Flaming Archipelago

April - May 2019, Vadim Sidur Museum, Moscow, Russia.

Spot for establishing connections between humans and plants in urban environments;
«Seedlings school», video , 22:27, 2019

The coastal lines of Kotlin Island have changed during the construction of the dam on the Gulf of Finland. Soil layers, accompanying building rubbish and debris have turned into a new land with an area of 1,5 square km. Cambrian clay, broken stone, silt, plastic, metal and sand – it’s a strange hillocky, windswept place between a highway, water-purifying ponds, an area landfill and the bay. The locals refer to it as Patagonia.

With no stable ecosystem of its own, the ‘Patagonia’ has become a welcoming home for all kinds of different runaways and migrants. The clay soil has been overgrown with birches and pines, liverworts and lupines. The ponds have grown full of reed, buttercups and spotted lady’s slippers. The prospect of a new life has brought here dogs, fishermen, birds and lizards. The sands have become dotted with tiny gardens the islanders laid out. These gardens must have been the place seaberry eloped from to take part in a new fragile and unstable ecosystem.

When we say ‘nature’, we normally think about communities with a long line of evolution and a dearly bought balance: a vast and heavy oak forest, a bright flowery meadow, a dark and crispy white-moss spruce forest. Such places are precious in many ways. As compared to them, the plant communities we meet on everyday basis – urban parks and mats of weeds, woodlands along the highways, no-one’s bushes behind the concrete guardrail, community landscapes created by indifferent municipal authorities – seem pathetic, fake, illusionary.

Exactly such islands of forever-young blurred ecosystems, which gradually cover the planet, turning ‘older’ ecosystems into rarities, all the while keeping their reputation of secondary and inauthentic phenomena, form the Archipelago in Flame.

The Kotlin Patagonia tempts us, gently doubting its own phantom status. Temporary wilds on discarded soil can be intricate, unpredictable, independent and wilful. This wilfulness is the result of unexpected and antinomic plant communities, intent imagination of crows, children and dogs, weary and mysterious affairs of urban dwellers.

With its long thorns and beautiful silvery leaves, and its so hard-to-get eye-catching berries, seaberry easily crossing from a garden to a gully and back can play the role of a messenger of the Archipelago Aflame. This pioneering plant flourishes in the very areas where the balance of an ecosystem has been lost: pebbled or sandy barrens, frosty mountains and floodplains of aggressive rivers. It thrives no less easily on vacant patches of industrial and urban systems.

A couple of hundreds of seedlings of Kotlin seaberry running wild will arrive to the Sidur Museum to spread through novel urban ecosystems with the help of Perovo inhabitants and guests from other Moscow localities.

The Archipelago Aflame invites the domesticated urban animals to join urban plant communities. To do it they must try to establish new links with minuscule seedlings of thorny and bright plant from afar.

One may wonder about the kind of soil in Perovo, the amount of water in it and light above it. One may ask about the quiet corners safe from people with lawn-mowers. My care may help the plant new to the community to take roots in an unfamiliar world. A new strange and undesirable guest may appear in Moscow. Am I ready to enter this new, vulnerable and unclear communication?