Presentation of the exhibition project ‘Constellation’ initiated by the Swiss Bureau for Cooperation and Development of the Switzerland Embassy to Uzbekistan was held at the Tashkent Repair and Engineering Works during 14 — 18 April 2005.

“In a dream, in a mirror, in water, the world abides… All that is and is not there, is present here and not there”.

A plant must work to produce its output; an artist must paint on canvases; pictures set in golden frames must be exhibited in the museums preserving certain temperature regime; and a spectator must be enjoying art getting esthetical pleasure in it. Nevertheless a modern artist is far from recognizing all adopted standards. Without rejecting them he is taking a great interest in looking for new opportunities for arts, for new means and platforms to represent his artistic ideas. He has a sharp sensation of the new time dawning that will undoubtedly generate new forms. This has always been like that.

Contemporary art has conquered many countries carrying artists with its innovative spirit and permanent expansion of its borders. Fearlessly destroying stereotypes of thinking, artists turn to the burning issues of our contemporaneity expressing them in the unexpected shapes of installations, original performances, intellectual video works. Throughout the post-Soviet space we witness the rapprochement of the local context with the world cultural process despite different social and cultural concepts.

A few years ago installations were exhibited in Uzbekistan shyly and rarely. As for now searches in the new technology area have fascinated many artists, caused interest with the public and press showing perspectives of integration of our artists with the international art arena.

The immense Constellation Project arranged on the initiative of the Swiss Bureau for Cooperation and Development presents the encouraging example of the ongoing process. Curators of the exhibition pursued the following idea: for the first time set up the task for the artists to refuse traditional exhibition squares and open up the space of the plant’s workshop for their conceptual projects. And for the first time either to use this scope to prove richness of content, dynamics and democracy of this type of art.

The announced competition identified the participants: out of 11 presented works projects of 6 artists were selected for implementation. They met the major selection criterion: the project must be conceptual, the artistic idea must be marked by the bright identity of the artist and concerned with the current problems exposed by the artist for a spectator, i.e. it must be an original message from the artist through a new form of art. Thought out as the exhibition of installations, Constellation has outgrown the initially stated topic with the variety of forms and artistic ideas. Uzbekistan’s artists presented the projects that have demonstrated rather diverse ideas and languages of contemporary art. Almost all genres of modern art: installations of M.Fozili, V.Useinov and A.Nikolaev; VIDEO made by S.Tychina and V.Akhunov, kinetic objects of A.Nikolaev, environment and objects of F.Akhmadaliev, J. Usmanov, actions and ready-mades of A.Nikolaev. The exhibition has demonstrated synthesis of languages, techniques and genres, orientation of the artists to an unexpected train of thought and experiment.

For the last ten years the Uzbekistan art has been seeking for the source of inspiration in tradition, in the past, remained in the fine, aesthetically refined passim. It has been investigating its cultural memory drawing important ideas for nation from it. This development strategy characterized many deeply rooted that have been earlier torn away from their roots. Whatever it might be, the past explains mush in our life. Centuries pass away, systems change, but the East preserves its age-old irrationality, mystery and its traditionalism. However the question arises, how could these spiritual coordinates and ancient mentality be translated into the language and forms of our time and without rejecting cultural identity express it in the new modern paradigm of art?

Exhibition projects are investigating reality. They reflect retrospections of the artists on the problems of modern world and human being. Based on the reality permeated with the least easy historical and everyday experience, experience of progress and backwardness, they are filled with the old and new myths, associations and symbols.

Aesthetics of non-operating plant reminding of the Soviet industrial epoch (half destroyed, deserted constructions in the yard, channel hatches and building trash everywhere) like real installation created that context that emphasized and revealed essence of the projects providing them links with the reality, activating conception of here and now that is popular in modern art.

We see artist’s treatment of actual and universal problems of contemporaneity in all the works.

A.Nikolaev’s installation ‘Aral’ does not speak only about the ecological climate, but also about the failure of anthropocentric concept of world perception that ended the 20th century.

Tragedy of lost ideals in ‘Ikar’ (A.Nikolaev) or in the ironical but sad in its sense project ‘Paradise’ where the Utopian dream about the Paradise has been implemented in the glossy advertising images of chocolate – ‘Bounty’ (V.Akhunov, S.Tychina). Classical majesty of naked Adam and Eve on Van Eike posters (‘Adam and Eve and others…’) is opposed to the wretched people wearing worn-out shoes and carrying heavy old-fashioned suitcases while lining up and striving to that standardized Eden. And next to these narrow corridors house audio installations ‘Do you hear me?’: noise of the crowd, multilingual speech, hands looking for each other.

Video works of S.Tychina and V.Akhunov (‘Corner’; ‘Clay Fishes’ and ‘Mountaineering’) present the first video-art experience of our artists. They are in the search of identity, overcoming of difficulties of non-understanding, climbing up to perfection.

By the idea projects of M.Fozili ‘All and Nothing’, V.Elizarov ‘Genesis’ and V.Useinov ‘Constant’ was purely an installation. Each of them presents the structure is a refined, plastically pre’cised concrete artistic form whose essence is disclosed in case of maximum abstracting from its visual borders towards philosophic ideas and sense attached to them by the artist.

In the project of F.Akhmadaliev and D.Usmanov ‘X-position’, symbolic ideas are bound to Eastern Existence, spiritual tradition of Sufism, mainly to the works of the famous philosopher, mystic poet D.Rumi. These artists are interested in the ethical imperative, in the opportunity to address to a new spatial and linguistic experiment on the eternal truths. Lamps are casting the cold light on the metaphysical austerity of black and white splitting the isolated room allotted for the project. Contours of human faces on the opposite walls look at each other. One seems to be eaten by rats, another one is covered by the angels’ figures. Adam’s children half personified angels half animals.

Moreover, the angel’s half is elevating him when the animal’s is pulling it down. The entire project seems to be charged with energy of fighting between the evil and virtue, black and white, stripes of which are swiftly passing by the yard of the plant, by the rats looking out of the sewage hatches, ascend splitting plant’s chimney into black and white and signaling to us that this split into evil and virtue has been sent from the above, and the human life goes on the crossing and within the struggle of these origins. Such associations double the essence of the work possessing peculiar aesthetic completeness and definite style. Project of Akhmadaliev and Usmanov is so unexpected in its idea and realization that it seems to oppose the mainstream of the contemporary art that has already accumulated many stock phrases, cliche’s and eclectics.

The exhibition showed that the Uzbekistan artists feel at home in the current situation in arts, form their individual vision of many trends. They have mastered the complexity of new forms not for the sake of the experiment, not for the imitation of the European standards, but for the sake of their relations with the reality and its challenges. Their striking identity again strengthens itself within this process.

‘Constellation’ turned out to become the first exhibition of contemporary art and a breach in the contemporary art of Uzbekistan. In my opinion it determined a certain borderline in our art, made the summary of the certain period and outlined its future perspectives. Probably success of this project has not yet been realized. But the interest towards many trends has grown; foreign curators have become interested in the artists. This means much as the last year did not show any interest of this kind at all. Given different ideas be confronting and different projects will be competing within the artistic process; it will undoubtedly serve an impulse for the arts of Uzbekistan.

Nigora Akhmedova