November, 2017 — January, 2018
Aspan Gallery is pleased to present the first solo show in Central Asia of renowned Kyrgyz artists. Something about Contemporary Nomadism will include installations, video and photography of the artist couple from Bishkek Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev, including their programmatic Transsiberian Amazons (2005) and Brooklyn Bridge (2010), as well as the new works that will be shown for the first time. In their work the artists explore the harsh political and economic realities of their native Kyrgyzstan unpacking the multiple layers of their national identity.
Although Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev have been widely exhibited internationally, participating in the Venice Biennale, Gwangju Biennale and receiving solo shows across Europe, Asia and the United States, including the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007, the forthcoming exhibition at Aspan Gallery will be their first one-artist show in Central Asia. Kasmalieva and Djumaliev’s works have not been exhibited in Almaty since 2000.
The title of the exhibition Something about Contemporary Nomadism comes from the eponymous 2006 video, in which the screening process at the airport is presented as a ritual of the new nomads. The exhibition will feature the artist duo's well-known installations, video and photos, as well as their new projects, which will be presented to the public for the first time. The monumental installation Transsiberian Amazons (2005) previously shown at the Central Asian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005, consisting of 150 "Chinese" plastic bags and a three-channel video, which shows the story of women forced to engage in petty trade along the ancient Silk Road. In connection with the recent prevailing situation on the Kazakh-Kyrgyz, border artists slightly altered the format of the installation, which now takes the form of a narrow passage, like the passage on the border between the two countries, in which people are forced to wait for hours.
The dual-channel video installation Into the Future (2005) filmed on lake Baikal is also on display. In this work one camera documents the traces of environmental pollution of the once pristine corner of the earth, and the second one shows the loading and departure of an old ferry. Curator of Central Asia pavilion at the Venice Biennale Viktor Misiano said the following about this work: "The inherent nature of the global mythopoetic metaphor takes it far beyond the narrow social intelligence and is not limited to the revelatory pathos... Plastic imagery is so self-sufficient that evokes national ornamentation and has a significant impact on documented statements of the plan."
The multi-channel installation Brooklyn Bridge (2010) documents the life of illegal immigrants from Central Asia living in Brooklyn, New York. The projection on the wall captures the long commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan which immigrants have to take every day. The two monitors show interviews with a man and a woman, illegal immigrants living in Brighton Beach in New York. Like many others in their homeland, they worked as professionals, but in the US they are forced to take jobs in construction or as domestic helpers.
The exhibition also presents works related to the artists' other projects. Photo series A New Silk Road: Algorithm of Survival and Hope, for example, is related to the eponymous five-channel video, which follows a caravan of trucks carrying scrap metal from Kyrgyzstan to China to be exchanged for cheap Chinese goods. The photographs depict people the artists met along the caravan's route, who all participate in the new market economy, mainly by providing services for truck drivers.
In General, the work of Gulnara and Murat points to a new reality of the former nomads, which is full of dystopia, but in which there is still room for hope.
"For us it is important to create a non-documentary image, despite the fact that our work is based on a documentary filming. A painter can paint from nature and then create a final work based on his sketches. We do the same – we collect images and then create our own work. Our works show what we care about and our resonance with the time in which we live", – says Gulnara Kasmalieva.
The show Something about Contemporary Nomadism will be held at EXPO Villa, Villa Boutiques & Restaurants (Al-Farabi 140 A) from 30 November 2017 to 14 January 2018.