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Mission

 

TransitoryWhite is a journal of overlapping, multi-voiced accounts documenting peripheral artistic productions.

The project was launched in 2017 by a group of curators, art specialists and artists from Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia living in Berlin/Vienna. 

We aimed to create an intersectional platform for discussing decolonization, post-neoliberalism trauma and the possibility of dispersive views on the so-called post-communist territories.

Since 2019, the platform has also operated in the trajectories of migrant and post-displacement discourse, expanding its activities from the geographical pole "East" to the global. In response to the growing nationalistic discourse, it is crucial for our investigation to represent artists and theorists with different identities and ideas for the future. In this way, TransitoryWhite emphasizes the productive interaction between different multitudes rather than dualities. 

TransitoryWhite understands whiteness as a metaphor for colonialism, or as a white, self-contained exhibition space where the hierarchy of discourses and images is prejudiced. Instead, we turn to the idea of White Noise; a signal or constant disturbance, something cacophonic, turbulent and restless which fluctuates and transforms our perspectives.

Contributors

Laura Arena

Laura Arena is a Level 3 Reiki practitioner certified and licensed in the state of New York. She's a graduate of the Art of Energetic Healing School located in Manhattan with spiritual teacher and master healer Suzy Meszoly. Next to being a Level 3 Reiki practitioner, Laura is a multidisciplinary artist, activist, designer, and curator based in Brooklyn, New York. Arena’s work encompasses photography, video, installation, writing, and social interventions with a focus on storytelling, human rights causes, gameplay, race, and identity. She has exhibited in galleries and festivals worldwide and has participated in events in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Arena has attended residencies and workshops in Greenland, Iceland, Romania, Hungary, Palestine, Turkey, and the United States. 

In 2021 she will be mapping the Chakras of Berlin as an artist in resident at Z/KU (Center for Art and Urbanistics).

Mariya Dmitrieva

Mariya Dmitrieva is an artist, independent curator, and cyberfeminist. She is a co-organiser of Studiya 4413 in St. Petersburg, Russia, a self-regulated, artist/activist-run platform functioning as an intersection of diverse social strata, queer-crip optics, artistic mediums, contemporary critical thinking, and adequate political action; Maria is a member of N i i c h e g o d e l a t ‘ (Donoothing), a network of flickering, horizontal laboratories of political imagination researching and redescribing ideas around work ethic, machine vs human relations, and connectivity between utopian and real, and initiator of Free mapping project, a digital platform calibrating alternative culture-political landscape of self-organised liberal associations/projects, and coordinator of p2p&hackercare, a translocal agency.

Ina Hildebrandt

Ina Hildebrandt is an art historian and cultural journalist.

Ivan Isaev

Ivan Isaev is an independent curator, based in Moscow. He curated platform Start, Winzavod, season 2014-15, and “Leaving Tomorrow” exhibition (2015, Moscow), participated at Infra-Curatorial Platform at 11th Shanghai Biennale (2016). He is a co-founder of «Triangle» curatorial studio (Moscow, 2014-2016) and later initiated platform blind_spot. Ivan Isaev is now a curator of Garage Studios program at Garage MCA, Moscow.

Anna Kamay

Anna Kamay is an independent curator and cultural manager hailing from Yerevan, Armenia. Anna organizes community-based art projects with the goal of using public space and art to meet local needs and manages Nest Artist Residency and Community Center at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Yerevan.

Victoria Kravtsova

Victoria Kravtsova has studied International Relations in St. Petersburg and Berlin. In Berlin she is active in NGO projects in Eastern Europe, co-organizing seminars and exchange programs in the fields of environment, human rights, gender equality and civic education. Victoria receives a scholarship from Heinrich Böll Foundation and is engaged in writing her thesis “Between the ‘posts’, out of the void” where she traces the travels of the contemporary feminist discourses to and from Central Asia.

