Gulmira’ s Fairytales 2022

HD – 16×9 – Full colour – with sound Stereo 37’38 length

Red Yurt

In 2020, I was invited to participate in the research laboratory Space 1520, organised by Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, which focused on Soviet and post-Soviet colonialism. I was at this point already concerned with the issue of exploitation of women working in textile and fashion industries. During my research with Space 1520, I discovered Kyrgyzstan as a country with one of the largest textile industries, sewing the garments for export mainly to Russia. So, I travelled there and finally saw the conditions of seamstresses with my own eyes. This profoundly changed my view of reality.

The title of the exhibition at Framer Framed To those who have no time to play came from my visit to the house of the seamstress Rahat, where I was shocked by her living conditions and realised that all the words and questions that might fall from my mouth will be futile in this context. I had a myriad of reactions: feelings of confusion and guilt, combined with the urge to try and do something. I made an effort and asked her: What were you playing in your childhood? Rahat answered that she played with stones.

The protective distance for human beings from becoming robots comes through play and humour. But it turns out that the game itself is a luxury that cannot be afforded by people who are overworked and cannot take time to reflect or even read a bedtime book to their children. The neoliberal structure of the market places the responsibility of the working day on the individual, there is no control to limit the working hours as it was during the Soviet era, where seamstresses were coming in at 8 am and leaving at 5 pm. Seamstresses become like machines, filled with concern for producing as much as possible, since it is the amount of production that determines the amount of money they will be paid. They are regularly tortured by overworking, often through the night, until their bodies become full of pain. Let me share a fragment of an interview with seamstress Dinara:

Hard to recall good days. Every day is in a bad mood. You take a lot of work and work 18-20 hours at times to have it finished. Often, I work up until two or three in the morning. It is beneficial to the owner, inasmuch as his profits grow the more we work. Taxi expenses are taken from my pocket. And so, on almost every day. No time for recess. Theres a family to feed. It should be eight hours of work as a norm, but I have not ever even tried to. At a minimum it is 10 hours a day, but mostly 15-16 hours. It even happens to work 24 hours without sufficient sleep. After work I rush to lay down and sleep. On my day off I strive to replenish my energy sleeping.  

The title of this space Red Yurt references not only the controversial Soviet Likbez (“liquidation of illiteracy”) campaign among women in Central Asia, but also the sacrifice of the women oppressed by the new wave of patriarchal orthodoxy, which came along with the freedom of Kyrgyzstan from Soviet power.1 One example of this is in the tradition of bride-kidnapping, or Ala kachuu (meaning “to take a young woman and run away”). While the tradition was suppressed during Soviet rule, it has re-appeared in Kyrgyzstan’s search for a new/old identity after the collapse of the USSR.

A reflection and artistic digestion on this phenomenon of becoming the nation unfolds inside the Red Yurt in a video installation showing the performance of actress Gulmira Tursunbaeva, who plays the role of a TV host telling feminist fairy tales as the video cuts to scenes of dance and street performance. The stories in this film are based on my interviews with the Bishkek seamstresses, material from the human rights organisation Open Line and materials from the Moscow archive of female workers in the USSR. The dark clothes and puppets together with the curtain inside the structure reference the terrifying symbol of bride-kidnapping: koshogo, a sheet used as a screen behind which rape takes place, leading to forced marriages. Outside, the yurt is decorated by the outcome of my workshops with Felt Art Studio, Issyk Kul, which I have visited during my research in Kyrgyzstan in 2021. The felt paintings displayed at Framer Framed have been produced in collaboration with the studio, based on my sketches and through their felt production method. 

To speak of activism sounds confusing in this context of misery and despair, but I have approached my collaboration with the seamstresses in Kyrgyzstan as a way of processing the huge gap between us, and an attempt at building forms of support and sharing that might exist between myself and these women.

1 Szálkai, Kinga. “The Soviet Union as a ‘Feminist Colonialist?’ The Women’s Question in Early Soviet Central Asia.” Corvinus Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2019): pp. 4-14.

