Assel Kadyrkhanova


I am a visual artist and researcher. My practice-led research looks at art as a medium of memory, with a specific focus on memory and trauma in post-Soviet Kazakhstan. As a postgeneration artist, I am interested in the question of inheritance and practices of secondary witnessing.

I use hand-embroidery, hand-drawn animation, photography, video and sound to create multi-layered artworks that explore various aspects of transgenerational memory and trauma.

Setting artmaking into dialogue with theories of collective memory and trauma, my research concerns the role of artistic practice in the formation and revision of cultural memory of traumatic events. As part of this research, I study (non-) memory of the Kazakh famine in 1930 – 1933, the result of the Soviet policies of collectivisation and sedentarisation. My hand-drawn animation film All the Dreams We Dream (made between 2017 and 2020) is an attempt to create an image for the imageless event to facilitate processes of mourning.

Scholarships and fellowships

  • CEC Artslink Fellowship, 2018
  • Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship, 2016
  • Bolashak International Scholarship of the President of Kazakhstan, 2009

Travel grants

  • 2019 – AHC Faculty Research Dissemination Grant, University of Leeds
  • 2018 – CESS International Travel Grant, Central Eurasian Studies Society, University of Pittsburgh


  • ‘The Endless Time After’, a chapter in Living Memory. Stalinism in Kazakhstan, edited by Zh. Abylkhozhin, M. Akulov, A. Tsai, Lanham: Lexington Books, 2021.

Conference papers

  • 2020 – Image, Sound, Absence, Silence. Paper presentation and film screening at Prisms of Silence, International symposium, Tallinn, Estonia Prisms of Silence.
  • 2019 – Film Screening + artist talk: All the Dreams We Dream: Dreams and Trauma in Kazakhstan, at Dreams and Atrocity Symposium, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
  • 2019 – Erased Memories of the Soviet Famine in Kazakhstan, presented at  Third Annual Memory Studies Association Conference, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain.
  • 2018 – 'Living through Spaces of Memory: Artistic Research on Historical Trauma in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan'. CESS 19th International Conference of Central Eurasian studies society, Pittsburgh University, USA, 2018.

Solo exhibitions

  • Windows of  Tolerance, Project Space, Leeds (UK), 2017
  • Self-Portrait with an Archetype, Ular gallery, Almaty (Kazakhstan), 2013

Recent group exhibitions and screenings

  • 2021 – Calvert Journal Film Festival, London 
  • 2019 – CITATION, within EARN (European Artistic Research Network) conference, University of Leeds, Leeds City Gallery Citation EARN
  • 2019 – Living Memory, City Museum of Almaty
  • 2018 – Postnomadic Mind, Wapping Project, London
  • 2018 – At the Corner: City, People, Places, Tselinny Centre for Contemporary art, Almaty
  • 2017 – Internal memory: Not enough space? Garage Museum of contemporary art, Moscow
  • 2017 – Suns and Neons above Kazakhstan, Yarat | Contemporary Art Space, Baku
  • 2017 – Protagonists: Invisible Pavilion of Kazakhstan, 56 Venice Biennial, Venice

Artist residencies

  • Artist-in-Residency, California College of the Arts, San Francisco (USA) within CEC Artslink Fellowship, 2018
  • The Eighth river, commissioned by the Committee Biosphere UNESCO Kazakhstan, Ile-Alatau National park, 2015

Summer schools

  • 'Memory in the Digital age: International summer school on Comparative Genocide studies'. Bergen-Belsen Memorial centre (Germany), 2017
  • Summer school on theories and practices of contemporary art, Tien-Shan astronomic observatory (Kazakhstan), 2013

Research interests

  • memory studies
  • trauma studies
  • embodied knowledge and phenomenology
  • semiotics
  • moving image
  • haptic practices and mimetism


  • MFA Newcastle Unversity, UK (2011)
  • MA Painting, Kazakh National Academy of Arts (2007)
  • Painting (BA) Kazakh National Academy of Arts (2005)