Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First stop -- Bishkek

Our trip began in Bishkek. I arrived at the Holiday Hotel without any problems, but Gordon, unfortunately missed his connection and didn't arrive until the following day. The weather was surprisingly cold and rainy, but the people were warm and friendly as always. Our investigation began with a roundtable with about 10 artists and curator at B'Art Center. The group was a mix of old friends - 5 artists who had participated in CEC's residency program in VT and some new faces. There was alot of energy and desire to collaborate and we decided to continue our conversation the next day when Gordon could join us.
After arriving at 6 am, Gordon courageously joined me in 5 incredible meetings with a wide variety of arts people in Bishkek. We began our day with a visit to the U.S. Embassy where we met with the Cultural Attache and his program assistant Camilla. It was heartening to hear that they are involved in so many cultural projects in Kyrgyzstan and we hope that it will be possible to collaborate with them. We then met with the amazing Dinara Chochumbaeva, director of the Central Asian Crafts Network Asosciation at her home where she served us a wonderful lunch under difficult circumstances. She is in mourning for her mother and according to custom she must stay home for 40 days and greet visitors. Dinara was excited about our project and we discussed several ways to collaborate and create art projects related to pressing social issues, including water, housing, immigration. We next visited the Kurama Art Gallery where we met with its director Asel, a couple of artists, and an imaginative businessman who is trying to create Kyrgyzstan's first artist residency. Our conversation then turned to traditional music during a meeting with Raizya Syrdybaeva, who offered some new ideas and possible collaborations. We concluded our very long day with a lovely, relaxing dinner with Muratbek and Gulnara at our favorite Chaikhana. Although it was wonderful to be back at Jalalabad, we were surprised to see a new sign -- "it is forbidden to bring your own alcohol." The first time I asked the waitress if we could drink the wine we had brought, she said no. The second time she also said no. But, the third time she said that we could as long as noone noticed and pointed out that the table of women sitting next to us were quietly pouring vodka into their juice. If we got caught she said, we would be fined 50 som (less than $2). We decided to take the risk. So, our evening with Muratbek and Gulnara continued happily and we had a wonderful conversation about their work, ideas, projects. They were very excited about our trip and even considered joining us. We left Bishkek the next morning stimulated by all the people we had met and full of new ideas.

Road trip: Bishkek to Jalalabad

Posted by Susan Katz

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