First Office

Monument

In the Soviet era, the task of representing memory, sovereignty, and history was given to the water works--a system of canals, dams, and reservoirs. This infrastructure embraced the cultural program of the monument despite its otherwise efficiency-driven role as a utility. In the misfit between traditional monumentality and an object as dispersed as a hydraulic infrastructure, a system of representation emerged that presented a unified image of nature transformed through politics.

While these construction sites were violently real, the dissemination of the canal system's cultural value travelled though such commodities as cigarettes and vodka as well as postage stamps and popular books. In turn, representations influenced all encounters with the reality of the completed infrastructure and, by extension, with the affected landscape. The infrastructural works synthesized this imagery with the real animate power of moving water to formulate a new state geography and, with it, a new Soviet mentality.

The political monument, under Stalin's regime, was embodied in the construction of a new water infrastructure. Geography was thus transformed into an architectural scale. Concrete, machines, and water formed a single continuous artificial landscape. Representing this object as both geographic and architectural, the installation extrudes one side of the canal system into a foam wall--an infrastructural monument.

Funding provided by the Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences (ASHSS) research grant program at the University of Southern California and the Julia Amory Appleton Traveling Fellowship from Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD).