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Stories for the Hydraulic Seas on the Volga

collection of auto-theory fiction stories, 2020-2021

The project revisits three Russian water reservoirs—colloquially known as “seas”—to interrogate the progressive narrative of Soviet modernity by producing stories beyond this violent and reductive framework. As part of The Great Volga (1930s-1970s), a large-scale industrial endeavour that reorganised the flow of the Volga River to supply a slew of new infrastructure developments, these reservoirs were constructed on the ruins of the submerged towns: Korcheva, Kalyazin and Mologa. While this story remains largely excluded from the historical narrative, water oscillations disclose lingering residues and illuminate historiographical voids. By engaging with objects discovered in field trips to these towns—a sculpture, a photograph, and an architectural model—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.

Each-story combines a situated personal account of travelling to a hydraulic sea, broader history of the place, and a theoretical framing that illuminates one characteristic of the Soviet modernity project. The first mode of narration revolves around field notes to the flooded towns. The second comprises archival and historical materials. The third articulates theoretical tools that position Soviet modernity in relation to other modernity projects. By composing a story of three intertwined narratives, the project seeks to undo the linearity of the major narrative and examine how the present of underwater towns is haunted by their violent pasts.

exhibition and presentation: The London Conference in Critical Thought, School of Law, Birbeck College, University of London, July 2022; After Progress, digital exhibition, curated by Martin Savransky and Craig Lundy, February 2022-ongoing

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