Sep 29, 2008

What has been happening?

(The Lenin statue across the street from the historic train station, end of the Trans-Siberian)

This feels a bit backwards.

At the beginning of August I returned from six months spent in Primorskii krai in the Russian Far East.  I feel like I'm fairly disconnected with the group and what has been happening, and hope that this blog and subsequent work can help give you all a better idea of what I've been up to and what my objectives have been.  One blog post can't cover it all, so I'll start with this overview of my goals and methods.

(Artistic collage of Vladivostok; bottles, garbage, tires)

Some background:
As you likely know from my remote power point presentation last spring, I used my grant to extend a study abroad experience in Vladivostok.  Vladivostok was founded in SW Primorskii krai in 1860 on the warm-water Golden Horn port and was the historic administrative hub of the Far East (a region equaling over 1/3 of Russia's total territory, running from the North Korean border to the arctic circle) until the end of the Soviet Union.  A major industrial and naval port, the city was off limits to foreigners and most citizens.  Today it is open to visitors and international trade and is attempting to grasp its geo-political potential, while overcoming infrastructural, ecological, and economic problems in the face of negative political perceptions.

My project was hoping to answer a piece of the question: How do Russians relate with their environments?  Specifically I was interested in how the use of visual images may be a medium to affect the overall perceptions of environmental issues.  By visual images I was hoping to see whether and how artistic photographs and paintings, advertising, scientific journals, journalism, and environmental propaganda and education represented the situations around them.  I decided to focus on a case study of the health and use of fisheries as the regions' development has been characterized by the growth of resource extraction industries.  The RFE produces around 2/3 of the country's total annual catch, with Primorskii krai providing up to 20% of that.  The management of the fisheries of the Far East is of monumental concern to the regions, people, and country - as these waters are some of the most productive in a world of diminishing maritime returns.  However, they face the same concerns as other environmental issues in Russia, "which demands taking into account all aspects of the socioeconomic development and use on natural resources" of the Russian Far East (Novomodny, Amur Fish: Wealth and Crisis, 2004).  

What I hoped to do:
This project could be seen as having two distinct segments to t
ry to get the most information that I could, taking advantage of being situated in the location.  The primary goal was to conduct and record convenience interviews, or talking to different samples of people about their perceptions and ideas/narratives.  I split this aspect into two groups: the "elites" or individuals involved directly in some aspect of the situation (including Environmental NGO's, fishing companies, governmental scientific and industrial organizations, educators, and news agencies) and "everyone else" (random samples of various populations throughout the krai to try and get a base of the consumption of images).  A secondary task was to record and collect materials that I saw as representing the visual representations of sea and fish; this included scientific and news journals, books of local artists works, propaganda pamphlets and anthologies of articles, and my personal photographs.

This seems like a good place to end this post, the follow-up will get more into my time and travels, how my methodology worked or didn't, and where I stand now (besides back here in Portland).

(Sitting at the radio desk of the local regiment of forest fire fighters)

Sep 14, 2008

Siberia reborn

(Image from Tribute website, Russ)

Have you ever felt a ghost nearby?

Well, you may have sworn there was somebody right behind you if you'd attended this last Saturday's showcase of the songs of Yanka Dyagileva channeled by Alina Simone at Funky Church; an evening possibly best summed up by a band-member as "psychedelic spookiness." Let's set the scene:

Funky Church ( is... properly monikered. A one-hundred-year-old or so structure, this space has gone through many different incarnations - the latest being a home and occasional lo-fi music venue. It offers domed wooden ceilings, dim and warm lighting, and a stage on a rug-covered loft backed by stained glass and stuffed with pillows and chairs, with a door to balcony and real-to-god belfry.

It was a four-band line-up, with three local acts (Jacob Golden, Down South Sallie, The Battle of Land and Sea) and a Ukrainian-born, Massachusetts-raised singer/songwriter named Alina Simone, playing stripped-down tracks off her cover-album Everyone Is Crying Out To Me, Beware. Singing in Russian, her set-list offered interpretations of the work of Siberian folk-punk cult icon Yanka Dyagileva. Characterized by howling agony and lo-fi recordings (only ever produced on mixtape until well after her death), Yanka's music spoke out to the last soviet generation, bringing together the desperation of the taiga and its rich culture, whispering of uncertainty as the union splintered. This artist's career only lasted four years and 29 songs, cut-short by her suicide in 1991, but has gone on to inspire a new country of musical artists and the disaffected.

The spookiness of those original home-recordings reverberated kindly through the set and space all night: artists were practically silhouetted against a single lamp, speckled time from time by the reflections of a swaying disco ball, while a mysterious, unfelt breeze kept lampshades rocking and scattered set-lists and lyric notes. It seemed as if an ice-whipped breeze had somehow been transplanted into this late-summer evening through all those years and thousands of miles after brushing Yanka's face for the last time in the woods.

Sep 11, 2008


Первий из много, или может быть нет...

Рыбаки и моряки, лосось и палтус, ещё белий кит вкусно...