Antigone Update 2023

To those who have no time to play, soloshow, Framer Framed, Amsterdam, NL, curated by Charles Esche (2022-23)


The idea to create this performance in the context of the long-term project Matras Platform came to me after the start of the war in Ukraine. Since 2012 I was busy developing the concept of a theatre for migrants, where professional and nonprofessional actors might blend their energies to create a performance together. During the pandemic, I came to realise the necessity to call for collaborators living here in Amsterdam, and after my first meeting with Khalid Jone from We Are Here (a refugee action collective), the title came: Matras Platform. It derived from our sessions of writing questions on mattresses left out on the streets, directed to the city as an open environment for exploring a new way of communication. We started to meet regularly at my studio, talking on different topics, developing trust and trying to understand what kind of performance we should produce which might unite us despite gender, status and experience differences.
But 24 February 2022 changed everything. Following the outbreak of the war, I proposed to read the tragedy Antigone written by Sophocles. The core Matras Platform group accepted it, and we agreed that I would write the script to then be debated and developed from meeting to meeting. The trust necessary in this process was facilitated by amazing Marianne Koeman. The war also brought an old friend again: I started to correspond with composer Vladimir Rannev and proposed him to write music to our performance, introducing him to my dream of combining singing dresses and live performance together. Through our communication, we developed the structure of this multimedia installation combining soft- and hardware programming with the synchronization of sound and light.  
The choice to work with the classic play came largely as a result of thinking how to show the enormous gap between Europe and the rest of the world. Ancient Greek mythology is ruling the game here, penetrating our cultural environment with codes that only people who grew up with them can understand, leaving the newcomers outside the magic circle. Our sessions in studio became like a school of sharing and unlearning these codes together.
The first thing that struck me when I was reading Antigone in Russian was Antigone’s double attempt to bury her brother. My second thought was the realisation of the absence of enslaved people in the story, and another intriguing thing was the doubt of the sentry, who after capturing Antigone said, But here is what is very strange: I felt sadness coming over me,which showed his unsureness in what he had done. 
After reading several versions of Antigone, I was inspired mostly by Bonnie Honig Antigone Interrupted, who interestingly speculates around the topic of the double burial and the role of Ismene, Antigone’s sister.1 In my script, I dramatized the preposition that the sisters did the heroic deed together, highlighting the topic of a sororal politics, feminist sisterhood and the problems with self-organisation among women. The doubt of the sentry is emphasised in the performance by splitting the character between the singing dress on the stage and a live performance by Shepherd Camara. The general structure of Antigone Update remains from the classic tragedy, but with a twist of protagonists who sing from the stage and a chorus who speaks from our times.2

Carnival of the Oppressed Feelings 2017

Carnival of Opressed Feelings

Michail Bachtin [From Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics]

Carnival is a pageant without footlights and without a division into performers and spectators. In carnival everyone is an active participant, everyone communes in the carnival act… The laws, prohibitions, and restrictions that determine the structure and order of ordinary, that is noncarnival, life are suspended during carnival: what is suspended first is hierarchical structure and all the forms of terror, reverence, piety, and etiquette connected with it… or any other form of inequality among people

Carnival of Opressed Feelings happened in Amsterdam in October 2017 .The hybrid of the performance and political demonstration -it is the event summarizing the seria of the workshops and encounters with refuges living at formal prison Baijlmer Bajes. It connected different people together : students ,artists ,activists, academics, people of different ages ,believes and statuses.

COF started  from Bijlmer Bajes and finished at Dam square with several stops on the way.The stops where selected conceptually ,with the idea to tell refugees some alternative story about society or make a small performance. The storys was told by : Sari Akminas( (Journalist from Alepo),Khalid Jone (Activist,We are here),Ehsan Fardjadniya (artist ),Dilyara Valeeva, (Sociologist ,Uva) Erick Hagoort(curator, writer) and others and in the end Gluklya with Theo Tagelaers read the UUU Manifesto.


The structure of the performative body of Carnival is referring to the political demonstration  and consists of different parties.

1) Potato Eaters party 

2) Monsters party 

3) Language of Fragility party

4) Recycling prison party 

5) Spirits of history party


Carnival last 4 hours and brought together around 150 people.



The Moving Museum of Clothes – Multicilti 2014

How can participatory projects in the arts lead to the development of new creative methods and approaches to the local issues which at the same time have a global character?

In March of 2014 a new, unusual museum will open its doors in the Southeast of Amsterdam – The Moving Museum of Clothes. An international team of two curators and four artists together with the local citizens, will develop a special kind of (semi)public space where there is place for personal stories and secrets. It will be a museum of unexpected points of views, hopes, memories, disappointments, aspirations and a continuous search for a trustful environment.

