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

​​photography, video installation,digital MULTIMEDIA


​​Almagul Menlibayeva


SteppenBaroque , 2002

DV format, single-channel video, 11 minutes

soundscape by German Popov

The video Aisha Bibi’s Butterflies (2010) unfolds against the finely carved limestone walls of the Aisha Bibi mausoleum, which is located near the Kazakh city of Taraz. The work references an ancient love story between the noble beauty Aisha Bibi and the wealthy warlord Karakhan. Menlibayeva dresses young Bibi and the other women who make their appearance in the film in traditional dress.

In the Steppes of her native Kazakhstan, Menlibayeva stages and films complex mythological narratives, with reference to her own nomadic heritage and the Shamanistic traditions of the cultures of Central Asia. The video recounts an ancient love story of the Sufi poet’s daughter Aisha Bibi and Karakhan, the Central Asian version of Romeo and Juliet, visually transforming it into modern-day drama of unfulfilled longing, unconditional love and its underlying gender discourse, addressing a never ceasing problematic synergy/symbiosis, deeply rooted in the civilizations born between the elements of earth and sky.

Almagul Menlibayeva 
​Solo Show "An Ode to the Wastelands and Gulags", 2013


The Kunstraum Innsbruck, with "An Ode to the Wastelands and Gulags," is the first art institution in Austria to present a comprehensive selection of video works by the artist Almagul Menlibayeva (b.1969), who lives in Berlin and Kazakhstan. Making use of highly poetic images, Menlibayeva portrays the disappearing culture of shamanism and nomadism in the context of the post-Soviet identity of her homeland and casts a critical eye on the process of social and political change in Central Asia. The title traces a geographical line that, as it were, connects all three video works, "Kurchatov 22" (2012), "Milk for Lamb" (2010), and "Exodus" (2009). While "Kurchatov 22" shows the deserted and contaminated nuclear test sites and barracks in the steppe, the two other videos describe the persistence of the spiritual world of the nomads in the face of the ruins of labour camps, that were built by the inmates of the gulags also existing in Kazakhstan. In the days of the Soviets, the nomadic and shamanist culture was suppressed and the people forced into a sedentary life. Collaborating with the sound artist OMFO. (Karin Pernegger)