20 June - 12 August, 2019

BAZIS contemporary

CENTRUL DE INTERES, Fabricii de Chibrituri 9/A, 4th floor, Cluj-Napoca


Dmitry Kawarga
Norilsk Substance

NORILSK. The title of Dmitry Kawarga`s installation refers to one of the most uninhabitable cities of the world. Norilsk and the road leading to the city was build between 1935 and 1956 costing the life of more than 17.000 people - sent to Gulag; the concentration camp being operated until 1979. Moreover the city was built on permafrost: the buildings are producing a lot of heat that fastens the erosion, of which victims become themselves, many houses beeing abandoned in life threatening condition. The weather conditions are unbearable in this panel city of Siberia, beyond the northern arctic circle, being covered with snow for more than 250 days per year, there are even minus 50 degrees, and for more than six weeks a year the sun does not rise, this two month-long night is ousted by UV lamps and solariums. In addition Norilsk is one of the most polluted cities of the world: a smog composed by dust and very fine radioactive isotopes settles for about 42 times a year above the city, in the meantime there are around 20-28 times a year acid rains and gas clouds forming upon the city and its inhabitants. Thus more than 100,000 people live here, despite the serious pollution, that causes death rate of respiratory diseases 15,8% higher, of canser diseases 37% higher, of spontaneous miscarriage and early infant death 21,6% higher than in other regions of Russia. For all these there is one explanation, the profit: as Norilsk has the biggest raw material site of the world.
The biggest employer of the city, Norilsk Nickel is among the richest 50 companies of the world; under the kingdom of the eternal ice there is a precious metal property valued up to 2 billion tons. From the Russian city and its surroundings comes the 38% of all palladium production of the world, 22% of all nickel and platinum, besides the company extracts gold, silver, cobalt and iridium, too. Thanks to the huge raw material content and profit the Norilsk Nickel is paying three times the average Russian wage and is giving 95 days of paid leave - it is true that this on cost of the death of 40 miners per year. In 2001 Moscow has declared the city a forbidden zone for foreigners.


The work of the Moscow based artist is introducing us the symbol of distruction, the forbidden zone, Norilsk, commemorating the people who died here, the bodies and buildings in corrosion, the poisoned environment. More precisely he is not commemorating them, but rather is showing us a place, that is in the center of our contamporary human civilization, although it was established on the periphery, on the borders beyond impossible. This city is the symptom of the idea of capitalism, that is exploiting as complete as possible the resources, not bearing responsability neither for the environment, or in a bigger perspective for the survival of the Earth, nor for the direct lives of the people.
Dmitry Kawarga is a well known figure of the Russian contemporary art, at the same time he is one of the most important representative of ecologically committed art. In this work he draws attention to the disaster that can be expected by the humankind, and that commonly is called as climate change. Kawarga steps out of the generality of abstract discourse when he is indicating a concrete cause and its consequences. However his pointing is made by so powerful artistic gestures, that inavitably a more general sensation of threat is unfolding for the viewer. Many works of Kawarga are speaking about the environmental pollution as a poison emitted by the technological civilization itself. The objects produced by 3D print of the Toxicity-series are all "utopian monuments" of an ecoapocalypse. Monuments, that are on the one hand archives of the accumulation, and as such they are carrying - crumpled and amassed as garbage - the tangible and human relics of a dying culture; on the other hand they are drawing up the vision of a future civilization, that goes beyond human. Peter Sloterdijk, a German philosopher is calling 'Anthropocene era' the era that started with the industrial revolution, that first exceeds, then destroys the human values. The works of Kawarga are the most unsettling artistic reflections of the Anthropocene: in his nonform compositions we can observe a continuous transition between organic forms (mostly human heads and distorted body parts), futuristic geometrical forms that express the technological transition, as well as inhuman forms without humans, more precisely biomorf diformity. With his vision of posthuman turn the Russian artist does not predict the end of the world, but another threatening world, in which humans can appear only as ghosts.
The Norilsk Substance kinetic installation can be conceived as science art as well as biogenic art or just as a sculpture - by the multiple use of materials and techniques it is on the verge of genres. But more important than classification is its narrative written by performative spectacle: the dark gray, moving substance does not form a single stone block, its surface is fragmented by cuts and hollows. Inside it evoces not just a simple cave but rather am excavated, devastated, eroded, hollowed structure of the Earth, we see splitted spurs, on top of them forms that remind us of human figures - "traces of memories" of people who sacrificed their lives, engravings of suffering, pain, destruction. The plastic sheet above the moving stone block can be interpreted as a protecting shield of the ozone layer, but this sheet is also broken: the liquids ejected from the inside of the stone block, which indicate to poisons because of their vivid colours, are penetrating the sheet, are melting down, scrolling off, and are slowly covering everything.
The work of Kawarga represents the end of the human civilization. More precisely - using the term of Timothy Morton - it represents the dark ecology, in which life is already distructing itself, and in which human is just debris. Although life is present in this dark ecology, it has nothing to do with human values, culture, with forms of thinking, with any organic forms that could be identified with the biological existence and the human ecosphere. The landscape object of distruction, the essence of Norilsk is not only witnessing the horrid homelessness, but the complete absence of the notion of home, human feelings, desires and any forms of knowledge.

Text by Gerda Szeplaky

Multimedia installation, 180x230x350 cm, polymers, metal, motors, colorful liquids
Exhibiton view
Exhibiton view
Exhibiton view
Exhibiton view