The 4th International Photo Biennale TashkentAle-2008 and the 2nd International Festival of Actual photo and video art East-West. The Tashkent Crossroads

On October 21-27 Tashkent hosted the 4th International Photo Biennale «TashkentAle-2008» and the 2nd International Festival of Actual photo and video art «East-West. The Tashkent Crossroads».

Over 700 works presented at the 4th International photo festival «TashkentAle-2008» provided a clear indication of trends in contemporary photo art in the four continents: Asia, Europe, America and Africa. During the days of the forum the best exhibition venues in Tashkent and ancient Bukhara became the centre of gravity for all who have a passion for the art of photography and video. Not only the halls, but also avenues in the two cities offered a podium for the pieces mounted on billboards and stands.

The International Photo Biennale organized by the «Forum for Uzbekistan Culture and Art» Foundation, the Academy of Arts and the Tashkent House of Photography received participants from twenty countries who presented their video- and photo-installations for the audience to judge. Colour and monochrome works produced by photo artists from China, Japan, the United States, Israel, Egypt, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and our country offered a source of deep-felt emotions and contemplations about present day to all fans of art. The year 2008 in the country was marked as the Year of Young People, and therefore it was no accident that the main theme of the 4th International Photo Biennale «TashkentAle-2008» was the life of contemporary youth.

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The photographs capture the instants of the fleeting time, thus creating a comprehensive idea about the world which we live in…

The photographs invoke memories, make one think about the destiny of the previous generations and the life of our contemporaries…

The events have demonstrated how the art of photography progresses in its development, how serious are the changes that occur in understanding the potential of photography, and how the creative style and mastery of artists from different countries is improving. Whereas some time ago shots used to be more static and staged in keeping with the photographer’s concoction, now, with the advancements in photographic technology photographs have substantially greater range of expressive capacity. In the meantime, photographs have a rival in the form of computer graphics. Yet works created as a result of processing photographs on a computer seem to be deprived of emotion and thus appear somewhat coldish. The profundity of thought and sincerity — these are the two integral qualities of photo art, which will always be in demand, regardless of how well developed technical means are. These qualities have been masterfully harmonized in the works «Happyning Come from Heaven» by Zhou Dzing (China), «Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol» by A. Khujaniyozov (Uzbekistan), and «Big Brother» by S. Waterfall (Canada). The shots capture instants of life that touch the viewers’ hearts.

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Selected works presented in the exposition prove that even using the method of «staging» one can create impressive photo studies; in this case everything depends on the author’s skill. Photo artist who employs traditional method creates themes to his own discretion and plan, rejecting the idea of capturing phenomena of life as they naturally occur. This approach can be sensed in the works by V. Ramazanova and O. Aslanov (Uzbekistan). These have no titles, and every viewer, having engaged in the creative process suggested by the photographer can think over possible titles for the shots depending on the associations they cause. Such are the works in which we can see the «lines of life» on a girl’s palm, which invoke thoughts about her destiny and her hopes, some of which have materialized and some have not; or a woman wearing a long cloak on the background of azure sky with clouds above the blue sea. The authors of these pieces urge viewers to co-experience the mood they tried to convey in the shots. This kind of mood-shots or state-shots become increasingly popular in Europe. Series of photographs by a Hungarian master Y. Eifert was also created in this style: these can be called surrealistic photo-pictures. Russian photo artist A. Zavyalov works in the same key; his series titled «Childhood in Memories» invokes nostalgic reflections. A photograph by a Chinese master Guo Cheng «Lotus» appeals to simple human emotions. The author demonstrates that photo art is capable of annihilating the line between conventional and real.

Human being is the main object of photography. Body language, signs, mimicry and countenance are very important in human communication. And every gesture, sign and look has not only its particular meaning, but also national specificity. Substantial part of the exhibited works are the shots that capture signs and gestures that had great significance in the life of our ancestors and survived till present day. The works of this series feature people from different countries, in different state and mood. These shots reflecting the diversity of characters and tempers, are remarkable in the accuracy of the captured sentiment and expressivity of the moment caught by the photographer’s eye. It is hard to say which of these works are the most interesting. Nevertheless, works such as «Street Scene» photographed in Tibet by A. Khorvatov (Ukraine), the group portrait of New Orleans jazzmen by L. Khorvat (Canada), photo studies titled «Madame Butterfly» by N. Pilipyuk (Uzbekistan) and «Expectation» by B. Nedosekov (Uzbekistan) are particularly worthy of attention. These photos featuring representatives of different nations naturally combine the qualities of lyrical reporting and psychological portrait.

