I reworked a 1950’s archive photograph showing a group of young Russians, members of Komsomol, the youth movement of the Russian Communist Party. These young people were recruited to help build the city as part of their ideological preparation for their role as prime Soviet citizens, while Gulag prisoners did all the hard work.
This rare archival photograph offers some clues towards an impression of the closed city and its significance in the USSR. By painting over the photograph, I render it almost unreadable, making it a picture of hidden history.
Komsomol (archive 1956) inkjet 110 x 140 cm
Komsomol(archive 1956) forms part of the multi-annual project Proyekt Z.
Proyekt Z.is a long-term project about the closed city of Zheleznogorsk in the heart of Siberia, Russia. Founded during the Cold War to secretly produce plutonium and missiles and to outrun the atomic power of the American adversary, Zheleznogorsk was also a utopian model city. For those allowed to work there, the hidden city held the promise of realising the socialist ideal. In contemporary times the city is no longer secret but stays inaccessible as the largest still closed city in the Russian Federation. With my camera, I have been circling around this impenetrable place for years. The city takes on Kafkaesque traits as I never gain access, like K the land surveyor in Kafka’s The Castle. Zheleznogorsk becomes therefore a space onto which I project my desires and speculations. Is it conceivable that a place exists, or has existed, where socialism has succeeded? Could something of the relevance of the original socialist utopia persist? Or are socialist ideals unreachable?