Thursday, February 8, 2018

Kyrgyz Space Program: Creating the First Kyrgyz Satellite Ever & It Will be Built by Girls

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Leading online Kyrgyz media group, Kloop, staffed mainly with young, fearless Kyrgyz, is launching this exciting satellite project on 5 March.

If you have visited Kyrgyzstan, please consider supporting it. (Details below).
Even if you haven't visited Kyrgyzstan (yet) please consider a contribution to the project.

It is planned to build the satellite in the Kloop office in downtown Bishkek!

It will be the smallest and cheapest satellite possible - the so-called cubesat, the smallest class of satellites. The total budget for the construction and launch of such a satellite is about US$100,000 - US$150,000.

Girls who want to make a career in robotics, engineering, space exploration, the development of artificial intelligence and all other related fields, would have an excellent start if they participated in this project.

Why is this project only for girls? Kloop is tired of the discrimination and injustice women and girls face in Kyrgyzstan. It wants to create an environment in which a group of girls would truly create a story. And at the same time it would break all possible stereotypes and clichés, inspire other girls in Kyrgyzstan (and maybe the whole world) to fulfil their most fantastic dreams.

The program will begin with basic engineering skills, taught by the Kloop team. This team has already produced a drone and assembled a system for video broadcasts.

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 Most likely the satellite will look something like this
By mid-to-late 2018, Nano Avionics, a Lithuanian company that launched the first Lithuanian satellite, will take over the more complex training related directly to satellite construction. Nano Avionics produces cubesats.

What the satellite will do, will be determined  by the girls themselves during the course of the project. However, to keep costs low, it will not be too complicated.

The launch of the first satellite will greatly facilitate the launch of the second and subsequent satellites, which would be more complicated.

The satellite will be sent on a transport ship to the International Space Station, and from there launched into orbit. The cost of transporting the satellite is included in its budget.

How was this project born? Kloop co-founder Bektur Iskender met NASA employee Alex McDonald, who travels around the world inspiring people to create local, amateur space programs. Learning about Kloop Media projects, McDonald proposed launching a Kyrgyz space program. To Iskender it was too good a chance to pass up.

NASA does not provide funding, but helps Kloop with connections, advice and knowledge. For example, thanks to MacDonald, the Kloop team has already met with the Lithuanian satellite makers.

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How can you contribute to this inspiring project and help bright girls in one of the world's poorest countries?

There is a crowd funding program - it's in English and you can make a monthly commitment for as little as $2 per month. The crowd funding website also has more information about the project. Of course, please share this post on your social media networks.

Related posts: Skateistan Pushes For Girls' Empowerment in Afghanistan 
Kyrgyzstan: Social Entrepreneur Finds Foothold in Tien Shan Foothills
Kyrgyz Woman Singer Remakes Poem Traditionally Sung By Men
All-Woman Brewery Brings Craft Beer to Kyrgyzstan


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums

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Druzhba, a Constructivist masterpiece on the Crimean shore
that sparked rumours that a flying saucer had landed
Written by journalist Maryam Omidi, this brilliant book is the first to offer a comprehensive collection of photographs and text on Soviet-era sanatoriums from Armenia to Uzbekistan.

As author Omidi writes, "sanatoriums were originally conceived in the 1920s, and  afforded workers a place to holiday, courtesy of a state-funded voucher system.

At their peak they were visited by millions of citizens across the USSR every year. A combination of medical institution and spa, the era’s sanatoriums are among the most innovative buildings of their time.



Although aesthetically diverse, Soviet utopian values permeated every aspect: western holidays were perceived as decadent. By contrast, sanatorium breaks were intended to edify and strengthen visitors – health professionals carefully monitored guests throughout their stay, so they could return to work with renewed vigour. Certain sanatoriums became known for their specialist treatments, such as crude oil baths and radon water douches.

Visiting a Soviet-era sanatorium is like stepping back in time. Vestiges of another age linger all around — in fragments of decades-old wallpaper stubbornly clinging to walls, or colourful mosaics glorifying the Soviet worker.

