Almagul Menlibayeva

° 1969

Born in Almaty (KZ), lives in Berlin (DE).

Almagul Menlibayeva (°1969) was born in Almaty (Kazakhstan). Trained as a painter, Menlibayeva exhibited with ‘Zelyonyi triugolok’ (Green Triangle), a group of young artists in Almaty in the late eighties. In the nineties the burgeoning Kazakh art market created a reasonably high demand for her paintings. Yet Menlibayeva turned to performance and video in the first years of the new millennium. An early example is the action Vechnaya nevesta (‘Eternal Bride’, 2002), for which she roamed the streets and bazaars of Almaty dressed in the long white gown and veil of a Soviet bride. This indicates her strong interest in the female experience and the quest for emancipatory modernity that the USSR also stood for, despite all its cruelty and dysfunction.

Menlibayeva has been called a ‘punk-shaman’, and it is true that her more recent works very consciously combine exotic imagery with the latest tendencies in digital technology and electronic music. Her strategy underlines many of the gaps and disconnections that become visible in Central Asia (in her case Kazakhstan) as the region now moves ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ simultaneously: towards greater integration into the globalised political economy as providers of natural resources and military bases for both Russia and the US, but also towards parochial and paternalistic inertia in domestic politics, where ex-communist rulers gain dominion again and are selling the promise of ‘stability’ to their populations and international patrons.

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