The Mountain of Tongues

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

Research, text, film: Aslan
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.

— David J Getsy (editor), 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.

List of Contents

#1    A List of Questions
#2   A Dreamed Poem
#3   A Conversation with my Great Grandfather
#4   Performance Ideas, 1.

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.