Kazakh artist Erbossyn Meldibekov’s installation “Centauromachy” at the Soros Center for Contemporary Art (in Kazakhstan) is getting some well-deserved attention. Meldibekov’s photographs, video work and sculptures are disturbing, provocative and playful. They confront Western prejudice while challenging regional tensions such as clan-based violence and political power. Meldibekov is addressing two audiences – a local audience rooted in regional cultural traditions and a rootless international audience who knows next to nothing about Kazakhstan other than a thin veneer of stereotypes.
The successful bridging of these disparate semiotic realms is partly what makes these works so compelling. Take Winnie the Pooh, for instance, an iconic figure from children’s literature in the West which Meldibekov renders in a bloody horse-skin turned inside out. It is an eerie, difficult and clearly transformed Winnie the Pooh we are confronted with. The Mask of Antiterrorist is a photograph of a “soldier” whose face is masked by horse’s skull. Memento to Unknown Hero eschew’s the title’s expected reference to “unknown soldier” showing instead four horse’s calves arranged on a pedestal as if the horse they were attached to was cantering invisibly by.
Not many of us will make it to Kazakhstan for this show, but it is definitely worth a look at the photos at the Soros Centre for Contemporary Art’s website.