CENTRAL ASIAN ART
The strong presence of Central Asian artists at recent art fairs and exhibits in New York is helping to underscore the fact that the region has joined the mainstream of the international art market reports Eurasianet.
A special exhibition titled Given Difference at the Asian contemporary art fair in New York in November featured six artists from Kazakhstan, Georgia and Turkey.
Kazakhstan was represented by two rising stars of the Central Asian art world — Erbossyn Meldibekov and Almagul Menlibayeva.
Menlibayeva videos punkshamanism
Almagul Menlibayeva’s works attempt to distill traditional practices, ideas and imagery into a contemporary art form. Often described as punk-shamanism, Menlibayeva’s videos are theatrical and laden with complex references — from tribal symbolism to images of the communist industrial past.
One of Menlibayeva’s videos shown at the New York art fair — Headcharge — is a story that casually begins in a restaurant in the city of Almaty and gradually slips into a disturbing ritual performed by the female protagonists. The video shows several urban young women eating a sheep’s head and feeding each other, thereby underscoring the juxtaposition of traditional nomadic beliefs with today’s urban lifestyle. Step by step, the film gives way to a parallel reality, referring to shamanistic travels between worlds.
Born and raised in Kazakhstan, Menlibayeva currently lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam. Art curators say she often depicts the cultural and spiritual traditions of her native country as erotic and strongly feminine dream sequences.
Menlibayeva’s second film, Kissing Totems, is a surrealistic journey inspired by her childhood memory of walking past Soviet factories, seeking the help of a shaman to cure her mother’s severe illness. With what seems to be the clear influence of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s enigmatic style (particularly the bleak interiors of Stalker), the split-screen video follows a girl, accompanied by her mother, entering an abandoned industrial complex filled with birds. The video then takes a surreal turn when she encounters female-like creatures, called peris.
Meldibekov: photographs of leaders and Peak Communism
The other Kazakh artist presented at the Asian art fair, Meldibekov, explores the question of belonging, but through a different prism. His series Family Album (made together with his brother Nurbossyn Oris) are historic photographs of groups of ordinary people — families or friends — posing in front of a public sculpture of their country’s leaders. Each old picture shot during the Soviet period is matched by a newer one of the same people at the same spot but with a different sculpture behind them — a change in the figure with whom they are associated, determined by the state and history.
Meldibekov looks at the figure of the leader as fetishized by ordinary citizens. He also shows people as if both empowered by virtue of proximity to the great leader and the due diligence of paying homage to him.
Meldibekov has recently begun a series entitled Peak Communism which was also featured at the New York Asian Art Fair. The artist inverts cheap metal pots and bowls and moulds their tops to show their shapes as different shapes — such as Communism Peak, Lenin Peak and Peak of the Pioneer.
Kyrgyz art: video and photography at Winkleman New York
Elsewhere, an exhibition of Kyrgyz artists Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev, entitled A New Silk Road, is on display these days at the Winkleman Gallery in New York City. The show runs through January 10. A series of photo images and a 5-channel video, shot along the highways and small villages connecting China through Kyrgyzstan to Europe, capture the determination and resourcefulness that define this mountainous and economically impoverished region and provide snapshots of how local and global economics are intertwined.
- Eurasianet for more
- Winkleman Gallery for A New Silk Road images and artist bios
- To represent Central Asia and the Caucasus in 2008 Shanghai art fair Best of Discovery, curator Sara Raza has alighted on the work of the outlandish Kazak performance artist Erbossyn Meldibekov and also on the emerging Georgian artist Sophia Tabatadze (see post click here)