Valley of Castles (Hunting Eagles)
Single channel video projection, with sound, 20 minutes, 2007
Made during a British Council residency in Kazakhstan, commissioned by Cornerhouse Manchester, SPACE, London and AsiaArt+ Almaty Kazakhstan, for the exhibition Central Asian Project.
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’. 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 Hollywoodesque 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.