I put Late Soviet Childhood, which I presented on the Futures and Ruins Workshop in Duke University, on ResearchGate in some version. It’s a part of a bigger project on affect, recollection and forgetting, space, materiality of memory, and ruination.
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.