Amsterdam Southeast (the Bijlmer) is known for its contradictory past and present. An embodiment of the belief in the coming Utopia, the perfectibility of human nature and the role of architecture as a weapon for social reform, the Bijlmer anno 2013 has to deal with the lack of sense of ownership of its residents in relation to their living environment and the lack of involvement in the life of the area and of the city. This is typical Bijlmer but also a typical suburb elsewhere: from Sao Paolo to Magadan.

Which possibilities can participatory projects in the arts create in order to engage citizens with their neighborhood and with each other? How can citizens of today become a meaningful and exciting part of a story of a contemporary city? The four participating artists work inter- and trans-disciplinary combining various media such as installation, performance, film, photography and text. Each of the artists has his own approach, strategies and tools which they apply in Amsterdam.

Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya) (NL/RF) sees clothing as a border between the interior world and the exterior social sphere. She is interested in clothing that performs an act of estrangement—in the sense explored by Brecht and Shklovsky. Through this act participants get a possibility to see things from a new and different perspective. Advocating  that «The personal is political» the artist aims to conduct confidential conversation with citizens. Clothing in this situation is a veil that allows to construct a framework for the action; it’s much easier to talk about our clothes than about ourselves.

Olga Jitlina (RF) tries not only to describe or protest the tragic situations in which history, government and people’s own passivity put them but to make attempts to find the ways out with tools like humour, paradoxical interpretations and imagination. In the Bijlmer Jitlina plans to search for the new forms of being and working together which suppose to substitute the old forms which belong to the ‘fordisctic’ society.

The work of Jan Hoek (NL) is often about suppositions: how do people look at black and white, rich and poor, locals and foreigners. In the framework of The Moving Museum Hoek will collaborate with the citizens of the Bijlmer who are not always visible in the city, also not in their direct environment. Both the artist and the citizens will become makers while both parties have (and will continue having) different expectations of the involvement in the artistic process. The documentation of the process is in this case as important as the final result.

Masha Ru (NL/RF) researches various aspects of cultural backgrounds of contemporary citizens. For The Moving Museum Ru will put an emphasis on the interaction between the personal and national identity in relation to the choice of clothes by different participants for different situations in their lives. The stories and experiences of citizens will form a basis for the development of themes en techniques in Ru’s project.

The Moving Museum of Clothes is at this moment actively in development. In March of 2014 it will be possible to speak specifically about the research findings and project results. Which models of participatory practice give citizens a possibility to contribute to the project in a meaningful way? What kind of impact do participatory practices have on the territory of art, social work,  politics and others in the neighborhood, in the city, nationally and internationally?

Irina Leifer, curator The Moving Museum of Clothes

Niki Lischow, curator The Moving Museum of Clothes

Irina Leifer is an initiator, researcher, producer, curator and regularly guest lecturer at the Reinwardt Academy (Amsterdam School of the Arts). Leifer conceptualizes, develops and realizes participatory projects in partnerships with cultural organisations such as museums and community centres, and in public space. Irina Leifer works in the Netherlands and internationally: functioning in a broader context she is able to experience and analyse how various participatory strategies work (or don’t work) in different cultural and social environments and to enrich projects in one country with the observations and conclusions made in another one. Examples of Leifer’s recent projects are collaborative Russian-Dutch project ‘Museums in New Towns: identity, image and participatory culture’ (Nakhodka-Zoetermeer) and ‘The Moving Museum of Clothes’ (Amsterdam).

Niki Lischow is an initiator, producer, curator and researcher. She is specialised in initiating and realising contemporary art projects in non-museum environments. The focus of her work is directed towards minority communities, often combined with Middle Eastern artists and audiences. Lischow works both in the Netherlands and internationally, where she uncovers relationships and builds new partnerships. Co-creation plays an important role in all her projects and her practical approach leads to long-lasting relationships with both artists and visitors. Niki Lischow’s projects include ‘Al Quds Underground Festival’(Jerusalem), ‘Live and work in Palestine’ (Berlin Biennale) and ‘The Moving Museum of Clothes’ (Amsterdam).

Inspired by Natalie Pershina | Copyright © 2018