to be contained, to be a container
2024, Total installation
Initial research was made during the Shishim hill art residency in Yekaterinburg, in September 2020.
Part of the project was produced during the Cryptic residency at Cove Park in 2024, thanks to the Cryptic team.

The full-scale project was presented at the Glasgow Project Room in May 2024.
This exhibition did not receive any support from any funding bodies.

My thanks to the people without whose help this exhibition would not have been possible: Glasgow Project room team, Olesya Ilenok, Raydale Dower and Jenny Crowe, Zhenya Chaika, Caitlin Merrett King, Glasgow art map team.
Used media:
4-channel video (length varied), 4-channel sound, technological sculpture with cycled water system (stone, ceramics bowl made by Olesya Ilenok, water, peristaltic pump, Wemos D1 mini microcontroller).
Size (technological sculpture):
Short description:

'No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.'


'to be contained, to be a container' project takes the form of a total installation that combines technological sculpture, multichannel sound and video to create an immersive environment. The thematic core explores the intricacies of memory decay and the nuanced process of reassembling memories throughout a lifetime. At its heart lies a metaphorical comparison, manifesting as a technological sculpture drawing parallels between water flow and consciousness, where memories are akin to stones shaping the narrative.
Curatorial statement:
Nothing compares to water in its eternity. Nothing compares to stones in their durability. Still, what happens if we start to measure human life with something that we recognize as incomparable, with a scale we acknowledge as inapplicable? What if even one grating period is longer than the whole life we want to measure? What if our subject to measure is falling through a scale spacing? Technically, we fail. Theoretically, we prove that the life of any human being is but negligibly small. Artistically, we show that one total sculpture is to dwell longer than any human can afford.
The centre of a total structure built by Andrey Chugunov is a clay bowl, which is a container for a stone and water that is meant to destroy it. This mirroring vessel serves as a meditation point for spectators. Everything that surrounds – images and sounds – works on creating an integral and meaningful space. At the same time, TV, phone, and plasma screens – they just contain water through representing its main features, those that are important to the artist.
Water is a flow; it runs constantly, and, in its current, it happens to be the same and different at each and every moment. Water is a changing agent; it interacts with different objects and materials, it deforms, it gives new colors, it destroys structures, it applies organic elements to what has previously been dead. Water is a texture; when it’s zoomed in, we see how diverse and playful it actually is for itself.
Still, to make this diversity of water visible, one should be able to capture it. It should be contained. It should be even prisoned in a way. The given vessel keeps water in it, stone and earth (clay) build the bridge of memories that is getting destroyed drop by drop. But it disappears way too slowly to give a chance to start a new life from scratch. It gives too much consistency to stay anchored, even if just watery anchored.
Zhenya Chaika, cultural projects manager, contemporary art curator, researcher and author
Artist statement:
In 2020, I was returning to my hometown of Yekaterinburg after graduating from university in Vladivostok. It was my second time travelling by train along the Trans-Siberian Railway - 5 days one way to get off somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I had plenty of time to look out the train window and flip through memories under static, almost unchanging scenery. I found that everything I remembered for the last 2 years was vivid and colourful. Still, receding each time by one year the memories became increasingly blurred to the point where I could remember almost nothing except that some situation had happened to me. Everything slowly is decaying, turning into a distant echo of situations that happened to me, as if all this had never happened at all. Because of this, it seems to me that I have lived a thousand lives, and I can't tell the whole story about any of them. All I have to do is watch the leaves of my memories wither away, like the leaves of a spring cherry tree at the end of its blossom.

Sitting on the couch on the train, I was spinning a small smooth stone that I had picked up just before leaving Vladivostok during my time on Rikord Island. It was the usual dark pebble for those places, unremarkable and indistinguishable from all other stones of this secluded place. But I have a long-standing habit, when I want to hold moments in my memory, I pick up small memorable pebbles as if these stones were anchors of memories. More often they turn into a dead weight that I periodically squeeze with the palm of my hand, trying to remember where they were picked up.

When I returned to Yekaterinburg, I was invited to the Shishim Hill art residence by curator Zhenya Chaika. It was an interesting experience to return to my hometown and for the first time in my life I faced burnout and a complete lack of ideas. And then I irrationally decided to walk around and record on a VHS camera the current of water in the city rivers. My research extends to three overarching characteristics in river basins. Firstly, water serves as a substance, dynamically interacting with objects and reshaping their forms (you can see it on a mobile phone). Secondly, the water stream embodies an imperceptible process, slipping away in time (at the kinescoped TV). Lastly, water manifests as a dynamic graphical texture (tablet and plasma TV). The sound consists of two main layers: the first is the water sound from the original VHS videos; the second is generated and based on the Karplus-Strong synthesis triggered by recorded sounds of water streams and sine tones that create the unsettling atmosphere.

And then I came to the image of the centrepiece of the exhibition - a technological sculpture that represents the recursive water volume that can be metaphorized with the mind. Many scientists and philosophers emphasize that consciousness involves recursive processes, which I represent in the sculpture. Water in the cycled volume is pumped up from a ceramic bowl to a burette that drops water from a ceiling on the stone which is placed inside the ceramic bowl. Each drop in this looped system can be metaphorically compared to a memory recall.

And it seems that this black pebble is a memory of a place and a country that no longer exists, at least for me. And with each drop, my memories are fading away in time.