Queering Soviet, Creolizing National

Ruth Jenrbekova

The conference’s title closely corresponds to what I’ve been doing as a Russian-speaking trans artist living in Kazakhstan (and studying arts in Vienna). My experience of inner exile may look peculiar, but I am convinced that it must be similar to various ‘quasi-diasporic’ situations around the globe, which gives a distinctive cosmopolitical flavor to my thoughts.

My interest concerns possible correlations between augmenting migration and socalled ‘gender revolution’, increasingly bringing feminist and queer issues into public discussion. Post-soviet countries are involved in it full scale. Due to its intense colonization and rapid modernization within the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan now occupies an ambiguous in-between place on a map of world cultures, with its inconsistent social undercurrents, soviet ghosts and emergent queer communities (mostly closeted, but not thoroughly), trying to figure out their agenda in the face of authoritative state patriarchy. I’d like to illustrate these contradictions with some artistic productions, mentioning inter alia an imaginary art-institution named “Creolex Cultural Centr”, that was created by me and my partner Maria Vilkovisky in Almaty several years ago. Understanding modernity as an epoch of creolization, “Creolex centr” responds to the challenge of ‘national identity search’ from the perspective of specific type of post-soviet creoleness. We draw our inspiration, particularly, from Edouard Glissant’s writings, in which this concept (originally Carribean) is intrinsically linked to the notions of errantry and exile. In this vision art, being a ‘test site’ for nascent and unfamiliar forms of life, becomes a vehicle for all the excluded to achieve recognition and acceptance.