For the first time in the nation’s history, Kazakhstan will represent itself at the upcoming Venice Biennale, the prestigious art exhibition announced today. Commissioned by the curator Meruyert Kaliyeva, the Kazakhstan presentation will include contributions from the transdisciplinary collective ORTA, which was founded in 2015 by Rustem Begenov and Alexandra Morozova. The presentation was also inspired by the creations of artist Sergey Kalmykov. It’s a particularly fraught time for artists from Kazakhstan, as evidenced by recent upheaval in the country: in January, demonstrators, railing against recent fuel hikes, ripped down a statue of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev and set fire to the residence of current president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
“I’m certain that the appearance of our pavilion at the La Biennale di Venezia will become a long tradition and will contribute to the development of Kazakhstani art and its recognition in the world,” Dauren Abayev, the Minister of Culture and Sport of the Republic of Kazakhstan, said in a statement.
“Art is a form of communication and the national pavilions in Venice capture the spirit of our time through a multitude of voices and perspectives from around the world,” Meruyert Kaliyeva added. “This opportunity to demonstrate the creativity of Kazakhstan on an international scale feels like a very important moment for our country, and I hope that the pavilion will be one of many projects aimed at supporting Kazakhstani artistic creation in Kazakhstan and internationally.”
Artists in Kazakhstan have been speaking out against the upheaval, making the country’s appearance at the Biennale all the more important for raising awareness about what’s going on. “Now it is important to stop violence, all kinds of manipulations, time to think about what to do next?” Suinbike Suleimenova, a video artist based in Kazakhstan, wrote on Facebook recently. “What reforms do we really need? The worst thing that can happen now is the transfer / seizure of power from one thieving regime to another. It is important for us to preserve our independence, our statehood!”