Melikset Panosian

Melikset Panosian is a writer and translator from Gyumri, Armenia. He participated in artistic projects focusing on the troubled past of Gyumri, borders, conflicts and consequent traumas since 2012. Panosian contributed to a number of literary magazines in Armenia such as Queering Yerevan, Gretert and Yeghegan Pogh. He also participated in the translation of Hannah Arendt’s “We refugees” into the Armenian language. Melikset Panosian’s published works include art book “Out In Head” (2012), “Silent Stroll”, a novella he authored in 2014, and the Armenian translation of Kardash Onnig’s “Savage Chic: A Fool's Chronicle of the Caucasus” published in 2017.

Leah Peirce

Leah Peirce (b. 2002 in Berlin, Germany) is a Berlin-based poet, with Georgian and English background.  She works with words, sound, images and performative art. Her multilingual poems explore the fluidity of languages, the barriers they bear, how language holds culture and visa versa.

Daria Prydybailo

Daria Prydybailo is a curator, researcher, founder of the TRSHCHN platform and co-founder of the NGO Art Matters Ukraine.

Thibaut de Ruyter

Thibaut de Ruyter is a French curator and critic who lives and works in Berlin since 2001.

Saltanat Shoshanova

Saltanat Shoshanova is currently pursuing her Master's degree in History of Arts at the Free University Berlin. Her research interests include art in connection to queer and feminist theory, queer migration, decoloniality and post-Soviet space. She is an activist and co-organized several queer feminist conferences in Vienna and Berlin.

Julia Sorokina

Julia Sorokina is freelance curator of contemporary art, lecturer, tutor, author of texts, lives and works in Almaty, Kazakhstan. 

Antonina Stebur

Antonina Stebur is a curator and researcher. She studied visual and cultural sciences at the European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania) and at the School of Engaged Art of the art group "Chto Delat? (Saint Petersburg, Russia). She is a member of the artist group #damaudobnayavbytu ("Woman comfortable in everyday life"), which examines the feminist agenda in the Russian and Belarusian context. She has curated a number of exhibitions in Belarus, Russia, Poland, France and China. Her research areas and curatorial interests are: community, re-composition of everyday practices, feminist critique, new sensibility, grassroots initiatives.

Annika Terwey

Annika Terwey is a German-Italian new media designer & artist. She studied visual communication at the Berlin University of the Arts and graduated from the new media class. In her work, she is exploring new forms of communication through interaction design, video installation and exhibitions. Her interest range from environmental science, new technologies and human perception.

Alex Ulko

Alexey Ulko was born in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in 1969. After graduating form Samarkand University with a diploma in English he obtained an MEd TTELT degree from the University of St Mark and St John (UK). Since 2003 he has been working as a freelance consultant in English, Culture Studies and Art for various cultural organisations. Has been making experimental films since 2007 and is an active writer about Central Asian contemporary art. His current artistic interests: experimental cinema, photography, visual poetry. Member of the European Society for Central Asian Studies, the Association of Art Historians (UK) and the Central Eurasian Studies Society (USA).

Lolisanam Ulug

Lola Ulugova (Lolisanam) has been an activist in Tajikistan since 2000.  She was the founding director of Tajik Bio-Cultural Initiatives a non-governmental organization dedicated to Tajik arts and environmental issues. In 2013, she wrote and produced the nation's first 3-D animation film, a short designed to promote awareness of environmental issues among children. Previously, she has produced several cultural DVDs archiving Tajik dance and biocultural diversity; was a Field Production Manager on the documentary Buzkashi! By Najeeb Mirza (Canada); from 1999-2005 was the manager of Gurminj Museum. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Turin, Italy and an undergraduate degree in Russian Language and Literature. She was a Global Cultural Fellow at the Institute for International Cultural Relations of the University of Edinburgh in 2017-18 and participated in Central Asian-Azerbaijan (CAAFP) fellowship program at the George Washington University at Elliott School of International affairs in 2019.

