Built between 1891 and 1916, at nearly 10,000km the Trans-Siberian is the longest railway line in the world, connecting Moscow with the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok, with ancillary lines connecting to Beijing (known as the Trans-Manchurian and Trans-Mongolian depending upon the route). The railway that made Russia a bi-continental unity continues to play a central role in the Russian economy, with 30% of Russian exports using the railway. This figure is expected to rise with further investment from both the Russians and more importantly from the Chinese in this ’New Silk Road' railway network, with connections for containers between Beijing and Hamburg already as fast as 15 days.
The railway is shaping today’s geo-political system with plans for a new transport route linking Atlantic with Pacific through a high speed rail and new routes connecting Moscow to Washington. The landscapes of the harsh climate of Siberia and decaying industry will open up to new geographies of the urban industrial fabric under 21st century capitalism. We are set to witness and document the emergent urbanization process underpinned by a worldwide condition.
Our research will traverse seven different time zones of a simultaneously modern and archaic landscape. From Sankt Petersburg to Vladivostok we will reinvent the political-economical and socio-environmental relations of a vast spatial formation. Vladivostok that strange Pacific Ocean port and city which is today finding a new life as it becomes the Las Vegas of the east, following from Russia’s desire to conquer the Far East, this post soviet city emerges as a clash between future and past ideology, as a free economic area where western nations can play out their own identity crisis.
Siberia is the home of the woolly mammoth, and strange ancient human remains. This is the landscape of mystics such as Gurdjieff, a vast territory used for space exploration industry that holds a certain nostalgic fantasy about it, a landscape containing still-growing rift valleys which now hold the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world: Lake Baikal. Yet this is a landscape which indexes the anthropocene, as the warming climate causes the methane held in the permafrost of the tundra to explode a new landscape of blow-holes.
In the depths of the taiga, we will attempt to tame time. The carriage is an ideal observation post from which to witness changes in landscapes, societies and selves while the train journey will become the laboratory of these transformations.
We are looking for around 15 people to join us this summer, in July for 3 weeks. We will meet in Saint Petersburg and/or Moscow and will take the Trans-Siberian to Vladivostok, stopping in cities, towns and landscapes on the way. We will spend approximately 7 days and nights on the train, so be prepared! It will be an adventure! Every day we will record our thoughts thorough writing, drawing, filming. Each evening there will be seminars and discussions. We will return back to Moscow where the programme will present its findings and work, which Derailed Lab intends to publish in due course.
Programme: 17th July - 06th August 2016
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