Skip to main content Start of main content

Almagul Menlibayeva: The Female as Excess

Almagul Menlibayeva, Apa, 2003, one-channel video with sound, still. Courtesy the artist and Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, New York
Viktor Misiano shows Almagul Menlibayeva’s carving out of a new role for the representation of women in art – stressing power, eroticism and violence – within Kazakhstan’s post-Soviet identity. Almagul Menlibayeva has never followed feminist debates or delved into gender theory, and yet there is no doubt that the representation of the female has long been her core interest. This in many ways encapsulates her position amongst the first post-Soviet generation of artists in Central Asia. What these artists have in common is that when they unexpectedly found themselves citizens of new independent states at the beginning of the 1990s, they were all confronted with the task of defining national identity. In constructing or simply making up a national art of their own, they were also conceiving an alternative to the one hurriedly put forward by the new political leaders. They didn’t recognise themselves in the neo-baroque academic monuments to home-grown heroes and Fathers of the Nation that were brought to life by the official narrative. In this context, the mission that Menlibayeva invented for herself may be defined as an attempt to create space for the female within the framework of a new national cultural paradigm.