Katharina Wiedlack

Katharina Wiedlack is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt University Berlin. Her research fields are primarily queer and feminist theory, popular culture, postsocialist, decolonial and disability studies. Currently, she is working on a research project focused on the construction of Russia, LGBTIQ+ issues and dis/ability within Western media. http://katharinawiedlack.com

Олексій Кучанський

Олексій Кучанський - дослідник і критик експериментального кіно та відео-мистецтва, есеїст. Живе і працює у Києві. Цікавиться політиками комунікативного експериментування, екософією Ф. Ґваттарі, не-есенціалістською екологічною теорією, постгуманістичним фемінізмом, процесуально-орієнтованою філософією. Колишній учасник активістської ініціативи Occupy Kyiv Cinemas - руху проти комерціалізації і знищення комунальних кінотеатрів Києва. Співавтор художнього проекту komaxa. щоденник резистентності - лабораторії молекулярного страйку в умовах цифрової праці.

 

Kundry Reif

Kundry Reif is an aspiring curator, artist and cultural sciences academic.

People

Ira Konyukhova

Ira Konyukhova is an artist, writer and instagram feminist activist. She studied Physics in Moscow and fine art in Mainz, Reykjavik and Media Art and Media Theory at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (HFG), which she finished with diploma in 2017. In her practice, she explores the connection between female sexuality, pop-resilience and colonial technological practices which are embodied mainly but not only in video, sculpture and installation. Her works have been presented on various international festivals and exhibitions, including DocLisboa, Athens Biennale, Teneriffa Espacio del Arte, Exground Film Festival e.t. Konyukhova was a grantee of Rhineland-Palatinate Media and Film Promotion Prize, BS Projects Residence Program as well ifa travel grant.

Ina Hildebrandt

Ina Hildebrandt is an art historian and cultural journalist. Born in Kazakhstan, she grew up as a so-called Russian-German in the south of Germany. After spending years of total assimilation she developed a strong interest in her cultural roots. Several long travels and stays took her to Easter-Europe over Russia to Central-Asia. Thereby she started to focus more on those regions also as art historian and journalist. She lives and works in Berlin. 

Tamara Khasanova

Tamara Khasanova is an emerging art professional and aspiring young curator. Born in Ukraine into a Ukrainian-Uzbek family, and later moving to the UK and the US early in life, she was exposed to various social dynamics while perceiving everything through the lens of her cultural legacy. This experience led her to question ideas surrounding cultural hegemony, national identity, and globalisation in the context of Post-Socialist states. In her professional and academic practice, she is concerned with a lack of representation of Eastern European and Central Asian regions on a large scale and committed to developing a sustainable dialogue between parts of the world so dear to her heart. Currently, she is doing a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Studio Art in San Francisco, CA. She starts her M.A. program in Curatorial Practice at the School of Visual Arts, New York this Fall.

Pavel Metelitsyn

Pavel Metelitsyn is a software engineer and developer focusing on interactive data presentation, user interfaces and web technologies. He is driven by the idea of making the information more accessible through interactivity and gamification. Working together with creative agencies he implemented interactive multimedia stations for Neues Historisches Museum, Frankfurt/Main, made a kiosk app for a permanent exhibition at Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Frankfurt/Main. Besides that, he works with a wide range of clients from FinTech Startups to national research institutions, helping them to collect, process and present the business information. Pavel holds an M.Sc. in Mathematics.

Sascia Reibel

Sascia Reibel is a graphic and product designer. Her focus lays on printed matter, especially books and posters, with a strong dedication for typography. She engages in projects within the field of culture, art, and education. She studies communication design at the University of Art and Design Karlsruhe and has also studied in the design master program of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. Her work has been honoured with several awards, including «Most Beautiful Swiss Books», «Most Beautiful Books from all over the world», «Bronze Nail, ADC», as well as the «Badge of Typographic Excellence, TDC New York.

Lina Iliaeva

Lina Iliaeva (born in Moscow, Russia) is a student of the Faculty of Cultural Studies of the Russian State University for the Humanities. Previously studied Theatre, Film and Media Studies at the University of Vienna. Lina joined TransitoryWhite in March 2021 and now working as an editor on the website. Area of research interests: art culture of the twentieth and twenty-first century, public art, cultural and visual studies, corporeality, new techniques and technologies in art, digital art.

