Moscow may be a land-locked city, but it is flooded with waterways, which have played an important historical role. For example, the waterways acted as natural barriers against siege, and isolated some sections of the city from others. Traditionally, as the city expanded, new settlements sprung up along waterways. Today waterways are not often used in most residents’ everyday lives, yet they continue to mark the city’s psychic boundaries.
As part of the project, “City of Islands within Islands,” I decided to draw a map of Mosocw’s secret waterways as a kind of layered treasure map. The goal was to draw out some of the city’s psychic boundaries.
Drawing became an important part of my research process in Moscow, and not only because I was working with architects, who draw quite a bit. In his recent book concerning drawings he made in his fieldwork notebooks, anthropologist Michael Taussig discusses what drawing might mean for the researcher:
To draw is to apply pen to paper. But to draw is also to pull on some thread, pulling it out of its knotted tangle of skein, and we also speak of drawing water from a well… Drawing is thus a depicting, a hauling, an unravelling, and being impelled toward something or somebody.
The map is created in two layers and techniques. The top layer is a pencil drawing on tracing paper, and the second layer is a collage, made from appropriated comic books. The collage-comic is drawn as a conversation between an anthropologist and an artist. The work describes my art/research process, and the challenge of entering into a completely foreign city. How to find the secret language of a city in which one is stranger?
For me, the process of drawing became necessary to address the issue that social scientists often keep hidden, even from themselves, namely: the sneaking suspicion that ‘objects’ as complex, and all-consuming as ‘the city’ can never be actually ‘known,’ fully captured, apprehended or comprehended–especially not by our relatively weak methods. As Taussig goes on to suggest:
The drawings come across as fragments that are suggestive of a world that does not have to be explicitly recorded and is in fact all the more “complete” because it cannot be completed.