Reformat 13: The Festival of Videoart in Bishkek. Part 1
Cross-regional and Blogosphere, Culture and History, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, UzbekistanNo Comment
From 28 to 31 August, a cosy exhibition hall of the Artists’ Union of Kyrgyzstan hosted a small but representative and interesting festival of videoart from four Central Asian countries (Turkmenistan being the usual exception). The festival REFORMAT 13 gathered a group of curators, artists and film-makers who to some extent could be regarded as representatives of avant-garde as opposed to mainstream art, but the films shown at the festival demonstrated different degrees of non-conformism.
The festival was masterminded by Gamal Bokonbaev, a well-known curator, art critic and artist from Bishkek, who was also the curator of the attractive Kyrgyz programme. Yulia Sorokina from Kazakhstan brought with her only three films and Alexey Rumyantsev from Dushanbe presented a collection of short videos. As has become commonplace, the programme from Uzbekistan, compiled by Oleg Karpov, was the most formidable and contained a few relatively long films interspersed with the more traditional short ones.
The jury: Valery Ruppell, Gamal Bokonbaev, Marina Bushkova and Nina Bagdasarova
It would be both difficult and unnecessary to describe all the films, so I would like to focus on those which attracted the most attention. The Kazakh programme contained the most conventional short feature film, The Shirt (directed by Anton Bolkunov), properly scripted, acted and shot, which however left the aftertaste not dissimilar to that of the Russian daytime TV serials. Denis Smirnov’s documentary 12-12-12 was another properly made piece, dedicated to the ‘last days’ in Tashkent of Nargis Abdullaeva, a controversial but charming and convincing ex-actor of the famous Ilkhom theatre.
Alexey Rumyantsev, Tajikistan
As has been the case for the last couple of years, documentaries or documentary-based videos dominated across the whole programme. There are several possible explanations to this. On the one hand, it is easier to shoot a documentary than a feature film: a way less hassle with the script, acting, lighting, sound and editing. It also looks more natural, authentic and by extension, more serious, ‘real’ and in line with the current core dogma of contemporary art, can always claim to be socially relevant, worldly and even political. A successful combination of these elements was evident in Sultan Bokonbaev’s Akaev’s School, a meditative, atmospheric and laconic film, Alla Rumyantseva and Manucher Ashurov’s The Flag Day and Askar Urmanov’s home video HERman, featuring happy actors of the Russian Academic Theatre getting pissed while picking cotton in the fields near Tashkent.
Oleg Karpov, Uzbekistan
There were also a few minimalist videos, including Flash animations by Marat Raimkulov and one exposure-long Shadow by Ulan Japarov from Bishkek, the A-B gag and the sad and understated The Last Guest from Dushanbe (directed by Nigina Rajabova), The Train to Paradise by Alexander Barkovsky from Tashkent and a couple more others. Barkovsky was also responsible for the longest video in the programme, Must not Medina’s Citizens…, where expressive and visually powerful shots were characteristically edited along with technically faulty or simply way too long bits, apparently, for the sake of authenticity.
A working moment: discussing films
In the next part I will discuss some of the underlying approaches these films demonstrate and their outcomes.