Thibaut de Ruyter

Thibaut de Ruyter is a French architect, curator and critic who lives and works in Berlin since 2001. In the last ten years, he has organized exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Bochum, Museum Kunstpalais Düsseldorf, Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt, HMKV in Dortmund, EIGEN + ART Lab and CTM in Berlin, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź and CRP/ in Douchy-les -Mines. One of his latest projects is a travelling exhibition co-curated with Inke Arns for the Goethe-Institut: « The Border », that calls into question the dividing line between Asia and Europe in the former Soviet states. Since 2017 this exhibition was exhibited in St Petersburg, Moscow, Tashkent, Almaty, Krasnoyarsk (u.A.) and ended its trip in Erevan in 2019. His areas of interest range from new media to spiritism via "exhibitions that are not exhibitions". Most of his projects are related to everyday, pop or underground culture. He has been the German correspondent for the French magazine artpress since 2003.

Former Collaborators

During the existence of the magazine, many wonderful people collaborated and facilitated the development of the journal. Among them are: Iryna Dzhava, Chinara Majidova, Daria Prydybailo, Willi Reinecke, Sholpan Zhanuzakova. 

You are looking for: Laura Arena  

1st February 2020

Chakras of Tbilisi

article

Laura Arena
en
Mum in kaolin quarry, Kyshtym
8 mm film still, 2021
The Stone River, Taganay
8 mm film still, 2021
Auntie Anya in her garden, Chelyabinsk
8 mm film still, 2021
Tonya's Garden, Chelyabinsk Oblast
8 mm film still, 2021
In Friendship Cooperative, Chelyabinsk
8 mm film still, 2021
Women in the Friendship garden
8 mm film still, 2021

Russian-British artist Olga Grotova embarks on a journey to revisit the challenging past of her family, engraved in the sounds of unfamiliar words, divided into acres of land, apples and tomatoes, grown on it with care. Their no longer blooming stems became part of the soil, spreading the seeds everywhere, growing into foreign gardens, emulating the family’s journey from Germany through the Soviet Union, modern-day Russia and Western Europe. The search for her grandmothers' garden in the cooperative Druzhba (Friendship) allows Grotova to build a relationship with the landscape and let it become part of her artistic process.

 

'The Friendship Garden' is part of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art's 'Field Research' program.

 

Mother (Land)

 

Mum is leaning on the train window and her gaze catches on the tree trunks and wooden izbas, tangles between the muddy islands and around the metal poles of hanging bridges, pulling like Isadora‘s scarf until it falls into the waters of the Volga. Mum flows and shoots through Russia’s landscape in a sky-blue nightgown, she waters the land, lovingly cleansing away the dirt, washing off the slime and ash and then, weary, reclines like an Etruscan on a narrow compartment bed.

 

In the Eurocentric context, the landscape was always to be viewed from a fixed position occupied by one person at a time and thus, as Cole Swensen puts it ‘implicitly supporting hierarchical, social and political systems and the regimes of appropriation, colonisation, and exclusion that go with them.’ In the Russian icons, on the contrary, the viewer is never fixed and the perspective oscillates inside the objects and figures that push and pull on each other like celestial bodies. Perhaps that’s what being on the train is like, watching things morph and distort as your body’s relationship to them changes within seconds, as the forest becomes a village becomes a river. To be carried through the land is to be disembodied, to sleepwalk. 

 

It takes nearly two days from Moscow to the Urals, passing through Samara with smoked fish layered like gold leaf in the vitrines, going through the nameless industrial towns and ghost villages where the soil is upturned and piled in ochre mountains guarded by the skeletons of rusty machinery. On the second day, the Russian names dissolve, giving way to the Bashkir and Turkic sounds: Ufa with mosques’ crescent moons hovering above the allotments; Asha tragically known for the train explosion caused by a leak in the gas pipeline–nearly every family in town lost a loved one; Miass–‘water/ friend’– a word with ancient Iranian roots, Chebarkul – ‘a bright and beautiful lake.’

