Drinking Set for Irises

June 2018, installation at FFTN, Saint-Petersburg.

In May 2016, I spent a week in the Bor floodplain. Arriving with a desire to look at the clouds and leaves, I soon realized that this technique was no longer valid: fishermen, cladmen, and hunters looked much more appropriate in this oak forest than a detached and dreamy artist. To become a member of the cenosis, one had to join some kind of a functional cycle.

On a flat meadow flooded by the Volga, a narrow, fast, cold river was spinning with water brown from loam. There were also swampy lowlands. Between these expected communities was not the most common in our time pasture oak forest. Widely set aside large sprawling trees, beautiful soft grass with flowers are between them. Such a spacious grove in Western culture is associated with the image of a generative, powerful, and calm nature, although it can sustainably exist only when cattle are grazing in it and deadwood is removed. And also, there was a recent grassroots fire: instead of turf, black sticks crunched underfoot. Both meadow and forest grass layers were destroyed: lilies of the valley and irises mixed in the gaps between the trees.

Irises joined me in performing. Including last year's dead ones — I brought water from the river for their open seed pods.


Two types of reliability can be compared: plants and technical assemblies.

The reliability of plants reveals itself through sowing. It is necessary to fulfill several very general conditions (temperature, humidity, substrate, light, regime) for the seeds to become active (sometimes after many years of immobility) and grow and form the body. Their independence surprises and offends a little. They do not need care and attention; they have pretty acceptable ranges of significant environmental parameters. If a mistake is made in providing these ranges, then the catastrophe of young seedlings will be an independent process: it will not necessarily be possible to intervene in it to correct the mistake. To fix here means to reseed, to start over.

In technical assemblies, you need to debug every link and every action. If there are particles that do not require this, it is only because they have already been debugged and tuned elsewhere by other hands. From such reliable particles, reliable assemblies are assembled, even larger assemblies, and so on, until the reliability scale begins to look magical. But this is not a miracle: it is a pyramid of hundreds of small, simple dependencies. By immersing in this ensemble, one can correct very, very many errors — of course, at the cost of frustrating hours of looking for obscurations in logic or in the execution of structures and functions. These hours are filled with deaf, stubborn irritation, attention, care.


Anything can be combined with anything in one working outline: the only question is the number of transitional (translating) nodes. At flea markets, things that control water are piled up next to things that control electricity, next to piles of things that control things that control electricity. Aliexpress delivers all over the planet any nodes of medium and low levels of connectivity. And the low level here means the most comprehensive range of switching possibilities.

This foggy, dispersed connectivity seeps into the residential areas of cities, condensing in children's robotics clubs on the first floors of the towers. Why do children, living in a tricky operating space between the heavy city infrastructure and the totally weightless environment of the gadget, also need to fuss with microcontrollers? Can it prepare them for life in a technosphere that behaves like an independently reliable, emulating the reliability of a forest rather than a machine node? And concealing its fragile and gigantic connectedness, its carefully maintained insecurities?

The outdated pleasure of fiddling with a bicycle: wrap it with wire, then duct tape, then more wire, then more duct tape (but everything still falls off).


How does connection become entanglement?

The function cycle has a resolution. The density of perception: 1/18 of a second for humans (for sight, hearing, touch), 1/30 for a fighting fish, 1/3 for a grape snail. This density sets the temporal size of our worlds, defines the existence of certain possibilities, perceptions, actions, things.

It is possible to determine the parameters of the environment under which the entanglement of water, programs, tenderness, anxiety, construction, and stubbornness will succeed. One can specify the cost of this entanglement (environment modulus): what becomes impossible. Will it be possible to include anger in the assembly of the Drinking Set if someone (which is almost inevitable) destroys its coherence with their clumsiness?


In one old theory of plant physiology, it was understood as a filtration process. The vector of filtration of substances coming from the environment was directed from the tips of the roots to the organs of reproduction, and each new "tier" of organs owed its increasingly elegant form and function to the filtration done by the previous tier.

The liquid, flowing vision of this physiology was in contrast to the then-widespread idea (under the influence of the first successes of organic chemistry) of metabolism as combustion (oxidation).

These two approaches were then combined in the metaphor of metabolism as a standing wave of fire.

All these are old and suspicious decorations, from which, in fact, it is worth deriving and assigning only one position: bodies (and environments) are determined not by form but by metabolism.

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