LETTA SHTOHRYN 
An area of some importance 
An area of some importance 
 
1957: the year my family moved from a Siberian labour camp to populate the “virgin territories” in Kazakhstan. 1957: the year Sputnik was launched, starting the space race. 
Using mapping as a processual tool for investigation, I will explore unmarked settlements in Siberia and the time when “Quarter 17” (the labour camp where my family were situated) became a village named “Sosnovka”, or “pine tree”.On Google Maps this region is mapped at a much lower resolution than its neighbouring areas. I wonder whether this blurriness implies that the location is deemed of little importance by the authorities; or that it is, in fact, an area of sensitivity, hence the need to censor it. 
 
 
 
 
Following the map to Kazakhstan, I will intertwine my family research with other significant political events occurring in Kazakhstan at that time; namely the creation of Baikonur Cosmodrome (the USSR’s space launch facility) and its infrastructure, and nuclear bomb tests in eastern Kazakhstan. 
My research will juxtapose the nomadic state of my family and their search of a new life in Kazakhstan with the space race (the ultimate human journey into unknown territories) and space exploration as an imposed unifying ambition for the USSR’s citizens. 
Visually I am trying to understand, depict, imagine the fragments of information that my family had at the time about the grand and very secret projects of the USSR. Their knowledge, I've been told consisted of a disjointed combination of rumours, wild guesswork and speculation, even though they might have directly contributed with their labour to the infrastructure creation leading to the nuclear test sites or Baikonur Cosmodrome. 
 
 
Neighbouring Sites 
 
Lis 
(in Ukr. timber and forest ) 
 
"The parents would build a timber house together for each family. Everything was made out of timber and the landscape was the forest." 
(Pre 1957 years at the labour camp settlement) 
Here I am thinking about what my aunt who grew up in the camp shared with me about the residents'relationship to nature - they were surrounded by it, used it for their needs, it was their work but also they were kind of tired of it. Nonetheless, my grandmother would take photos wearing summer dresses in front of an artificial birch tree in the middle of Siberian winter. 
 
Nature as barbed wire 
" Some tried to send their daughters away on sledges. They found them frozen at the edge of the forest. The forest was all they'd known. Anyway one cannot get far at -60" Where was "away"? "Just away from the camp. To the nearest settlements. But nobody really knew exactly where the next settlement was " 
The camp had created pseudo normality for the workers. First, there were only barracks and a canteen, later the workers decided to build their own wooden houses. Nobody stopped them. After 1953 when they were paid on money rather than food rations, the structure of the camp got a shop and a cinema. The illusions of normality, stability and abundance of resources prevailed. But still, they had known that they've got to stay in the area for the duration of the prison sentence of the "criminal" of the family, usually the father. There were some guards with a few dogs, later individual families started having pets related to the dogs of the guards. There was no need for a wall or barbed wire, they were kept on the territory by the unknown terrain and nature, that they worked with, lived from, and were unable to overcome. 
BIO 
Growing up as a nomad between an uncertain East and an ordered West, my practice is a result of the conflicting experiences of both. 
In my work, I investigate the structure and nature of reality. Frequently, my practice has time as an underlying theme and examines our relationship to space – physical, personal, legal, or perceived. I also engage with realities that are at odds with each other: a dictatorial narrative, witness statements, paradoxes, or materials that claim to be not what they seem. 
My research extends to the balance of truth and myth; it asks questions about the real and the artificial; it explores the ontological existence of objects and operates within the state between the digital and the tangible, and looks for space between comfort and discomfort. 
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