Mum in kaolin quarry, Kyshtym
8 mm film still, 2021

All along, we see 8-point crucifixes scattered along the junctions and in the openings of the forest, pinning the Orthodox narrative onto the land that has for centuries been walked by the pagans, the Muslims and the old believers.

 

The Friendship

 

Mum and I are making the journey to find the garden that belonged to my grandmother Marina and great grandmother Klavdia. In the late 1950s, the two women came to the Urals from Kazakhstan where they were imprisoned in А.Л.Ж.И.Р – an all-female Gulag camp for the wives of traitors to the Motherland. My great grandmother’s crime was to marry a German man–my great grandfather Kurt Augustin who came to the USSR from Berlin in the early 1930s to work on the construction of BMW VI V-12 aircraft engines–the technology that was licensed from Germany (and, by a twist of fate, used against it during WW2). In 1937 Kurt was executed on bogus charges alongside millions of other innocent victims who fell to the Stalinist purges. My grandmother Marina was only one year old when she arrived at the Camp with Klavdia; she left a woman in her twenties.

 

In the sixties, Marina and Klavdia got a plot of land near Chelyabinsk in a gardening cooperative with the jolly name ‘Friendship’ affiliated with the local metallurgic factory. The plots were leased to the workers’ families as a means of solving the food shortages in the country that was overproducing weapons; the gardens were commonly tended by the women and the ‘babushkas’ whose hard labour was essential to sustaining the families through the decades of deficit.

The Stone River, Taganay
8 mm film still, 2021

My grandmothers cultivated the garden for three decades, up until the nineties. My mother Tatiana was born in the Urals and helped the women from when she was a child until she became a mother herself. Were we to stay, I would probably join, but as Perestroika began to sweep the country and jobs became obsolete, my family made a difficult decision to leave the Urals and sell the garden. Overnight the story of Friendship had ended.

 

Now sitting in a small train berth, we do not know what has become of the tiny plot and perhaps for the first time in decades, we are grieving its loss that has intricately weaved itself around the loss of my grandmother Marina a year earlier.

 

 

The Stone River

Auntie Anya in her garden, Chelyabinsk
8 mm film still, 2021

Upon reaching the Urals, we recklessly throw our bodies into the landscape, place the toes amongst the roots, lay our mossy hair on the boulders and drown our dimpled thighs in icy lake waters where they drift next to the fallen tree trunks. I can’t help but think how my great grandmother was once a lake, vibrant and serene; she dried out under the steppe sun, losing her waters year after year until all that remained was an empty basin lined with graphite sand, dead algae and rocks.

 

I hike to the Big Stone River in Taganay, a run of thousands of gargantuan boulders that was formed during a landslide some 10 000 years ago. Each stone has eyes painted with lichens and moss that watch me curiously as I find my way into their presence, name them and say that if there ever was a way to represent the loss of all the loved ones, it would look like this infinite valley.

 

I want to get to the middle of the River, but am immediately let down by my body–too small and feeble to walk freely over the boulders’ sharp and slippery surface. So I become a spider that crawls carefully, spreading my fingers on the rock faces, stuffing the soft bits into the cavities and cracks, aware that a wrong move would mean a twisted ankle or a fractured wrist. The exhausting trek feels like making my way through history, searching the splits and voids that I can insert myself into, pleading to get to the other side, hoping not to be broken.

 

 

The Window Bars

 

 

We arrive in Chelyabinsk and stay in the friends’ flat facing the apartment block where we used to live decades ago. Mum and I are amused to see that the present owner of our once beloved home has installed metal bars on the windows, despite the flat being on the seventh floor. Has he fitted them in a bid to keep me away from my childhood? Or in order to safeguard all the memories of sweetness and pain, of longing, friendship and betrayal, kept neatly folded and locked in as if in a treasure vault?

