Artist: Kristina Sergeeva
Video duration: 05:46
Despite their remoteness, small Russian towns have been badly hit by the corona-virus pandemic since March 2020. The work presented here comes from conversations I had with ten young people who live in a universe I am documenting in my on-going project, “Mailbox44.” It is an isolated town identified only by the number of a mail box. This particular town was classified during the Soviet era as a nuclear one and was sealed off from the rest of the world.
“Mailbox44” started as a visual exploration of my grandparents’ town. They lived behind a wall which represented the idea of Soviet isolation. The practice of establishing secret closed towns has been around since the mid-1940s, throughout the Cold War period and the nuclear period. My grandparents were recruited to be a part of one such community. They arrived from Nizhny Tagil, Russia, in 1975 with their two children in the hopes of a better life. When I was a child, I spent my summers in Mailbox44 with my grandparents and cousins, who still live there today.
Recently, my cousin and I discussed some of the obstacles the younger generation face today. His lifelong dream is to leave this lonely habitat and begin his adulthood in a bigger city. Part of the project presented here explores an abstract idea of isolation. It portrays youth living within a still somewhat sealed-off town.
Their words and images open a dialogue around distance learning, social isolation and mental health within an environment which for years has endured seclusion. While technology allows us to connect, learn and create, it also deepens the distance and isolation which has grown even larger with the Covid-19 pandemic.
© Kritina Sergeeva