, Calvert Journal’s LGBTQ Reading List from the New East, Calvert Journal, 2018.
— Anastasiia Federova & Nikita Andriyanov, The Gay Russian Celebrities History Books Tried to Erase, Calvert Journal, 2020.
— свобода (не) за горами, LGBTQ+ in the North Caucasus: changes,, 2022.
— Baltoslav, Learn Chechen Language Online, online language classes, 2001. 
— Various Authors, Tashkent to Tbilisi: A Research Archive of the History & Culture of Contemporary Eurasia,, updated 2021.
— Johanna Nichols, Chechen: Indigenous Language of the Caucasus Journal, UC Berkeley, 2015.
— ed. Amjad Jaimoukha, Grammar of the Kabardian-Cherkess Language, unknown source, year unknown.


— dir. Sasha Voronov (film), Bonfires & Stars - trailer, Moscow, 2015.
— dir. Levan Akin (film), And Then We Danced - trailer, Music Box Films, Georgia, 2019. 
— dir. Zaza Urushadze, Tangerines - trailer, Allfilm, Estonia & Georgia, 2013.
— dir. unknown, Inside Russia, NARA, 1930.
— dir. Pavel Baydikov, Blood and Honour, RT, 2013.

— Льянов Ибпагим & January Blues, Са цӏи йица ма елаш & Ӏа цӏавеха со, Ingushetia, Ru.
— various (playlist), Ingushetia.
— Aslan Tlebzu, Freedom, 2018

— Kim Tallbear, Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging  & the False Promise of Genetic Science, Science, Technology & Society, 2013.
— Kim Tallbear, On Native Identity and Relations, Warrior Life ep. 83, 2021.
— Kim Tallbear, Reviving Kinship and Sexual Abundance, For the Wild, ep. 284, 2020. 
— Kim Tallbear, Decolonialization, Indigenization, Reconciliation: Whose Definitions Matter?, Shifting Conversations, 2022.
— Kim Tallbear, Critical Polyamorist 100s, Bedpost Confessions 116, 2018.

List of Contents


#1. A List of Questions.
#2. A Dreamed Poem.
#3. A Conversation with my Great Grandfather.
#4. Approaching the Border.
#5. On Fear and What (Not) to Publish.
#6. Geographies, 1.
#7. Crossing the Border.
#8. Diaries.
#9. The Land Knows.
#10. The Morphology of the Verb.
#11. Geographies, 2.
#12. I am Not My Blood - thinking about Kim Tallbear.
#13. A Dream I Had About Pineapple Juice.



#1. Film 1.
#2. Film 2.
#3. Film 3.

#1. Sound 1.
#2. Sound 2.
#3. Sound 3.


Performance Ideas, 1.
Performance Ideas, 2.
Performance Ideas, 3.
Performance Ideas, 4.

Performance Experiment, 1.
Performance Experiment, 2.
Performance Experiment, 3.

The above images include stills from open access archive footage — ‘Inside Russia’, 1930.

The Mountain of Tongues is a #TakeHeart research project by Aslan, supported by Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media within the program NEUSTART KULTUR.