Soviet-era sanatoriums are among the most innovative, and sometimes most ornamental, buildings of their time – from Kyrgyzstan’s Aurora, designed in the shape of a ship, to Druzhba, a Constructivist masterpiece on the Crimean shore that sparked rumours that a flying saucer had landed.

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Kyrgyzstan’s Aurora sanatorium, designed in the shape of a ship
Such buildings challenge the standard notion that architecture under communism was unsightly and drab.

Sprinkled across the post-Soviet landscape, they survive in varying states of decay, with relatively few still in operation. But at their peak, these sanatoriums were visited by millions of citizens across the USSR each year, courtesy of the state.

The 1922 Labour Code prescribed two weeks’ holiday a year for many workers and under Joseph Stalin the "right to rest" was enshrined in the 1936 constitution for all citizens of the USSR.

In line with Stalin’s First and Second Five-Year Plans, writes Johanna Geisler in The Soviet Sanatorium: Medicine, Nature and Mass Culture in Sochi, 1917–1991, rapid development of the industry meant that by 1939, 1,828 new sanatoriums with 239,000 beds had been built.

It was against this backdrop that the sanatorium holiday was born. A cross between medical institution and spa, the sanatorium formed an integral part of the Soviet political and social apparatus. They were designed in opposition to the decadence of European spa towns such as Baden-Baden or Karlovy Vary, as well as to the west’s bourgeois consumer practices. Every detail of sanatorium life, from architecture to entertainment, was intended to edify workers while encouraging communion with other guests and with nature.

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Ultraviolet light-emitting sterilization lamps are placed in the ear,
nose or throat to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi
Eligible individuals received putevki, or vouchers, to stay at particular sanatoriums for a specified period of time, either at subsidised rates or for free. In principle, industrial workers and those with medical conditions were granted priority, though in practice, the best accommodation usually went to those with money and connections.

Soviet holidaymakers would start with a visit to the resident doctor, who would draw up a tailor-made programme of callisthenics, dietary recommendations and treatments.

Traditional therapies such as mineral-water baths were offered alongside more innovative treatments such as electrotherapy. Some sanatoriums provided regional treatments such as grape therapy in Crimea or kumis (mare’s milk) in Central Asia, which is still offered at Jeti-Ögüz sanatorium in Kyrgyzstan today.

Olga Kazakova, director of the Institute of Modernism in Moscow, recalls how her parents were often less than enthusiastic about visiting sanatoriums. “[The] life of a Soviet citizen was regulated in so many ways and they did not want to live according to a timetable that expected them to march to the canteen with all the others. Moreover, since these holiday packages were distributed through work, chances were you would meet your colleagues at a sanatorium, something my parents were not so happy about.”

The withering of the Soviet Union in 1991 sounded the death knell for the industry, leaving many sanatoriums boarded up and abandoned. Prohibitive maintenance costs coupled with lack of interest in architectural conservation in much of the post-Soviet sphere have done little to change this situation. A number of the sanatoriums still in operation have fallen into disrepair, while others face an uncertain future.

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Tskaltubo, central Georgia. Frequented by the Soviet elite and linked
by a special train from Moscow
Despite these challenges, most sanatoriums have retained something of their medical heritage.

Speak to any sanatorium doctor today and the word prophylactic inevitably crops up, in a nod to Soviet medicine’s focus on preventative clinical work.

A stay at a sanatorium is still seen as both prevention and cure, with guests seeking treatment for a wide range of illnesses from arthritis to asthma".

Not surprisingly, little is known about sanatoriums outside the post-Soviet sphere.

Given the faint regard for their conservation, Omidi's book aims to introduce sanatorium culture to those to whom it is new, while highlighting the architectural gems of the Soviet era in the hope that they will be protected and restored for future generations.

On an Uzbek Journeys tour to Kyrgyzstan, you will see the famous Jeti-Ögüz sanatorium as well as stroll through the grounds of the Tamga sanatorium, training centre for Soviet cosmonauts and athletes. A visit to an outdoor bath in the mountains around Karakol is also included.

