Polar sun, yellow light at 3am, insomnia, another sense of time. Day and night become one or shift in such a way, that the hours of sunshine without darkness can be characterized as many nights in fine distinction. At midnight we gather the rhythms of breathing on the long wooden staircase behind the library in Murmansk.
The length of the stair determines the work to be done, the landing and the platforms in between rhythm the stair climbing, which is accompanied by a performative breathing practice. In Murmansk you cannot get around climbing stairs: The stairs are always demanding work from the body, if starting from the port, where nuclear-powered icebreakers in geopolitical race leave to the Stockman Field in the Barents Sea, in order to extract the oil reserves of the earth, you climb up to the grey prefab buildings on the hill. During midnight climbing stairs, I wonder, who built these stairs? Who built this city? A city built in 1916 for strategic military reasons and filled with work-damned people? This happened shortly before the revolution in the course of industrial modernization. A strongly industrialized present is deconstructed in the opera The Victory over the Sun (Победа над Солнцем [Pobeda nad solncem] St. Petersburg, 1913). I choose this libretto by the poets Alexsej Kruchenykh und Velimir Khlebnikov for the laboratory of the (non-) industrial and together with Maria Sarycheva (curator of 24/7 secret laboratory) we found a reading group. As the week progresses, more and more young people from Murmansk join to discuss this controversial text. There, the sun is considered a hegemonic timekeeper, which is why to defeat her, they imprison her in a concrete building. This brutal act is fueled by revolutionary will energized “strong man”. The centralized power of the sun is replaced by incarnations of energy. In this Futurism, we are surrounded by carbon dioxide-breathing chimneys, steely birds and, thanks to greasy dust, we become as healthy as pigs. The only remark the libretto let a woman appear is the one who gets caught by the airforce when crossing the bridge. In this male idealism, women shall be excluded:
Everything’s become masculine
The lake is harder than iron
Don’t believe the old gauges"
meet daily at the harbor of Murmansk, surrounded by squeaking and
crackling noises. In the stroke, we summarize the many strong mans in
the libretto to one and only and transform the figure of the time
traveler, the only one we can sympathize with, into a witch. Instead
of black and white, we choose gray. We cancel the belingerent and
propagandistic-nationalist voices. At their place, the Backstreetboys
join together with a Greek Choir. We emphazize the truly grieving old
and replace the military music with a love song.
(I take part in all this as a Russian illiterate and Maria does a terrific translation into English aorund the clock for me.)
6 hours after the reading of The Victory over the Sun we meet on the stairs. I introduce
performative breathing techniques and we transfer the smoking chimneys
of the now dead "strong man" of the opera without their
revolutionary-patriarchals overhang into our own, precarious bodies.
The stairs in front of us become an interface where we balance our
heterogeneous temporalities through breathing. It is bright midnight
and we are (almost) sleepless. The lab has put me into a kind of
permeable waking state over the 7 days of its duration.