The EURASIA Program of beuys on/off project invites Tokyo audiences to observe and reflect on felt, fat, and fictions in Central Eurasian contemporary art curated by Dominique Chen, an information scientist from Japan, and Selbi Jumayeva, a researcher from Turkmenistan.
On the 100th birthday of Joseph Beuys, Dominique invited Selbi to join him in co-leading the EURASIA program of beuys on/off project by Goethe Institute Tokyo. Dominique initially planned to organize an offline postal relay across Eurasia, but instead Selbi curated an unique opportunity for him to learn from, connect with, and immerse into the complex and multifold arts, science and culture community of contemporary Central Eurasia.
Starting his program as a ‘search for EURASIA’, a mythical Beuysian concept evoking collision of the West and East as manifest in Joseph Beuys himself, under the guidance of Selbi, Dominique gradually arrived into a reality of many de/entangled Easts of his own linked, looped, and shared with and his Eurasian peers. This curated online journey became an exchange of artistic perspectives, conceptual insights, and personal experiences documented in more than 60 hours of meetings and 500 pages of notes for Dominique and Selbi. This exhibition beuys on/off: felt, fat, and fictions stitches a few of those notes together with reflections of artists from Central Eurasia who truly own the felt in contemporary art, indulge in the fat of everyday life, and embrace the fictions in Central Eurasia.
Dominique Chen, Selbi Jumayeva
Dainippon Type Organization
Hosted by the Goethe Institut Tokyo
September 3 to 5, 2021
Altynai Osmoeva, b. 1988, Bishkek
Coming from a family of generational artisans, Altynai creates mixed media installations and metal-on-felt paintings that reflect the centrality of folk art in Kyrgyz nomadic livelihoods. She has spent her career travelling across Eurasia from Western Europe to Asia Pacific, including the Middle East, Central and South Asia. Altynai researches and practices textile art traditions while co-creating together with artisans around the world. Altynai holds a degree in Fashion Design and Print from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of Arts London.
Felt is one of the most ancient textiles and still to this day plays an integral part in the lives of semi-nomadic people of Central Asia. It signifies warmth, necessity, life in harmony with Nature, and my Kyrgyz cultural identity. Drawing from my personal childhood memories of me watching my grandmother at creating shyrdak (a felt rug) and helping my brothers to pour kyt (melted lead) into chuko (a lamb knee joint bone used in a traditional boys’ game) I am intrigued by the juxtaposition and exploration of these familiar materials in my work. The act of pouring hot lead onto felt – a silver liquid burns and seeps into it – resembles the process of ingraining cultural experiences and traditions into our beings, shaping and molding us into who we become. The solar sign, the portrait of the self, and the cosmic signifier are sealed within each one of us. We all are celestial nomads journeying through the Circle of Life.
Chingiz Aidarov, b. 1984, Bishkek/Moscow
When canvas and brushes were not enough, Chingiz Aidarov realized that his own mind is his ideal studio: free of charge and limitless potential for maneuver. He employs his body as art material and the urban commons as an exhibition venue, documenting his performances on the go. While freeing himself from the walls and materials of institutionalized art, Chingiz embeds himself and his peers into the physical and cultural totality of public space and its possibilities. Trained as a painting teacher at home in Kyrgyzstan, Chingiz Aidarov is currently a labour migrant and artist in Russia.
I adopted bystrovka (in Russian: fast move/art intervention) from a Krasnoyarsk colleague who got interested to adopt the Bishkek art practice of lenivoe iskusstvo (in Russian: lazy art, slow move) as a cultural exchange. It resonated with me, my character, and my spirit. It implies going to a location and actualizing an idea in a very short period of time (from few minutes to few days) right here. I started without any research at first, it was intuitive. It suited my needs – my head is a studio, my body is a brush, public space is a canvas – developing my capacity to make art beyond the material, physical, mental, and conceptual. When my fellow artists joined me, they kept asking for a theme or direction, or medium. But in bystrovka you do anything that comes to your mind and what you haven’t done or dared to do before without any inhibition or pressure, freely. It’s like a sketch, a laboratory, an experimental platform. At a certain point, I was encouraged to own the process and I called it nabeg (in Russian: running, incursion). It is not a project, it is a practice. Nabeg continues to happen, however here I share documentation of bystrovka – nabeg together with Meder Akhmetov, Sergei Khegai, Theatre MESTO D., Evgeniy Chervi Makshakov, Mirbek Kadraliev, Sergei Petrovskiy, Residents of the Center for Rehabilitation and Adaptation of Children, Olya Zemtsova, Evgeniy Chistyakov, Syrlybek Bekbotaev, Leila Turlybekova, Yana Malinovskaya, Aleksandra Kalacheva, Aleksandra Ali, Arman Sein, Kuba Myrzabekov, Viktroria Tsoy, Dalila Kanagat, Sonata Rayimkulova, Talgat Berikov, Dinara Kanybek Kyzy, Zulaika Esentaeva, Zhazgul Madazimova, Anna Bazhanova, Nursultan Manasov in different capacities and roles on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Russia, implemented from 2015 to 2017 respectively.
Ziliia Kanchurina, b. 1992, Ufa/Vienna
Native to Bashkortostan, Ziliia reimagines images of the warrior shield for her community, situating herself in the postcolonial condition while deriving her own handcraft practice from other techniques synthesized from across Central Eurasia. She creates large-scale art installations and theatre sets to address cultural dis/connection amidst intense Russification pressures. As part of her daily art process, Ziliia turns her observations and reactions into felt sculptures. Ziliia currently studies at Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and holds degrees from Russian Institute of Theatre Arts GITIS, Institute of Contemporary Art in Moscow, and Ufa College of Art.
This project is about our skin and it is extended and defined by property and its manifestation in the form of clothes, gadgets, houses, streets, states. All those things, in which we create our habitat and make up our civilization and to which our bodies affiliate and aspire to, inclusive of societal expectation and opportunities. I see homeless people near metro stations in Moscow every day, and turn my photographic observations into felt sculptures. I talk to them, we discuss what does it mean to be home-free. However only in our current civilization makes people homeless, because in this civilization people must have the house to be recognized as a human as if there are no other names like nomads or travelers, but homeless.
Chingiz Aidarov, Talgat Berikov, Selbi Jumayeva, Mirbek Kadralie
Fat is essential in Central Asian cuisine. Not a by-product, not an addition, not to be excluded, removed or reduced. It is a critical delicious component. Rendering lamb fat is a complex process and a treat of its own. Syzyk – Shyzyk – Chyzyk – Dzhizza – Chazza – Dzhyzzyk – Dzhigirdek – Vyzhirki (in Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen – sheep tail fat fries; in Russian – fat cracklings).
Online Talk Event
On the occasion of the launch of the exhibition “beuys on/off: felt, fat, and fictions”, exhibition curators Dominique Chen and Selbi Jumayeva presented the participating artists and their works together with Mizuki Takahashi, the artistic director of “beuys on/off” on 2nd September 2021.
* The event was hosted with simultaneous interpreters (Japanse / Russian / English) but the recorded video only contains the original audios of each language.