MEMORY OF THE STEPPES
Location: Art Center
at Almaty Arena
Exhibition dates: 02–16.09.2017
Project curator: Julia Grachikova (Russia)
The ‘Reconciliation’ project is an attempt to reconsider the experience of the civil war in Russia and beyond in a series of exhibition projects in Russia and the CIS. The experience of facing an open political and military confrontation as well as a grandiose revolutionary movement was the one to define the national and individual identity for thousands of people. Since then there has been spreading a stable public mind idea of the dichotomy of the Reds and the Whites formed by Soviet history books and current attempts to ‘rehabilitate’ the White movement. The step taken by the organizers and the participants of the ‘Reconciliation’ project is an appeal to individual experience and local stories that opposes the universalism of the official narrative.
The project interest in Kazakhstan is caused by the fact that this republic had an alternative scenario for the developments, which, unfortunately, has never been realized. The local intelligentsia who headed the state association Alash-Orda proposed the prospect of Kazakh autonomy formation or so-called ‘third way’. However, the Bolsheviks immediately abolished the project of the national movement aimed to liberate the Kazakh people from the colonial yoke at the time of the Bolsheviks’ takeover. The actual events are now forgotten or excluded from the impressive official narrative introducing one to the civil war in Kazakhstan. Nevertheless the exhibition ‘Reconciliation. Memory of the Steppes’ makes it possible to learn the Kazakh civil war stories, most of which were previously untold, lost or intentionally concealed from the public.
The project that united the artworks from Russia and Kazakhstan addresses the issues of historical and collective memory, the bizarre ways of its formation and transformation. Trying to find and say out loud previously untold stories about the civil war in Kazakhstan the artists examine different types of human experience of history and war, whilst each of these eventually forms a specific way of artistic expression.
Smail Bayaliev’s ‘Steel army’ also refers to the image of an anonymous majority as the unit that becomes operated by any large historical event. Indifferent metal uniforms-sarcophagus, which are hiding the individuality somewhere deep inside, are equalizing everyone else in the face of death, turning a single person into a mass that has neither a name nor a voice.
‘Red Butterfly’ of Almagul Melinbaeva invites the audience to the ethnographic dimension of historical and military confrontations. Exploring the feminine in a new post-Soviet system of national and cultural identity she regenerates the female image from local myths and legends by means of modern technologies and uses the mythopoeic language to work with the idea of memory that might take different forms.
The video artwork ‘The Wound’ by Tatyana Akhmetgalieva expresses the pain and the vulnerability of the whole community by being connected to a body of every single person. The scars, the injections, the cracks and the stitches covering human bodies, carried through history and spreading around the whole state - on the one hand these can be seen as the physical evidence of the historical evolution, on the other - as the marks, which are hiding secret and sometimes shocking memories of the past.
The work of Valery Kazas "Wind" is a ductile expression of all feelings and guesses about the themes of the war and historical memory, which we can not express in words. This wind is the chaos of time that wipes out all the fingerprints of the past.
Assel Kadyrkhanova’s installation ‘The Machine’ visualizes the gap between the authorities and the great number of people killed during the bureaucratic procedures by analyzing the horror of the Great Purge of 1937. Assel’s artwork is an attempt to keep present the vanishing life stories of thousands of people who have been forever missing in military enlistment offices and prisons.
Said Atabekov’s media sculpture ‘A Battle for the Square’ draws a portrait of modern society, which suggests the existence as an endless process of human fighting for power and possessions. Metaphorically presented in a form of an ancient ritual game ‘Kopkar’, the artwork emphasizes the archaic dimension of violence opposed to the idea of development and progress.
Alexander Ugai presenting ‘The Model for Assembly’ installation analyzes the facts related to the history of Central Asian Korean diaspora presented in a form of schematic drawings and diagrams that appear as a common image of rambling collective human memory. The variety of narratives overlapping each other in space deconstructs the idea of history as a temporal sequence by substituting a line for a mental map that always exists as a multiplicity.
Irina Petrakova uses the figurative graphic language and the frottage technique to reproduce the fortification’s loophole of Russky Island on the canvases and to raise the theme of descendants’ oblivion and fading war recollections.
Project Scientific Consultant: Grigory Mangutov
Project Architect: Anastasia Potemkina
Project Director: Anna Zykina
Project Coordinator: Maria Shcherbakova
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