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October 25th, 2007
Museum's 'Live Cinema' Series Explores The Work of Central Asian Artists

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present a survey of video and film by contemporary artists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the first of its kind in the United States. Live Cinema/Return of the Image: Video from Central Asia (on view November 16, 2007 through February 17, 2008 in Gallery 179) looks at recent developments in the artistic production of a region that has been largely underrepresented in the international art world. In the Search of Place, The Dervish Way and Eccentricity and Melancholia, investigate the unique history of this turbulent region and its effect upon artistic production. Viktor Misiano, guest curator and founder and editor-in-chief of Moscow Art Magazine, credits Central Asian artists with retaining trust in what he describes as “the figuratively authentic and immediately suggestive ‘image.’”

Video became the leading medium for Central Asian artist in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and allowed for the continuation of a visual tradition in which figurative imagery complements the existing oral tradition. Therefore, the Return of the Image is not meant to imply that these artists are returning to the image, as they have never really left it. As Misiano explains in the brochure that accompanies the exhibition, “these artists, who have only recently become a part of the international art scene, are returning the image to us, an audience that often has far too many doubts as to its potential.”

Thematically the films highlight a range of artistic concerns, from questions of religion, war, and national identity to an examination of intimacy, alienation, and the elusive nature of human interaction. The films include works by Ernst Abdarazakov, Vyacheslay Akhunov, Said Atabekov, Maxim Boronilov, Ulan Djaparov, Natasha Dyu, Rustam Khalfin, Roman Maskalev, Almagul Menliayeva, Sergey Tichina, Yuliya Tikhonova, Chingiz Tokochev, and Alexander Ugay.

The first of the three programs, In Search of the Place, presents a series of videos that refer to folklore, nomadism, ancient monuments and rituals – all important aspects of Central Asian national identity which had been challenged by new authoritarian governments. The visual structure and medium of these works reflect a continuous state of becoming, in which landscapes flash by from a freight truck’s window in Maskalev and Boronilov’s Paris, veils fly from the artist’s face in Menlibayeva’s Jihad and a camera jiggles, unable to focus on one point in both parts of Khalfin and Tikhonova’s Northern Barbarians.

The Dervish Way, the second program in the series, features artists exploring their own identities and place within their culture. Like modern Dervishes, Atabekov in Walkman, Akhunov and Tichina in Corner and Askent and Djaparov in E la nave va… present themselves as wanderers, musicians, dancers, shamans, or sages in an open-ended way that reveals their interest in primary sources of civilization as well as their attempts to restore an understanding of creativity as a harmonious act in which, action, image, words, and material creation are brought together.

The videos in Eccentricity and Melancholia are representative of a younger generation of artists who respond to daily life by rejecting the heroic stance that earlier generations of artists had taken on. Djaparov’s Pancake Monsters cultivates simple actions bereft of any goals, while Dyu’s Melancholy constructs an imaginary world that would not have been possible a decade earlier. In Ugay and Maskalev’s Mourning, the stories constructed around senseless death and needless heroism generate a work that is not only ironic, but full of deep nostalgia.


On the occasion of the exhibition’s opening, Viktor Misiano, guest curator, and Carlos Basualdo, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will engage in a conversation Friday, November 16 at 6:00 p.m. in the Museum’s Seminar Room.

About Viktor Misiano

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is pleased to collaborate with curator Viktor Misiano for this installment of Live Cinema. Born and currently living in Moscow, Russia, Viktor Misiano is the founder and editor-in-chief of Moscow Art Magazine, a publication whose goal is to build a critical discourse in the Post-Soviet art world by focusing exclusively on contemporary art practice and theory. Before founding the magazine in 1993, Misiano was a curator at The Pushkin State Museum and the director of the Contemporary Art Center in Moscow. Misiano also curated the 51st Venice Biennale’s Central Asian Pavilion in 2005 and served as a consultant for the 52nd Venice Biennale’s Central Asian Pavilion in 2007.


Program 1: In Search of the Place
November 16- December 16, 2007
Rustam Khalfin and Yuliya Tikhonova, Northern Barbarians, Part 1: A Groom and a Bride
Rustam Khalfin and Yuliya Tikhonova, Northern Barbarians, Part 2: Lover Races
Almagul Menlibayeva, Jihad Roman Maskalev and Maxim Boronilov, Paris

Program 2: The Dervish Way
December 18, 2007- January 20, 2008
Said Atabekov, Walkman
Vyacheslay Akhunov and Sergey Tichina, Askent
Vyacheslay Akhunov and Sergey Tichina, Corner
Ulan Djaparov, E la nave va

Program 3: New Generation: Crankiness and Melancholy
January 22- February 17, 2008
Alexander Ugay and Roman Maskalev, Mourning
Ulan Djaparov, Ernst Abdarazakov, Chingiz Tokochev, and Roman Maskalev, Pancake-Monsters
Natasha Dyu, Melancholy

About Live Cinema

Live Cinema is the title of a series of film and video programs at the Film and Video Gallery that explores the vast production of single channel video and film by a diverse group of local, national and international artists. In the last decade an ever-increasing number of contemporary artists have appropriated these media as an artistic outlet, in dialogue with the early video and Super 8 practices of the 1960s and the tradition of experimental filmmaking. Each installment of the Live Cinema series focuses on a specific aspect of this work, in order to both map and analyze this important aspect of contemporary art production. Programs are accompanied by a series of public lectures by the participating artists as well as a publication in which guest writers discuss the works exhibited.

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