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Journeys of perception Alter/Native realities of modern Mongolia Invasion Letter to East Turkestan Dodeskaden Women & ways Old airport: my personal homeland Maïdyñ ïisin shyğаru Tasting ethnic politics along roadsides Nomadtitude Speed bump Identifying a leader Epic failure Anthropology & Art Catalog Trail A dream in Shambala Way to Rome
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Trail Epic failure A dream of Shambala Journeys of perception Dodeskaden Old airport: my personal homeland Alter/Native realities of modern Mongolia Tasting ethnic politics along roadsides The way to Rome Identifying a leader Nomadtitude Maïdyñ ïisin shyğаru Speed bump Letter to East Turkestan Catalog Anthropology & Art Invasion Women & ways

Epic Failure 1

Mukaddas Mijit:
A crumbling giant mural portrait of the legendary Chinggiz Aytmatov and a minuscule dancing body on the southern shore of Issyk-Kul. The dancer searches for words for her elegy: spinning, raising, stretching, stepping right and left, looking up and down, running, sitting—all these movements only to assemble a phrase to express the grief and the loss.

Just like a ballerina trapped in a music box, the “Uyghur dancing body” is trapped in an infinite world, right outside of “Home.” This is nothing but a wordless lamentation, in an empty park in front of Chinggiz Aytomatov’s slowly vanishing portrait.

Lisa Ross:
A colossal mural painting with a gold, gaudy frame is itself framed by nature— a still sky and rippling waters. In the painting, a mountain is the background to an arm, hand and fingers raised high, appearing to wave out to an audience. The painting’s canvas is in a state of decay; the face is torn and blowing in the wind. The eye appears and disappears as it flaps in space.

Mukaddas moves gracefully, her arms forming a multitude of arabesques. Her hands turn and fingers bend. She spins, folds, and bows. Her back arches followed by the roll of her arms. The pitch of the music is playful and sorrowful. The oversized face in the mural dwarves her body. When she steps beyond the boundary of the mural, the sea and the sky surround her, shifting the focus from the man-made to a dialogue with nature.

Epic Failure 2

Mukaddas Mijit:
“Why am I here?”
“Why am I in someone else’s Epic Story?”
“Where is my tale?”
“Where are my heroes?”
“Where is my home?” ….

Lisa Ross:
The establishing shot shows the mild hypnotic waves of Ysyk-Köl Lake with a fallen decorative iron fence in the foreground. At the edge of the water is the deserted Aalam Ordo Park. The next scene is a tale told by a Mukaddas who charts the boundaries of bare bleachers. The seats have become the stage set for this performance.

Within a tightly framed minimalist backdrop of black and gray, the sound of gentle waves echo in the calm and grace of the dance. Over time there is a shift, and a dialogue with the space itself unfolds. Mukaddas walks rapidly and repeatedly across the grid of sun bleached granite tiles. She lies down on a step in the mottled scenery of decay; rolling her body onto the next step and the next, she merges with the stone. Her legs fold and collapse beneath her body and a toil ensues. Her sneakers cannot find traction and there is a loss of control.

Wild green weeds shoot out of gaps and cracks, bursting like wiry bouquets left to commemorate the forgotten.

In closing, the view is widened; we see that the stage is set in front of six concrete yurts connected by walls that present a fort-like barrier. Behind the yurts are layers of mountain ranges. We are left to see the deteriorating arena.

Epic Failure 3

Mukaddas Mijit:
The body of the dancer, trapped outside of “Home,” wishes to explore foreign spaces, wishes to heal. Could this be an opportunity to learn a new poetry? Has the time come for her to sing in another language, to be in another place and time?

Benevolent manaschi Saiakbai Karalaev watches her moves over the top of the nearby mountains. The “Uyghur dancing body” tries to imitate the Kyrgyz storyteller without success. The “Uyghur dancing body” tries to remember her own language, her own story, her own dance moves. She turns, runs, tries to escape from her open-air cell. Exhausted, she finds herself on the ground of the empty space.

