Valley of Castles, single channel video projection, with sound, 20 minutes, 2007; first exhibited in Central Asian Project, at Cornerhouse, Manchester, and at SPACE, London, 2007. Also screened at NYUFF 2007, and toured to Tengri Umai Gallery in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and to the Tashkent Biennale of Contemporary Art, Uzbekistan, in October 2007.
Valley of Castles (Hunting Eagles) follows the artist’s journey to the village of Nura in South-eastern Kazakhstan to film traditional Kazakh eagle hunters. After the journey, against a dramatic landscape of snow-capped mountains, the film moves into a different register as the hunter sets the golden eagle free over an empty canyon. The eagle carries a miniature camera and films its own participation in the ancient Kazakh ritual, dating back to nomadic times and the practice of ‘hunting-magic’. On this hunt the eagle sends back an image of its own trajectory, and of the world beneath him.
The film captures the hunter’s relationship of trust with his bird. At the same time, the idea of an authentic experience, and authentic view of Kazakh culture, is challenged by the presence of countless cameras and the Hollywood performance by the handler. There is a suspicion of a charade being put on for the Western filmmaker. Although who is performing for whom, and who is in control, is open to question. This work explores the invention and performance of cultural identity, and the projection of expectations on to people, and on to the cinematic image itself.