press release

Opening Night Party: Thursday, April 17, 6-9 pm

SAN FRANCISCO, March 20, 2008—Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) announces a compelling new exhibition, titled Tracing Roads Through Central Asia: On Traders' Dilemmas and Travelers' Perspectives, which offers a rare look at works created by contemporary artists living and working in Central Asia. The exhibition opens on Friday, April 18 and runs through Sunday, June 29, 2008.

Tracing Roads Through Central Asia, guest curated by Elena Sorokina, features works that explore the intricate relationship between travel and trade in Central Asia and other post-Soviet territories as it has developed since the 1990's. Artists comment on the modes, strategies and effects of free trade in this region since its introduction. Some toy with the stereotypes of "oriental bazaars" where everyday commodities used to be sold alongside communist symbols. Other artists deconstruct popular trade and travel myths, including the Silk Road and the Trans-Siberian Railway, by comparing their complex symbolism with its physical realities. Artists also capture the region's current "normalization" as recent socioeconomic changes have led it to become increasingly dependent on raw materials trade. Through the works' emphatic or critical interpretations, the clichés of exotic travel and exchange of luxury goods between East and West become seen as another myth - that of "free trade."

Central Asia is a region in transition, remaking itself following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and struggling to define itself amidst its influential neighbors including China, Russia and the oil-rich nations of the Middle East. Artists from the region often focus on social and geo-economics issues facing these countries and their people. They analyze ethnic identities currently en vogue, the representation of political power and the rise of ethno nationalist heroes, showing how societies change and individuals survive.

Tracing Roads Through Central Asia is part of YBCA’s Identity Shifts series, one of the three Big Ideas that guide this season’s programming. The Identity Shifts series features artists who explore the ideas of race, gender, nationality. Once concrete identifiers, these terms are now, to some degree, open to interpretation. The rise of religious extremism, the conflict between cultural identity and national borders, the rejection by many of traditional gender roles and labels, has plunged the world into a clash between embracing strict boundaries or celebrating fluidity and complexity. By disrupting the status quo and exploring deeply their sense of self, the artists in this series ask us to rethink how we know who we are, and what we think we can be.

The exhibition includes the following artists: Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev (Kyrgyzstan); Victor Vorobiev and Elena Vorobyeva (Kazakhstan); Erbossyn Meldibekov (Kazakhstan); Said Atabekov (Kazakhstan); Alexander Ugay (Kazakhstan); Alexander Nikolaev (Uzbekistan); Vyacheslav Akhunov (Uzbekistan); and Oksana Shatalova (Kasakhstan).

Elena Sorokina is an independent curator and writer currently based in Paris. A former fellow of the Curatorial Studies Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art, she has been working in New York and recently has curated Petroliana at the Moscow Biennale 2007 and Laws of Relativity at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin. She has written for Artforum, Moscow Art Magazine, Performance Art Journal and other publications.

Tracing Roads Through Central Asia
On Traders’ Dilemmas and Travelers’ Perspectives
Kurator: Elena Sorokina

mit Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev, Elena Vorobyeva & Viktor Vorobyev, Erbossyn Meldibekov, Said Atabekov, Alexander Ugay , Alexander Nikolaev, Vyacheslav Akhunov, Oksana Shatalova