Psychological charge is felt particularly strongly in the works of Japanese photographers. Guests from the Country of the Rising Sun, having visited a number of cities in our country during the days of the photo forum, had an opportunity not only to present their works to the audience, but also to take new pictures. Japanese photo artist Ms. Midori Sakurai says, «We photographed historical monuments and residents of Samarqand, Bukhara and Khiva, recording modern changes that took place in these cities, and were profoundly impressed with what we have seen. We collected a lot of material for a photo album about this wonderful land on the Great Silk Road. Soon the fans of photo art in France and Japan will be introduced to this album and, I am sure, will enjoy the product».

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Midori participates in a photo marathon with her project called «O’z-Moz». «My project contains shots picturing architectural monuments of Uzbekistan. O’z is the first syllable in the word O’zbek, and Moz is the abbreviation of ‘mosaic’. But the main object of the photo-installation is a woman that appears to be walking from afar, coming through multiple doors. The closer she comes, the more conventional is the image of the door. The meaning I tried to put in my work is that a person walking through all the doors of this world experiences many hardships on his way. Unfortunately, doors leading to the person’s inner world are invisible. Our daily cares are also doors that open into one’s inner world. Great effort is needed to open them», says Midori Sakurai. «I am fascinated by your country; for me Uzbekistan is another door through which East and West can communicate».

Together with Midori, another two Japanese photo artists participated in the Tashkent photo festival — Eizo Sakata and Junichiro Ishii, who, just as Midori, reside in Paris. They were also excited by the journey: «In the Uzbekistan the cultures of East and West meet; this is the land on which Asia and Europe are harmonized», the guests say. Sincerely warm attitude of the Japanese artists towards our country is particularly gratifying, as they consider themselves cosmopolitan. Sharing their viewpoint, the visitors said: «We are the citizens of the free world and believe that we can live in different countries of the globe and have a way of life that is comfortable for us. We sort of dislike national customs which everyone follows. To an extent, traditions, belief and customs of the ancestors obstruct human freedom».

Installation by Junichiro Ishii is made of tea leaves. «I was surprised to learn that the Uzbek work «tea» (choi) sounds similar to the name of tea in Japan. This drink that is consumed daily by almost all inhabitants of the Earth is called o-cha in Japan», says he. The artist positioned leaves of green and black tea in the direction from East to West, mixing them at the centre of the composition. «With my work I tried to communicate that Central Asia is the place where East and West meet. I am glad that by visiting Tashkent I had an opportunity to get in touch with the culture of Central Asia», says the young Japanese artist.

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Photo artist Eizo Sakata participated in the International photo exhibition with his project titled «Eizo Presents Amula to Uzbekistan». He says, «In 2005 in the north of France I met a Japanese monk whose name was Amula. It turned out that for a number of years Amula had been travelling to different countries, making pilgrimage to holy places. On his head Amula was wearing a hat resembling a basket that was made of twigs of a mulberry tree that grows in Samarqand. Having arrived to Uzbekistan I realized that Amula was wearing the hat made of Samarqand mulberry not without purpose. Indeed, the land proved to be full of mystery and wonder. The majesty of historical monuments of Bukhara and Samarqand is astounding». Eizo showed us a picture he took in Samarqand. People are looking in amazement at Amula who is wearing something like a woven basket on his head. Amula is clad in a long black monk’s cloak and has old bast shoes on his feet. With his gaze down, paying no attention to the bewildered looks of the passers-by, he is walking past the historical monuments of Samarqand. «During the times of the Great Silk Road no one would be surprised to see a person like Amula, because Arabs, Indians, Chinese and Japanese walked freely the streets and market places of ancient Samarqand and Bukhara… Your land has always been a kind of a centre for Asia and Europe, as it is located between the two continents», says Eizo.

The Japanese monk Amula pacing down the streets of Samarqand is a kind of symbol of the exhibition that once again opened Uzbekistan to the rest of the world and discerned the unusual in the ordinary, the hidden in the obvious, the poetic in the mundane… The photo forum that convened guests from different countries have become yet another step on the path of establishing a dialogue between nations and cultures.

Abdulla Ulugov