sum of the parts: I will speak about Felix Kalmenson’s films A House of Skin and Neither Country, Nor Graveyard in a conversation with curator Jenn Jackson — Wednesday, May 16, Pollyanna 圖書館 Library, Vancouver
“Examining a private archive is risky: one often discovers how little of the personal and the intimate such archive usually holds. The reward of facing this risk is a discovery that the archive is never equal to the sum of its parts, but rather, it presents a possibility to reveal an extremely complex and volatile relation between its random objects. Watching Felix Kalmenson’s Neither Country, Nor Graveyard (2017) and A House of Skin (2016), we witness how such relation emerges through the emotional labour of the artist, the subject of the archive.”
- “The System Is Dead. Long Live the System! Algorithms, Networks and the Barbed Wire of Empires,” Krytyka (2017). In Ukrainian
- Interpassive User: Complicity and the Returns of Cybernetics – Fibreculture Journal 25 (2015)
- Cinema for A Missing People: Gilles Deleuze’s Crystal Image and Alexander Dovzhenko’s Zvenyhora – Harvard Ukrainian Studies 32-33, no. 1-4 (2015)
April 11, 2018 | The Village interviewed me for their story about “people who are not on Facebook” (In Ukrainian).
June 12, 2017 | Following my comments for Hromadske TV (Ukraine) regarding Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s ban of the Russian social media (VK & Odnoklassniki) as well as Yandex and Mail.ru in Ukraine, Vitalii Atanasov asked to elaborate on some points made for Hromadske. This is a bit shortened version of our dialogue translated in Ukrainian and here is an English version. And a full version in Russian.
“By implementing this ban, however, Ukraine is not different from other counties. Every government has realized by now that they have got a new animal in the political jungle. This animal reminds of the monstrous Thing from Carpenter’s horror – it is unruly, unpredictable, deadly.
The superior intelligence, it becomes us, learns from us and all about us, by parasiting the delicate network of our invisible relations, and then it absorbs us to nourish its non-human core. This social media monster “moves fast and breaks things” and the governments understand they have to survive in one space with it. They are all calculating now what is more beneficial and less risky for them to do: to burn this monster, tame it somehow, make human scarifies, or use it against the enemy. So, I guess, we will see all these scenarios. One is currently unfolding in Ukraine.”
Chernobyl Zone of Exclusion
September 26 – October 10, 2017 | Ukraine
I traveled to the Chernobyl Zone of Exclusion again — this time with two guides: Oleksandr Syrota, a former resident of Pripyat, an eyewitness and a victim of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, now the editor-in-chief of the internet project pripyat.com and the president of the International Public Organization Center Pripyat.com; and Oleksandr Rybak from the same organization, who specializes in the history of the Chernobyl-2, the Soviet radar system DUGA aka “Russian Woodpecker.” Coincidentally (and luckily!), on the way to the Zone we were joined by ecologist Denis Vishnevsky, the head of the radio-ecological monitoring group at “Екоцентр,” who has been monitoring the Zone for 17 years, from whom I learned a lot about wolves, rats, mushrooms and forests of the Zone, including a lot of info about the current chemical composition of the observed area. Here is one of the interesting interviews with him, “Life After Life: Cities Abandoned by Humans” – for those who read Russian.
First, led by Oleksandr Rybak, we went inside the abandoned facilities of the Chernobyl-2 radar. Its intensely damp and drafty interior immediately made my throat sore, but the objects inside — all those remains of the Soviet super computer system — could keep one wandering through the rooms and corridors of the building, imagining this ambitious Soviet radio-location machine.
Our next stop was Pripyat, where the V.I. Lenin Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is located. The construction of the power plant began on 15 August 1972. The city of Pripyat, founded on 4 February 1970 about 100 km from Kyiv, was not build yet and it was officially proclaimed a city only in 1979. So the plant was given its name after another city, Chernobyl, at the time, the closest big city. It is possible, too, that such decision was made in order to not draw the attention to Pripyat, the city of military importance, although, unlike other Soviet atomic cities, the access to Pripyat was not restricted.
Oleksandr Syrota gave us a tour around the remains of the glorious atomic Soviet city, the reversed symbol of “safe nuclear power.” Originally from Pripyat, Syrota took us to his abandoned apartment. According to him, it might be dangerous to enter this building in six months, in spring 2018, and he would not be taking people there: the housing infrastructure in the area has reached its 30-year life span — apparently, that’s how long this particular type of constructions can survive without care and central heating, open to the winds, snow, rain and marauders. On the way, we passed the building of the school that Syrota had attended before April 1986. Half of the building collapsed several years ago; the rest is deteriorating.
The Zone as we know it today — that seems to be timeless, a surreal “frozen-in-time” or “future-in-the-past” scene such as that of the Pripyat amusement park known to many of us via too many YouTube videos — has been disappearing. To be more precise, it has been transforming into something else, and it has been transforming for a while now — on its own speed, with its own rhythm. And while it still remains a visible reminder of the Soviet technogenic catastrophe, it might be the moment to think about its meanings and pose new questions.
Photos by Oleksiy Radynski and myself.
August 21 – November 27, 2016 | Ukraine & Georgia
My two-month research trip to Ukraine and Georgia was related to several projects: the book on cyber-war (with Nick Dyer-Witheford), the documentary project on the Soviet-Ukrainian cybernetics (with Oleksiy Radynski) and the project on techno-politics of the Soviet Union. In September, I traveled to Tbilisi where I conducted a series of interviews — about the events of Russo-Georgian cyber-war of 2008 — with governmental officials, security specialists and the representatives of telecommunication business, among them, David Lee, the President of Georgian major telecommunication company MagtiCom. My first trip to the Chernobyl Zone of Exclusion in a company of Margret Grebowicz later that month, when we were able to see the remains of the Fourth Block of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant before it was covered with a confinement in November 2016, was particularly informative and led to another trip to the Zone in 2017 and several research projects, still in progress today, that bring together the infrastructure studies, the studies of imperialism and posthumanism. In October, as a fellow at the Center for Urban Studies of East Central Europe, I taught a course “Information City.”