 

Underneath the apartment block is a vibrant communal garden of hundreds of tall Mallows, or ‘Malvas,’ pink, red, purple and yellow. The garden encloses the building like a lifebuoy that keeps the structure afloat - now grey and withered. The Malvas had given their name to malachite, a precious mineral that had once inspired the proletarian identity of the region, before the campaign of aggressive extraction led to the mines’ depletion and closure. A lone woman sitting on a bench amongst the flowers says it’s her neighbour who tends to the garden. Every day I attempt to catch sight of her, but she escapes me, leaving behind a basin or a compost bucket, the traces of her fairy-like presence. 

                           

Tonya's Garden, Chelyabinsk Oblast
8 mm film still, 2021

Tonya’s Garden

 

We haven’t seen Tonya for decades but she greets us as if we parted yesterday. She knew my grandmother through Martha, her mother in law. Martha was a teenager when her parents–a German couple that came to work in the USSR at the same time as my great grandfatherwere arrested and executed. Martha was sent to Karlag and had a child there; she then returned to the Urals after Khrushchev’s denouncement of Stalinism. Decades later, during the Perestroika, the letter arrived inviting her to come back to Germany. She packed her bags and never returned to Russia. At the time, she was in her mid-eighties. The same letter arrived at our home too; my great grandmother Klavdia diligently destroyed it.

 

There is a moon calendar on the wall in Tonya’s sunlit kitchen where she expressively circles the dates with a blue pen, making each look like a miniature solar system. Today is the 11th moon day, good for weeding and taking care of the soil after the plants’ illness. Yesterday was the day of Sysoy when the dew has healing properties: ‘on Sysoy walk barefoot on the ground’ tomorrow is good for putting the vegetables in the storage.

 

We bring out the table and place it in the small opening between the vegetable beds and have tea with courgette pancakes. We speak about many women, friends and family, who have been through the gulag camps, we call out their names: Martha and Ida, Uncle Carl, Madame Smith – they would gather each Saturday at my great grandmother’s, speak German, dance foxtrot and cry.  I think of how Tonya’s garden is one of the few places where these names can live on and be called out loud and clear, as loud as the fluttering of the leaves and the patting on the soil when apples fall down from the old tree–the one that had nearly perished a few years ago but then started to grow a new branch, now reaching taller than the entire trunk. Today the tree’s withered bark is hugged by the fresh greenery and the branches are heavy with fruit.; it could not have been any other way.

 

 

To Keep

 

The women keep things in the gardens: old and broken furniture, tools covered in rust and cobwebs, endless enamel basins that pile up in the greenhouses like seashells. And if they cut something off, saw off a dead branch or tear out the weeds, they place them in a compost bath and wait until they transform into fertiliser, and like this, they keep them too: the bad, the sick and the ‘not-good-enough’, the ugly and the sad, the painful, the things that no one else needs or thinks of as useful. 

 

 

My Grandmother’s Garden

 

On a dusty July morning we arrive at the Friendship cooperative, driving down the streets that neither of us recognise, remembering that my grandmothers would take an hour-long bus ride and then walk for thirty minutes carrying a heavy load.

 

The entrance looks like a set of a Soviet kolkhoz film: The sun shines luminously above the arch that frames the old administration buildings; the name ‘FRIENDSHIP’ hovers above the crowds of women. They hurry from the bus stop, their hair tied with headscarves or hidden under brimmed hats, hauling plastic bags that have long replaced the cumbersome buckets.

 

The cooperative is vast, with a few hundred gardens arranged on a grid of forty-five lanes. The central alley is enclosed by a tall wall of metal fences–we have seen those before when passing through the ‘renovated’ gardens where one constantly feels as if walking through the unfriendly corridors of border controls or detainment facilities.  

In Friendship Cooperative, Chelyabinsk
8 mm film still, 2021

Back in Soviet times, the only fencing permitted here was ‘rabitsa’–a chain link that was manufactured in the same metallurgic factory that Friendship was affiliated with. Contrary to the present-day metal barriers, the see-through rabitsa allowed perfect surveillance. The cooperative was a sort of panopticon where all neighbours were aware of each other’s doings. Was this removal of privacy purposefully devised by the authorities to exercise control or from their entrepreneurial bid to make the workers consume the very product they spent their lifetime manufacturing? It’s hard to say now, as the logic of the Soviet state often twisted and folded itself into the intricate loops of absurdity that are difficult to untangle for those of us who have not lived and breathed the system.

