Museum Centre Nakhodka

Anah Glinskaya

Curator of the Open Museum Forum, Russia authors: Elena Agafonova, Elena Teplyakova, Ekaterina and Igor Demidenko presenters: Ekaterina and Igor Demidenko

Museum Centre Nakhodka

Nakhodka Primorskii krai Russia

Fish Home-Front

To get to a little seaside town of Nakhodka that resides on the fatherest edge of the Russian East one needs to find sound reasons - one needs a theme that would cut to the heart. An exhibition that took place in the Nakhodka Museum Center touched upon one of those complex questions which are not publicly discussed. It is a theme of the selfless female and child labour used in the times of war on strategically important production plants. Such was the case of the fish-factory "Tafuin" (small town of Juzhno-Morskoi, Primorskii kray): dozens of "little human tragedies" streamed into one act of true heroism, allowing the Primorsk kray become a Fish-home front during the Second World War.

The basic material needed for the execution of the project was collected during the research expedition in the small town of Juzhno-Morskoi: the documents were all found here, some telling objects and personal memoirs of the labourers of the fish factory "Tafuin" were all collected in this place. Next step was the organization of the historical-artistic exposition in the Nakhodka Museum Center dedicated to the 60-th anniversary of the victory. With simple and economic means the authors managed to create a powerful image of the "invisible fighters" of "the fish front".

A visualised model of the world, a scheme within which in the time of war - locked as fish in a fish tank - the women inhabiting the small town found themselves, was placed within minimum of space (all exposition managed to get into a comparatively small "fish box"). Several "telling objects" do not simply outline some main notions in the lives of those women, but rather they signal of all the things they were deprived of: love, full families, peace, comfort, healthy children - of all those signs of human happiness. For a long time the individual destinies of the people that carried the burden of inhumanly hard labour remained unknown. The resulting exposition - laconic and shrilling - shed light on some of their names, communicating a kind of portrait''s definiteness and individuality to a collective and non-personal act of heroism. And just as any other high-class art-work, this exposition contains its own mystery: one can't explain why the combination of all those uncanny objects creates such a strong emotional impact, leaving a sense of vulnerability and despair, of yearning, fragility and tenderness of the women who had no opportunity to leave their lives to the full...

The discussion of this theme continued within the frames of a discussion platform project "Fish front: Women and Children?". Thus the museum acted as an exegete and a communicator, stripping bare some painful sides of the local community and helping it to free itself from the inner burden, to be able to live differently - with knowledge and understanding of its history as it was restored with the utmost possible factuality.

Text: Ilona Lebedeva
Translation: Xenia Golubovich


* * *
It's best when you look at this work alone, slowly, and thoughtfully. An illuminator is cut into the planks, as if into a side-board of a "kavaska" ship. It is placed up high and will help you to play in. Little boys who had to go out fishing into the sea also had to climb on a box or a fish tray to stick their nose out and see the approaching shore. Just as those fishermen you are looking within the composition... Wet sand. Empty shells. Trays awaiting fresh fish. And the swings with a ship-board. There sits a little girl looking exhausted. She is dressed in a grey robe and a light kerchief. She doesn''t care about the swings: she is waiting for the unloading, and not one thought enters her estranged head. She just looks at the clouds over the masts: are they not the souls of her killed countrymen? A rag-doll lies thrown down and forgotten just as childhood and youth. All over the walls one reads surnames grouped in triplets, just as they used to do it for the screens of the socialist labour competition - small collectives, without names. They are also used for calling a person at work or at school: DEPUTATOVA, KUSHNAREVA, CHUBASHOVA, DANSHINA, AGIBALOVA, OSIPENKO, SOKOLOVA, CHAMUHA, TSIGANOVA, PARCHINA, PAVLOVA, PENJAZ, GLUKHOVA... tens of surnames. Red stars in between are the star-fishes resembling the stars of the Heroes of the Socialist Labour and some three-lined poems - eastern haiku. For poetry is outside of politics: wet air, freshness and sea-aromas of the Far-East shores are living within its tender boundaries.