Menlibayeva, Almagul.

*1969 in Kazakhstan
lives and works in Berlin, DE and Kazakhstan
studied at Academy of Art and Theatre, Almaty, KZ


Exhibtions [Selection]:
2011 Transoxiana Dreams, Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, New York, NY (solo)
2011 Sharjah Biennial 10: Plot for a Biennial, Sharjah, UAE
2010 21st Century: Art in the First Decade, Queensland Art Gallery |

Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia
2010 Lonely at the Top, Europe at large #6 (Refrains from the Wasteland), Museum van
Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, Belgium (solo)
2009 Unconditional Love, 53rd Venice Biennale, Arsenale Novissimo 89, Venice, Italy

Milk for Lambs

Date: 2010
Length: 11:35 min.
Format:  16:9
Specification: Colour, Sound


The people of the Kazakhstan steppe live suspended between modern times and tradition. Almagul Menlibayeva accompanies them during the festivities in honor of Tengri, the god of heaven,  and his wife Umai, the goddess of fertile ground. With alternating pictures in black and white and in color, of the past and of the present, Menlibayeva tells us about the rituals that accompany the festivity and that illustrate the eternal cycle of nature - birth, life and death. To the fore are the women who seem to coax fertility from the barren  steppe by wear-ing colorful dresses, laying on rich meals and by using their female bodily attributes, thus feeding their children and their men.
Menlibayeva, a representative of post-Soviet contemporary art in Central Asia, re-discovers in her pictures and performances the customs and traditions of her native country. At the center of attention of her work are the Kazakhstani women and their identity. Until recently, Central Asia was predominantly communist, and the ideal of the strong and disciplined female worker was used by communist politics to exploit women. In line with the rest of society, since the end of Communism the image of women has had to change too. In her pictures, Menlibayeva re-tells the search for a personal path through tradition and the modern world.




► 1. Your video has been chosen among over 1700 festival entries to participate in
Videonale 13. How central is the video medium to your overall artistic production?
Is it complementary to other media you use or do you work exclusively with video?


Yes, overall, for me, video is my main medium. While I am filming, I make production
photographs on-site that complement the videos. When they are exhibited on their own,
then they tend to stand on their own. I thoroughly enjoy the entire process of video
making, from the editing process to the spontaneity of filming my surroundings, letting
life around me happen while I document it. I feel that it is extremely exciting to make a
film and then share it with the world.


► 2. Is there a particular theme, concept or problem your art addresses the most?


I mostly work with social and ecological themes in Central Asia. I film the local
people(s) from this area, and through my art, I show them within a world-wide spectrum.


In fact, Central Asia, especially Kazakhstan, is not a widely known area to the rest of the
world, so I create my own interpretation of this area by recreating local historical stories
and mythologies from this region, and I make them contemporary. Since I have started
working with video, I have started paying more attention to my surroundings, especially
when looking through the lens of my camera.


► 3. What artists do you relate to or find significant for your own art-making?


There are many artists whom I admire and find significant in my own art-making. These
artists include: Al Weiwei, Thomas Demand, Yang Fudong, William Kentridge, Mitra
Tabrizian, and Marina Abramović. From Kazakhstan I admire the artists Erbolsin
Meldibekov, Said Atabekov and Moldagul Narinbetov. And of course, I am inspired by
the Russian filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Parajanov.


► 4. Do you think video medium can address social or political issues better than other
art media?


Yes, I strongly feel that video as a medium can address social and political issues better
than some of the other media in the visual arts. I think about why this is true, and it is
more than likely the mere fact that cameras are cheap and readily available these days.
This allows anyone, not only the artist, to document what is happening around them, and through the internet it can be distributed to a wide audience. I believe, for example,
painting as a medium may not always address these issues as accurate as video.


► 5. Art can be seen as a mirror that registers and reflects life or as a tool that
transforms it. Which of the two positions is close to your own art-making


For me, art is always in transformation, especially when it comes to my own art-making.
I transform myself through my work by sharing my experiences with others. In the end,
art is just another way of communication and expression.


► 6. How do you understand success in an art-making career?


To me, being successful, not only as an artist, is the satisfaction of sharing and
communicating my experiences and collaborations with others. I feel that when I have
achieved this, then I have done a good job.


► 7. What is the most difficult and the most rewarding thing about making art / being
an artist?


I would like to say that the most satisfying aspect of making art and being an artist is the fact that I can basically do what I want, as most artists can. Artists have the freedom to express themselves in most cases. For me, I do not always know where I am going with my creative process, because it is not always known, so I challenge myself to find my process.


► 8. What are your upcoming projects?


I have a few projects that I am thinking about which deal with post-Soviet influences on Central Asia, one addressing the post-Soviet architecture in the new capital of Astana,
and another that investigates former Soviet nuclear experiments in Kazakhstan.


► 9. What do you do when you don't do art?




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