Field Notes, Summer of 2017 in Siberia

During this summer I spent as much time as it was possible in Siberia. I brought notes from there, that I now offer to your attention. I hope to work on the photographs that I took; some of my best shots were taken there this year.

Without further ado, Stenography of the Itinerary on the Academia.edu.

“Suddenly (and I have to fly tomorrow) I am not excited to go to “the field,” which is also “home.” The distance is never a stable measure. The distance grows. With time, it deepens. I am clinging to things: a kerchief that I have not been wearing for months, I definitely need to take it with me. All the colorful pens. All these books I have not finished. The pages of handwriting I did not have time to type; I am spending the last day before the departure trying to determine what I might be missing the next day. A futile wonder. I will miss nothing in particular and everything at once, but I probably will also be too occupied with what immediately arises in my sight to ponder over anything that I have left.

My phone is suddenly broken, of all things–my phone, which prosthetic qualities are never as evident as they are now, when it is not “here,” out of order. I suspect that I inhabit the screen: Evernote, messengers, colorful icons of familiar apps–icons and anchors of familiarity itself. To go without the phone, a false body member, is to be derived of the instrument, of techne, of the possibility of art, which is only available through technology. To have a new phone on the eve of flying from one country of another is more like changing planets. Now I will have to spend at least two hours and likely more recalling all the passwords that open myself to myself.

Derrida doubtlessly did not anticipate the development of technology which by a peculiar twist favors writing–for the first time in human history writing seems ubiquitous, everyone is writing, it is not going to last long, I think, when the advance of video will take over. Derrida issues old-fashionable laments on the death of love letters (as a genre) that he predicts tirelessly in his own love letters–little did he know. He would have been thrilled by sexting.

Itineraries deprive one of that little sense of home which one might possibly have after having moved from one hemisphere to the other. Every travel is a little bit of death, death foreshadowed, half-disclosed, hinted, promised–a rehearsal of how you’ll leave everything at once on a certain day to come. The inevitability of it is monotonous: it is not the event itself but the inescapability of it which is gruesome. To think about all the orphaned objects you will leave, and of the facelessness, the indiscernibility of these objects.”

~

read the rest here: https://www.academia.edu/34156517/Stenography_of_the_Itinerary

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Abstract to Futures and Ruins Workshop at Duke University

What makes one think about ruins: broken objects, depopulated cities, devastated landscapes, obliterated social practices? Withering plants and wrinkled skin. What is the appeal of destruction? In my case, perhaps the fact that I am from a lost world, that I was brought in the alternative reality of the Soviet Socialism, which does not exist anymore, explains partially the allure devastation has for me. I was prepared to function, efficiently or not, in the Soviet system, a wheel in the humanless machinery and the greatest utopia at once.

The two processes constructing and contesting future happened simultaneously. Not only did I survive the collapse of the empire which is still unfolding and probably would take centuries, but I witnessed the technological change that my times witnessed. The fairy tales of my childhood were narrated by disembodied voices through vinyl records, and the songs of my youth were listened to, recorded and endlessly re-recorded on cassettes, whereas now I don’t even have a player to use a cassette or a vinyl record. Any other medium of information underwent similar revolutions. For instance, I remember floppy disks.

I was among those whose childhood knew no personal computer at the house, because the world knew no personal computers at houses. The idea of personal computers was debated. My project portrays the space at the time and its fragile feeling. What does it mean, to grow up in the USSR in the era of technological revolution and big social changes? What kind of new territories and edgelands emerge from the daily small economies now? How this lost world was constructed? How did it shape people? Some things the Soviet people shared with their Cold-War adversaries – the anticipation of the Nuclear war, and corresponding training in schools, and the usage of cotton wool by women during menstruation. Some were unique experiences, like buying a refreshing mug of kvas on the summer street or a gas water from ubiquitous automates and drinking it from the communal glasses. After twenty more than years have elapsed, many disquietudes, anxieties, and agonies of the Soviet life are covered with the gauze of sympathetic affects, nostalgia, melancholy, and regret. Only with exceptional attentiveness to details it is possible to come to understanding what this world meant and what it still means to the contemporary political, cultural, human realities; what ideals and utopias guarded it; what despairs and horrors swarmed there; how did all transform into the present, and what futures it brings.