Usually Menlibayeva creates videos and photo series around the same themes; the present lot, Red Butterfly is closely related to the video Butterflies of Aisha Bibi. The video revolves around the 6th century legend about Aisha Bibi and her fiancé, Karakhan, the Ruler of Karakhanid dynasty. Situating the narrative in modern day, Menlibayeva touches the universal impasses about unfulfilled yearning, unconditional love, and gender roles.
On the photograph the central female figure wrapped in red drapery is standing against the ornate wall of the Aisha Bibi Mausoleum. It is a significant monument for the whole of Central Asia. The mausoleum is among the very few surviving edifices epitomizing the pre-Mongol architecture of the region. The location of the mausoleum, Taraz is also noteworthy as it revives another chapter of the country’s history: the Great Silk Road. The silk drapery of the model can also be read as a reference to the important era of international trade and cultural transmission. In reviving and re-contextualizing ancient mythology into contemporaraneity, Menlibayeva reanimates the rich heritage lost in the ‘cultural reformation’ associated with the Soviet invasion.
Visually the photograph is equally grasping; the contrast of elaborate architecture and plain draping, of monochrome beige and exuberant red, and of strict compositional symmetry create an aesthetically pleasing image. Menlibayeva, up to date with current technological developments, produces an exquisite images of abundant colours with dense and multi-layered symbolic references. Often displaying her photographs as light-boxes, the works gain added luminosity and a stronger presence as a result.
Menlibayeva’s art is widely acknowledged, receiving attention from such institutions as MoMA, New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her artworks were also acquired by the Louis Vuitton collection. Menlibayeva was awarded the prestigious Kino Der Kunst award in 2013 for her Transoxiana Dreams (2011).
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