Forget what’s-his-name. For news on Kazakhstan, check out artpologist.net, the multilingual website of a group of scholars and artists studying the contemporary creative scene in Almaty. They write, “We will work with artists of three generations trying to show continuities and ruptures that have taken place in society since the break-up of the Soviet Union.” One of the members of the group is Stanford anthropology student Zhanara Nauruzbayeva. In an interview, Nauruzbayeva notes intersections between contemporary creativity and its rapidly changing urban context:
Initially we were fascinated with the artists’ studios, artists who live in Almaty, you know, what amazing and unique spaces those are. I just feel like there is so much in there and it would be really cool to show them. And this is something to be really proud of. But as we started here on the project we came across this subject of the transformation of the city, the construction and how it changes people’s daily lives and we just thought that we cannot ignore that subject anymore.
Kazakhstan and particularly bigger cities Almaty and Astana have changed a lot in the past 3-4 years maybe, but I feel like this year it’s particularly strong, it’s escalating. With construction, transformation of the city is affecting all areas, not only the older areas that are being demolished. And those spaces are being transformed into apartment buildings and commercial entertainment centers, malls, and also there’s a huge number of cars here, so lots of roads are being built to accommodate that quantity of cars. What else is the transformation, the construction affecting?
Wallpaper magazine has been tracking the urban scene in Kazakhstan recently, having featured the new capital Astana on the cover a few months ago. Presently, Wallpaper.com features something like ‘artpological’ photos of denizens of Astana. Check out Stefan Ruiz’s beautiful photographs here. Ruiz’s description of the city cracks me up: “North Korea meets Las Vegas.”