Posts Tagged ‘kazakhstan’

the project

Everyday we learn a little bit more about why we are here in Kazakhstan. What is really exciting is that what was initially presented to us as a chance for Daniel and James to come paint graffiti has actually turned into a mini-festival with musical performances, workshops and live painting. On Sunday Daniel and James will present their work in a city square along with the work of local Kazakh writers and be supported by local DJ’s and MC’s. Very, very cool. Thanks Vladimir!


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finally, horse meat

Where's the beef?

Where's the beef?

The verdict? Not bad at all.

Two extremely talented Kazakh artists, Saule and Kyuanish, served us our first home cooked Kazakh meal and it was delish. Stuffed peppers, pickled herring, lots of Vodka and of course the horse meat. We were all delighted to have something other than airplane and restaurant food.

The horse meat was what we all had waiting for though and we gotta say it was kinda tasty. Sorta like a cross between pastrami and corned beef. Saltly like bacon. Would go well with scrambled eggs. Holler.

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Daniel’s Diary – SEPTEMBER 26th

I have a full nights sleep. I wake up around 7 am and start doing some writing on the computer. Around 9 am the door knocks Davon opens the door and it’s a film crew from one of the local television stations. I’m still in my boxers I tell them to wait for me to get dressed. The reporter is excited that I’m not ready and she say that it would be great to have me getting dressed on video. I think it seems a little ridiculous and I’m a little worried my mother-in-law here in Kazakhstan will see me on television in my boxers.

Daniel shadowed by the Kazakh video crew.
Daniel shadowed by the Kazakh video crew.

I quickly get dressed and they interview me as I clean up the hotel a bit and we go downstairs to eat some breakfast and I get interviewed about what I’m doing here. They walk with us down to the Tengri Umai and we finish the interview. We all wait for Vladimir. He shows up around noon. We start painting the canvases soon after. Some of the graffiti writers show up and start working.

Kazakh writers getting to work.
Kazakh writers getting to work.

We’re painting a bit in black. We’re using some Italian spray paint that is decent enough. Along the way we make small talk with the local writers and also some of the locals. I’m a bit concerned something will hit us on the head from the large apartment above. I follow James’ lead on the piece. We’re doing an oil well and mountain theme. Our letters are black like crude oil. Around 2pm the embassy officials come. They quickly assess our work and seem a little disappointed. It seems as if they wanted us to work more directly with the locals. We try to explain that we’re just getting started but it’s too late. The officials go and chat with Vladimir and it seems like there’s some communication issues about what the project would be like. James and I keep painting. We paint for around 5 hours. During this time Davon is preparing for a show and workshop in the downstairs gallery. His photos look nice.

We finish painting around 6 but after a meeting we don’t get out of there until 7pm. James needs to get back to Anna after he had agreed that he’d meet her at a certain time so we quickly get back to the hotel. We shower and return to see the opening of Davon’s show and we hang out with all the graffiti writers. We’re having some good times. We pose with them. Davon gives a talk to the crowd. He presents his work and talks about how we represent an alternative culture in the United States.

We quickly leave with Kyuanish and Saule to go to dinner at their house. We buy beer at the local store and we eat stuffed peppers and beet salad and drink vodka. Everything is so delicious! Everyone is having a great time. They seem to all really get along. I give the gifts Zhanara had packed for them. They’re so happy. I brought some coffee from home for them too.

We go to the studio and see their new works. Kyuanish says he sold all of his works from the last show and he says now he hasn’t done any new work. He says all he does is drink and watch football on the television. There are a couple of new paintings by him -one I really like of houses.

Kyuanish in the studio

Kyuanish in the studio.

Saule is working on a new series. She’s no longer working on her wax and acrylic media. She’s using vinyl printed photos stretched over frames and she paints pictures on them. The work looks super cool! She seems very happy about the new direction. We discuss her work and what it means to her. I say it’s really a great direction for her. During this time Zhanara talks with me on the telephone.

Saule and her work.

Saule and her work.

We go back to the hotel in a taxi. We go home put our stuff away and then I suggest we go check out the club on the corner. It looks terrible and so I tell them I know another place to go. SOHO Club. It takes about 5 minutes to walk there from here. There are too many ugly ex-patriots here. The music is good. We have one beer and then leave. James, Anna, Davon and I are all tired happy and a bit drunk.

We go back to the hotel turn the television on to see how bad things are back home with the further spiraling financial crisis. Things look bad there.

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the solo show

Had my solo photography photo show here last night at the TENGRI-UMAI gallery, which is apparently the biggest and most prestigious gallery here in Kazakhstan.  The show was a completely unexpected off shoot of our travel here to Almaty, Kazakhstan and it was truly and honor to present some of my latest photography work despite the difficulty of hauling 40×30 inch prints from the United States (in a bazooka).

I really liked how the show came together.  The work really stood on it’s own and I think each photograph told a story.  After much deliberation I settled on the name AMERICAN BEAUTY for the show as a whole.  I think the work depicts and dark but beautiful image of America as a culture of isolation and lost identity.  I was told that it was interesting to see this point of view in Central Asia.  A view quite different from the perspective they are sold here abroad.

