A special selection from “Restricted Areas”
Tosetti Value S.I.M., with the kind collaboration of Galleria del Cembalo, is pleased to present A special selection from “Restricted Areas”, photographs by Russian artist, Danila Tkachenko.
The United States of America described the Apollo 13 mission as NASA’s most successful failure, in an effort to underline the value contained in the failure – the dedicated work done by the engineers and men behind the mission. This is not the way Russia constructed its own narrative in this century. In the cold and snow of the border zones that were those of the former Soviet Union before its disintegration into independent countries, with an almost portrait-like emphasis, Danila Tkachenko photographed monuments to the greatness of a fallen empire, which at a distance of more than half a century seems once more to be taking the measure of its thirst for domination, flexing its muscles at Europe and the United States.
If a photograph taken today documents a sign of our times which, not infrequently, has to be seen through the lens of the past to be understood, those snowy places, muffled by white noise, seem to re-emerge with unexpected, austere imperiousness. In this almost parallel world of what could have been but instead never was, we can spend the night in Chelyabinsk-40, a ghost town which appeared on official maps only in 1994. We can read about the transition from a labouring Russia excavating mines in Komi to a warlike one that transforms a mining town into a test area for missiles and bombs, using the cultural centre as the first target. The history of an empire, this journey tells us, is also made up of mythology and mythopoetics. This is the case of the antenna for interplanetary communication in Arkhangelsk, built to communicate with Russian settlements on other planets, perhaps even other solar systems. Those voices will remain unheard, like those of the “conquerors of space” to whom a monument in Moscow was dedicated in the earliest years of the space race and which features a rocket on its apex, ironically inspired by the shape of its German cousin, the V2.
This great impulse towards utopia leads us to reflect not only on what remains of Russian power today, but on why it was necessary to feed it, and then, when the first stage of the race had been lost to the West, on what was the mechanism of elusion, of hiding the traces and erasing memory and its actions. Like the image that documents the results of a recent test carried out on the polluted waters of a lake near Ozersk, a closed and previously inaccessible town where a nuclear disaster that took place in 1957 was kept secret. The area appears light years away from our lives, and yet under the luminous whiteness of the snow, it still bears living, recent traces of those forced to live in that “utopia”.
Danila Tkachenko photographs a post-imperial Russia which in our eyes takes on different levels of interest – fitting this hegemonic and monumental canon into our relationship with an immense and now pivotal country in international relations, bringing questions, if not about destiny, about economic trends and Putin’s political choices, to the attention of we post-modern Europeans, also in the light of socio-historical studies such as this, and finally showing us , albeit with a flavour of nostalgia for the past, that if they are inspired by shared values, utopias and monuments can also burn brightly on our dark paths like pulsating Pole stars.
June 2017 / October 2017