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Bahar Behbahani Art - Ride the Caspian
Ride the Caspian
Bahar Behbahani and Almagul Menlibayeva, 2011
Two-channel, HD video, Time: 12:46


dot_clear Almagul Menlibayeva (Kazakhstan) and Bahar Behbahani (Iran/USA) present Ride the Caspian (2011) a two-channel video installation that creates a dialogue between Kazakhstan and Iran, two cultures situated at the crossroads of the Middle East and Central Asia, adjacent to one another and bound by the Caspian Sea.

Menlibayeva's and Behbahani's collaborative project explores a contemporary relationship between two ancient cultures—featuring both the nomadic pagan traditions of the Turkic/Kazakh tribes, apparent in the post-soviet environment of Kazakhstan, and the wide reaching Persian traditions of a settled people with a complex authoritarian structure, located in the territory of Muslim Iran.

Deliberate conceptual and aesthetic juxtapositions are elemental to the work. Vistas of oil wells dotting the vast arid Kazakh Steppes appear side by side with views of a plein-air salon—two formal chairs and a pedestal with flowers atop a traditional Turkmen carpet—on the shore of the Caspian Sea. In these richly contrasting environments, contemplative scenarios aesthetically reminiscent of the traditional Persian miniature style unfold in opposition to the dramatic performance of a mysterious fertility ritual. In one scene, two officials dressed in western clothing sitting by the sea seem to gaze with mild interest at a fur-wrapped stiletto-heeled female creature whose seductive gestures at once mime and defy the steady movement of the oil pumps that surround her. At odds with her raw eroticism are women wearing headscarves and dancing with mannerist doll-like movements. With these and other poignant contradictions, Ride the Caspian presents a suite of provocative double-entendres that cross cultural and political borders.


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