Suns and Neons above Kazakhstan
Exhibition of Kazakhstani Contemporary Art
YARAT Contemporary Art Space, Baku
7 June, 2017 – 29 October, 2017
Curator: Björn Geldhof
Assistant Curator: Anna Fech
Research: Anna Fech, Suad Garayeva, Björn Geldhof
Artists: Erbossyn Meldibekov, Bakhyt Bubicanova, Galim Madanov and Zauresh Terekbay, Almagul Menlibayeva, Yelena Vorobyeva and Viktor Vorobyev, Rustam Khalfin, Said Atabekov, Creoleax Centr, Alexander Ugay, Asel Kadyrkhanova, Nurakhmet Nurbol, Suinbike, and Gaisha Madanova.
YARAT Contemporary Art Space presents Suns and Neons above Kazakhstan, a group exhibition that brings together seminal works of the 1990s and early 2000s. The exhibition aims to deconstruct a romanticized image of Kazakhstan as a vast and largely unpopulated geographical area that for decades played upon the collective imagination. It addresses various narratives of national history, from a post-colonial to a critical perspective, while discovering, mapping, and voicing the changing attitudes and concerns across generations. The exhibition explores the shifts and breaks within the construct of Kazakhstan’s national and cultural identity during a short timespan of its independence. It is an exhibition of landscapes and cityscapes; of artists dealing with history and nation-building; and of an emerging generation concerned with private life and the emancipation of the individual within the isolated reality of urban life.
In Kazakhstan, visual arts were introduced at Soviet art schools, established in the 1930s as a tool of nation-building. Through the 1940s, many practitioners of the avant-garde (then fallen out of favor) were deported to Kazakhstan, resulting in a surprising and mostly undocumented emergence of a non-conformist art scene. This continued throughout decades until the early 1990s with strong connections to the non-conformist and conceptualist circles in Moscow and Leningrad.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a radical shift took place in the Kazakh art scene. Some practices sustained the conceptualist line considering their own position as part of a Central Asian narrative, while a younger generation searched for a new language. These artists raised questions on post-colonial Central Asia, which found itself in-between the revival of national and ethnic imagery and forced processes of identity construction. Playing with provocation, humor, irony, and romanticism artists explored the contradictory moments within the rhetoric of authenticity, addressing national independence, recent history, and social identity.
Since 1991, like other CIS countries, Kazakhstan went through various socio-economic shifts radically changing its cultural fabric. An emerging generation of artists, growing up during the booming 2000s, did not experience the nationalistic euphoria of the 1990s and do not romanticize their country's past or heritage. They are the new city kids, aware of global networks and social media, resisting confinement and societal designations around them. Their concerns are much more individual and their works draw both from illusions and disillusionments, hope and disappointments of life entrapped within the city...