About the work

The steppe is a vast area of grassland and savannah stretching over 2200 km across Kazakhstan. It is perhaps the most significant feature in Kazakh nomadic culture. This seemingly endless landscape is where the nomads developed their philosophy, lifestyle, music and aesthetics. Located in the west of Kazakhstan the Aral Sea was once one of the world’s largest lakes.

Tolegen Batentayev and Katya Suvorova’s collaborative piece is inspired by the expansive landscapes of the Steppe and the Aral Sea. The artists imagine a solitary woman living in these boundless territories as the witness to its slow changes.  

For Tolegen, the woman lives on in photographs taken in the 1920s and in the timeless landscape of the steppe. Tolegen describes her character through surviving folkloric songs, an oral art which is the most authentic and important way of transmitting nomadic culture. For Katya the heroine remains faithful to the land observing and accepting yet another transformation of the landscape without intervening. This acceptance of nature is the philosophy that she shares with the nomads.

Tolegen and Katerina

Tolegen Batentayev was born to a family of musicians in 1984 in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. In 2005 he graduated from the Kazakh Leading Academy of Architecture and Civil Engineering and had a short course in interior design at Central Saint Martins in London and Domus Academy in Milan.

From 2009 until 2012, Tolegen was studying at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and gained a master’s degree in architecture. His graduation work Lookatheca: Community in Fashion was presented in the Academy’s showcase of its best projects.

In 2013 and 2014, Tolegen created architectural installations for the exhibition Art of You in Almaty. In April 2015, he presented his line of women’s clothing during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Almaty.

Katerina Suvorova was born in 1983 in the USSR and was raised in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where she received her art education. She studied live action cinema at the High Courses of Script Writers and Directors in Moscow and at the Werner Herzog’s Rouge Film School in Los Angeles. 

Katerina has made several documentary shorts, which were awarded by a number of international festivals. Her short documentary Two Bicycles (2006) has won the Critics Guild's Award at Kinoshok film festival in Russia. The next film «Spare stronghold» (2007) was awarded with the National Russian Premium St. Anna. «W» (2008) received the Special Prize from Robert Bosch Stiftung at the Kinoshok Film Festival in Russia. In 2010, the project SEA TOMORROW won the Co-Production Prize from the Robert Bosch Foundation at the GoEast Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany, and its production has started. Katerina was a cowriter and editor of the Julian Assange’s film Mediastan which was the Best Documentary at the Gothenburg Independent Film Festival 2014. 

At the moment, Katerina is launching the production of her new documentary ABOUT LIFE OF PLANETS dedicated to the abandoned observatory in the mountains of Almaty.