Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present “A New Silk Road,” our second solo exhibition by Kyrgyz artists Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev. Featuring photography and a stunning five-channel video, commissioned in 2007 by the Art Institute of Chicago, together this gorgeous body of work forms an essay on the local impact of global economics.
Shot along the highways and small villages connecting China through the Central Asian country Kyrgyzstan to the Western markets—one of the actual routes that still form the renowned “Silk Road”—Kasmalieva and Djumaliev’s images and video capture the determination and resourcefulness that define this mountainous, poverty-stricken region. As Lisa Dorin, Assistant Curator of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Contemporary Art, wrote in her essay on the commission, “The five-channel video installation…provides an abstract set of instruction for resilience in the face of hardship.” Indeed, the central messages of “The New Silk Road” take on a wider poignancy as the entire world begins to reel from an economic crisis that seems to know no boundaries.
Subtitled “Algorithm of Survival and Hope,” the five-channel video presents a nearly hypnotic panorama of exquisitely edited scenes juxtaposing the dilapidated Soviet trucks (that continuously break down as they haul carriages of scrap metal from Central Asia into China) against the caravan of shiny, behemoth Chinese 18-wheelers barreling through the narrow passes filled with cheaply manufactured good destined for European markets. Along the way, the residents of the Kyrgyz farms and tiny towns exhibit stunning entrepreneurial ingenuity in finding ways to bond with and benefit from the drivers of both sets of trucks. Dorin summarized the piece beautifully, noting “Devoid of nostalgia for the ancient Silk Road, with all of its romantic connotations, the project foregrounds instead the contradictory currents in the existence faced by the living, breathing populations along these well-worn trade routes.”
Gulnara Kasmalieva and Murtabek Djumaliev live and work in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, where they also organize and curate the highly acclaimed international biennial “Bishkek Contemporary Art Exhibition.” In addition to a solo exhibition at the Art Institute in Chicago in 2007, they have exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Singapore Biennial, the Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art, the Montreal Biennial, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, and many other international museums and biennial. Their work has been reviewed in Artforum, Flash Art, Frieze, Art in America, and many other arts publications.