At the end of the show I was approached by the editor of a Kazakh art photography magazine for an interview.  I think she was taken by the work and she asked if she can publish some of it in her magazine.  It is really a high-end, well printed magazine.  Yes, please!

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Daniel’s Diary -SEPTEMBER 25th

So we arrived in Almaty around 5 am in the morning and we are quickly met with this embassy liaison who is there waiting for us with a sign with my name on it. There is another name and I quickly learn there is another American on the flight besides myself and Davon. We are shown what to do and we are sent to the front of the line with the liaison. We quickly get our stamps and go and wait for our luggage. We meet the other American. He’s an embassy worker with a couple of cats in tow. Davon and I are a little surprised that this guy has cats with him. There’s a police officer looking at them and he’s doing all the proper paper work but I’m sure he’s just as surprised as I am about seeing some American guy with his cats in tow. We later find out he’s on his way to Bishkek to live and for some reason he can’t live there without these two cats. Davon says that there’s a lot of love in that. I think he meant it was a bit extreme for someone to take a couple of cats clear out to Central Asia.

We are led to a large White Chevy Suburban and we throw our luggage in the back. We are driven to the hotel. It’s pretty decent Soviet Style hotel with some modern amenities thrown in. It has a television with cable so I can watch old Soviet movies and then watch CNN.

I can hear James and Anna’s voice in the hallway soon as we arrive into our rooms. I can hear the twangy American voices through the door! I open the door and let them know we’re here. We all chat and it seems as if James and Anna are having a great time already. Davon notes that it seems like they’ve already been here for a while. It looks like it’s taken them a little longer. They missed their connector in Heathrow Airport (I hate that airport) after booking a flight that seems to be to far away from the connection to Almaty. Anna pulled some persuasive action and they got a free hotel in London and flight the next day. They told us they’ve been walking around Almaty for the last day. They got to meet Vladimir and Leila. They walked to the embassy saw a bit of Almaty and even found themselves in an Irish Pub drinking Guinness and having Shepherd’s Pie.

We had breakfast downstairs and then all went for a walk near our hotel. We went to the Arbat and looked around a bit. We talked a little about our work. Afterwards we walked back to our apartment. My stomach wasn’t feeling so well. This always happens when I eat that fucking airplane food. I always tell myself I will try not to eat it. My “refined Chez Panisse stomach” isn’t used to all of these preservatives in the food. It wants organic tomatoes and grass fed meat. Fortunately the food in Kazakhstan is great! I make some phone calls to friends. I’m surprised after one year away from Almaty many of my friends cell phone numbers are no longer working. I guess you can’t take your phone number with you to the next available service. I reach Saule and have a brief chat with her (It’s so nice to hear her voice!) and we arrange to meet on the following day. They want to arrange to pick me up right at that moment but I let them know I have a lot of work to do.

Around 1:30 pm we meet Leila the embassy official, and Vladimir along with a few other embassy people. We have a brief meeting with them and we discuss a bit about what we’ll do. We talk a bit about losing the wall for a mural. Vladimir shows us the large canvases that we’re painting. They’re huge! We’re happy about them. We also get a chance to meet some of the local graffiti writers. They’re a bit shy but that’s normal.

We go to dinner with Bota and we meet Malik. We have dinner at Destarkhan. It’s a pretty decent place but it costs around 25 dollars. I think it’s pretty expensive but it was good food and Davon, James and Anna liked it.

We go home and we find out on CNN that Washington Mutual went under. Things aren’t looking good in the financial world.

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The flight from San Francisco to Almaty was quite long but it was fine since it was a KLM flight direct to Amsterdam. I landed in Amsterdam and waited to meet Davon.

We both agreed to meet in the airport terminal where we’d take off from. I watched the news and after a couple of hours I saw Davon come from the opposite side of the terminal with 3 large cylinders on his back strung over like a bazooka. We greeted each other with hug and went to another part of the terminal that had a great bar shaped like a soccer ball. Inside we sat down to have some drinks and a chat about his trip thus far and also about our future project with the Tengri Umai gallery.

The bazooka that carried Davon's photo prints from LA to KAZ

The bazooka carrying Davon's photos.

On the flight to Almaty our last leg of the trip (a 6 hour flight) Davon mostly slept (dude I watched Iron Man! – DR) I watched the television. I got to see the new Indiana Jones flick. It was pretty bad. I’d says there wasn’t anything new added to the film. I listened to this great radio show about the history of Brazilian jazz music. It’s was on one of these in flight radio shows. It was nice to hear some good Brazilian music it really soothed my soul.

I get really anxious on the flight nowadays. I don’t know where it’s coming from I think I’m going through some sort of mental change of some sort. Before I used to love to fly now I just keep thinking of how long it will take to get back to Zhanara and that kitchen of ours in Oakland with our new table and a pot of dark coffee and some Acme Levan.

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Sketches of Almaty II

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