Below are some images from the book of treatments offered today, some of which are quite extraordinary.

Want to buy a copy of this marvellous book? The final image is the book cover with all the details.

Related posts:
Kyrgyzstan: Jety-Oguz and One-of-a-Kind Health Resort
Kyrgyzstan: Monumental Art in the Provinces (to view mosaic panels in Kyrgyz sanatoriums)
Kyrgyzstan's Bus Stops
Back in the USSR: Soviet Roadside Architecture 

ssoviet sanatoriums, central asian health treatments, uzbekistan art craft textile tours
Forget seaweed baths, it's all about crude oil at the sanatoriums in the Azerbaijani city of Naftalan. The so-called "miracle oil" is said to be excellent for skin and joint conditions
soviet sanatoriums, central asian health treatments, uzbekistan art craft textile tours
Salt room, Zaamin sanatorium, Uzbekistan
ssoviet sanatoriums, central asian health treatments, uzbekistan art craft textile tours
High frequency electrotherapy, good for blood pressure and circulation

ssoviet sanatoriums, central asian health treatments, uzbekistan art craft textile tours
A man resting by the radon water pool at Khoja Obi Garm sanatorium in Tajikistan
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Klyazma centre, built in 1963 near the Klyazminsky reservoir on the outskirts of Moscow

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Treat yourself to this marvellous book. ISBN: 978-0-9931911-9-0 Available at  online bookstores





Thursday, January 18, 2018

Robert Rauschenberg: Samarkand Stitches

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Robert Rauschenberg's Samarkand Stitches #3
Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) was an American painter and graphic artist whose early works anticipated the pop art movement. He is usually associated with the Neo-Dadist and Abstract-Expressionist movements.

Rauschenberg was both a painter and a sculptor, but he also worked with photography, printmaking, paper making, and performance. He is regarded as one of the greatest collagists ever.

He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993. He became the recipient of the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts in 1995 in recognition of his more than 40 years of fruitful art creation.

In 1984, Rauschenberg announced the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) at the United Nations.

This would culminate in a seven-year, ten-country tour to encourage "world peace and understanding", through Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Beijing, Tibet, Japan, Cuba, the Soviet Union, Berlin, and Malaysia. 

These were places that the artist considered underdeveloped and/or politically repressed. He believed in the importance of creating global, cultural dialogues and treated the tours as intense research trips, where he could expand his palette and gain further inspiration for his own practice.

In each country, he worked with local artisans to learn traditional artistic techniques and created multi-media works that were influenced by the respective local cultures and materials, and exhibited at local museums.

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Robert Rauschenberg's Samarkand Stitches #5
Paintings, often on reflective surfaces, as well as drawings, photographs, assemblages and other multimedia were produced, inspired by these surroundings, and these were considered some of his strongest works. 

The around-the-world art-making spree eventually culminated with a 1991 solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. consisting of more than 170 works.

These included large-scale paintings, sculptures and other art objects that were characterized by explosive, highly charged colors, and a lively textural quality. ROCI continues today as the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which supports collaboration and cultural exchange.

The Samarkand Stitches, produced after he visited the ancient Silk Road city, is a suite of wall hangings made from sewn fabric, printed with photographs then silkscreened.

The vibrant panels are as much a representation of Samarkand’s culture as an expression of Rauschenberg’s aesthetic. More images of Samarkand Stitches pieces are available at Gemini G.E.L. Graphic Editions.

In early 2017, the Tate Modern in London, in conjunction with MOMA, New York, organised the first full-scale retrospective since the artist’s death in 2008, celebrating Rauschenberg's six-decade long career.

If you wish to learn more about Rauschenberg's work, please view the excellent 5-minute video below, which was created for the Tate Modern exhibition. [ If the video image does not appear on your device, please go directly to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m98blDqBhk ]

Related posts:
The Fantasy World of Uzbek Textile Artist Dilyara Kaipova
Samarkand Painter Alexei Sherbakov
Tashkent Nostalgie - Eugene Panov's Exhibition, Tashkent
Uzbekistan: A Passion for Printing