Mr Monkey sees Anarcadia at the Castlefield Gallery, 11th August
Mr Monkey went into Manchester to visit the Castlefield Gallery to see Anarcadia, an interestring and engrossing exhibition by Ruth Maclennan.
For Anarcadia, Ruth Maclennan has filmed a video in South East Kazakhstan and supported it with her own photographs, film and photographs from State archives, and a wall hanging. The exhibition touches on the geological history, traditional culture and recent history of Kazakhstan, an area which Maclennan has previously visited for her earlier video Valley of Castles.
Mr Monkey started by watching Bringing oil across the desert to the land of the Soviets, a 7 minute loop of fragments from a Soviet film made in 1930. Between 1926 and 1931 the USSR built a railway, the Turkestan-Siberian, Turkmenistan-Siberian or Turk-Sib, between Turkestan and Kazakhstan to Siberia. This allowed the exploitation of previously inaccessible oil fields.
The film shows some of the exisiting structures on the route of the Turk-Sib railway, the building and running of the railway, and the working of the new Soviet oil fields, which seemed to involve spilling as much oil as possible.
Beside the film, Mr Monkey looked at the After Life series of pictures, which showed the pollution caused by the oil industry in almost abstract close-ups of oil spills.
Downstairs, a set of photographs of present day Kazakhstan - Back Lot, Doesn't belong to anybody and Inside out - showed Mr Monkey a sort of post-industrial desert. Somehow the pictures seemed more bleak because they were in colour.
Mr Monkey was fascinated by a set of photos from the State Documentary Film and Audio Archive in Kazakstan of workers on the Kazakhstan railway between 1939 and 1961. The pictures showed a semi-industrialised desert, staffed by earnest Russian men and women apparently dedicated to moving oil around the USSR.
Mr Monkey examined Petroglyph, a picture showing rock carvings dating to the Iron Age, then studied 19/XII/1970, an embroidered yurt hanging from Uzbekistan. These led him into a darkened area.
Once he was in the dark, Mr Monkey watched the high definition video, Anarcadia. Filmed on location in Kazakhstan, this follows two characters, an archeologist looking for evidence of human occupation of the land and a geological surveyor looking for mineral to exploit, as they search and philosophise their way around Kazakhstan. It's a leisurely, beautiful and strange piece.