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Illingworth, Shona (2007) Karlag. SPACE, Cornerhouse, and Asia Art, Arts Council England, British Council Film, 16 minutes, DVD.. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:45115)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


Karlag explores the elision between memory and history, and the traumatic impact processes of cultural and historical amnesia have on individual identity and experience, for populations whose lives remain suspended and without agency within dominant power structures that are focused on promoting new utopian futures. Filmed in the Karlag, a former GULAG in Northeast Kazakhstan, (a major Soviet prison camp of over 600 sq km) the film is set in this vast desert Steppe, with its open cast mines, pylons and former prison camps. Karlag draws on the conflicting experiences of former prisoners and guards of the prison camp, Dolinka, where, following the effective closure of the Gulag system, they still live side by side, as they have nowhere else to go.

Decaying remnants of this formidable system of forced-labour appear in the film, where amongst the fragile remains, the extraordinary scale of hardship, loss and human endurance is now almost invisible. The film moves continually through this landscape, where past trauma is bourne out and voiced through memory and visions: a sickness descending on people following the launch of a Soyuz TMA-9 space rocket from the Russian space station at Baikanur, 500 miles away; a tree lined city avenue, appearing like a mirage and leading nowhere, built through enforced hard labour by intellectuals in the middle of the Steppe; the now derelict central administration building, its windows sealed, its interior in darkness.

Item Type: Visual media
Additional information: Karlag was commissioned by SPACE, Cornerhouse, and Asia Art, and funded by Arts Council England and the British Council, for the Central Asian Project, an exhibition that toured to: SPACE, London, 17th February 2007 - 14th April 2007; Cornerhouse, Manchester, 9 Feb 2007 – 1 Apr 2007; Tengry Umai Gallery, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 2007; Center of Art-East Group, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 2007 and Tashkent Biennale of Contemporary Art, Uzbekistan, October 2008. A catalogue and DVD publication of the work was published by the commissioners. It was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art Bologna, Italy in 2006.
Subjects: N Visual Arts > N Visual arts (General). For photography, see TR
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Funders: Arts Council England (
British Council (
Depositing User: Shona Illingworth
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2014 17:37 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Illingworth, Shona:
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