Artwork Details

  • Artist Almagul Menlibayeva
  • Title Kurchatov 22
  • Date 2012
  • Medium Five-Channel video installation, surround sound
  • Duration 29 minutes, 14 seconds
Kurchatov 22 Image


Kurchatov 22, a five-channel video installation with surround sound, was shot in the heartland of the former 'Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union', formally known to insiders by its code name Kurchatov 22 (or Moscow 400, Bereg, Semipalatinsk-21, Stanciya Konechnaya), a secret territory with the size 18,500 square kilometers in the North West of Kazakhstan, established under the strict control of Joseph Stalin and L. (Lavrenti) Beria in 1948.
During a period of 40 years, this place was an experimental field for military and scientific research with 456 above ground and below ground nuclear tests (in total, 2500 times more powerful than were dropped on Hiroshima). In addition to the nuclear bombs, about 600 thermonuclear and dozens of hydrodynamic and hydro nuclear devices were also tested at this site over time. These nuclear tests were experiments, not only affecting the environment, plants and animals, but included deliberately the local population, mainly indigenous Kazakhs and unknowing Soviet workers who were cohabitating in the area of Kurchatov 22.

This video installation combines, historical facts and footage and current eyewitness reports in form of interviews, of a population still living at the site of this ‘colonial experiment’ of a totalitarian past with contemporary props, models and actresses and their staged performances woven into a visual concept of a present day reality and collective memory. The work investigates memory as a collective living organism, the Egregore of a community and cultural society, and its deep psychological impact on the formation of the political and social developments in the post-Soviet era and its physical space.


Kurchatov 22

Menlibayeva, Almagul

Almagul Menlibayeva is a contemporary artist and photographer who works simultaneously in painting, graphic art, performances, installations and videos.