Nomadic Art Camp (summer 2012)
Significance of identity and the bio-cultural heritage of mountain landscapes in contemporary times
A project initiated by B’Art Contemporary Bishkek and supported by Moving Culture

Significance of Bio-Cultural Heritage and Identity in Contemporary Times
The project, sponsored by The Christensen Fund, Palo Alto, USA, the Swiss (Government’s) Cooperation Office in the Kyrgyz Republic, the Swiss Association “Moving Culture”, Pro Helvetia (Swiss Government’s Culture Foundation), Hyatt Regency, Bishkek, and the Kyrgyz Fine Arts Museum named after G. Aitiev was a follow up on the 2011’s project “Nomadic Art Camp” but with a different focus and modified format. While the 2011 project entitled: “Reviving the Bio-Cultural Heritage of Central Asian Mountain Landscapes” focused on the true or perceived elements and symbols by which bio-cultural heritage and identity are expressed, this year’s project dealt with the significance of heritage and identity and its symbols in contemporary times. The project was also held in a different format, comprising four parts, namely a) a theoretical part consisting of a symposium with the participation of a broad range of scientists, b) a practical part i.e.  the artistic interpretation and transformation of the theory in an art camp, c) the opening reception of exhibition in the national fine arts museum of the works created in the art camp, and d) an outreach component, i.e. triggering a discussion on the nomadic art camp theme in other cities of the Kyrgyzstan by highlighting the symposium discussions and exhibiting the works shown in the fine arts museum together with similar thematic works of respective local artists.

Symposium 2012
The symposium, held on July 1-2, 2012 in the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts named after G. Aitiev, brought together artists, curators, political scientists, historians, sociologists, ecologists, philosophers, etc. from Central Asia, Turkey, France, Germany and Switzerland. The symposium also comprised a workshop in which in groups the topics: Nationality/traditions and identity in contemporary times: Regional and international experiences; Multi-ethnicity, roots and identity with the state and society at large; Transformation of meanings and traditions with the lapse of time, their expression by means of visual and performing arts and literature; Significance/topicality in our time of folk tales and literature and the moral expressed in them; were discussed and the findings fed back into the plenum.
Conservation of the existing mountain landscapes, harnessing the cultural heritage for strengthening if not reviving a harmonious relationship between man and nature in contemporary times have been important topics in the speeches at as well as discussions during the symposium. It was stressed that traditions have a sacral meaning in literature and art, concentrating in them significant meanings of society at large and that in the course of time these traditions acquire a new meaning, thus, replenishing their significance. Further, besides deploring also unfortunate trends, the symposium provided a unique opportunity to share and highlight experiences on how to foster value and thereby concurrently preserve the existing biological and cultural heritage and diversity in an environment of economic pressures and prosperity aspirations. It was even concluded that the feature of traditional values can be expanded and carried over into contemporary times by means of introducing and using traditions in specific business projects.
Another hot topic was the role that art should play in the state against the fact that in Central Asia state ideologies are substantially based on ethnicity and the titular group’s language. It was concluded that artists should assist the state moving towards a true multi-cultural state since the multi ethnic state is not something to choose but because it is an existential fact in Central Asia and in general. Therefore, in poly-ethnic societies, and especially in Central Asia, respecting traditions of other ethnicities is as important as compliance with own traditions. It guarantees observation of peace in society at large. Another important point worked out was the need to distinguish between the state and the government. Accordingly, artists cannot be divided from the state because they are part of the state but she or he can influence the government by acting as seismographs and mirrors of social processes, transformation of traditions and life. But how to assume such a role? Effectively, one doesn’t have to do a lot, because every piece of the art reflects the feelings and perception of the artist, so if the artist reflects on positive visions of the multi ethnic state, his or her work will show the positive aspects of living together under one nation.

go to gallery – Symposium 2012

Nomadic Art Camp 2012
The creative part of the project was held at Tosor village on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, the second biggest mountain lake on earth, in which artists from Tajikistan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, France, different oblasts of Kyrgyzstan, as well as curators from Switzerland participated. There, living in jurts close to a village in a serene landscape, exposed to the pace of village life, the aspirations and worries of village people and interacting with them, the participants figured out their response to the Nomadic Camps’ topic and elaborated their works. The camp situation fostered interaction between the participants and visibly stimulated them. Yet the village, its surroundings and the village inhabitants were not only objects of inspiration but various artistic activities took place on-site for and with them.

go to gallery – Nomadic Art Camp 2012
Exhibition 2012 
The third part, the opening reception of the exhibition took place on July 13 in the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts named after Gapar Aitiev. After two days of setting up the exhibition, the exhibition was opened inter alia with a traditional marriage ceremony around an open fire in the entrance hall, the latter being quite exceptional in a museum. In the exhibition, the artists presented their works made in the camp in the language of contemporary art. These works indeed highlighted the theme (as a matter of fact important for the whole mankind) and the relevance of and our dealing with our bio-cultural heritage and identity. The exhibits revolved around issues such as being still caught in Soviet or other dogmatic stereotypes as well as attempts to break out from them, commonalities in significance of symbols despite design differences, disintegration of families and loss of roots due to labor migration, disregard for the environment (as an economic resource), and advertisement and consumerism induced new identities.

go to gallery – Exhibition 2012
The fourth part of the project is currently under implementation. It has so far taken place already in Osh, Jalalabad and Karakol and additionally will take place at least in Naryn and Tokmok. Feed backs on the outreach effort are not yet available.

