Kasmalieva and Djumaliev @ Art Institute of Chicago
Just as winter arrives, Bambino and I are finalizing our plans for a quick trip to Chicago, and staying right on the lake, no less...can you say "brrrr?" But we're going for the opening of Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev's solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago (we couldn't be prouder of them if we tried), so we'll deal with it. Curated by the amazing Lisa Dorin, the exhibition includes a brand new body of work titled "A New Silk Road," which explores contemporary life along this ancient trading route and presents video and photographs from the very road Bambino and I travelled along during our stay in Kyrgyzstan last October. We got to see just some of this new work in their studio while there, and it blew me away. I can't wait to see the final installations. Here's the press release from the museum:
For their Focus exhibition, Kasmalieva and Djumaliev will debut a new, multichannel video and photographic installation, A New Silk Road (2006), created especially for the Art Institute. The project follows the extensive scrap-metal trade via truck caravans traveling through the high mountain passes between Kyrgyzstan and China. With almost no manufacturing infrastructure and limited funding for building and growth, Kyrgyzstan’s role remains that of trader, the middle man between China’s booming production and countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan that are in the economic position to support the vigorous importation of consumer goods. Eschewing nostalgia for the historical Silk Road era, Kasmalieva and Djumaliev instead foreground the current, arguably hard, existences faced by the communities along these well-worn trade routes.Unlike other times when we're travelling to another city and doing the bulk of our planning at the last minute, I'm hoping to be more organized in making the most of our time in Chicago, so I'm putting out feelers well in advance for what exhibitions/restaurants/etc. we shouldn't miss. All suggestions appreciated. If you make it to the opening (Feb 1), please do say Hi.
Also on view will be the three-channel video installation Trans-Siberian Amazons (2004). Shot during a tour through Siberia organized by the artists to encourage artistic and cultural exchange, this work portrays two elderly women traders who undertake the arduous task of hauling domestic goods by train across Central Asia. Previously employed in the professional sector, these women and others like them have been forced, as a result of post-Soviet economic devastation, to create new, transient economies based on small-scale trade and transport in order to support their families. The video captures the protagonists’ yearning for times gone by, as they pass the time mournfully singing the Soviet songs of their youth in the dim confines of the train car. At its essence, the practice of Kasmalieva and Djumaliev redefines the terms of art in the face of what the latter refers to as “the collective phobia, skepticism, and disappointment” that pervades the milieu they inhabit. Melding the poetic with the political, they employ beautifully haunting imagery with minimal narrative structure in order to recount poignant tales of human struggle, perseverance, and hope for the future.