Fabienne Rachmadiev: "Art and Activism in Central Asia"
Russian Space RSCPR research group guest lecture series
The former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan both have seen political turmoil and public uprising in recent times, in which a wide range of issues intersect: cultural tradition versus Soviet legacy, gender equality, homophobia, climate change, poverty and corruption, and the need for democratic reform in the still young republics. Within this context it have been artists who combine political activism with their art, leading to new forms of art activism and a renegotiation of the relationship between aesthetics and politics.
This lecture will discuss contemporary artists from these countries and consider their aesthetics and approaches to activism. One of the case studies is FemStab, the Feminist School for Theory and Activism (before: School for Theory and Art), a platform based in Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic. As its name indicates, the ‘school’ combines theory, activism and art to address a variety of socio-political issues specific to its post-Soviet, postcolonial context, but also taking on a global perspective, mostly so in its conception of “the Kollontai archive” about an alleged group of queer communists in 1970s Frunze (Bishkek).
In Kazakhstan, artists like Almagul Menlibayeva and Saule Suleimenova, each with distinct sensibilities, address injustices of both past and present in their work. It is their particular aesthetics, however, that give rise to these considerations in the first place.
By discussing these and other artists, the lecture hopes to shed light on the art of an often, unjustly, overlooked region.
Fabienne Rachmadiev is a PhD candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam; contributor, columnist & (web)editor at literary journals De Gids & De Internet Gids. Her research, on the aesthetics and politics of contemporary art from former Soviet spaces, is part of the Sublime Imperfections project. Her publications include an essay in Hyunhak Yoon’s Decoding Dictatorial Statues (Onomatopee157/’19).