Shamans, nomads, and socialism: Kazakhstan, onetime Soviet federated state lying between Europe and Asia, is a country of contrasts. The Kazak artist Almagul Menlibayeva explores these contrasts in her video works, alternating between documentary film and mythological storytelling. Her poetically-charged images, which she combines with a realistic view on desolate landscapes, give an impression of both the ongoing traditions and dramatic disintegration in her homeland.
Transoxiana Dreams (2011) looks at the social and ecological changes, the result of large-scale misguided communist projects, impacting on the region around the Aral Sea, once the fourth largest inland sea in the world. Almagul Menlibayeva immerses us in the dream world of a fisherman’s young daughter, letting us take part in her father’s search for the lake in the dried-out steppe. In visually stunning shots, centaur-like female figures keep appearing in the barren landscape, evoking the local nomadic tradition in the inhospitable post-Soviet environment.
Intriguingly strange female figures also play a role in the two other films. In Kissing Totems (2008) we encounter them on the grounds of a derelict factory, while in Exodus (2009) they are present as the nomads of the steppe break camp.
In all three works we see Kazakhstan’s desolate landscapes and ruins through the eyes of young girls. Alternating between dream and reality, they show us a picture of their homeland attempting to find its place between past and present.
Courtesy American-Eurasian Art Advisors LLC
Curator: Miriam Lowack
Videozone: Almagul Menlibayeva, Installation Views
Photos: Carl Brunn / Ludwig Forum Aachen