In 18,000 Worlds, Saodat Ismailova explores the invisible foundations of Central Asia. Moving from personal to collective memory, she connects myths from the region to its recent history and addresses its spiritual heritage for healing. In 2022, the artist and filmmaker received the Eye Art & Film Prize for her oeuvre, in which she devotes attention to the complex, layered culture of her motherland. This is her first major retrospective exhibition.
Saodat Ismailova is an important voice within the first generation of Central Asian artists to come of age in the post-Soviet era. In her work, she investigates the rich, complex and layered culture of the region where she was born. She portrays the spirit of Central Asia, crossroads of cultures, leaving lots of space for intuition, stories and music.
Ismailova interweaves myths, rituals and dreams with everyday life. She calls our attention, in a nuanced way, to social issues such as ecological problems and women’s right to decide whether to wear the veil. Women’s identities and emancipation is a recurring theme in her work. Women play an important role in keeping cultural and spiritual heritage alive – for example by passing on stories and customs from mother to daughter, generation after generation.
Archival footage is a recurring feature of Ismailova’s work. The tradition of Soviet cinema she grew up with has left traces in her work, and she carried out a great deal of archival research into the earliest Uzbek films, which sometimes feature as found footage in her work. The region’s turbulent political history is never far away. Successive regimes have caused languages, traditions and nature to be lost. Ismailova marks these losses, yet her work is principally an ode to the rich spiritual world of Central Asia.
To accompany the exhibition, a special publication will be issued containing an interview with the artist by Dina Akhmadeeva and essays by Erica Moukarzel, Yuliya Sorokina and Filipa Ramos. Marian Cousijn has written texts about all of the works in the exhibition. A richly illustrated publication that gives a prominent place to the huge quantities of source and archival material collected by Saodat Ismailova.