a fictional journey along the world’s longest crude oil pipeline

Druzhba is part of the “If Disrupted, It Becomes Tangible. Infrastructures and Solidarities beyond the post-Soviet Condition”, an exhibition curated by Antonina Stebur and Aleksei Borisionok, organized by The National Gallery of Art and Lithuanian National Museum of Art, 2023

The Druzhba project is an installation that explores the cultural, political, and geographical territories that unfold in a fictional journey along the world’s longest crude oil pipeline, stretching 4,000 kilometers from Siberia, through the Baltic States, into Eastern and Central Europe. Druzhba, or “friendship” in Russian, is a master signifier, a grand-narrating, imperial structure meant at its inception in 1960 to “lead the world into a new dawn”. The project’s psycho-geographic readings reveal mechanisms of power and submission that rightfully belong to the past but still persist even today.

During the Soviet times, Druzhba represented immense machinery of infrastructure and capital, ideology and sentiments, labor and leisure, and was meant to tie together in friendship regions that were under intense political pressure and mutual suspicion. As the Soviet Union collapsed, the newly founded companies of the former Eastern bloc began to use their old networks of influence and steal into the oil-rich fields of Siberia and the Urals. The privatization of the pipeline infrastructure was seen as a symbol of the new liberal democratic-oriented political direction. Power and colonization had moved from one compass point to another.

The Druzhba project is an archive of the metabolism of the Druzhba pipeline. We know of a pipeline from the images of the maps that show its branching, from media reports celebrating its new installments, its proposed expansions, its refinery openings and closings, the pumping stations, settlements of the oil industries. This evidence puts together narrative threads about the Druzhba pipeline and the ambiguous areas of exchange between economics and culture. The installation highlights the flows and energies produced by a disintegrating infrastructure of power and links the distorted and pressurized story of the Druzhba pipeline to personal anxiety and the idea of friendship.

Druzhba, 2003-ongoing

Installation. High-performance plastic, UV print, Archival footage

Graphic design in collaboration with Gaile Pranckūnaitė and Marek Voida (2018)

Architecture in collaboration with Jurga Daubaraitė and Jonas Žukauskas

Photo: Daniel Anohin, Katsiaryna Miats, Gintarė Grigėnaitė