PRINT September 2005

Debt Collectors

"MODERNISM HAS ITS CASUALTIES. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO are paying its debts,” said Central Asia pavilion curator Viktor Misiano to a colleague of mine, surveying the exhibition of fifteen artists from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan—countries represented in the Venice Biennale for the first time ever. The grounds for Misiano’s assessment are clear enough in sociopolitical terms: Forcibly disconnected from their cultural traditions at the dawn of the Soviet era, people in these territories found themselves, at the collapse of the USSR more than a decade ago, victims of a kind of double jeopardy, caught between an indigenous past they could only dimly remember and a putative future that had ceased to exist. But Misiano’s words also carry a neat art-historical twist. The show opens with a salon-style installation of drawings by Kazakh artist and curator Rustam Khalfin—former student

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