Ştefan RUSU

design / exhibitions

Video Forecast Exhibition

VIDEO FORECAST: A Selection of Video Art from Central Asia
Location: AUB Byblos Bank Art Gallery (Beirut, Lebanon)
Period: 4 September –24 October 2014

Abilsaid Atabekov (KG), Veaceslav Ahunov (UZ), Ulan Djaparov (KG), Erbolsyn Meldibekov (KZ), Alla Rumyantseva (TJ), Surayo Tuichieva (TJ), Rustam Khalfin (KZ), Sabzali Sharipov & Jamshed Kholikov (TJ), Alexandr Ugay (KZ)

Curated/Exhibition Concept by Stefan Rusu
Curatorial Statement
VIDEO FORECAST: A Selection of Video Art from Central Asia introduces the Lebanese public to contemporary artistic strategies and practices encountered today in the post-Soviet republics of the Central Asia. Over the past two decades these countries have been caught up in a spiral of political, social and cultural change. The transformations that take place today in these five Central Asian states are at the mercy of multiple factors, historical consequences and political forces, as the countries are in the process of negotiating their post-Soviet identities along lines that include the enduring heritage of the Soviet past, the resurgent nationalism, the Islamic revival (including also its radical forms) and the pro-Western democratic aspirations. The artists presented in this exhibition reflect, explore, or draw upon one or the other contradictions found today in their countries—caught for two decades in a painful process of political, economic and social transition.
Those who attend to this event may find that many artworks in this exhibition resonate today with the political and social processes that have been taking place in the Arab world since December 2010 under the catchy phrase “Arab Spring.” The processes that take place in the post-Soviet Central Asian countries have, for the most part, been ignored by the Western media and public opinion. This exhibition may be an opportune to re-visit through an artistic perspective some of these processes in countries that historically have had much in common with the Arab world. Besides sharing religious beliefs, cultural heritage, linguistic traits, and ethnic ties there are also many similarities when it comes to the political processes that unfold today in the Middle East and post-Soviet Central Asia. In some of these countries the political situation reminds the situation in Egypt, Yemen or Tunisia—but long before the Arab Spring began. The religious revival that took place immediately after 1989—which came as a reversed reaction to the Soviet radical processes of de-Islamization that left deep traces in the consciousness of the local populace, especially in the urban areas—have been curbed. In fact every form of challenge to the power of state have been suppressed. Most of these countries are still run by authoritarian regimes that oppress every form of political activities, persecuting those who dare to challenge the status-quo—be it pro-democratic NGOs or radical religious opposition. While the former direct their aspirations towards Western liberal-democracies the latter see their countries regain their place within a larger Islamic world. In most of these states the opposition (both political and religious) has been "cleansed" from the field of political struggle, forced to go underground or ultimately emigrate.

Today, the region is caught in between processes of secularization and religious revivalism. Of course, the situation is not homogenous, and the political and economic situation differs from country to country. The processes of secularization in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan  are much stronger than those that take place in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Up to this point it is very difficult to say which trend (islamization versus de-islamization) will prevail. In addition to this ideological struggles there are severe social and economic problems, such as continuing poverty and inequality, corruption and crime, unemployment and large-scale labour migration to Russia. On this background political scientists and governmental administrators are trying to predict what course or direction will the Central Asia follow: will these countries become more receptive to religious ideas based on Islamic law and order or will they follow more secular and “Western” forms of government, state and society; will the region remain in the zone of influence of Russia or of China, the Arab world or the West? But these are questions that will be more relevant in the future. For now, the greatest concern for the local intellectuals and artists has been the authoritarian character of the local Central Asian regimes.

This exhibition consists of a selection of videos and experimental films produced by artists from such Central Asian countries as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The works offer an overview on the current cultural but also political and social situations in these countries. In their works the artists comment, interpret or reflect upon some of the most pressing issues: nationalism, religious radicalism, regional segregation, gender inequality, the lack of constructive negotiation between the general public and the authorities, to name only a few. Some of these concerns take artistic form in the format of film and video. One can witness, for instance, the persistent state of despair and total impassiveness in the video work Blind alley produced by the Uzbek artist Veaceslav Ahunov. The video Bastion by the Kazakh artist Alexander Ugay is a recollection of the processes of modernization that took place in the early twentieth century in the USSR—a hint at Kazakhstan own processes of modernization that have taken place over the past decades. The display of brutal punishment of an individual act of disobedience in a video documentation of a street performance entitled Pastan and made by the Kazakh artist Erbolsyn Meldibekov the viewer can still gain a sense on the degree of authoritarian control and repression. These, and other works in VIDEO FORECAST: A Selection of Video Art from Central Asia bear witness to cultural and artistic transformations that take place amidst political and social turmoil.