​Art Perspective into Central Asia's Post-Socialist Era

​​photography, video installation,digital MULTIMEDIA


​​Almagul Menlibayeva


KURTCHATOV 22, 2013, 30 min 5-8-channel video installation, surround soundscape by OMFO

"Kurchatov 22", a five-channel video installation with surround sound, was shot in the heartland of the former "Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union", formally known to insiders by its code name Kurchatov 22 (or Moscow 400, Bereg, Semipalatinsk-21, Stanciya Konechnaya), a secret territory with the size 18,500 square kilometers in the North West of Kazakhstan, established under the strict control of Joseph  Stalin and L. (Lavrenti) Beria in 1948.

During a period of 40 years, this place was an experimental field for military and scientific research with 456 above-ground and below-ground nuclear tests (in total, 2500 times more powerful than were dropped on Hiroshima). In addition to the nuclear bombs, about 600 thermonuclear and dozens of hydrodynamic and hydronuclear devices were also tested at this site over time. These nuclear tests were experiments, that not only affected the environment, plants, and animals but also included the local population, mainly indigenous Kazakhs and unknowing Soviet workers who were cohabitating in the area of Kurchatov 22.

This video installation combines historical facts, stage footage, and current eyewitness reports in the form of interviews and video installation. The work investigates a memory of the land as a collective living formation in the society, impacting the political and social developments in the post-Soviet, the memory of the ‘colonial experiment’ and totalitarian experience.

 It is an open forum space for gender and human–environmental issues addressing a critical view of Soviet Modernity, aiming to understand how different axes of experiences and identities (e.g. gender, sexuality, class, race, age, education, access rights) are rapidly changing Central Asia relating to the cultural significance and a sense of belonging.


Almagul Menliabyeva©2013