EMPATH installation at the entrance of Kazakhstan Pavilion.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Almaty (Kazakhstan) culture was presented through artistic interventions in the Pavilion of Kazakhstan at Expo 2020 Dubai, Dec. 17 — Dec. 19. The highlighting of the former Kazakh capital also told one about the tourism potential of the destination, by way of B2B meetings with international partners in the travel industry. The entrance of the pavilion, as well as its interiors, were decorated with apples — the poetic symbol of Almaty — as the name of the city comes from the word ‘alma’, meaning ‘apple’, in Kazakh language.
The cultural side brought together professionals from the creative industry of the UAE, including museum directors, gallerists, curators, art collectors and cultural producers. “The best way to learn about the new county or a city, is through its art. It is truly wonderful that the Pavilion of Kazakhstan gave us the opportunity to discover the culture of Almaty, as well as its contemporary art scene,” said one of the guests.
The aim of the initiative was to present the modern culture of Almaty as well as the diversity of its culture, to an international audience in the framework of Expo 2020 Dubai. Creative projects hosted at the event represented the contemporary art scene of the city. A site specific version of the interactive installation EMPATH, created specially for the occasion, was on view. “We created EMPATH to help finding balance in a chaotic world. Reducing the information noise allows us to see things from a different point of view, through understanding and empathy,” said Nargiz Magayeva, author of the project, which is an installation.
The work of contemporary artist Alpamys Batyr titled Almaty 2.0 was also presented to visitors. “My work is a creative mapping projection that brings the elements of nature, people and architectural landscapes, together representing the essence of the city of Almaty, showing them in a new light through the merging of modernity and tradition,” the artist said about his work. Magayeva, who is also founder of the creative studio Faenomen in Almaty, is a conceptual designer.
She speaks to Gulf Today Can you say a few words about contemporary Kazakh art, with reference particularly to painting, sculpture, conceptual and installation art? Today Almaty is a thriving centre for Kazakh Contemporary Art. There are diverse expressions and themes, forms and media, ranging from highly Westernised techniques, to more localised and indigenous elements. Each artist seeks to find the focus of their own work. Some question conservative perceptions and the Soviet legacy, while others create critical ideas and engagements with the public.
The works span a variety of media, from video and photography to sculptures, installations, and the usage of textiles. Some artists find their artistic voice in digital art and project them through social media platforms. Internet and travelling abroad has opened new perspectives and methods for artists to articulate their visions.
So artists don’t really experience any type of limitations. What are the common features of Kazakh and Middle East art, if any?I would say demonstrating the continuity of local traditions through time and usage of utilitarian craft. Painting was not a traditional art form in the steppes. The utilitarian craft was more commonplace, including decorative tapestries, carpets, ceramics and jewellery.
The conservative Islamic tradition in both regions might forbid the use of realistic images; motifs were the distinctive figures featured in many art forms. Therefore, you may find a strong focus on craftsmanship, and especially textile traditions: embroidery, patchwork, and more. It is a case of so near, yet so far, with the art and culture of Kazakhstan and the Middle East. Can you comment?Kazakhstan and the Middle East share similar values, beliefs and behaviours, and a love for crafts.
But when it comes to differences, I would highlight the Soviet past of Kazakhstan. Modern Kazakh cultural and artistic institutions are vastly influenced by the Soviet Union. You may find the weight of this period in Kazakh architecture, art and education. Is it the first time Faenomen creative studio is showing its work in the UAE?Yes, it is. And we are looking forward to showcase more works in the near future. What is the mission of the studio? Faenomen is a multidisciplinary, independently-owned studio that combines concept thinking, design, architecture, production and realisation of ideas.
The mission of the studio is to create concepts with meaning that can inspire people to become awake. It is crucial for us to work on our personal projects time to time to express our own vision. We don’t just aim to get aesthetically pleasing results. The purpose is to deliver an idea and connect with the audience on an emotional level. Can you speak a few words about Alpamys Batyr, whose work you showed at Expo 2020 Dubai?Kazakhstan’s promising artist Alpamys Batyr’s work in Dubai represents both “classic” and modern ways of mixed media, such as projection mapping animation and canvas drawing.
He believes that “you should always take advantages of any source available. Art is all about experience, experiment and execution!” What do Almaty and Dubai have in common? Both cities are introducing young artists fighting for contemporary aesthetics, with their bold, innovative and game-changing approaches. The cities welcome and support emerging representatives of any creative field. Almaty, just like Dubai, is facing big transformations and looks forward to new opportunities.
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