… Shortly before his death шт 2002, Kazakhstani artist Sergey Maslov started to write a novel titled Astral Nomads, from which I derive the name of the project, since it was dedicated to the lives of a large number of contemporary Central Asian artists. Given that he had no heirs, these artists and other friends and colleagues became the keepers of his paintings, notebooks, sketchbooks, and self-published magazines, which are currently being stored in their apartments. This mode of preservation, however, obviously does not do justice to the significance of Maslov’s legacy, and these materials require cataloguing, organizing, and digitalization to offer insight into Maslov’s own practice and its importance to the artistic scene he helped create.
Yuriy Dvinyaninov (his nickname was “Gnome”), from the city of Karaganda in the north of Kazakhstan, was murdered under mysterious circumstances шт 2007 during a visit to St. Petersburg. Despite his youth – Dvinyaninov was 32 when he was murdered – he had managed to accomplish a lot before his death. He created performances, wrote and sang his own songs, and published poetry. The core of his legacy, however, is formed by the hundreds of notebooks and sketchbooks he left behind, filled with a kind of pictographic poetry that combined text and image in ingenious ways. He was inspired by the heritage of the Russian avant-garde, particularly such artists as Malevich, Mayakovsky, El Lissitzky and others.
Vyacheslav Akhunov, the patriarch of contemporary Uzbek art started to create his notebooks and pattern books in the late 1970s. This was a moment of deep crisis – dubbed The Stagnation – in the Soviet Union when official ideology, in art as elsewhere, had exhausted itself, but artists in the fifteen Soviet republics were still not allowed to work independently outside official institutions. This situation defined the nature of the art Akhunov created when he put down his “crazy” conceptual proposals for unrealizable projects into notebooks that he collected in his kitchen and titled with recipe names, taking this as a precautionary measure in case of unforeseen visits from the KGB. Due to the political situation in Uzbekistan, Akhunov’s fortunes have not changed much in his native country after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, he remains a dissident whose work cannot be shown in Uzbekistan, it is all the more imperative that his work should at least be accessible on-line, and that is a goal for which a digital archive is a singularly suitable medium.
In various ways, the work of these artists who figure prominently in the project Astral Nomads is a way to say “Hello” to their colleagues abroad, but it is a greeting that often has a hard time getting through. The projects they made were often dedicated to the memory of other artists, whom they never saw but whose ideas excited them. Those projects were a way of extending and reincarnating in a different part of the world the most challenging artistic ideas of 20th century, and it is only fitting that, it should be made possible for their legacy to become a more prominent part of the global artistic conversation by means of a digital resource. The digital dimension can become that space where these and others creative “astral nomads” of Maslov’s novel can find a place to communicate with like-minded people around the world.
To be continued…