K is the outcome of a research project, conducted by Elizaveta Konovalova, artist, as part of the PhD program SACRe. The most of the documentary and field research was accomplished from 2014 to 2017 in collaboration with Andrei Erofeev, art historian and curator. An exhibition and an edition, united with a common title, K, were first presented in December 2018, for the PhD thesis defence at the National Fine Arts Academy of Paris (Beaux-Arts de Paris).
This project has never had a research subject as such, but rather an object, an anchor point, a geographical attachment that I chose to gravitate around - Kaliningrad. Formerly part of East Prussia, the region became part of the USSR in 1945 after the end of the Second World War, when this German province was divided between three countries: the USSR, Lithuania and Poland. Its capital, Königsberg, was then renamed Kaliningrad, after Mikhail Kalinin, a collaborator of Stalin. In 1991, when the Soviet bloc broke, the region found itself in the far west of Russia, separated from its mainland by two borders. Henceforth, it is an enclave in the middle of Eastern Europe.
The conflicts that agitate this place today are exposed. As a returned field, it shows an uneven landscape, simultaneously revealing several layers of its history - vestiges of the Prussian medieval architecture, and attributes of a typical Soviet town come together in an unlikely patchwork of contrasts. The remoteness of the region from the rest of Russia and it’s past haunted by all sorts of taboos caused gradual abandonment of the territory – cities as well as the countryside suffer the same fate.
Today the Kaliningrad region within Europe represents an area exempt from the rules, an anomaly, a "third landscape". Immersed in a prolonged state of uncertainty as to its status and its future, the area evolves according to its own laws, governed by the lack of common will. Thus, in 70 years, the frontier roughly drawn on a map of a united territory, took roots within the landscape and became a real split that delimits another type of civilization. The accidental “greenhouse effect” occurred with the isolation of this territory from its historical environment helped the emergence of a singular landscape: after the border we enter the reserve of the old Europe in decay.
Together with Andrei Erofeev we tried to understand this phenomenon. We started to consider the landscape of Kaliningrad as the result of a persistent conflict between 7 discourses - different types of perception of this same territory that influences the behaviour of its own inhabitants. The theme led us to a multidisciplinary study, involving archival survey, but mostly based on the experience of the territory itself, the fieldwork, guided by displacements, observations and encounters.
My thesis proposes a form of visualization and plastic interpretation of this research. The central figure in it is the wasteland, imprinted successively by the attempt of tabula rasa of the European past and the fiasco of the Soviet project. The wasteland is a real and also a metaphorical place – it occupies the heart of the capital of the region since several decades and at the same time it represents a reduced model of the entire enclave of Kaliningrad.
The images of various forms of surveying the territory tend, on the one hand, to give an overview, where we may guess the previous landscape, disassembled. On the other hand, 7 parallel narratives, build with found images and words, express the afterwards landscape.
K. Just K. The title summarizes all that remains of the former toponymy of the place, the first letter that Königsberg and Kaliningrad have in common. K, being an abbreviation, also embodies the rupture between them, but at the same time it is an initial, open for a possible continuation. I explored this potential by giving titles to the 7 chapters of the project, where K is every time deciphered in a different perspective: K as Mirage; K as Enemy; K as Quarry; K as Pompeii; K as Castle in the air; K as Backyard; K as Landscape with a ruin.
The project is divided in two forms, two phases of reading - the edition and the exhibition, composed of art works based on the montage of documentary material collected on site and remotely, as well as documents shown as such.
By assembling found elements I tried to avoid historical chronology and create a narrative articulated differently - through correspondences and visual analogies, anticipations and catch-ups, echoes and cross-temporal repetitions. The edition functions as an introduction or the annex of the exhibition; the project is thus set in two interchangeable stages.