Curator gives students ‘taste’ of Central Asia

Through videos and a slideshow featuring various forms of contemporary artwork from “The Taste of Others” exhibition at Apex Art, a museum in New York City, College students experienced a taste of Central Asia on March 30.

The slideshow accompanied a talk from the exhibition’s curator, Leeza Ahmady, who was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. She presented the event as part of her Master’s thesis for Pratt Institute in New York City. She said her thesis aims to promote the art and culture of Central Asia and reach “the outer public about arts.”

Before beginning the slideshow, Ahmady presented video pieces, including several by Los Angeles-based Afghani artist Lida Abdullah. Her projects deconstruct stereotypes associated with certain cultural elements, such as the veiling of women.

In one video, Ahmady explained that Abdullah lightheartedly emphasizes the oftentimes forgotten humanity of the Muslim woman by filming herself with out a veil and blowing bubblegum bubbles.

Another video, which was also politically fueled, featured Afghani residents rebuilding houses as well as a woman removing her traditional female attire, only to redress as a male.

“(Contemporary art) is constantly being recreated,” Ahmady said. “It has moved very far away from being a painting or sculpture. They can be videos that document. The artists want viewers to connect with the pieces.”

The slideshow, which included photographs from the Peace and Respect Festival in Kyrgyzstan, showcased just how diverse Central Asian artwork can be. The artists, who come from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Iran, combine tradition with modern influences to create art particular to the region.

The art forms displayed in the slideshow ranged from photographs and sculptures to conceptual pieces and fashion.

“I was actually amazed by how they use traditional fabrics and materials of the region to create such avant-garde styles,” Ahmady said.

The slideshow featured many pieces by Kazakh artist Yerbossyn Meldibekov. Much of his art centers on issues of the collective psychology of the region.

In a video of himself being repeatedly slapped in the face, Ahmady explained how Meldibekov sought to compare his passivity to that of politics in Central Asia. Another piece of his, entitled “Sheep/Wolf,” is a half-sheep, half-wolf sculpture that also displays this same mentality on the political state of the region.

“Art has two elements,” Ahmady said, noting that it appeals to people of all cultures. These two elements “allow art to have audiences in its own culture as well as other places,” she said. “It can have a universal connection.”