Art Installation ©

My installation "Philosopher and Hunger: Exiled Mikhail Bakhtin, Kazakhstan, 1930s" in the Cube of the Arts Centre at New York University Abu Dhabi is based on my three year-long research about Mikhail Bakhtin and the period of his life in exile in the 1930s, when Discourse in the Novel was created and, as many consider, the idea for his famous work about Rabelais crystallized. This world-famous philosopher had been in exile in the Kazakh city of Kustanay, the very city I am from.

The repressed Bakhtin by the Soviet authorities witnessed the mass famine caused by the enforced collectivization, which led to the cases of cannibalism and migrations of the Kazakh population to other regions of the Soviet Union, as well as China, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan. The Kazakhs suffered particularly heavy losses from this famine. Bakhtin managed to survive much thanks to his assigned work position of an accountant in the District Consumers' Union that gave him some bread on the table but limited his opportunities to engage in creative work. Bakhtin’s ambivalent position is connected to his forced adaptation to the dominant ideology, the need to be careful and make compromises while still managing to preserve his internal creative freedom and scientific dignity. The installation offers you to have a glimpse into the four unfree corners of Bakhtin and hunger for freedom, food, creativity and communication. You will hear the voice of Bakhtin remembering his exile in Kazakhstan and reciting the poem by Alexander Blok, which is full of hope.

When citing the materials below, please use this reference:

Balysheva, Anna. 2018. Art Installation. 'Philosopher and Hunger: Exiled Mikhail Bakhtin, Kazakhstan, 1930s.' Google Sites:

Special Thanks:

I wish to extend thanks and appreciation to everyone whom I personally met during my independent research, who helped me understand the personality of Mikhail Bakhtin and inspired to study his creativity: Judith Miller, Maurice Pomerantz, Robert Stam, Katerina Clark, Caryl Emerson, Leontina Melikhova, Vitaly Makhtin, Maria Kasyan (Bocharova), Galina Ponomareva, Elena Kozhinova, Marina Radzishevskaya, Dmitry Sporov, Ekaterina Seliverstova, Irina Popova, Svetlana Dubrovskaya, Karen Stepanian, Craig Brandist, Ken Hirschkop, and Galin Tihanov. The generosity of the following institutions and their employees made possible the research: Arkalyk Regional Archive with Alexander Gavrilov, Kostanay Regional Library of Tolstoy, Kostanay Local History Museum, Kostanay State Archive, the Bakhtin Centre at Ogarev Mordovia State University in Saransk, Non-Governmental Organization “Fund of Academician Saharov” in Moscow, the library at Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic University of Peter the Great, specifically its deputy director Victoria Lysenko, and the Bakhtin Centre at the University of Sheffield. I would also like to thank the residents of Kostanay city who kindly shared with their knowledge and memories: Arman Kozybayev, Samsa Baimagambetova, Ramil Safiulin and the Priest of Orthodox Church Andrey Krutin.

Many thanks to the Visual Arts team for their support in helping to produce this installation and making available Arts Centre resources: David Darts, Laura Schneider, Erin Meekhof, Daniel Osleeb, Judi Olson, Dustin Foster, Andrew Riedemann, John Bonner. I especially appreciate the contribution of Leo Sax who worked on sound design, as well as of Maruan Manaja, Neyva Hernandez, Luis Carlos Soto Ruíz, Kamilya Issaliyeva, João Menezes, Ahmed Hameed Khan Jadoon and Fadhl Eryani. Finally, heartfelt thanks to NYU Abu Dhabi for providing generous support for my summer research programs, international conference, and study abroad opportunities that allowed me to meet scholars from different countries.





Bakhtin's House:

Work. District Consumers Union:


Secret Police. Vcheka & OGPU:

Opening Night. March 6th, 2018: