Be fertile, be laughing, train a good hunter for God, take care of your husband (originally: ‘hold him in your arms’),
bring up your child well, let him have plenty of fire.
A Tungusic shaman incantation, XVIII century
We woke up and didn’t see a thing. The smell of burning filled my nose. Helicopters hovered in the air like wagtails.
I gathered dead insects. It seems that, like them, the city was struggling, yet was somehow still alive.
In 2019 more than 14,000 wildfires occurred in Russia. By the end of the season, 277 criminal investigations had been initiated. One-fifth of the fires spread through Siberia and Irkutsk region where the forest that belonged to nobody was turned into a political game board. The photos in the news depict green wood burst by red flames, but they almost never show particular individuals responsible for setting the forest on fire, supporting illegal deforestation and seizing the seemingly untouched area. Media photography, being in charge of representing the problem worldwide, becomes the evidence of concealed incidents where the key figures are men: legislators, ministers, hunters, foresters, firefighters and criminal groups leaders.
Turning conventional masculine roles upside-down, imparting the strength, that is normally stays unseen, into feminine, I am confronting rational with emotional, religious with scientific, real and imaginary. Three women – a scientist, a shaman and a wildfires witness – are playing out a common situation as masterful tricksters. A situation where one can find archetypes of potential malefactors who have something to do with bureaucracy, politics and mythology. Connecting a number of time periods and historical contexts, three heroines explore on different levels the issue of intentional burning, taking the attention back not only to the problem and consequences of wildfires, but also to the hidden reasons of their emergence.
One day you step into a circle.
In it: you and everyone, you and no one.
Once you are inside, you cannot get out; everything becomes cyclic, and you want to cry over this inability to get back outside. It’s the cycle where apathy alternates with furious bouts of struggle, layering, mixing, scratching. And then it goes back to being emotionless, broken. First you blame yourself for one thing and then for another, but you can’t change anything, can’t help being suffocated by your own convulsions, which give way, again and again, to powerlessness.
Something disassembles and reassembles, disassembles and reassembles, tick-tock, tick-tock. Like a painfully accurate mechanism. There are beautiful and terrible sounds at the same time, smooth and disjointed, grinding and howling. You become someone else, experiencing several states, several people inside yourself clinging to contradictory facts, words, cues, whispers, squeaks. You try to gather it all into one, because it lives in one body, but everything breaks down, splits apart, seems to be something elusive, not existing in a linear narrative and within the limits of human logic.
Inside this circle there is acid smoke. It stabs your eyes, it penetrates you violently, cruelly. Stitched into the skin of someone else, becoming you, pretending, playing, controlling the created structure of being. You’re choking on it, turning into a small shadow, but hysterically and methodically you are exploring it in yourself, you are exploring yourself in it. You are trying to whisper a secret message to the other, to warn, to caution, to pluck your own voice out of the acrid substance. But you feel only a huge fatigue and ringing void.
Perhaps when the little shadow is gone and it is all over, there will only be smoke. It will be acrid. Unbearable, disgusting, smothering all life. It will slowly disappear, but it will never disappear.