Trans-Historical Railway: A Play upon the Lost Futures of Russia

Trans-Historical Railway: A Play upon the Lost Futures of Russia. 
An installation by DerailedLab at the Institute of Light, 376 Helmsley Pl, London E8 3SB 
Opening Party 6pm, May 8th 2017

‘History would be a wonderful thing – if only it were true’ Leo Tolstoy

            There is an often quoted passage in the essay ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ by the early twentieth century German theorist Walter Benjamin, in which he reads the figure portrayed in the Paul Klee painting ‘Angelus Novus’ as the ‘angel of history’. He describes the angel caught in the winds of time, blown into the future but facing the past. It is often imagined that the angel is blown in one direction, in a straight line of progress, but perhaps it is more appropriate to imagine him dragged over the surface of our planet in the complex patterns of geo-historical dynamics, and over Russia at least, caught in all kinds of eddies, cyclones and tornados. Such at least, was the experience of Derailed Lab on its summer 2016 expedition along the Trans-Siberian railway from St Petersburg to Vladivostok, where we found evidence of multiple lost futures, estranged pasts and dynamic presents, all active across the Russian landscape. 
            Having previously presented our reflections upon this expedition at the Strelka Institute in Moscow through a large scale drawing-performance, in this new work Derailed Lab has re-imagined the Trans-Siberian railway as a trans-historical space-time machine, and has designed a strategy game to explore the parallel histories – both really-existing and counter-factual – which co-exist in this territory. The railway itself was born out of a Tsarist imperial space-time, and this nineteenth century technology co-evolved with the revolutionary constructivist architectural and urban experiments of the twenties and thirties, which punctuate the towns and cities along the railway, and which suggest an alternative future that still haunts us today. The Stalinist palaces built later in the twentieth century – both underground and overground – project a neo-classical timelessness of sorts, while the recent anxious developments of Putin’s Russia now agonise alongside the memories of these and all kinds of other spaces, temporalities and modes of existence. 
            On the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution the Trans-Historical Railway will be stopping the Institute of Light in London for 24hrs, welcome aboard.

The Organising Committee: Raluca Cirstoc and Jon Goodbun together with Joseph Brennan, Cosimo Campani, Miranda Dixon, Edith Fung, Lydia Karagiannaki, Myung Lee and fellow travellers.