“(...) we find no vestige of a beginning – no prospect of an end” James Hutton (1726–1797), founder of modern geology.
The title of the exhibition refers to a concept associated with immense geological and biological duration times. The exhibition highlights pieces by young Russian artists working with various media: from painting and photography to sound art. The artists focus on different temporalities: the nonhuman deep time of the earth and universe, the time of decay and renewal, and the much shorter temporality of human life, that can be opposed to the deep time through the process of remembrance and the ephemerality of human knowledge.
Mankind has always sought to explore, classify, and conquer the environment. This desire was constantly pushed by a kind of Prometheanism that puts human needs above those of surrounding ecosystems. Thus human activities inevitably leave traces, interfering with deep geologic time, literally leaving sediments on the formation of the rocks.
In her series “Abolished Constellations” Alexandra Paperno (*1978, Moscow) remembers and recreates the maps of constellations which circulated in various maps starting from Sumerian and ancient Greek and up to 19th century. Some of them were not recognized by the International Astronomical Union in 1922 and thus were abolished, without having ever really existed.
Photographer Danila Tkachenko (*1989, Moscow) travelled to the Russian Extreme North and stayed there for several months to create the series “Restricted Areas”. Once considered areas of interest for ambitious projects led by the Soviet science and military complex, most of the places, including the so called “secret cities” that did not appear on the official maps, are now abandoned. The material vestiges of human activities and the technosphere (like rusty pump jacks, a sarcophagus over one of the deepest Soviet shafts, antennas for space exploration), are a testament to the connection between minerals and metals, and conquering space and the idea of scientific progress, modern engineering, and creating a utopian future. The photographs render the process of ambitious projects transforming into their exact opposite: heaps of scrap-metal. But besides the depletion of resources in the name of progress, these traces of human activities conceal potential dangers for the environment, radiation and pollution being most obvious among them.
In their drawings, Ustina Yakovleva (*1987, Moscow) and Sergey Lotsmanov (*1983, Tartu) turn to the world of organic structures reminiscent of crystal lattices or cells, of the earth’s crusty surface or of an endless cyclical process of rock formation under the sea found in the drawings and paintings by Ustina. Lotsmanov’s work recalls, to a certain degree, field measurement diagrams or geologic records. Yakovleva’s recent topics of interest, mollusks, become witnesses of nonhuman temporality due to their vestiges dating back to approximately 541 million years. Their fossil forms play a pivotal role in geological age dating.
A selection of objects and graphic work by Alexander Povzner (*1976, Moscow) and Irina Korina (*1977, Moscow) focuses on nature as a harmonious environment and terrestrial home for the humans. With subtle irony, Povzner provides the viewer with an incentive to go back to natural forms of life while simultaneously showing the impossibility and limitations of such a view. The cheerfulness of Korina‘s sketches in the installation “Destined to Be Happy” is deceitful. In her work, the artist addresses issues such as collective memory and the paradoxes of human behavior.
Sound and media artist ::vtol:: (*1986, Moscow) makes the deep time temporality audible to the human ear. In his sound object “Ra”, a pyrite disc is used as an information carrier: a laser is used to scan the irregularities of its surface and the data is then transformed to produce sound. Pyrite discs are a rare form of pyrite that crystallized in radial shape during their formation about 300 million years ago.
In “Turbulence” ::vtol:: created a series of eight birds. These are either forms of mysterious alternative extraterrestrial or new earthen mechanical creatures,who evolved and adapted to live amidst the technological landscape. Even though the birds all have the same mechanical structure and communicate the same way, each one and every one of them has an individual, unique voice and manner of flying.