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Komsomol (archive 1956)


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 Ж

Proyekt Ж is a long-term project about the closed city of Железного́рск (Zheleznogorsk) in the heart of Siberia, Russia. Founded during the Cold War to outrun the atomic power of the American adversary and to secretly produce plutonium and missiles, Железного́рск 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 a secret but it stays inaccessible as the largest (still-) closed city in the Russian Federation. Officially its population voted to stay in 'splendid isolation'. With my camera, I have been circling around this impenetrable place for years. The project took on Kafkaesque traits as I never gained access, like K in Kafka’s The Castle.

Ж became therefore a space onto which I project my desires and hopes.  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 sustain? Are socialist ideals by definition unreachable?