Kasmalieva and Djumaliev

The Art Institute of Chicago

For thousands of years, the trade routes of the Silk Road have linked China and the West. It was almost exclusively the cultures at either end that benefited economically from these routes, and the vast but sparsely populated regions of Central Asia that they traversed came to develop a fascinating quasi-parasitical relationship to the exotic riches that moved through them. The former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan (independent since 1991), a landlocked nation directly west of China, was and is such a place. It is also home to artists Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev, who use photography and video to document the young nation’s curious and ambiguous position, its perpetual in-betweeness.

While many of the valuables that used to travel along the Silk Road have gone airborne, the routes remain, now used by trucks of every size and kind. Sometimes traversing Kyrgyzstan’s rudimentary

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