© Roman Egorov

Contemporary Art & science meet ancient practices of Central Asia

Conversation with artist Olga Kisseleva

In Kazakhstan, artist and STARTS PRIZE 2020 Grand Prize winner Olga Kisseleva and her research group develop a project at the intersection of science, technology and art, offering unconventional approaches to solving environmental problems, in particular, preserving the Sievers apple tree.

On 24 September 2020, on the day of the last apple harvest, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Olga Kisseleva and her international research group realized the performance entitled ALMA, in the Pomological Garden of the Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute, with the participation of the research institute staff, eco-activists and specialists in Tengrianism and traditional methods of dialogue with nature.

© Roman Egorov
© Roman Egorov

The performance explores the concept of ancient-future knowledge as a variant of an alternative mind. As nomads do, gardeners thank Heaven for a rich harvest. The collected apples are used to create the main Tengrian sign – an equilateral cross. The symbol of the nomadic Turks is the solar sign and the Eternal Sky. The performance is accompanied by a sound composition performed by the kobyz sacred Kazakh music instrument. Ancient-future knowledge works with ideas about time, restoring linearity between the past and the future, deconstructing the idea of ​​vertical time, and building a perspective in which the elements of the archaic can become elements of the future.

© Roman Egorov
© Roman Egorov

This performance is part of the larger effort to preserve natural heritage of global importance - the Sievers apple tree, carried out in the framework of the international project EDEN.

On March 17, we sat down with Olga Kisseleva, Zhanna Spooner and Zhanna Mambetova to have an online conversation about their project Alma in Kazakhstan. We had a lot of questions about their work methods bringing art and science, contemporary and ancient knowledges in resonance.

Olga, as an artist, how did you come across the Sievers apple tree species? What is special about it for you?

I came to be interested in this apple tree at first not as an artist, but as a scientist. Working with trees all around the world in the past years, I also realised there was something very important preserved in different countries, like New Zealand or Brasil, the ancient knowledges on how to be connected with nature.

Zhanna, what else can nomads of Euro-Asian steppes teach us?

Nomads have a deep and strong connection to nature and a subtle knowledge of animal behavior, of the unity of organic life and brotherhood in death. In our time of ecological catastrophe, these ancient rituals return us to a state of integrity, feeling like a part of nature.

Olga Kisseleva on contemporary art & science and ancient practices of Central Asia | Talk | BOZAR

Participants of the conversation:
Olga Kisseleva (artist)
Janna Mambetova (curator, PhD researcher)
Zhanna Spooner (eco-activist)

This talk is organized in the framework of the Nowruz Film Days at BOZAR to celebrate Nowruz and discover the rich cultures of Central Asia and its neighbours via contemporary cinema.

Find out more about Olga Kisseleva’s project EDEN presented last autumn at BOZAR in the STARTS PRIZE 20 exhibition. ‘Speculating on the Future through Art and Science’

Find out more about the European STARTS Science+Technology+Arts initiative

See also