ISLAND.ABDUCTION / TERRA FIRMA. RESTITUTION
mixed media installation
Based on a research approach the project "Island abduction. Terra Firma restitution" aims to trace the repercussions of two fundamental myths of geographical Europe: that of a failed future utopia, manifested in the communist project, and that of deformed past represented by antiquity where the western project grounds its roots and which it falsely bleaches despite its polychromy.
Both built on various forms of colonialism, violence, distortion of the narrative and the economy of extraction, they expose through my research an examination of the ways these foundations and mistakes influence the power structures and the discourses up until today.
Unfolding upon two extremities of the geographical Europe - that of marble quarries of the Paros island, on one end, and the lands of permafrost in the Vorkuta area, on another, this research, already started in 2021 during my first expeditions to the sites, aims simultaneously to define itself during the residency and through interaction with the public within the final exhibition, and at the same time aspires to become a basis for a script of a documentary film in two chapters.
In the time of crisis and considering my own fractured identity (Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian), my endeavor is to take a distance to the the actual media flow in order to discover other ways of historiography.
ISLAND.ABDUCTION / TERRA FIRMA. RESTITUTION
description and references
Terra firma. Restitution.
In the second chapter mode by force of chronology of the presentation, or rather as a face-to-face, a double or even a rhyme with the first project, Island. Abduction, the Terra firma.Restitution observes not the myth on sources and roots through discourses around and of the stone, but rather that on visions of the future: by addressing the discourse around and of another hyperobject, to take up the notion of Timothy Morton in his dark ecology, — permafrost.
The two research-creation and film-environment projects place each other in a chronotopic context made up of the history of colonizations, material and ideological, as well as the exploitation of natural resources, and both territories on two ends of geocultural Europe: the marble quarries of the island of Paros in Greece and the ruins of the ghost town Rudnik, former coal mining settlement of the Gulag system, in the Komis Republic. From the image of White Antiquity as the canonical version of the past of European identity to the imagery of a radiant future invented by the communist utopian narrative, each of my two projects looks towards the Age d’or, whether in the past or in the future, to find there the achronism of a stone - due to the lack of incapacity and the limits of vision or thanks to the intensity and heterogeneity of the layers which separate or well entangle the gaze and its aims.
For the second part, I am proposing a film-installation-environment project exploring the myth of the promise of a social utopia which was widely deployed in the “extreme north” region of the Soviet Union, or even - around the easternmost point of Europe - in Vorkuta. “The pearl of the North”, according to the propaganda of the time, the dream city and its satellite towns with neoclassical architecture to support the ideological image, from the Palaces of Culture to the Corinthian columns in the middle of the tundra - and today in ruins, not even completely ruined, because still several cities which disappear are inhabited, sometimes by a family for a district. Time suspended.
The twilight that passes without ending. I would like to explore the myth, whose ghosts are not only cities and ruins, but also the resentment, the unease, ghosts that haunt generations deafened by the collapse of this myth, by the loss of vision from the future. It is about addressing this issue from a broader perspective, not exclusively linked to the post-Soviet space, but in general to the chronotopia of a society built on oppression as its foundation.
Hyperobject and its discourses
For such an approach I would like to develop a storytelling between a documentary, a science fiction and a session of divination through the figure of permafrost - vechnaya merzlota, eternal cold in Russian - in the "extreme north" region, 150 km away north of the Polar Circle, in the Pechora mining basin, my first meeting with which during an artistic research expedition took place in 2021, through multiple exchanges with Alexander Vasilievich Kalmykov, ethnographer, geologist and former president of the regional department of Memoiral, a company which dealt with the memory of state crimes in the Gulag for three decades until its liquidation by the government on December 31, 2021. I saw with my own eyes distorted lands of the region, these surfaces in waves, in small hills covered with moss. An elusive morphism: are these hills silhouettes of permafrost, or neglected graves of prisoners?
A limb, permafrost is a fluctuating, unstable entity, it deforms local infrastructure and represents a deep global anxiety, dangerous for humans and threatened by them. This land retains traces of the past, dead remains of mammoths, grasses and pathogens, but also dormant remains locked in ice - bacteria and viruses that can reanimate. A perpetual suspension, it contains both the most distant past, relics of the last glacier, but also an epitome of the future: metamorphosis into water.
Like Tarkovsky's Solaris, based on the book by Stanisław Lem, it explores the ghosts of society's troubled psyche through contact with a non-human entity.
The types of images and moving images that I’d like to develop include video, 3D simulations, photographs, object documents, the main one being data from geocryological surveys, including analysis of vegetation and measurements of underground temperature, and the geophysical method of electrical resistivity tomography. I also envisage meetings and speeches coming from human actors, planned as well as haphazard, as my previous experience has shown me. I always keep Whatsups from people with whom I had the chance to exchange during the two months of my life in the region and I know well that their stories also contain relics as well as forecasts. Reflecting on the sound of the film and the installation, I find it very important and I aspire to be able to make sound recordings of the contacts, mixing them with everyday, scientific, mythical stories. I am very open to collaborations with other artists who work with sound.
