Global Arts and Cultures

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Almagul Menlibayeva | Where the Silk Roads Meet: Chimerization of Reality as Decolonial Practice

Virtual Lecture

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Almagul Menlibayeva (born 1969 in Almaty, Kazakhstan) is an award-winning contemporary artist who works mostly in multi-channel videos, photography, textiles and mixed media installations. She lives and works in Germany and Kazakhstan. Menlibayeva’s artistic practice encompasses a decolonial and nomadic aesthetic, situated within the dynamic context of post-socialist, contemporary Kazakhstan. She focuses on decolonial reimaginings of gender, environmental degradation, and Eurasian nomadic and indigenous cosmologies and mythologies. This exploration is further informed by Menlibayeva’s educational background in the Soviet avant-garde school of Futurism, allowing her to bridge the past and present, tradition and innovation, in her creative journey.

She uses specific ways of expression in contemporary art as a vehicle to investigate her personal archaic atavism as a certain mystical anthropomorphism. She is devoted to exploring the nature of a specific Egregore, a shared cultural psychic experience, which manifests itself as a specific thought-form among the people(s) of the ancient, arid and dusty Steppes between the Caspian Sea, Baikonur and Altai in today’s Kazakhstan. Archaic Atavism is personalized as a digital entity, which points to and creates a different meaning. It's not just about the idea of an archaic element in the collective subconscious of a people, but about the embodiment of archaic atavism, which becomes an active digital entity, much like an artificial being. It's as if it has awakened under the influence of the post-Soviet experiences of the indigenous Kazakh people, who are re-establishing their identity after 80 years of Soviet domination and cultural genocide.

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Menlibayeva's works have been featured internationally at:

The Sydney Biennale, the Venice Biennale, the Gangwon International Biennale, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, Belgium; Queens Museum, Queens, NY, USA; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY, USA; The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Norway; ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany; University of California, San Diego, CA, USA; Center of Contemporary Art, Zamok Ujazdowskie, Warsaw, Poland; Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Finland; Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, Mexico; Kulturzentrum bei den Minoriten, Graz, Austria; Queensland Art Gallery, Bisbane, Australia, etc.

Menlibayeva's solo exhibitions include:

Green, Yellow, Red, and Green again, TSE gallery, Astana, Kazakhstan (2018); Transformation, Grand Palais, Paris, France (2016-2017); My Silk Road to You, Lexing Art, Miami, USA (2016); Transoxiana Dreams, Videozone, Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany (2014); Empire of the Memory, Ethnographic Museum, Warsaw, Poland (2013); An Odd for the Wastelands and Gulags, Kunstraum Innsbruck, Austria (2013). EXPO 1 Exploration of ecological challenges, MoMA PS1, NewYork, USA, etc.

Menlibayeva's most recent shows include:

Thailand Biennale, Chiang Rai 2023: The Open World; Altar of the East: Nuclear Testimony, by Zwetajewa Center at the University of Freiburg, Kommunales Kino, Freiburg, Germany; Montevideo Biennale, 2023, curated by Alfons Hug; As Though We Hid the Sun in a Sea of Stories. Fragment for a Geopoetics of North of Eurasia, HKW, Berlin, Germany; The 7th Guangzhou Triennial The Symphony of All the Changes, Guangdong Museum of Art, China and many other as well as Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond, LACMA Museum, USA, etc.

Recent article:

Huang, Bellara. “Approximating Reality as Decolonial Practice: Almagul Menlibayeva’s Ai Realism: Qantar 2022 Series.” FIELD, n.d.