To the Reader,
On the following long, long post you will find a summary of my activities during the first term at Chelsea College of Arts. Here I attempt to compress all the essential and relevant research I have collected since starting this course with additional documentation of my own practice and group projects at the studios as well as in the outside world. By having all this material as One instead of dividing it to multiple units I wish to introduce my project as a continuous line and as a developing web of thoughts which all link and return to the original idea of what the project is and will hopefully be.
Before I started the MA fine art course, I wanted to start an ongoing project which would continue throughout my studies as a way to keep myself working and productive. I ended up naming this project simply “365” as I decided to attempt a one year project, during which I would make a sculpture in ceramics (which is always the starting point of my sculptural works, a way to transform thought into form) each day for 365 days. This work would have no other purpose or motive except to serve as a simple mark of creative thinking and making each day of the year.
During the first month this project served as a modest daily task, but also as a way to translate my thoughts and ideas of the day into material form. This became an important part of my daily routine; for 88 days, each day I made a small clay work, only a size of a small fist (even taking clay on my trip to Kazakhstan, which proved to be a mad idea –a pocket sized, cubic chunk of clay wrapped in cling film looked suspicious enough at Kazakh border control and for the security guards for them to take extra copies of my passport in case I later on got caught with smuggling something they couldn’t verify at the time).
However, after I returned to the UK, I lost my interest to continue the project, and I simply stopped making them. This was likely because of the new-found drive with my planned degree project examining the causes and the aftermath of the Aral Sea disaster in South-Eastern Kazakhstan – the area I had just returned from. Still, however, the 88 clay works remain as bookmarks of a chain of ideas; archived and shelved to which I may return.
“365”-project and some selected pieces
Live Projects – TUBE and the Concrete Gallery
During these first months at Chelsea I have participated in one group show (‘PATH’, 19/10/2017) and in two art projects realized outside the college studios. The first live project (still officially untitled but here referred as TUBE) was a one day art project. TUBE consisted of carrying approximately 2.5-3 meters long paper roll in crowded places such as the underground trains (tube) as well as around the hectic and overcrowded Oxford Circus underground station. By carrying the paper tube between two carriers, it became a barricade in the human current, transforming the otherwise simple and innocent act into socially awkward blockage, a transgression as the object obstructed the fluent mobility of the crowds and so caused social disturbance, even mayhem at the sites the act was performed during the day.
Another project with the same artist group was to create a virtual gallery – a 3-dimentional exhibition space, into where digital copies of our works would be put. Unfortunately I couldn’t participate in this project as actively as I had with TUBE or with the group exhibition project PATH as the timing of this project was during my trip to Kazakhstan and intense research work before and after my trip. However, the Concrete Gallery (http://www.concretegallery.co.uk/ ) still remains as an ongoing online gallery platform for the artists who participated in this project.
PATH – the first group show and collaborative installation project
The Aral Sea, Kazakhstan
“— my research focuses on Soviet influence on three different lakes: the Aral Sea at the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, Lake Baikal in Siberia, which I have visited myself, and Lake Karachay in southern Ural mountains – the geographical timeline of these lakes and how the Soviet influence during and after the Cold War has drastically effected them as well as the ecosystem, agriculture and human settings surrounding them. My MA degree project would be built based on this research, and would be a large-scale installation combining sculpture, film, sound and text with the evidence recorded on interviews, photographs, maps and notes. I would most likely focus on one lake in my project which would probably be the Aral Sea, formerly a major centre of the Soviet fishing industry, which is in a steady but fast pace shrinking and turning into a salt desert. As the personal connection and the physical presence in landscape is a crucial part of my current practice, I would visit the Aral Sea myself before the start of semester in October 2017. During my postgraduate studio practice, I would examine the material possibilities of salt and its effects when introducing it with different elements (such as water) and temperatures – also its sculptural possibilities, letting the material to underline the inevitable, tragic future of the Aral Sea.”
The quotation above is a sample from the study plan I submitted with my application to Chelsea, UAL last spring. Currently I am still following this plan to create an extensive and detailed research of the phases of the Aral Sea’s geological and political history, a timeline explaining why the once 4th largest sea on Earth has almost vanished in less than 50 years. Currently the existing research is based on multiple publications and scientific journals as well as on conversations I had with residents of the city of Aralsk as well as the local guides at the Aral Sea area in Kazakhstan.
Before starting the journey I had a few ideas for a site-specific land art projects at Aral area, one which was to collect sand from these salt deserts surrounding the sea and save their individual coordinates. For this I purchased and packed 30 small plastic containers with lids into my rucksack and downloaded and tested two different mobile apps which should, even when offline track and draw my route and save the coordinates. However, after me and my travel companions had arrived to Aralsk and were heading towards the remaining Aral Sea, I noticed that the apps didn’t work at all. Gladly, I had downloaded an offline map on Google of the Northern parts of the sea as well as Aralsk, which made it possible to locate us on the map. I simply decided that after I returned to the UK I would find out the coordinates based on the screen prints I had taken on that day and number the boxes containing the collected sand.
After hours of chaotic driving across the former sea bed we arrived to the shores of the remaining Aral. While carrying the first plastic container in my pocket, I had an overwhelming feeling that I shouldn’t leave or take anything from this site. It felt morally wrong, even if it was only sand and stones I would have taken. This bothered me and I questioned the ideas I had for this project, so I made the decision not to take or leave anything to the site, to take only photographs, film and audio recordings from these abandoned, dead places we visited, leaving only a message drawn in sand. I was here.
N46°45’43” E60°40’39” is the first finished installation work this year since coming back from Kazakhstan, named after one of the location at the shore of Aral where I filmed old Soviet shipwrecks – abandoned and left to rust and decay in the crude landscape. This work consists of a photo printed on 1000mm x 600mm steel sheet and 70 ceramic ships (this number will increase as I continue making them), assembled on a pile of Dead Sea salt. Also, using the material I filmed at the Aral Sea I created an experimental, layered video and sound collage which shares the same title. Googling the title will direct the searcher to Google Maps and to the exact location of one of the ships.