 

As we turn into quieter lanes, the tall fencing gives way to the familiar chain link that stretches like the spider web between the wooden poles. Finally, we are able to see inside the gardens, taken aback by their vibrant greenery that trembles and vibrates in the scorching July heat. They are all beautiful, full of life and bounty: the vegetable beds are overflowing with ripe tomatoes and courgettes, the apples are scattered under the trees and the aronia bushes are dotted with berries. These gardens are treasures, each with memories of childhood and grief, love and intimacy, with the singular moments of time attached by a myriad of rusty nails onto the planks of the worn-out sheds. We think then that the walls that allow privacy are the same ones that keep us away from the beauty of abundance, the admiration of the labour of others, the friendship that yields plenty.

 

We walk through hundreds of gardens in the now-unbearable heat. We talk to babushkas bent like the lily flowers over the flowerbeds. We ask, “Have you had this garden for a long time?” and they all answer “Yes, very long time, twenty, thirty years”. In this moment we see the time melting like an ice cream cone.

 

With little hope remaining, we arrive at lane number forty; it smells of chemicals–an odour that drifts from a distance. There’s Bono’s voice blasting from the speaker in one of the gardens and I see a woman with a candyfloss pink bob swaying as she waters the roses from the bathtub filled with rainwater. Fascinated by her beauty, I call from over the fence and ask if she knows of Klavdia, Marina, Anatoly or Boris, my grandmothers’ neighbours. Stunned, she stops and answers, “Boris was my father”. And then she invites us in, gives us icy water in crystal glasses and points across the fence to my grandmothers’ garden.

 

 

The graves

 

 

Weeks later, I meet with Anastasia Bogomolova, an artist born in Chelyabinsk, and now based in Yekaterinburg. We talk about her grandmother’s letters that were always about gardening but had unspoken words and suppressed feelings hiding like spiders in the branches of the raspberry bush.

 

Anastasia tells me about a graveyard of German forced labourers that were constructing the metallurgic factory in Chelyabinsk in the 1940s. Many died from the inhumane work conditions. Their bodies were deposited in an abandoned mass burial site. She shows the location on google maps: an indistinct suburb north of the town with factory buildings enclosed by mauve soil and a network of roads that look like raw intestines on a satellite image. Just to the left of the site, I see a familiar green rectangle with frayed edges and the name “Friendship”. 

 

Did my grandmothers know that their garden was next to this desolate  discarded site? Could Martha or others have told them? There is no way to know, nor would it change a thing. For three decades, Marina and Klavdia would still be coming to their tiny plot–to plant, water, care, and bury the names with the seeds. To watch them grow, harvest, share and make honey out of the wild dandelions.

 

 

Olga Grotova (b. 1986, Chelyabinsk) is an artist. She has a master’s degree in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London (2016). In 2021 she was an associate of the Wysing Art Center’s Syllabus VI, an artist development programme conceived in collaboration with the UK art institutions Studio Voltaire, Iniva, Eastside Projects, and Spike Island. She is a recipient of the Space Artist Award (2021) and the Arts Council England DYCP Award (2021). Recent exhibitions include: Fifth Wave (curated by Ivan Novikov), Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and Moscow Museum of Architecture (2021) and Debris on a Luminous Plain, Centrala Birmingham, Oslo Kunstforening, Mimosa House, London), Osnova Gallery, Moscow (2017).  She lives and works in London.

 

By championing strategies of resistance and bringing to light the places, events, and people often neglected by or recouped from dominant histories, each research project supported by Garage's Field Research Program challenges the leading positions of dominant agents of knowledge, liberating knowledge from belonging to one discipline, one culture or one narrative, and breaks free from the prevailing impermeability of academic and archival institutions in the country.

 
 

Edited by Ira Konyukhova and Tamara Khasanova

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