In Théophile Gautier in 1852 we read: “In the pediment of an ancient temple, Two blocks of marble, three thousand years old, On the blue background of the Attic sky, Juxtaposed their white dreams”. Or on www.meubliz.com in 2023: “Paros marble is one of the most beautiful white marbles, remarkable for its purity”.
A piece of romantic verse by a great poet or an aberration of history rooted in the free imagination? A simple piece of advertisement or a communication event in which we can read the fragment of a myth? From high-end poetry to banal copywriting, the myth is codified, multiplied, dispersed, becoming an infected and contagious word rather than an epic text.
I am interested in exploring it, more precisely not through communicative discourse, but through the research of multiple discourses, which arise from practices, routines, gestures, environments - and in transforming hybrid data collected during the research in a film-environment-installation.
It is an exploration of a colonial myth of white antiquity versus the reality of the vibrant polychromy of ancient Greek statues and architecture. Although the irremediable error codified in the cultural canon and propagated through the identity politics of the Western paradigm has recently begun to be acknowledged, there are not many research or art projects that consider it.
To study the problem, I aspire to carry out a double research approach: the search for sources available to me in the analog as well as digital archives, for example in the Conservation Department of the Restoration Service of the Acropolis and the School of Chemical Engineering of the National Technical University, in order to understand history and science in the face of the existing state of research. I then wish to carry out field research in the marble quarries of the island of Paros, in order to reread the historic site in its contemporary state.
Thus, this project has a dual vocation as a process: a research-creation approach and a hybrid film project on the edge of a multi-channel docu-fiction video essay and a device activating documents through the encounter with the viewer. With the aim of observing the myth in the past and grasping its repercussions today, its everyday fabric as well as what is not discernible by the human senses, between the virtuality of its dreams and the materiality of its objects , I would like to address not only human actors, but also non-humans: with regard to machines in the manner of the operational images of Harun Farocki, or to the sensitivities of the stones themselves, as in the non-anthropocentric approach of Pierre Huyghe, and historical speculation like Laurent Grasso.
The sites and their speech
I take this land, the marble quarries of the island of Paros, as a source site of the myth of White Greece, of the ideal of purity and beauty appropriated by Western culture, but also as a site colonized and whitewashed - manifested in the founding discourse of European identity. It is here, according to Pliny in his Natural History, that the sculptors of his time used marble, called lychnite (from the ancient Greek λύχνος, lúkhnos (“lamp”), related to λευκός, leukós (“luminous, white” ), in Latin lux (“light”) – “because the quarries being underground, we were obliged to have lamps to illuminate ourselves in these dark places”.
It was here that during the 19th century archaeologists, merchants, soldiers and poets began to romanticize and propagate the false, whitewashed - pure - version of history where there existed the "barbarism" of sacred and omnipresent polychromy; it is here still today, on the "periphery of Europe", that marble is extracted in industrial quantities to supply the luxury markets with the most exclusive decorations of the interior of kitchens and bathrooms. It is here that the scales are disrupted: the tiny human bodies facing the gigantic rock staircases, an imagery of the abundance of the Earth's body - the disappointing and, in the limit, horrifying imagery: not of a landscape of the horizon, but of an outline of the abyss.
As an echo of this filming site there will be off-site activities: a marble cutting company, a craftsman's workshop making plaster copies, a restoration and research laboratory for antique pieces.
In these contexts I aim to produce different types of images or even different discourses using specific optical tools. The first is a documentary portrait of one of the workers, his working days, his thoughts around the industry, his experience of stone - and his body in relation to the quarries. This discourse between video-anthropological research and a POV - point of view - is filmed by the protagonist with a smartphone. Second type: operational images, to use Farocki's notion - i.e. images made by surveillance machines on the marble sawing and machining site. Third type of images: hyperspectral imaging of the quarry - ultraviolet and infrared mappings of the marble surfaces, methods introduced in the research of polychromy by one of its pioneers, Professor Volkmar von Graeve, in the 1980s. I aim to translate these mappings into 3D volumes. Fourth type: documentation of a craftsman making plaster casts of these volumes. Fifth type: documentation in a laboratory of the study of alterations induced by molding on volumes. As for document objects - these fragments of the stones' discourse, I would like to experiment with the lithography technique: using photosensitive products I would like to try to make contact with the marble surfaces of the quarry.
The installation environment
In the manner of Clément Cogitore in Ferdinandea, for me it will be a question of exploring a myth through its repercussions today, by aspiring to create a chronotope and at the same time to observe the problem of vision, of the gaze, of point of view through research-creation through the collection of multiple points of view. It is like device-installations, as for example in Neïl Beloufa's Ennemie de mon enemye project, that I would like to introduce into the space of the installation different documents, objects and testimonies, which together will create a space of factual and sensual diversity, while offering spectators different modes of watching, of experiencing the film and its contexts.