(Tracing Roads Through Central Asia)
Curator: Elena Sorokina
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San-Francisco
April 18 - June 29 2008
With Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev, Elena Vorobyeva & Viktor Vorobyev, Erbossyn Meldibekov, Said Atabekov, Alexander Ugay , Alexander Nikolaev, Vyacheslav Akhunov, Oksana Shatalova
"On Traders' Dillemas", guest curated by Elena Sorokina, features works that explore the intricate relationship between travel and trade in Central Asia and other post-Soviet territories as it has developed since the 1990's. Artists comment on the modes, strategies and effects of free trade in this region since its introduction. Some toy with the stereotypes of "oriental bazaars" where everyday commodities used to be sold alongside communist symbols. Other artists deconstruct popular trade and travel myths, including the Silk Road and the Trans-Siberian Railway, by comparing their complex symbolism with its physical realities. Artists also capture the region's current "normalization" as recent socioeconomic changes have led it to become increasingly dependent on raw materials trade. Through the works' emphatic or critical interpretations, the clichés of exotic travel and exchange of luxury goods between East and West become seen as another myth - that of "free trade."
Central Asia is a region in transition, remaking itself following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and struggling to define itself amidst its influential neighbors including China, Russia and the oil-rich nations of the Middle East. Artists from the region often focus on social and geo-economics issues facing these countries and their people. They analyze ethnic identities currently en vogue, the representation of political power and the rise of ethno nationalist heroes, showing how societies change and individuals survive.
Tracing Roads Through Central Asia is part of YBCA’s Identity Shifts series, one of the three Big Ideas that guide this season’s programming. The Identity Shifts series features artists who explore the ideas of race, gender, nationality. Once concrete identifiers, these terms are now, to some degree, open to interpretation. The rise of religious extremism, the conflict between cultural identity and national borders, the rejection by many of traditional gender roles and labels, has plunged the world into a clash between embracing strict boundaries or celebrating fluidity and complexity. By disrupting the status quo and exploring deeply their sense of self, the artists in this series ask us to rethink how we know who we are, and what we think we can be.