Sea, Dream, Land, Mine
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On Saturday, 5 March, the Kunstfort presents a live public program on ecology, history, (human) bodies, dreams, and languages. Featuring work by artists from Central and Northern Asia, the pieces touch on stories of colonialism and the Soviet past of these regions, which led to today’s reality of capitalist exploitation.

With works by Saodat Ismailova, Haider Mukhit, and Natalia Papaeva, it is co-composed and accompanied by a text by researcher Fabienne Rachmadiev and is moderated by Zippora.

The public program is open to everyone and free of charge. No reservation is needed. Start at 15:00, doors open at 14:30 at the fort.

Stains of Oxus is a three-screen installation by Saodat Ismailova dedicated to the Amu Darya (Oxus) River rising in Alichur (Pamirs) and ending in the Aral Sea. The installation represents a mystical river of dreams and collective memory filled with archetypes and totems. To whisper one’s thoughts and dreams to running water is a morning ritual and an ancient local tradition. All visions and sounds are conveyed using rhythmic choreography, documented evidence, landscapes and images of people. Travelling along the banks of the Oxus we meet people of different ages whose lives are inextricably linked with this river.

Temirtau was first screened for the online exhibition Jaman Öner (meaning “bad art” in Kazakh), curated by Suinbike Suleimenova and Aida Issakhankyzy. Temirtau is a mining town in the North of Kazakhstan, close to the artist’s home town of Karaganda. An intense rhythm of sounds and images approaches the impact of extraction on a body, a community, an environment. When the miners of Temirtau went out on a strike, they were told by the authorities to “not show [your] emotions”. Temirtau is both an intimate and activist rendering of the cost of the extractive and fossil fuel industries. Haider Mukhit’s work lays bare how the human body is connected with histories that were imposed on that body, and what happens when a community has to endure.

For her performances, Natalia Papaeva uses her memories and personal experience, including her Buryat-Mongolian heritage, as a lodestar to investigate the relationship between language and landscape, heritage and memory. In her research Papaeva looks at the ways the USSR government, as well as ethnographers, described the non-Slavic “Other”. Who has access to which heritage, what memories endure? How and by whom can memory and heritage be transformed? Archival materials are connected to the landscape as an archive of the immense Soviet impact on the environment of Buryatia.

Fabienne Rachmadiev will provide a textual exploration in which the day’s main themes will be synthesized. Drawing from both her scholarly research on temporalities of decoloniality, ecology, as well as archives in contemporary art from Central Asia and Russia, and her work as a writer of fiction and prose, the text invites the audience to join a process of thinking and feeling with the themes, thoughts and images offered by the programme’s artworks. The text is not conclusive, but open-ended, to ensure a conversation can continue to unfold and branch out.

Film still from Saodat Ismailova, Stains of Oxus, 2016.

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