Beginning – Open Archive. Almaty

  • Location Almaty, Kazakhstan
  • Client Tselinny Center Of Contemporary Culture
  • Year 2018
  • Status Completed
  • Program Cultural
  • Curators Grace
    Meruert Kaliyeva
  • Team Ekaterina Golovatyuk
    Giacomo Cantoni
    Ivano Viceconte
    Marianna Katenko
    Gaia Fusé
    Arslan Arkallayev
  • Collaborators Research: Anna Bronovitskaya, Nikolai Malinin
    Video: Davide Rapp
    Graphic Design: Pomo
  • Surface 3.000 sqm

The project “Beginning” at the 4,500 sqm former cinema Tselinny announces the opening of the new Center of Contemporary Culture, scheduled for 2020. The three parts of the project – architectural, artistic and cinematic – engage with the history of Tselinny and the architectural context of the city, and, at the same time, reflect the programme and aims of the future cultural center.

The first part of this project, the exhibition “Open archive. Almaty” is devoted to the post-war modernist architecture of the former Kazakhstan capital. The exhibition integrates a two-year long research of architectural historians Anna Bronovitskaya and Nikolai Malinin, conducted in cooperation with the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, photographer Yuri Palmin, and the Almaty architectural community. Within the unified space of the former cinema halls, the research materials and archival documents, revealing the forgotten narratives about Almaty, dialogue with Palmin’s large-format photographs of the current state of modernist heritage and with film montages composed by Davide Rapp from the Kazakhfilm archives.

The second part of the project, entitled “At the corner: City, place, people”, held in the space of the former nightclub, built within Tselinny in the early 2000s, is devoted to the contemporary art of Central Asia. The exhibition brings together contemporary artists of different generations and presents both works already known to the public and site-specific projects that interact with the context of the city and the former cinema.

The third part involves a public programme that combines ephemeral practices – from film screenings, to lectures, discussions and workshops.


Open Archive. Almaty.

Today, all over the world and regardless of prevailing ideologies, the architecture of the 1960s-1980s is being destroyed on a massive scale, considered as ugly and guilty of many social problems. In Almaty, the architecture of this period constitutes more than 70% of the urban fabric, and like a carpet, covers the entire city from the centre to the outskirts. Here, the modernist city is original and organic. In the early ‘90s, the Kazakhstan authorities decided to transfer the state capital to Astana and turn it into a testing ground for the new market-driven architecture. Almaty remained unchanged for more than 20 years. Intelligently planned on urban and building scale during the “Kunaev era”, today, as “a natural reserve” of modernism, it leaves abundant evidence for next generations that the soviet architecture is not about anonymous prefab construction, but that it can actually be ‘human” and hospitable, regardless of standardisation and austerity.

Through the prism of twenty buildings, the exhibition “Open archive. Almaty” reveals and reinterprets the architectural heritage of the former capital. These buildings not only represent the implementation of architects’ visions, but also materialize the peculiar conditions of the local context (climate, seismic risks, technological capabilities and breakthroughs, and ideology), bearing the narratives and stories acquired over half a century of use.