“Silence is the language of truth,” says Uzbek artist Saodat Ismailova. On Friday, it was announced that she will win the prestigious Eye Art & Film Prize 2022. It is a prize of almost 30,000 euros from the Eye Film Museum and the PJLF Arts Fund, which is awarded annually to an artist whose oeuvre moves in the intersection between art and film.
“Ismailova manages to create an almost spiritual space that goes beyond the visual and soundtrack. She seduces us into ‘hearing’ our image and ‘seeing’ sound. Her oeuvre is exciting, mysterious and involved, ”reads the jury report, which also mentions that Ismailova manages to highlight the Uzbek cultural heritage in a surprising way. It makes her stand out among a ‘new generation of artists from Central Asia’. Her work can also be experienced this summer at Documenta in Kassel.
Saodat Ismailova was born in Tashkent in 1981, and although she lives alternately in Tashkent and Paris, her work is about Uzbekistan and the oppressed man, trapped by traditions but also their disappearance. Her video installation The haunted (2016) about the extinct Turkmen tiger is in this respect typical of the themes she tackles on her head. One could almost see being chased and disappeared as a central theme, she confirms via e-mail: “It is truly a way to understand my work, the act of being obsessed with the past, of the present, but also chased by the threat from the future. A madness of memories that find ways to never be forgotten. “
Not to be forgotten plays a big role in her film about Uzbek culture, where the matriarchal society plays a big role in her film. She sees an important role in this for herself as an artist: “These times require a healing power, and art has the healing power to recover from damage and produce new ideas that shed a different light on reality.” In the video Qyrq Qyz (40 girls) (2014) tells the story of a girl who was adored by her father in her youth, and who grows up in luxury, yet is forced to marry a man of her father’s choice, and destroys all that is left of loving childhood memories. Her five lives (2020) provides a brief history of the role of women in the twentieth century. Surprisingly, there is no spoken word, only shown.
At Ismailova, therefore, it is not so much about what is being said, but more about the form, which explains that there is a remarkable silence in her work. IN Zukhra (2013), for example, a woman lying in bed as a viewer is not known whether she is lying on a deathbed or whether she is held back by the past and the restriction imposed on women in society in the twentieth century. Some noise can be heard, but the painful silence is especially striking. “The silence in my work shapes emotions,” she explains.
Stories are needed
Since independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the focus for artists from Uzbekistan has been on rediscovering their own identity, but it is now moving, according to Ismailova: “I think there is more and more thought about how we post – Soviet stagnation, as well as how to decolonize thoughts, is a fundamental process to see the future of the country before us. We must accept the Soviet language and cultural heritage of that time as part of the history of Central Asia. ”
And this is what Ismailova is trying to do: she keeps the forgotten stories and traditions alive, but also finds new meanings: “We need stories like the backbone of our minds, images that can heal us in our dreams, but also have a beneficial effect. “when we are conscious. I believe that art can build a bridge between the many worlds and dimensions we live in.”
In 2023, the Eye Film Museum presents a major retrospective of her work