This zine tells the nonlinear story of the commune that existed not far from Saint-Petersburg as a temporary project, initiated by the participants and tutors of the Chto Delat School for Engaged Art.
Russian armed forces were invading Ukraine, our unofficial headquarters at Rosa House of Culture had already closed, many activists and cultural workers — friends and acquaintances among them — were being detained or fleeing abroad. The commune was created in order to provide shelter for those who stayed. There, residents and occasional guests could gather their strength and thoughts, trying to work out the plan at a time when everything went to shit all at once. Although we had many ambitious ideas for the commune, not all of them came to fruition for various reasons — miscommunication, entropy, lack of resources, both material and emotional. This zine reflects on those projects, featuring traces of our collective cognition and imagination. Due to the fact that we worked on the publication collectively, under stress and not without conflicts, it became the collage of various inputs. Here, the reader can find visual and textual contributions provided by residents and guests, sidenotes compiled from various online sources, and poetic sketches on the mundane from the collective Telegram-chat called “Language Refuge” (introduced in the text below). The overall narrative unfolds in parts, each dedicated to a particular theme — from introduction into the commune’s habitat, through the articulation of the rift opened by the war, through the collage representing our shared language, through reports of our bodily experiences, and to the final settlement of the score. The thread helping the reader to crawl through the rabbit hole of the Siverskaya commune is the tail of our magnificent companion — Snezhana the Cat. Although originally we wanted to keep the timeline properly Gregorian and chronological, the sequence of events was skewed beyond repair in the process of editorial work. And it is fitting since such time of a cat’s twisted tail best reflects the fucked up days we have to live in. Conventional time caught up with us in the end though — the commune as a physical space of cohabitation ceased to exist at the end of summer as per original plan. This weirdly coincided with the police raid at our tutors’ dacha located at the same village. We were packing and destroying all evidence of our presence half expecting the law to come through the woods. Luckily, it didn’t happen. We managed to get back to the city safely and complete our work on this publication.
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Emergency commune in Siverskaya village (near Saint Petersburg), late August 2022
During the existence of the commune several video works were shot – some of them were lost in the confiscated computer, some of them were lost in the process of fleeing the country, but this video was recovered.
see more at commune zine publication
The summer of 2022 was not only scary, but absurdly scary. And throughout our experience of living together, we began to turn frequently to examples of absurdist behavior and literature. And our imaginations were captured by the mad tea party scene in Alice in Wonderland. So, we decided to make our own version.
Looking back, we see a strange realization of the play that happened in real life. In the movie, Alice (Olga Egorova Tsaplya – the Heron, hides behind the camera) keeps suggesting that the tea party participants fill out different questionnaires. Only a month passed after the filming, and in real life, already outside Russia, a list of DK Rosa for a humanitarian visa to Germany was created, which included everyone in the group of specific risk of belonging to DK Rosa and the School of Engaged Art. And everyone involved in the movie had to fill out a lot of bureaucratic paperwork.
see more about Siverskaya Emergency Commune at the zine