Summary by Hanspeter Maag


Echos on the project
The organizers of the International Symposium in my opinion, have escaped the cloning of workshops, demonstrating a personal approach. In the preparation of this international symposium in Bishkek, its organizers used an approach which allowed very subjective views on specific topics by the participants of the symposium. But the workshop was interesting not only for this. It was attended by artists, political scientists, ecologists, sociologists, and philosophers from Central Asia, Turkey, Switzerland, France and Germany. Despite the difficulties and problems that inevitably accompany such a big event, the current symposium, beyond a doubt, was part of not only an Asian but equally a European cultural process. The criticism, citations by individual participants of the symposium, the debates around many issues is further evidence of their genuine interest in societal development. (Unknown)

I liked very much the utterance (….) that there exists a notion of the country as a place where there are people, culture and progress; there is also a notion of a state meaning that it can be both good and bad. We shall search for mutually acceptable forms of interaction of the State (citizens) and the government for the sake of people.  (Also) I would like to express great appreciation to our foreign guests for having presented projects preserving biodiversity, culture, as well as blending their past with new technologies. (Kalicha Umuraliyeva, Philologer, Kyrgyzstan)

I would like to thank the guests for presenting interesting projects. I would like to note that you already have post-modernism, but we, unfortunately, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, are in the process of de-modernization, by that we are constrained by all means. (Gamal Bokonbaev, Culture Expert, Kyrgyzstan)
This symposium has shown us that the difference between us and the Swiss people is rather great. They firmly, clearly and self-confidently fulfill certain projects; as for us, the Kyrgyz people, we just by sumptuous epithets and arguments speak on these topics. The Swiss people refused from such declarations, they have just proceeded to action. It is a vivid lesson for us. We sincerely thank you for this. I am a cinematographer and a writer; I used to be in and to struggle with the thicket of questions and all their significance. Your projects grounded me, made me understand that everything is simpler. It is necessary to implement particular actions, move toward promotion of mankind, welfare and happiness. It is all this that has a great significance rather than all our obscure and heated disputes. Talip Ibraim, Academician, Kyrgyzstan)

Complete destruction of the common house called “Nature” can occur in the foreseeable future. The fact is that what we have today is not a victory of humanity. It is a defeat for humanity. The nature is dying. Unfortunately, no one person, in any corner of the globe, has observed the reverse recovery of the nature. For us, humans, this is an alarm signal. We, the people, continue to consume as much as the free market laws can propose (i.e., more of the Earth’s resources than are available). Yes, there is an economic growth, but there is an environmental degradation of our planet. Culture is often labeled as “second nature”. When contrasting nature and culture (second nature), we should not forget that there is no culture without nature, as the person works on and with the natural landscape. When he creates something, he uses natural resources, reveals his own capacity and affinity to nature. We need to help the people to revitalize and reacquaint themselves with the relationship between human beings and nature, respectively, nature and society at large. (E.Dj.Shukurov, Professor, Kyrgyzstan)

In today’s world, dominated by economic and political factors, the knowledge about people’s roots, the respect for nature and wisdom regarding stability/sustainability are quickly disappearing. Against this backdrop, the role of the artist is very important. Therefore, I believe that the modern artist should work in tandem with scientists, philosophers and ecologists. My task is to stitch together science and art in the name of development of biological and cultural diversity. The modern artist must participate in all spheres of public life. The people should hear his voice. With his work, the artist must encourage the society for the preservation, revitalization and reconciliation of the past and present biological and cultural heritage and diversity. (George Steinmann, Artist and Researcher, Switzerland)

Art is a component of the process of social transformation. Everything that a person thinks, produces and releases into the world emanates from its cultural background and impacts onto others. This calls for a responsible approach when dealing with cultural and natural resources and also with regard to our evolutional and developmental intentions in the future. Primarily, societal changes are a dynamic cultural process in which the role of the artist is just as important as that of society at large. Art and society require and determine each other. (Christof Rösch, Artist, Architect and Director of NAIRS, Center for Contemporary Arts and Artists in Residence Center).


Finally, proceedings of the symposium and catalogue on the art camp and the exhibition are being compiled and can be ordered from Moving Culture as of April 2013. For additional information on Moving Culture please contact us at