Hydraulic Seas on the Volga
This project offers to think about bodies of water that complicate the “natural” and “artificial” devide — human- made water reservoirs, or hydraulic seas. Such reservoirs usually appear on abandoned lands as a result of violent industrial expansion. Assemblages of nonhuman agents, their water flows can operate as a material witness that register and preserve records of industrial invasion. While these records contribute to the existing modes of archiving, they also challenge existing taxonomies that shape the archive. The project explores five water reservoirs in Russia — colloquially known as “seas” — to interrogate the progressive narrative of Soviet modernity by producing a water-based narrative. As part of The Great Volga (1930s-1970s), a large-scale industrial endeavour that reorganised the flow of the Volga Riverto supply a slew of new infrastructure developments, these reservoirs were constructed on the ruins of the submerged towns. Their histories remain underrepresented, and their archival records are kept concealed. However, water oscillations disclose lingering residues and illuminate historiographical voids. By engaging with objects discovered in field trips to these towns, such as sculptures, photographs, and architectural models, this project offers a way to reconsider the histories of the drowned places that persist underwater, in-between spaces, in memory, and through material artefacts. The project takes the shape of a video essay. For the conference, excerpts from this video essay will be shown (10 mins max), followed by a commentary from the author.