Cosmonauts & Cotton Pickers – Soviet Central Asian Mosaics and the use of public art as propaganda – Chris Alexander
This lecture explores the birth of the Soviet mosaic from its roots in Islamic mosaics and Communist propagandist posters through to the question of preservation in post-Soviet Central Asia.
We explore why Soviet thinking was so keen to bring art out of galleries and into public spaces, and how, in an era when Socialist Realism was the only permitted artistic expression, every public artwork came with a message, a value and an agenda.
How did Soviet artists deal with the uncomfortable reality that Muslim Central Asia was a Russian colonial conquest?
In what ways were gender, race, work, leisure and achievement important when it came to shaping Central Asians’ ideas of their own identity within the wider Soviet family, and what agency did Central Asians have in portraying themselves in art?
Image above: Former furniture factory Gantiadi. Kindzmaraulis kutscha 5
Chris was born in Turkey and spent his childhood there and in war-torn Beirut. After school, Chris spent two years at sea before studying Media and Journalism at Leicester University. He then moved to Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan, establishing a UNESCO workshop reviving fifteenth century carpet designs and embroideries, and becoming the largest non-government employer in town.
After a year in the UK writing A Carpet Ride to Khiva, he moved to the Pamirs in Tajikistan, training yak herders to comb their yaks for their cashmere-like down, spending three years there. Next came two years in Kyrgyzstan living in the world’s largest natural walnut forest and establishing a wood-carving workshop.
Chris has recently finished rowing and studying at Oxford and survived his curacy at St. Barnabas in North Finchley, but is now taking two years out to focus on writing fiction, with several novels published and more on the way. He also lectures for The Art Society and leads tours to Central Asia to pay the bills. He is missing a large chunk of his heart which will forever remain in the-stans.
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