Last days on the train were dense. I managed to carve a daily routine of writing, practicing and eating on regular intervals to keep time moving. There was a drunken group of army boys on the train last night or the night before. Slumber kept us awake and made the cabin feel like a closet. Chats with group members have been sincere. We’ve gone trough family histories, some personal fears and analyzed our experiences of the trip openly. Being open about an ongoing experience is laborious.
I listened trough Pattern Recognition (2003) and Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson. The first started intensely but lost its trail midway, the second was a neu-romantic macho fantasy and I enjoyed it. Now I’m boring trough Mountain of Madness (1936) Lovecraft.
Vladivostok looks nice but with all honestly every city we’ve passed looks like somewhere in Russia. Watching the scenery from the train window I learned that the Finnish narrative that Mansard-roof are rooted on French attic regulations and designs is a bluff. There are a lot of tourists, mainly form Korea I think and people look young and fresh.
We’ve been on a train for three or four days crossing four of five timezones. Arttu bought an extension-cord from Moscow which we’ve used to claim control over the train corridor electricity sockets. With it we’ve recharged our mobile devices, boom boxes and last night I used it to power my modular. As I was preparing for Saturdays gigs a lady passed asking: “Perpertum Mobile?”. I didn’t understand what she was asking and replied “Techno” (I’ve used the same reply during train security checks). Saturday will be my most complicated modular synth set to date, I’ll use samples and attempt to make electro-acoustic grooves live (D-2 in Karplus mode, C-5 with melodies from my Turing Machine).
Iona has read us train horror stories, we’ve listened to podcasts and made short presentations on various topics. We passed Baikal, endless forests and mountain ranges. Sprinted to shops during short station visits for eggs and pastries. We’ve learned to bathe in the toilets in an upright position, pouring warm water from plastic flasks which are mangled in the hot water. Some conflicts in the group seem brewing. Nothing serious.. I occasionally feel my pride clogging my perception and notice my nervous macho-chatter disturbing folk engaged in each other, views or reading. At our best we operate extremely politely. People have begun to ask permissions to enter discussions others are having and intentionally not-talking when others are concentrating.
Right now we are above Mongolia and Katja spotted a white horse on the north side of the track. It was the same mere which produced the fermented milk in Kazan. Working on the train is difficult due to the comforting motion trance (the soothing tremors of the tracks and infra-deep hums). Social causes are also to blame for the observable non-focus. We are learning about each other indirectly, though subtle ques which require time to spot and using energy for this labor is way more rewarding then fixating on art.
I believe that if repeated methodologically, this practice (moving in a train as a group of artists) could inform our praxises by building into a holistic cosmology of inside jokes and theories, which could be identified across our work. This ethos could build into a creative robustness. At present I can identify possibilities for this shift but I think we would need to expose our practices more to make this experience transformative. Becoming pourus is laborsome. The transformativity I imagine, is not radical or violent.. It’s subtle, like the taste of cucumber but persistent like the oder of sweat in clothes washed in the sink.
We had a short stay over at Novosibirsk, it felt like a nice place. Miina made a brilliant move and got us a single hotel room. We sneaked in small groups to store stuff, rest and bathe. It was noted that hipsters exhibited their personal styles. We stayed for some 10 hours and by chance witnessed the last moments of the 48-hours-nsk festival. As the name suggests the festival presented an array of exhibitions, events and performances during a two day period.
I witnessed a performance by Barbara Caveng at a metro station. A performer was wearing a spacesuit and moved slowly while waving a burned wood branch from siberia. Participants scratched cole from the surfaces of branches and mixed it with acrylic medium to make paint, which was applied to form black squares on postcards that the bypassers could take with them. One member of the group also collected audience comments and wrote them on a sheet of paper: “We are all from siberia, we know this already. Get a real job!” one comment read.
We ate at the most generic orientally themed restaurant I’ve yet to visit. It was a physical manifestation of 90ties spiritual-corporate music, mixing signs and objects from all ethnicities across the globe to form a singular, smooth experience. There were no Russian dishes available.
– What do you think about our factory?
– It’s the biggest factory I’ve seen. The size is magnificent. It took my breath away.
– People often talk about the health hazards, has your visit changed your opinions on asbestos?
– Well, I’m still afraid of it. It’s healthy to be scared of everything that comes from so deep beneath the soil. All things that come from the deep should be treated carefully.
A casual interview (for local news) between myself and a videographer working for Uralsbest mines and factories in the city of Asbest. Our trip was organized as a part of the biennial industrial excursions. We were offered nuggets of asbestos as gifts. The nuggets that we didn’t take were sold forwards. Apparently they are popular and yield a good price.
The day was very eventful. I got a really intensive and sensitive tour of the biennial main exhibition by an exhibition mediator. He walked with me trough the halls sharing his insights on different works and recollections of discussions with the main project curator Xiaoyu Weng, encounters with the artists and chats with other mediators. It was a psychogeographic mapping of the exhibition and the thoughts it provoked.
During the tour we identified “particles” or fragments of knowledge, which could be used to piece together forgotten (or removed) cultures. These “particles” were presented both as memories or stories and physical artifacts which worked like “keys” to inform our understanding.
Yekaterinburg is big but nice. The biennial is big but loose. Visited a sauna, collected laundry, drank beer in hipster joints and got lost while looking for a restaurant. While lost, the city felt like a byzantine version of Taka-Töölö district, mixed with a dash of Konala and Manhattan.