Saodat Ismailova: To Share a Dream With a River

January 16, 2024 00:52:10

Tamara Khasanova and Hallie Ayres talk to artist Saodat Ismailova following To Share a Dream With a River, a screening of three films at e-flux. Stay tuned after the conversation for an excerpt from a soundscape composed by Camille Norment for Ismailova’s film, The Haunted.

Films discussed in this episode:

The Haunted (2017, 23 minutes) takes the form of an open letter to the Turan tiger. A majestic symbol of the Central Asian landscape, this animal has been extinct for several decades but lives on as a sacred symbol in the collective imagination of the local population. In her captivating film essay, Ismailova pays homage to the tiger as she shows how firmly bound it is to the region’s history.

Stains of Oxus (2016, 24 minutes) follows a transformation of the landscape of the Amu Darya riverbanks and the people that inhabit them, beginning from the high plateau in Tajikistan to the lowland deserts in Uzbekistan, where the river finds its end.

Chillpiq (2018, 17 minutes) begins with a scene of two buses emerging on the horizon as they drive toward Chillpiq. A group of forty girls climb the ruins that stand atop a mount in the middle of the steppe. One by one, they tie pieces of cloth to a flagpole that crowns the archeological site, and worship it as a symbol of life. The girls circle the shrine while the setting sun changes the light to an orange glow, blurring their silhouettes as they disappear into the site.

Two Horizons (2022, 24 mins) was exhibited as part of the 14th Shanghai Biennale’s Partial Eclipse section, and hints at infinite strategies through which humans access occluded forms of matter and energy. Two Horizons combines a prophecy carried down in the ancient Turkic oral histories of Qorqut with the more recent history of a space launch facility. The tomb of Qorqut—the storyteller and seer who is the central hero of the epic—lies in the south of Kazakhstan, near the Baikonur Cosmodrome. In the local culture the belief persists that a person will one day come to defeat gravity and achieve eternal life. 


Saodat Ismailova is a filmmaker and artist who came of age in the post-Soviet era in Central Asia. She graduated from Tashkent State Art Institute in Uzbekistan and Le Fresnoy, National Studio of Contemporary Arts in France. Drawing on the cultural identities and vernacular histories of Central Asia, Saodat Ismailova’s films meditate on memory, spirituality, immortality, and extinction. Frequently based around folk stories in which women are the lead protagonists, and exploring systems of knowledge suppressed by globalized modernity, these consciousness expanding works hover between visible and invisible worlds. 

Tamara Khasanova is a curator, researcher, and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She currently serves as an Archives Assistant at e-flux, and curated the To Share a Dream With a River screening program.

Hallie Ayres was on the curatorial team for Cosmos Cinema, the 14th Shanghai Biennale. She is Associate Director of e-flux.

Interviews & Conversations, Podcast
Experimental Film, Caucasus & Central Asia, Folklore & Tradition

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