NOMADIC PRACTICE Kyong Park calls his work and research Nomadic Practice. He looks at cities as ongoing historical documents and reads urban environments not in their individual particulars but as an ecosystem. In this video, he reveals his process and discusses what he sought when traveling through Astana and Almaty in Kazakhstan, and Tashkent and Bukhara in Uzbekistan.
Central Asia provides a rich fabric for the study of the ideology of Socialist modernism as expressed through architecture. Today this philosophy has been interrupted and reinterpreted to serve the needs of the newly independent nation states.
TASHKENT: THE UTOPIAN SOVIET CITY Uzbekistan’s capital was largely destroyed in a 1966 earthquake and rebuilt as a model Soviet city. This video is narrated by people the artists met during their trip, tells the story of how this centrally planned modernist capital was created and shows what is happening today to public spaces originally designed to glorify the Soviet State.
While Tashkent’s Soviet-era urban planning makes it a livable modern city, the era’s immense public housing projects are crumbling and private residencies are booming.
In addition, Soviet symbolism has been replaced and reinterpreted to fit the new Uzbek image since the country gained its independence.
ASTANA: THE NEW IDEOLOGY In 1998, Kazakhstan moved its capital from Almaty near the Chinese border to Astana, in the middle of the country. This 10-year-old capital is being built in the place of a pre-existing Soviet town. Some consider the move as purely practical – a necessary reflection of geo-political reality – and a move made possible because of Kazakhstan’s traditional nomadic culture.
Astana is attempting to define itself as a one of the world’s truly global cities and is commissioning star architects such as Norman Foster to build key symbolic structures
SLIDING IDENTITY This video is a meditation on the identity of those who live in Central Asia and an attempt to see where they stand in relationship to their ethnic origins and the geographic histories of their families.
The histories of many of those interviewed for this piece have been affected by Stalin’s forced resettlement campaigns as well as economic opportunities provided by the Soviet Union in its attempt to populate Central Asia.
For example, Aigul Mukei is a ethnic Kazakh educated in the Russian language and Russian literature. She did not learn her native language until she reached graduate school.
Alexander Ugai’s Korean grandparents were forcibly moved from the Korean border to Uzbekistan to work in the cotton fields. Today, Ugai neither speaks Korean nor feels any ties to Korea.
Nelly Shifrina’s grandparents were forcibly resettled along with countless other ethnic Germans from the Ukraine to Kazakhstan during World War II. She considers herself culturally Russian. While she has relatives in Germany, she has never considered moving there.
Alexei Volkov is the second generation Russian living in Uzbekistan. While many ethnic Russians returned to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, Alexei did not. Even though he does not speak Uzbek, he considers Tashkent his home. While culturally significant to him, he does not consider Russia a homeland.
OIL/WATER/DEMOCRACY Central Asia has been and remains a crossroads for international economics and politics. Released from the centrally planned economy of the Soviet Union, national fault lines are appearing as each country tries to fulfill its aspirations. Countries such as Kyrgistan and Uzbekistan spar over the use of water and natural gas. Some countries are gravitating toward Europe and the West while others to Russia, China and the East.
With various cultural ties pulling the region both east and west, political systems are also evolving independently with some becoming more democratic while others remain authoritarian.
Western notions of democracy remain elusive though. Many who were interviewed alternatively described their countries as “teenagers” that need to grow up, as emerging countries that need “50 years of peace” before considering true democracy and as independent countries that will evolve local forms of democracy that may or may not adhere to Western ideals or standards.