Askhat Akhmedyarov — In Dialogue with Fire


M HKA, Antwerp

13 May 2023 - 03 September 2023

Belonging to the generation of artists formed at the juncture of Soviet times and Kazakhstani independence, Askhat Akhmedyarov has been active since the 1990s. His multi-faceted practice — spanning drawing, photography, installation and performance — deals with the development of the historical and political landscape of Kazakhstan. His exhibition, titled In Dialogue with Fire, gathers reflections on the relationship between art and activism.

Akhmedyarov’s installation Balkhash (2021) and performance Save Bozzhyra (2021), in particular, bring attention to environmental issues, critically reflecting on Soviet colonial practices of forced modernisation, as well as today's reckless construction developments implemented at the expense of local ecology. Referring to personal and collective memory, the artist often incorporates traditional culture and shamanic rituals — such as, for instance, the ritual of purification by fire. The latter finds its contemporary interpretation in works such as Autumn Purge (2012) and In Dialogue with Fire (2019). His photographic series can also be seen as a poetic yet poignant reflection on the transition of Kazakhstani society from a nomadic to urban one. Combining a critical stance with irony, Akhmedyarov’s oeuvre allows for multi-layered reading, placing local issues in the global context and referring to the human condition at large.

As a museum with a special focus on Eurasia, M HKA engages with the plurality of culture across the total landmass we know as ‘Europe’ and ‘Asia’. For this reason, it also pays sustained attention to art from Central Asia. The presentation of works by Askhat Akhmedyarov is a result of the long-term collaboration with the Tselinny Center of Contemporary Art in Culture, Kazakhstan. As part of this partnership, the Tselliny generously engages with our museum through annually acquiring works from the region, and donating them to M HKA. These works form part of the Shagylys collection, which in Kazakh means ‘reflection’.

Click here to browse the digital scan of the exhibition.

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