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The historical process is a permanent construction, usually with a figurative meaning, but in modern Russia there is also a literal one. Anna Titova’s art residency took place not at the plant or in the mines, as this AIR program suggests, but in a park square near the drama theater, where residents of Yekaterinburg got together every day to protest the construction of a church. While you are reading this text, the Iset embankment reconstruction is being implemented—as part of the well-known Comfortable Environment program, which brings together spaces for walking and recreation.
Modern Russia’s permanent construction is a construction of ideological spaces, where everything is taken into account and everything is under control. Even nature—all those trees, shrubs, and lawns planted according to the plan—is taken hostage, becoming the instrument of a comfortable (or conformal?) environment. This Magic Forest is modern Russia’s new ruins, a space of control and surveillance that dictates many processes: where to spend time, how to relax, what to buy, who to be. Renovation produces inclusion and exclusion operations placing us into 3D renderings of happy lives, and leaving behind those who do not pass face control.
Reality, however, also turns into a 3D collage made of facts that are put in the archive and become our newest history. Each object in this installation can be associated with a specific event or space marked by a thickening of the ideological background. The central image of the collage from the Rituals of Resistance series is a landfill in Moscow. A similar landfill is currently under construction in Shiyes. A metal fragment of the larch—the tree that the Shigir Idol, one of the most ancient monuments of mankind, was made of—was cast at the Ural plant that specializes in modern urban sculpture: patriotic state orders and entertainment facilities at shopping centers. Another larch, this time a real one, but lying under glass, was found at Losiny Ostrov National Park—by overlaying the route for finding Shigir Idol on a map of Moscow—at the very place where the trees are supposed to be cut down in order to build a highway and a shopping center.
The main question which arises in this Magic Forest, however, is directed not to the historical process but to its subject. Or rather, how to become its subject? How to overcome the framework of objectivity that we are placed in, to go beyond this 3D rendering? A teenager’s figure, placed at the same level as the spectators, almost without a podium, without glass, this rag doll is still an object inside the installation, but more like a literary character absorbing historical narratives. Where is this point at which a new subject is born, at which the observer suddenly takes a step and acquires agency? It seems to be flickering in the protest against this permanent construction that turns everything into a digital rendering—against the endless production of new ruins.
Text: Elena Ischenko