artifacts from baikonur

I was invited by artist Chris Crites to participate in a group show he’s curating called Russia, Mother Russia. The show opens Thursday, October 13 2016, from 5-7pm, at Shoreline City Hall 4th floor gallery. It will be on view through April 21, 2017 (M-F, 9:00-5:00 pm).

Chris wanted to give the artists an opportunity to explore and re-examine our ideas of how Russia and Russian people have indirectly affected our upbringing and our lives here in America. I was taken with this concept, especially since I have had an affinity for various aspects of Russian culture. In particular, I am in awe of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Earth’s first and largest space launch facility that opened in 1955. There the Soviets launched the first living creature into space (Laika the dog), the first man in orbit (Yuri Gagarin), the first woman (Valentina Tereshkova), and many other firsts. What began as a space race with the US continued as a long-term commitment to the advancement of space science and travel, in collaboration with other international efforts. Today Baikonur is a sprawling, massive facility with many launch pads, some left to decay into history, some actively used by the whole world. Baikonur is one of the only places on the planet that we launch manned missions currently. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, leased to the Russian government through 2050. I have longed to go there and experience the strange history, see Star City where cosmonauts are trained, see a launch, and explore the region. Someday I hope to do that.

The artwork I made for Russia, Mother Russia grows out of my fascination with this place and its history, and my own imaginings of the amazing stories that surround it.

“Artifacts from Baikonur” is a collection of fictional artifacts ostensibly found near Baikonur Cosmodrome. The artifacts, painstakingly collected by a quixotic character named Mr. Workman, conjure stories connected with Soviet launches from Baikonur in the 1960s-80s. Each of Mr. Workman’s artifacts are accompanied by his explanation of the item’s provenance. The collection also features a short video with background on Baikonur and Mr. Workman’s obsession. His stories are impossible and absurd, but if you don’t believe him, how else can these surreal artifacts be explained?

Credits: Mr. Workman performed by Demi Raven. Voice over and translation by Boris Epshtein and Lina Epshtein. Music soundtrack licensed from Taylor Brook. Archival documentary footage from public domain archives, all other footage by Janet Galore.

" Artifacts from Baikonur" installation view (c) janet galore

“Artifacts from Baikonur” 2016
Altered and readymade artifacts; video loop on custom media player in vintage TV; map indicating GPS locations of sites where each artifact was found.
Multiple small pieces that fit into 18″ x 36″ x 15″

Artifacts collected by Mr. Workman:

  1. Valentina Tereshkova’s compact and lipstick
  2. Laika’s dog collar
  3. 1963 souvenir booklet – Sentinels of the Stars
  4. A flask
  5. Nancy Sinatra “Boots” 8-track cassette in Russian
  6. Little bottle of mysterious dust
  7. Yuri Gagarin’s cigarette lighter
  8. Old photograph of a man in a canoe

closeup of baikonur artifacts

map of baikonur showing locations of artifacts