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Fire talks to me

009_02 / 30 July 2015



Almagul Menlibayeva

Fire talks to me, 2015

4K, 10 channels video installation, 17 min, surround sound

Composed by German Popov

Courtesy American- Eurasian Art Advisors LLC.

Commissioned by Yarat Art Foundation




'My educational background is in the Soviet Russian, avant-garde school of Futurism, which I combine with the nomadic aesthetic of post-Soviet, contemporary Kazakhstan that I have been exploring in recent years through photographic and video work. I like to work with the notion of memory and reality. By editing raw data and combining documentary and staged footage, I tend to enable a cultural exodus from long oblivion.'

– Almagul Menlibayeva


Almagul Menlibayeva mostly merges the symbols and images of religion, personal memories and women, as well as Kazakhstan's post-soviet crisis of identity. Together with Rashad Alakbarov, she took part in the project The Union of Fire and Water, as a collateral event for the 56th International Art Exhibition  la Biennale di Venezia, commissioned by YARAT and curated by Suad Garayeva.  


The starting point of The Union of Fire and Water is Murtuza Mukhtarov's Venetian Gothic style palace, built in Baku in 1912. Mukhtarov was one of the first oil magnates in the country and the palace was built for his beloved wife Lisa. The building itself witnessed and hosted many incidents such as Soviet invasions and the suicide of Mukhtarov. The project takes place in Palazzo Barbaro, the former residence of Giosafat Barbaro, a Venetian ambassador who travelled to and wrote extensively on Azerbaijan. Palazzo Barbaro functions as a performative setting by recalling and emphasizing both the resemblances and conflicts between Baku and Venice.


This video excerpt gives decisive moments of Menlibayeva's ten channel video work: The video starts running from the three channel room where Murtauza tells Lisa to leave the town; the view of the oil fields; the dance on the pomegranate; the part of the window installation in the room of Plazzo Barbaro; and finally Lisa's diary room.


Read Menlibayeva in conversation with Basak Senova here.

About the author

Almagul Menlibayeva

Almagul Menlibayeva, born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, is a contemporary video artist and photographer. She holds an MFA from the Art and Theatre University of Almaty. Menlibayeva works thematically with the history and present day reality of a new postsoviet Kazakhstan (since 1990) and the fate of its indegenious people through the lense of the human condition and with a focus on gender and ecology. In 2013, she is was the winner of the main prize of the International Film Festival Kino Der Kunst Munchen, Germany. Menlibayeva lives and works in Kazakhstan and Germany.


She has gained international recognition by participating in many exhibitions including the 15th, 18th Sydney Biennale; 51st, 52nd and 53rd 56th Venice Biennale; the Sharjah Biennial 10; the 4th Moscow Biennale; the Arsenale 2012, the 1st Kiev Biennial, Ukraine; the 18th Sydney Biennale 2012; 2nd Mediterranean Biennale, Sachnin, Israel. Her work has been widely exhibited in venues such as Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, M HKA, Antwerp, Belgium; Queens Museum, NY, USA; Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Norway; Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, Mexico; Kulturzentrum bei den Minoriten, Graz, Austria; Queensland Art Gallery, Bisbane, Australia; Videonale 13, Bonn, Germany; BWA Moscow Museum of Modern Art; Moscow, Russia; Calvert22,  London, UK; and East is West: Three Women Artists, LASALLE College of Arts - ICA Singapore, Singapore. Menlibayeva's videos have been shown at various International Film Festivals including Santiago, Chile; Oberhausen, Germany; Rotterdam, The Netherlands; INVIDEO 2010, Milan, Italy; Les Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin/Madrid; Centre Pompidou, France/ Haus der Kulturen Berlin, Germany/Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France; 15th International Short Film Festival Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland; 22nd Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil.