The Transformations of Space

Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan before the government moved it to Astana in 1997. It is the largest city in Kazakhstan and is considered to be the cultural and financial center of the country. The Transformations of Space in Almaty was a project undertaken by the Artpologist Collective in the summer 2007. Initially imagined as an investigation of Almaty's urban history through artists' studios, this project ultimately became a documentation of the construction boom that took place before the worldwide financial crisis started that year.

The Union of Writers building. 

Log Cabin in Almaty

This project depicts how people live in the city engulfed by the massive building boom. They have to traverse the ever-changing urban landscape, and many have to alter their daily routine because of the construction. A five-minute walk to purchase bread and milk at the market has now turned into a half an hour journey because of the detours that block pedestrian access. Public space is being fractured and privatized. The Soviet city planning formulas that went into creating public space as an essential citizens' right have been lost. Instead, the space is more valued for the creation of luxurious apartments and private businesses. Recent construction disregards public accessibility by placing fences, gates, and security around buildings which serves to segregate socioeconomic classes.

An advertisement for a new apartment complex in Almaty. The gated entrance, guards, and high-end cars suggest exclusivity.

Metal Blanc, Encore
Video by Aminatou Echard

A pedestrian walkway crosses newly excavated ground.

The project investigates individual studio spaces belonging to different generations of Almaty visual artists. We explore the interior, private spaces of these artists as a means of understanding a city being destroyed and re-built by multinational construction companies. We concentrate on small, private spaces in the context of large-scale transformations in order to humanize the faceless reshaping of contemporary urban space. Through individual stories, we show the shifts in daily life that accompany such drastic change. The project brings into consideration the uniqueness of private and cultural locations in the city. We examine how and why these spaces are quickly being reconfigured by a recent infatuation with new material wealth.

Abdrashit Sydykhanov in his studio at the Union of Artists apartment building. During the Soviet Union artists were given specialized apartment/studios.  

Abdrashit Sydykhanov’s studio apartment.

Kuanysh Bazargaliyev and Saule Suleimenova's studio and living space.

Georgy Tryakin-Bukharov’s studio in Almaty. Georgy claimed his studio in the 1970s by squatting at an abandoned, half-built structure that was originally intended as a public restroom.

In the process of working on the project, we directly experienced the economic and material pressures caused by urban redevelopment. Unable to find an apartment for rent due to skyrocketing real-estate prices, we lived in the office of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art, which itself had recently moved there because its former building was seized by a construction company. 

While developing and making "The Transformations of Space" project, we ourselves felt the displacement and daily challenges of living and commuting in the city undergoing a massive construction boom. 

Buying bedding to sleep on the floor of the Soros Center

Filmmaker Aminatou Echard recording sounds of the city. 

Paintings and clothing. Living in the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Almaty

Inviting guests and art collaborators for dinner at The Soros Center

Making paintings at the Soros Center for Contemporary Art

Building an art installation

The Artpologist Collective having a meeting

After completing several weeks of our "fieldwork," we created the installation at the Soros Center for Contemporary Art. There were three floors offering different visual discussions of the city. The first floor contained video and drawings of the city next to the photo installation of Gaisha Madanova about artists' working spaces. The basement was an installation of video and paintings about Galim Madanov's apartment and studio. The top floor was an installation about Georgii Tryakin- Bukharov's home and studio as a collaborative installation of sculpture, video and paintings. 

Georgii Tryakin-Bukharov's installation sculpture

Sensuality of Space (Georgy 1)
Painting by Daniel Gallegos
Oil on canvas

Autour de Nif Nif & Nuf Nuff: Georgy Tryakin-Bukharov’s
Video by Aminatou Echard

Installation with Georgy Tryakin-Bukharov and the Artpologist Collective
Transformations of Space, Soros Center for Contemporary Art
Almaty, Kazakhstan

Dragon video and paintings as installation by Aminatou and Daniel 

Ciel et Sons- ou Dragon
Video by Aminatou Echard

Handwritten anthropological field notes by Zhanara Nauruzbayeva 

Collaborative Installation by Aminatou Echard and Galim Madanov 

Chain link fence paintings and documentary about Gyorgii Tryakin-Bukharov by Aminatou Echard and Daniel Gallegos

Photo installation of Almaty by Gaisha Madanov

Visitors from the Indian Embassy looking at Georgii Tryatkin Bukharov's sculpture. 

Aminatou is talking with a visitor from the French Embassy  

A young visitor at The Tranformations of Space exhibit

The Artpologists with Valeria Ibraeva director of the Soros Center 

Thank you to Valeria Ibraeva, The Director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Almaty, Galim Madanov, Georgii Tryakin-Bukharov, Abdrashit Sydykhanov, Saule Suleimenova, Asel Kalieva, Irina Maslikova, Kuanysh Bazargaliev and the citizens of Almaty, Kazakhstan  

The Transformations of Space
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The Transformations of Space in Almaty, Kazakhstan was a project undertaken in the summer 2007. Initially imagined as an investigation of Almaty's urban history through artists' studios, this project ultimately became a documentation of the construction that took place before the worldwide financial crisis of the early 21st century. Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan before the government moved it to Astana in 1997. It is the largest city in Kazakhstan and is considered to be the cultural and financial center of the country.