Lighcone Paris, 22th February, 2021
In Objects and Artifacts, shot in Murmansk, a port city above the Arctic Circle in Russia, the harsh natural environment is interwoven with human-made structures to create a sublime and boundless landscape. Amid these vistas, tiny human figures occasionally appear. At the end, the Alyosha Memorial to the Defenders of the Soviet Arctic During the Great Patriotic War towers on a hill, with people standing in front of the monument over 40 meters in height. People dwarfed by a colossal statue erected by the state, and living in the midst of mechanized structures that imply the entirety of the industrial system: when we see these people engulfed by powerful systems, which mere individuals are powerless to resist, we may be seeing a portrait of ourselves.
OBJECTS AND ARTIFACTS was filmed in Yakutia and the Murmansk Oblast of the Russian Federation. Both are areas known for heavy industry. I was interested in this area in regard to its strategic importance to the Soviet Union as well as Russia today. In these places, vast amounts of mineral resources are extracted, including nickel, oil, diamonds, apatite, nepheline, and gold. Both are also areas that are close to the Arctic Circle and thus have a significant impact on living and working conditions.
These areas are not truly representative of the Soviet Union, nor are many aware of their importance. When people talk about specific places of Russia or the USSR, they usually refer to Moscow or Saint Petersburg. And yet these places were of enormous importance in terms of economic and geopolitical supremacy. Without access to these resources, history would have been written differently. In the patina of the ruins and rusting industrial complexes, so much historicity stands out, which has been deposited in the sedimentary layers of heavy metals over many decades.
The title of the film refers to a way of dealing with the past that is very peculiar to the Russian landscape. Perhaps it has to do with the immense size of the country. Especially in the places where many industrial complexes were built in a short period of time, there are relatively many ruins of older versions of the built facilities. Ghost towns from the time of the USSR are much more common. Traveling around Russia, I can't shake the feeling that the country has shrunk, as if a greater civilization and activity had taken place here before. The many ruins and old industrial areas from the Soviet era, which are still scattered all over the country like relics, seem to me like a kind of time capsule. In the film I have tried to capture these time capsules, which vegetate fluidly from one era to the next.
In the project, I was interested in understanding the confluence of ideology and its materialization within industrial localities or territories. The extraction of minerals and raw materials is directly linked to geopolitical strategies. This process is linked to intertwined questions of identity and nation. I have chosen a filmic form with little commentary to confront these questions because I think that cinematic aesthetics can create new connections on the perceptual level. I also think that the cinematic observation of the post-Soviet landscape can raise the question of a fundamental way of dealing with matter. Whether a soviet multi-ethnic state or a new federal structure orders, manages, and structures the Russian landscape, the question of accountability on a global level remains the same. In my work, I try to confront this complexity with different stylistic approaches.