Thus, trying to tell someone else’s Epic Story fails.

Six Meters of Etles

Mukaddas Mijit:
Until just a few years ago, the world was unaware of Uyghur suffering. Uyghur voices were silenced day after day, their existence reduced to nothing. The more the Uyghurs suffered silently, the more the world ignored them.

In 2018, among the countless atrocities committed against the Uyghur people, Lisa Ross and I were deeply concerned about the disappearance of many talented artists, intellectuals, and scholars living in the Uyghur region.

In the Uyghur funeral tradition, 6 meters of tissue is the length of material used to wrap the body of the deceased. Wrapping up a living body on a public space symbolises a silent cry for the suffering of innocent souls and an endangered culture.

Turpan Murals

Lisa Ross:
This video work was originally intended as a test for a future installation. In it, Mijit interacts with hanging vertical scrolls, as she mirrors movements and behaviors of the figures in the images. The two-sided banners are installed to create a landscape of paintings to be navigated by the viewer. The images in the banners are sections of paintings from propaganda murals Ross photographed in Turpan, a city in the Uyghur Region of China, 2011. Ross chose to deconstruct the murals, skewing their original intent by slicing the horizontal murals into vertical sections, changing the way the images are read. The original propaganda murals seemed absurd in their intent to direct and control daily behaviors giving unsolicited advice for living and working under state control. The murals were painted on the mud brick walls of traditional Uyghur homes on a long village street.

As an installation, viewers are intended to weave through the hanging landscape, finding themselves up close, bumping into the banners while physically interacting with the deconstructed imagery. The original propaganda murals are rife with a heavy handed colonial intention and content. They have a childlike quality that can easily be read as condescending. And yet, in retrospect, looking at them from a lens of 2021, the murals are almost utopic in vision as their intention is not to erase Uyghurs and their culture, but to direct, shape and modernize as Uyghurs were permitted to maintain their own language, culture and lives within colonial China’s communist regime.

Do you know that I am with you?

Mukaddas Mijit:
Perhat Tursun is a famous Uyghur writer, poet, and teacher who vanished into Chinese prison in 2018. His poem “Elegy” is a strong testament to centuries of Uyghur suffering.

“Do You Know That I Am With You” is Perhat Tursun’s voice and this video work’s call to action.

Epic failure

Lisa Ross, Mukaddas Mijit

Mukaddas Mijit was born in Urumchi, capital of the Uyghur homeland. She is an ethnomusicologist, filmmaker, danseur and music manager.

In 2003 she went to Paris to study classical music, where a realization about the general non-visibility of Uyghur culture made her decide to study ethnomusicology to enable her to promote her own culture. In 2015, she obtained a PhD in ethnomusicology, researching “Staging of Uyghur Dance and Music”.

Lisa Ross is a photographer, video artist and educator living in New York City. Ross’s work revolves around the liminal spaces in which faith, culture and abstraction meet. Her immersive landscapes and early black-and-white work explore the skin of the land. In doing so, she reveals the texture of culture and, in time, the political realities inextricably bound to place.

Meanwhile, her portraiture has sought to capture intimacy, and touches on issues of identity, gender and belonging.

Ross also investigates physical manifestations of faith, with journeys to the Sahara and Sinai leading to an ongoing body of work exploring pilgrimage. In recent pieces, Ross has made repeated visits in and around the Taklamakan Desert – visiting sites of Uyghur shrines. These handmade markers of faith leave an indelible mark on the landscape – touching on cycles of life and death, pilgrimage and sainthood. They are an affirmation of existence, reflecting a collective experience that is overpowering in its very humility. The resulting large-scale photo and video works have been exhibited internationally, and refer to the site-specific traditions of land artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, evoking the existence and awe-inspiring power of landscape. The series culminated in the book Living Shrines of Uyghur China, published by the Monacelli Press and distributed internationally by Random House.