ZATO – Secret Soviet Cities during the Cold War, curated by Xenia Vytuleva, explores the dynamics between politics, urbanism, and cartographic manipulation.
Tuesday, 27 March 2012–Tuesday, 22 May 2012 – Harriman Institute Atrium, 420 West 118th Street, 12th Floor
Nameless, not shown on maps, ZATO were sites of highly secretive military and scientific research and production. Built in the remote areas of the Soviet Empire, they followed a unique architectural program – inspired by ideal cities, based on perfect geometric plans, articulated by progressive modernist architectural language, reflecting the ideology of the Party. However, these “realized utopias” were camouflaged and blurred into the environment (even today some of the sites are blocked on Google Earth). Moreover, their essential isolation from the entire Soviet context, including special food and consumer supplements given as rewards for the secrecy and “otherness” of the sites, had an unexpected impact on ZATO’s cityscape.
Today there are 43 ZATO on the territory of the Russian Federation. Their future is uncertain: some may survive; others may disappear as urban formations within the context of Russian suburbs. It may happen that thei
r existence will no longer be a metaphor, nor a fact. The exhibition at the Harriman Institute and the related forthcoming publication aim to contextualize the ZATO phenomenon within a larger socio-political and artistic discourse that uses archival resources that, until this case study, have never before been viewed.
On display: ZATO archival materials, camouflage maps of strategic sites, secret diagrams of changing ZATO names/ numbers, ZATO passports, photographs by Richard Pare.