Wintry Reflections at the 2013 Central Asian Pavilion

For the 5th time, the Central Asian Pavilion in the Palazzo Malipiero features a collaboration between four Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This year's pavilion includes works by eight artists and centres on the theme of 'Winter', which is based off of a 19th century poem by influential Kazakh poet Abay Qunanbayuli.

The eight artists involved are Kamilla Kurmanbekova, Erlan Tuyakov and Ikuru Kuwajima of Kazakhstan, Aza Shade representing Kyrgyzstan, Anton Rodin and Sergey Chutkov from Tajikistan, and Vyacheslav Akhunov and Saodat Ismailova of Uzbekistan. The 2013 Pavilion is curated by emerging young artists Ayatgali Tuleubek (Kazakhstan, b. 1985) and Tiago Born (Portugal, b. 1986).

According to the the curators Tuleubek and Bron: ‘Abay Qunanbayuli’s poem, Winter, was chosen to embody this transference of meaning because of the poet’s impressive body of work dealing with the questions of social justice. Abay’s work and his strong convictions about social fairness make him a controversial figure and thinker, who is revered by all across the political spectrum. Our interpretation of the poem is not limited to an illustration of the winter months and the traditional lifestyle; we view its elements as metaphors for a broader political context...We strongly believe that the selection above has the strength and relevance to represent all of the mentioned Central Asian countries, in terms of artistic production. We think that each part can critically raise important and relevant questions for a public debate on and in Central Asia.’

Representing Artists

Kamilla Kurmanbekova & Erlan Tuyakov (Kazakhstan)

Kamilla Kurmanbekova (b. 1986) and Erlan Tuyakov (b.1985), scenographer and visual artist, present a joint project for the Central Asian Pavilion. Kurmanbekova and Tuyakov both graduated from Kazakh National Academy of the Arts. Both artists work with different media with focus on large scale installations. With an MFA in stage design from Boston University, Kurmanbekova's has created scenographic designs for various productions of 'Funny Money' by Ray Cooney, 'Assassins' by Stephen Sondheim, 'The Hairy Ape' by E. O'Neill and more.

Ikuru Kuwajima (Kazakhstan)

After studying photojournalism in University of Missouri, Columbia for 4 years, Ikuru Kuwajima (b. 1984), originally from Japan, moved to Central Asia in 2010 and is now based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, working on photography projects and editorial work with focus on central Asia and the former Soviet Union. His narrative works portray the literal and socio-cultural landscape of Central Asia.

Aza Shade (Kyrgyzstan)

Aza Shade (b. 1988) is a multidisciplinary artist based in London. She graduated in 2011 from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Graphics (Moving Image). Inspired by 60-80’s avant-garde, and the phenomenon called 'Theatre of the Absurd', the majority of her work is based around a dark humour and absurdism involved in dysfunctional childhoods, mental disorders and poverty.

Watch a video of Aza Shade's work:

Anton Rodin and Sergey Chutkov (Tajikistan)

Born as the Soviet Union was on the brink of dissolution, the works of Anton Rodin (b. 1988) and Sergey Chutkov (b. 1984) are firmly based in the post-Soviet era. The issues they deal with include post-Soviet culture, the liberal European and Muslim communities that warily abut in Tajikistan. Rodin and Chutkov present a joint project for the Central Asian Pavilion called ‘Letters From Tajikistan’. This project features letters written by many people with different social, cultural, ideological and generational backgrounds and seeks to reveal and generate a dialogue between these communities.

Vyacheslav Akhunov (Uzbekistan)

Vyacheslav Akhunov (born in 1948) is today one of the most distinguished artists in Central Asia whose works span different media including collage, painting, installation, performance and moving image. He recently exhibited his works at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel; Akhunov also participated in the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005. The oldest of the artists at the 2013 Central Asian Pavilion, Akhunov is the only artist who spent a significant portion of his life living under the Soviet Union. His aesthetics reflect that experience as many of his pieces are overtly political responses to repression. Speaking about the identity of the artist, Akhunov says: ‘I have always fled collectivism, which means a place where a collective is working on something. A creative person is always alone, just for himself. In my life, there have always been lots of alliances, right up until when I finally understood that all this was madness.’

Saodat Ismailova (Uzbekistan)

Born in Uzbekistan, Saodat Ismailova (b. 1981) has studied filmmaking in Tahskent State Art Institute. Ismailova’s award-winning documentary Aral: Fishing in an Invisible Sea describes the Aral fishermen’s battle to survive in the industry. Other works include Zulfiya and 40 Days of Silence. In her work, Saodat aims to capture the essence of contemporary Central Asia and to understand the state of its soul through all of its transitions, with a special interest on surviving pre-islamic beliefs and animism.

Watch 'Arat, Fishing in an Invisible Sea':

Central Asia Team

Theme: Winter

Artists: Kamilla Kurmanbekova, Erlan Tuyakov, Ikuru Kuwajima, Aza Shade, Anton Rodin, Sergey Chutkov, Saodat Ismailova, Vyacheslav Akhunov

Commissioner: HIVOS (Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation)

Deputy Commissioner: Dean Vanessa Ohlraun

Curators: Ayatgali Tuleubek and Tiago Bom

Venue: Central Asian Pavilion in the Palazzo Malipiero

About The Culture Trip's Venice Biennale Project

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale takes place from 1 June - 24 November. The Culture Trip's Venice Biennale Series is an article series previewing the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in this year's Biennale -- 10 of them for the first time -- and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage over the next couple of months will highlight a selection of the National Pavilions that will be participating in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale. Watch the Biennale page on our site or The Culture Trip's Facebook page for our daily Biennale articles and updates.

By Stephanie Avila

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