Memory of the Wave
Radio Astronomy Telescope of the Academy of Sciences, Large Azimuth Telescope, Special Astrophysical Observatory — all of these names were summed up in simple but nonetheless cryptic acronyms: RATAS, LAT, SAO. I spent part of my childhood among this world of scientists and their amazingly huge instruments, lost in the gorges, peaks and foothills of the northern Caucasus. It was a utopia, in some ways, of course, "potemkinskaya", demonstrative, in other ways real. The giant structures served one purpose – to learn about the world around them. For me, they were the physical embodiment of the ideal 20th century – humanity's quest for progress and learning. This entire cluster is devoted exclusively to basic science. It was a parade, originally demilitarised Soviet science. Very often, our memories of the grandiose projects of the communist past draw endless bunkers and tunnels in the thickness of basalt, rocket silos, submarines the size of small skyscrapers. But in this case it was different: pictures of distant nebulae and galaxies, radio waves, relict radiation – as they say, "calls of distant worlds". It was a kind of illustration for the novel by Ivan Yefremov or the plot of the film by Klushantsev.
This technique still works today and is even relevant in the research environment, but the dream has gone. The state, which created this dream, no longer exists, and unthinkable fratricidal wars are now raging on its territory. People no longer have the same inquisitive desire to solve the "mystery of the matter" as before. But there are waves and their memory. Just as waves spread from a stone thrown into the water, so the modernist urge to understand and unravel the universe spreads with this intention. Today we try to hear and see space with orbiting telescopes, probes fly to the edge of the solar system, nuclear rovers travel and gather information for us on Mars, and particles collide in a collider. And somewhere in the vast expanse of space is a wave that still remembers the attention paid to it by humans and their inquisitive instruments decades ago.
My project is a fantasy of what the devices of science could look like in an alternative branch of evolution, but alternative in this case does not mean different and unattainable. If we were able to overcome the predatory instinct of consumption and unite in our passion to learn about the world around us, humanity could look forward to many crucial discoveries. If the question "what's out there?" proves more interesting than "who's in charge?", then we can turn to this alternative branch of our possible story. The antennas, wave transmitters, other potential devices and mechanisms I have depicted are a kind of declaration of intent. Without having a specifically described function, they should awaken the imagination of the viewer and reflect the idea of a future technocratic utopia. The fact that the colossal scientific projects of the past were not realised does not negate their importance and significance. That's why I'm fond of retro-futuristic images, as a tribute to an era of great ambition and faith in humanism and the power of reason. The memory of that wave should, in all probability, become the starting point for a new wave of basic scientific research to help us understand the foundations of this world and our place in it.