Projected Visions – Kazakhstan

Video art

9 December 2014

Auditorium of the Museums
1 place Hans-Jean Arp F-67000 Strasbourg

Within the framework of E.CITY – ALMATY / KAZAKHSTAN

Almagul Menlibayeva
Exodus, 2009, HD video, 11’
Courtesy de American-Eurasian Art Advisors LLC

Almagul Menlibayeva creates a kind of video-palimpsest of different overlapping images where she freely mixes archetypes with the local realities. In her Exodus, the Biblical narrative is referenced to the nomadic migration, which thus turns into a part of a global tragedy, as it is now a migration from the village to the city, the abandonment of authentic culture in favour of impersonal consumerism. The artist laments the exodus of the traditional nomadic culture from the society. The desire to interpret history as a myth unwillingly leads the artist to the circle of primordial traditional practices. Menlibayeva uses the notion of the egregor in her statement as a cultural and psychological experience shared by the society. The story in her latest cinema and video objects is apparently narrated on behalf of the Archaic Atavism. An idyllic female image of a lover-goddess-peri plays an important role in the artists’ video pieces. The woman, according to Menlibayeva, is a superior being responsible for the world order. The artist’s desire to exist in this quasi-transcendental regime is carried out through almost alchemical mix of mythical and poetical hermeneutic of current topical narratives, the traditional filming of authentic characters in an authentic context, a precise and clear editing made from the first person and finally, a sensitive soundtrack by DJ OMFO, where each image is clearly outlined by acoustic means.

Simurg Bird, 2007, 2’
Artist’s collection

Smail Bayaliev’s video Simurgh Bird also captures the artist’s performance at the significant site of the Sufi mosque of Hoja Akhmed Yassawi in Turkestan, a town in the south of Kazakhstan. The artist, clad in an Asiatic gown and the Soviet gas mask, peruses a large Book with the pages made of woollen Kazakh rugs, syrmaks. A superimposed picture centred with the help of a round orifice of the ocular, shows flocks of panicking and twittering birds fleeing from a falcon. The background soundtrack includes the recital of a mystical ballad about the difficulties of life and fate and the world order. According to a legend, the Bird of Fairness, the Simurgh, sits on the Tree of the World and disseminates different truths with its wings. The complex semantics of the video and sound hints at the loss of sacral meanings and the unification of traditions but does not articulate the author’s position. A vague understanding of the artist’s desire takes place between the captured and the articulated suggesting the need to learn the secret message of the Simurgh.

Musique in the Steppe
, 2014, 6’45
Production Apollonia
Artist’s collection

A Syrlybek Bekbotaev’s series The Music in the Steppe (photo and video) focuses on the symbol of childhood memories, besik (a traditional cradle) and the author’s admiration of everyday life’s rituals involving the artist’s family – mother, brother, grandmother, aunts, sisters and so on. The juxtaposition of the pastoral steppe landscapes and bright provincial dress in a staged performance driven by rhythmical movement enables the artist to elevate the monotonous life of a Kazakh village to a poetical level. The feeling of being protected as a child and certain spontaneity of life creates the impression of a naïve and fresh nature of the provincial world outlook. This kind of perception informs to a great extent the work of the artist who tends to reduce subtle nuances of a world vision to clear-cut and transparent images and objects.

Pastan on the street, 2005, 3’
Artist’s collection

The artist’s disappointment with the current state of affairs in his own country and his emotional reflection on the injustice of the existence is evident in the works by Yerbossyn Meldibekov. In his video Pastan, the artist who often works with sculpture builds a social sculpture of himself, rhythmically beaten up and abused on the street. Like somnambulist, the artist is indifferent to all the attacks on his freedom and personal immunity thereby personifying the behaviour of the society in Kazakhstan.

Earth and Shape
, 2013-2014, HD video, 16’30
Artist’s collection

Alexander Ugay makes his films in the context of the research of the personal and collective memory space, the transformation of reality under the pressure from the flows of time, structure and the topology of space. Ugay often uses the materials produced by other artists as organic tools for the construction of his own message. A visual dialogue with Gilles Deleuze, with the artefacts of the past and present in time and space is made explicit in the recent Ugay’s film Earth and Shape. The footage of architectural landscapes from different corners of the world – Astana, Karaganda, Almaty, Tashkent, St Petersburg, Seoul, Istanbul, Sophia and others is not mere geography but, according to Deleuze, the geography of the mind. It is not a certain city or a certain land, but a new global megapolis in the state of no-shape. This freely forming space is distorted by phantom like figures from Leni Riefenstahl’s films. Athletes from Olympia (1938) serve as gestalt shapes from time to time appearing among the streets, squares and courtyards of the new city as if summoned by a certain power to mould the moveable no-shape in a concrete structure. The architectural objects of the modern cities have an eerie resemblance to the monuments of the past: ziggurats, towers, pyramids, antique temples live with us, here and now. The spiritual substances of the past, seemingly gone to Lethe, re-emerge on the surface of our collective memory to reproduce annoyingly repetitive landscapes of meanings. The double exposure of today’s Astana superimposed on the final scene from Yuli Raizman’s film The Cavalier of the Gold Star (Dream of a Cossack, 1951) in the end of the film refers us back to the dialogue with Stalin’s “paradise”, warning us about a possible comeback.