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MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2012 6.00-7.30pm

Ulan Djaparov, Flighter, 2009
Photo documentation of action
133 x 200 cm Photo by Anna Osennikova

THE TASTE OF OTHERS: TAKE 39 at SA SA BASSAC in Phnom Penh offers a broad spectrum analysis of art practices in Central Asia related to developments in contemporary art. It will showcase locally active artists and organizations, as well as those who are visible in the international arena, while addressing the lack of artistic dialogue between Central Asia and the surrounding Asian continent.


Leeza Ahmady’s project “The Taste of Others” was first launched in 2005 as an ongoing curatorial, educational, and archival initiative to connect the artists and art practitioners of Central Asia (Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan) to artists and art professionals in other parts of the world. The project has taken many forms, including traveling exhibitions, lectures, screenings, talks, and publications presented at various private and public galleries, museums and academic university settings internationally. 

In the past four decades, the contemporary art world has expanded, advancing ever forward by the efforts of artist collectives from regions that were once considered remote. Indeed, a common element in all developed, peaceful nations is their established infrastructures for the arts and their ability to nurture strong art communities within their respective and neighboring regions. After fifty years of total isolation and two decades of independence since the fall of the Soviet Union, Central Asian countries are reconnecting with the world through their vast energy reserves of oil, natural gas, and minerals. They are also renegotiating relationships with one another through their small but vibrant artistic communities as they share a great many cultural, linguistic, religious, and ethnic ties beyond geographic lines. Since the end of Cold War, there have been two concurrent scenes active in the production of art in Central Asia. One mimics the old system (official State artists belonging to now defunct Artist Unions) appearing new only in symbolic ornamentation, devised by the state as an instrument for control. The other involves an organic process of concepts and systems applied by artists individually or in small groups, in an effort to co-opt state controlled production of culture to create their own original artistic identities. Pioneering efforts of artists and independent professionals in starting a tradition of artist run collectives, independent spaces, and collaborative exhibitions, through the blurring of roles; simultaneously acting as artists, curators, teachers, critics and fundraisers, have been pivotal to the development of Central Asia's current art scene. After years of independent fund raising methods while rallying for state support (often to little avail), these individuals have proven to be both resilient and innovative, gaining recognition on the world stage.


Leeza Ahmady is an independent art curator and educator. Born in Afghanistan and based in New York, Ahmady has traveled widely in Central Asia, presenting the largely unknown artists of the region in international art forums such as the Venice Biennale, Istanbul Biennial, and Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong. She directs Asian Contemporary Art Week (ACAW), an annual event initiated by the Asia Society, New York, comprising a series of special exhibitions, lectures, and performances at leading city museums and galleries. Ahmady’s efforts in complicating categorical notions about Asia have resulted in an expanded list of participating artists, and a broad consortium of venues that support the initiative, such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.