Living through spaces of memory. Art Practice as Research on Collective Memory and Trauma in post-Soviet Kazakhstan
(University of Leeds)
"Soviet Kazakhstan" - this juxtaposition of words evokes tragic associations. In the XX century, Kazakhstan has been affected deeply and transformed significantly by the Soviet experiment. It has seen political repression, large scale famine, and became one of the two main destinations for ethnic deportations. Time after the USSR, referred to as the "post-Soviet", can be seen, following the model of Marianne Hirsch, as a double-layered cultural phenomenon, where the prefix "post" signifies not an entirely new regime that has replaced the old one, but rather a prolonged condition of reflection on the recent past, and peculiar transformation of the Soviet tradition. In this cultural condition, art becomes an important instrument of mourning, re-evaluation, and creation of counter-memory. My paper will focus on capabilities of art in understanding of metamorphoses in collective memory and manifestations of trauma in modern Kazakhstan. I will start with discussion of two theories of memory that can be applicable to the post-Soviet situation: First, the concept of postmemory (Hirsch) as memory of second and third generations to survivors of atrocities. Second, the notion of concentrationary memory (Pollock, Silverman) that notices traces of totalitarian thinking in post-totalitarian societies. These concepts help me to approach questions of the role and responsibility of an artist in the post-traumatic society, as well as ethical and aesthetical aspects of making art that touches on the pain of others. I will then propose my own approach to artmaking. Through discussion of my recent and ongoing projects, I will demonstrate how psychoanalysis and semiotics can be used in an artwork for both exploration and creation of spaces of memory.
Epics and Memory