Scores for the video installations Ecumenopolis and Capital City, part of Elian Somers' project A Stone From the Moon. In the installations, still images cross-fade slowly, with a voice-over and accompanying scores by Rutger Zuydervelt. This albums presents these soundtracks unadorned.
For this film, Elian Somers delved into a specific aspect of the Cold War: the efforts on both sides, East and West, to extend their spheres of influence by means of art and culture. As a counterpart to Socialist Realism, the US advanced modernist art as a vehicle for spreading Western values. This Cultural Cold War also took place on the front of architecture and urban development.
Against this geopolitical background, Somers zooms in on Greek architect-planner Constantinos Doxiadis and his role as a cultural agent of change. In the 1950s and 60s, Doxiadis developed many key projects across the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and was responsible for the modernist master plans of Riyadh, Baghdad and the brand new capital Islamabad. Parallel to these projects, he worked on his own mission: a visionary urbanist theory which he named ekistics, the science of human settlements. Its ultimate aim was a blueprint for a future city that would encompass the entire world: Ecumenopolis.
In Somers’ film a voice-over tells us about Doxiadis’ mission and his interdisciplinary network of inspirational fellows, which he gathered annually on a boat in the Aegean Sea to contribute to his mission. Her camera hovers around the island Delos and the ancient city where Doxiadis would take them. In order to envision the urban future, they were to travel back in time. As the story unfolds, Somers interweaves two rather different perspectives on Doxiadis and his ‘Delians’, drawing both on official archives celebrating his architecture as a practice beyond politics, and on alternative sources that trace a more complex context.
With Capital City Elian Somers investigates the evolution of Eurasia as a geographical, political and cultural concept. Speaking from the near future, a voice-over traces visions of Eurasia, conceived both as a past to hark back to and a future destination. Somers’ research for this work centered on Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of post-communist Kazakhstan between 1991-2019, who cast himself as a Eurasianist visionary and architect. The new capital city he erected from scratch in the Kazakh steppe was not just a nationalist project, but was also envisioned as the Heart of Eurasia, making this idea manifest as a concrete reality as well as a utopian project with much wider ramifications.
Capital City Somers evokes an image of the futurist city Nazarbajev had in mind, by means of photographs she took of iconic architecture on location. The voice-over narrative connects Nazarbajev’s Eurasian mission with earlier ideas explored by the Eurasianist movement just after the Russian Revolution as well as the Eurasian ideologies that are deeply entwined with the Kremlin today. Her cyclical narrative underscores how, over the past hundred years, the idea of Eurasia continues to be resurrected, while the underlying visions and geopolitical implications also reveal significant shifts.
released October 19, 2022
Constructed by Rutger Zuydervelt, 2020 (Ecumenopolis) and 2022 (Capital City).