Eluding Capture: Rising light at Mass MoCA — #berkshireweekend

Their surfaces are layered like sand in the wind. Banners are flying as bright as the stone in canyon country sculpted by time.

On a sunlit afternoon, I walked into the labyrinth of Eluding Capture, the newest exhibit at Mass MoCA. Gulnur Mukazhanova, a Berlin-based artist, is telling stories in traditions of cloth from her native Kazakhstan.

Cloth takes on shapes here like the wool that forms the walls of a ger, like the wool pounded and carried by galloping horses. As I was talking with the docent in the gallery, we saw mycelium in her tapestries, something fibrous and alive, and the palimpsest of a manuscript or the walls of an ancient building, something shaped by active minds.

Up on this top floor of the old mill, she and two fellow artists are exploring ideas of belonging in Central Asia, in the changing landscape now often called Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Filmmaker Saodat Ismailova, born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, draws on the writings of Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi, Persian philosopher in the 12th century in Eluding Capture at Mass MoCA. Press photo courtesy of the museum
Saodat Ismailova

Filmmaker Saodat Ismailova, born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, draws on the writings of Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi, Persian philosopher in the 12th century in Eluding Capture at Mass MoCA. Press photo courtesy of the museum

Universes co-exist and interweave, says filmmaker Saodat Ismailova, born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She describes a meeting of 18,000 worlds — drawing on the writings of Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi, Persian philosopher in the 12th century, from his Garden of the Heart.

In her images, his ideas may encompass quantum physics, the natural world, the nature of time, and people preserving culture and tradition in a constantly changing landscape. And their meeting points are as real as a horse’s flank or a friend’s hand.

‘I live in one of the 18,000 worlds,’ she says and her voice plays with images of people in the city, in the hills, in what the museum describes as a Zoroastrian sacred space centuries old. ‘Will I disappear along with it? … Those who tried to erase and take away didn’t know that we were watching from 18,000 eyes.’


Kazakh-Korean artist Alexander Ugay takes photogrpahs with a pinhold camera along his country’s borders in Eluding Capture at Mass MoCA. Press photo courtesy of the museum

In the room beside hers, Kazakh-Korean artist Alexander Ugay has set up his own film to illuminate images and sculpture in its light.

The morning I came, the film was not running, briefly, and the room was dark, lit only by a few overhead bulbs like phosphorescence on a cave wall. In a way the experience may have become even more rare. One or two visitors and I explored with flashlights (as our guide said we could).

Ugay’s images took form out of the darkness. He took photographs along with borders of his country with a pinhole camera. They glimmered along the walls in a space I could hardly see, even when my eyes adjusted, and I wondered. Maybe walking in that quiet room felt more like his experiences in those liminal places. Like walking in the dark, with a sky full of stars.

Gulnur Mukazhanova, a Berlin-based artist, shows fiber art inspired by her native Kazakhstan, in Eluding Capture at Mass MoCA. Press photo by Kate Abbott, courtesy of the museum
Gulnur Mukazhanova

Gulnur Mukazhanova, a Berlin-based artist, shows fiber art inspired by her native Kazakhstan, in Eluding Capture at Mass MoCA. Press photo by Kate Abbott, courtesy of the museum


Filmmaker Saodat Ismailova, born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, draws on the writings of Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi, Persian philosopher in the 12th century in Eluding Capture at Mass MoCA. Press photo courtesy of the museum
Saodat Ismailova

Filmmaker Saodat Ismailova, born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, draws on the writings of Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi, Persian philosopher in the 12th century in Eluding Capture at Mass MoCA. Press photo courtesy of the museum

More events coming up …

Forsythia opens on a sunny afternoon in April.
Apr 13 2024 @ 10:00 am
In this hands-on workshop, Marsha Edell teaches the steps for creating four unique, waterproof, botanical-themed ceramic tile coasters.
Hashimoto Okiie, Young Girl with Iris, 1952. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute
Apr 13 2024 @ 11:15 am
A Clark educator will lead a tour of the permanent collection galleries to talk about the Institute's history and work.
Fom the sculpture on the pathway up Stone Hill, the fields stretch away with a view to the mountains.
Apr 15 2024 @ 1:00 pm
People living with dementia and their care-partners can join the museum on select Mondays for open-ended conversations about art.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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