This Land Is Your Land
Mikhail Karikis & Almagul Menlibayeva
Curated by Maren Richter
July 19 - 14 August 2019
This photography and video based exhibition brings together two artists, who share similar concerns, on how land has been commodified or occupied by various interests. Those disputed fields, which the artists work in, are orchestrated by history, rights, politics and economy, but also memory, rituals and traditions, that play a central role in the appropriation of land. Almagul Menlibayeva, born in Kazakhstan and based in Berlin, revolves around ecology and feminism by creating appealing imagery in order to look into the Post-Soviet life in rural Kazakhstan. Greek artist Mikhail Karikis, based in London and Lisbon, investigates voice as a sculptural material and a socio-political agent. He often works with and gives voice to children in post-industrial towns, which seem to inhale a ‘No Future’ perspective and a socio-economic narratives of de-industrialisation, post-Fordism, resettlement, and migration.
At the same time the presentation of those artists could be seen as a response to current debates in Malta about land-use and large-scale plans of urban developments on the limited territory of the archipelago.
Almagul Menlibayeva was born in Kazakhstan and re-known Berlin based artist who works in the city of Almaty and the surrounding vast steppes and mountains that hold the countries’ history. Menlibayeva’s narrative videos and accompanying photographs offer a melancholic reflection on the non-synchronicity of a country’s development. Since the days prior to the Soviet occupation and the following deportation of people from different corners of the world, the Kazakh people have borne the transformation of their country by others into a cultural and ecological wasteland. Menlibayeva’s work is preoccupied with the complex legacies that are to be found buried in this landscape and in the ruins of the soviet era, and in the underlying unconscious of its people. Her work engages the value of this heritage and its continuing presence: how the country and its people were shaped by the ideological interests of a once occupying power. She has been shown at various Biennials such as Venice, Sidney and currently at Sharja.
Mikhail Karikis is a Greek/British artist based in London and Lisbon. His work embraces moving image, sound and other media to create immersive audiovisual installations and performances which emerge from his long-standing investigation of the voice as a sculptural material and a socio-political agent. He often collaborates with communities and his works highlight alternative modes of human existence, solidarity and action. For the exhibition I suggest to centre his contribution around his work of ‘Childrenof Unquiet’, consisting of a film, images and a board game. In his film ‘Children of Unquiet’, Mikhail Karikis orchestrates a children’s ‘take over’ of an uninhabited workers’ village in Italy centering on the children’s aural and physical interventions. The work features forty-five children who are growing up around a deserted industrial village, abandoned by their parents after the complete automation of the local geothermal power plant where they all worked. The site is in the Devil’s Valley in Tuscany, known for inspiring the hellish descriptions of Dante’s Inferno and for being the place where the first sustainable energy power plant in the world was built. In Karikis’s video, youngsters between five and twelve years old seize the depopulated sites, transforming the vaporous wasteland into a self-organized school and a playground.
Maren Richter is a curator and researcher based in Austria working in the field of sociopolitical art and public space. From 2010 to 2012 she was the artistic director of the festival Regionale in Styria and prior to that curator of European Capital of Culture in Linz. She was the curator of the main Visual Arts exhibition of Valletta European Capital of Culture in 2018.