The Great Stalin plan for the transformation of nature embodied the materialistic doctrine of ‘unconditional cognition’ of its regularities. Inspired by the calculations of scientific management, nature should not have obstructed, but promoted the construction of communism. The transformation of nature had a dual meaning: it was meant to be not only the colonization of territories with a change in the composition of the flora and fauna that inhabited them, but also the projected ‘redesign’ of nature of plants and animals in order to obtain more productive life forms. The agrobiological concept of parallel progress of human and Earth played a key role here: industrial development of humankind did not mean exhaustion of natural resources. On the contrary, the possible imbalance was filled by engineering ingenuity—the creation of countless new ways of cultivating species.
In his work, titled Green Building, Valentin Mindovsky describes the ‘garden city’ as ‘a small detail of the Great Stalin plan for the transformation of nature’. This project called for artificial landscaping of industrial ‘insides’ of the Berezniki city: it aimed to create parks and gardens with abundant greenery, necessary for comfortable life of people near toxic enterprises. In this sense, Berezniki Garden City was indeed a ‘small detail’—a repetition of the large plan on a smaller scale in order to eliminate the negative consequences that Stalin's transformation, both in its ‘natural’ and industrial manifestation, has managed to inflict change to the Soviet territories. In his books on green building, Mindovsky, admiring the importance of plants in building communist cities, also describes their key involvement in human development. ‘Love for green is an important element of communist education’, Mindovsky wrote. Plants are a necessary green cushion, a cradle for the emergence of human culture, ecological balance (protection through green spaces from the harmful effects of industrial emissions), and the necessary balance between body and emotions for workers. Mindovsky's theory is the theory of building the very body of communism—an interspecies productive union of proletarians. In this sense, the very idea of a nursery garden was built on the absence of a division into domestic/non-home, as well as a division into political and non-political. The species composition of the garden was largely based on ‘artificial selection’ or cultivation experiments. Ideally, Mindovsky saw that every worker should enter into an alliance with the plant—every home should take care of the trees, bushes and flower beds surrounding it, and thus take an active part in the green construction and creation of the garden city.
286 million years ago, this was the bottom of an ancient sea. Its drying contributed to the formation of the Verkhnekamsk potassium-magnesium salts deposit and the emergence of the potash industry. Since the 1930s, the rate of industrial production has increased. The potash plants were rapidly recovering the ancient time deposited in the folds of mineral salts. Non-human time, which was longer than human history, was spent on a massive scale on people's daily needs. With no less of a haste the industrial buzz of factories and plants was throwing wastes from processing of ancient history of the Earth into the atmosphere, and cavities in the Earth's crust, which mines created, threatened to subsidize the landscape. In the face of the consequences of industrial development, a human turned from an engineer of nature into a creature capable of conceiving or thriving. Moreover, the city itself became a plant that could take root in exhausted areas or die. All of this revealed human's deep dependence on the plant world, which—by prolonging gaps in the atmosphere, soil, and lungs with abundant blooms—provided them with a material and biological existence.
Salt mining is an artificial repetition of karst processes. Similar to natural karst, it is based on the production of cavities in soluble rocks by chemical dissolution. The salt industry uses this dissolution for its own purposes, namely, to extract salt, to create and expand mines, etc. However, it must avoid literally repeating its natural prototype, which results in the controlled production of cavities being out of control. For these reasons, miners must control the accidental water penetration into the salt deposits and also generally monitor the condition of these rocks. In the case of non-methodical mining or insufficient monitoring of the dissolution processes, the water-protection layer may be destroyed. When this process is started, it is almost impossible to stop it: even if the cracks are closed and the water penetration is prevented on a spot-by-spot basis, karst processes continue in the water-protective layer itself, multiplying cavities and voids and approaching the inevitable collapse of supra-salt layers, which will result in a sinkhole on the earth's surface.
A sinkhole is a specific void. A void that is always filled with: water, trees, wild flora and fauna, remains of urban infrastructure. If you bother to walk in Berezniki near the perimeter of the collapse, near the fence with the sign ‘Danger zone. No entry allowed’, a Rosgvardiya employee, before escorting you away under threat of arrest, may notice that there is nothing to see there: you will not see any disaster, no gaping hole that intimidates by its blackness. Instead, even if the infiltration is successful, an ordinary pit will be in place of the funnel. ‘Watery water’—and nothing else.
We went to the beginning of this collapse—59°17’24" N 56°49'01"E. Here, the unfolded earth broke a long history of folding, carefully lining up one era with another and synchronizing times. It mixed all the periods of the Earth, brought ancient time to the surface, and carried away the time of human, toward the outskirts and underground. New vegetation, often violent and invasive, penetrated into this abandoned portal of eras. By exploring its depths and borders—the lines of densely penetrating vegetation, the rumble of water filling the gaping voids, debris and the echo of abandoned buildings—we created a system of symbols that reconstruct what we saw as a ‘plan of transformation by nature’. It does not have a designer and ‘author of greenery’, it is based on a policy of coexistence of living beings, waste production, soil, fossils—everything that exceeds the violent logic of cultivation of nature.
Emerging from the collapse of the Soviet idea of parallelism of human and the natural worlds exploited by them, SADYRIA brings a special ecology of mixing, or sinkhology, in which many scraps of time and space meet together on the turns of karst formations. The sinkhole is not just a natural phenomenon, but a complex ecological node of relations. As long as we view the worlds of others as parallel to us, the concept of ecology has no power. It becomes so only when we are aware of our presence within karst relationships—when any parallelism is lost and there are so many differences and these differences are so intermingled that nothing can be separated from each other.
SADYRIA is composed of multiple elements that are rather its structural knots than its constants:
From invasive inhabitants that came first and create the soil for existence of others;
Box installation with invasive sinkhole species / Ippolit Markelov. SADYRIA exhibition (2020)
From the way how these inhabitants settle in, what are the maps and territories they delineate;
From the ways how the worlds that different creatures bring with themselves fold and clutter with each other and from the spatiotemporal mutations that they are experiencing;
From the environments that these mutations originate and the new ways of existence these environments destine us to;
From how the present karst ecology relates to the past—humanistic and industrial—world;
Both Ears on the Ground / Naïmé Perrette. Video HD, 2019, 29 min. Part of SADYRIA exhibition (2020)