Zone of the Rock, Transition was the name of the last large exposition held by a group of artists from Kyrgyzstan in October 2006. Highly applicable: the cellars under the train station in the country's capitol, Bishkek, were the domain of the KGB in the era when Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet Union. "The past feels more and more like lead in one's shoes. Political, economic and social changes are slow and difficult," says Muratbek Djumaliev, one of the Art East initiators.
"Our last exposition included works by artists from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Russia, but also from India and Bangladesh. Much of their work involves multi-media, with transformation as the over-all theme. Crime, local conflicts, revolutionary movements and economic crises are our daily reality. That is reflected in the works of art. The government is trying to build up the country, but is scarcely succeeding. No attention is devoted to art, so we artists are trying to create a platform. Our focus is on education, with special attention for younger generations. Personally, I grew up in the Gorbatshov period. I went to the art academy in Saint Petersburg; my wife studied in Moscow, but today the youth are looking to the West, of course."
Djumaliev obtained support for Art East from the Open Society Institute in Budapest, and later also received support from the Hivos Culture Fund. "With various other groups of artists in Central Asia we have already had two successful expositions at the Venice biennial. Interest is increasing significantly."
Together with a number of other artist initiatives from Colombia, Kenya, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, Djumaliev is involved in the launch of Arts Collaboratory. This is a new initiative offering support for groups of artists in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Djumaliev: "The exchange is exhilarating. But we were particularly pleasantly surprised by the interest shown by countries in Western Europe. We discovered that independent artist initiatives have a growing future."