Accepted paper:

Art Institutions in Time of Hybrid War: Tselinny, ACDF and Garage


Alexey Ulko

Paper abstract:

The demise of Central Asian Pavilions of contemporary art at the Venice Art Biennale (2005-2013) inaugurated a period of discontent and disillusionment in the local art world that coincided with the sharp turn in the Eurasian politics triggered by the Maidan and subsequent occupation of the Crimea and Donbass by Russia. This 'post-Venetian period' in the development of contemporary art in Central Asia saw a growing demand for its institutionalisation on a national level and a further deviation from the integrational sentiment of the early 2000s. Kazakhstan launched an ambitious Ruhani Zhangyru programme with four international exhibitions of Kazakh contemporary art in 2018. Uzbekistan responded with the creation of Arts and Culture Development Foundation (ACDF) with a mission 'to stimulate a creative intercultural dialogue and integrate art in Uzbekistan into the global art world and cultural space'. The Asanbay-Centre, a 'multi-disciplinary cultural venue for people to gather and to enrich their life through art, education, and entertainment-related programs' opened in Bishkek in 2017. Since the mid-2010s, Moscow-based Garage Museum of contemporary art has begun several research programmes in Central Asia. In 2018, it supported the establishment of the centre of contemporary culture 'Tselinny' in Almaty and in 2019 became involved in a similar centre in Tashkent, operated by the ACDF. In this paper, I will analyse these institutional developments and mixed responses they evoked from the local and international art world as part of hybrid war waged between various players in the region. Using my own experience of working with these institutions, first-hand accounts by artists and curators, official documents and available publications, I seek to demonstrate how different and often clashing political agendas determine complex ideological configurations, power struggle, curatorial and artistic practices in the Central Asian art scene.

panel CUL-04
Performing and Negotiating Local and Global in Contemporary Central Asian Affairs with Identity, Art and Culture