MARTA VOLKOVA &
SLAVA SHEVELENKO
go back
2020

Installation view

Fragment of the installation

Detail

Detail

Slideshow still on the wall.

Slideshow still on the wall

Slideshow still on the wall

Slideshow still on the wall

Slideshow still on the wall

Slideshow still on the wall

Slideshow still on the wall

Detail

Detail

In St. Petersburg, the city where we were born and grew up, 0ne of our favorite museums was and still is the Zoological Museum. Like many residents of St. Petersburg, we loved to walk between the showcases with stuffed exotic animals. In the main hall you were met by a giant skeleton of a whale, then you saw giraffes, bears and a real mammoth. In the ichthyology department, the female guard told us, among other things, that in the distant Dutch city of Leiden there is also a zoological museum and that only there you can see an Amphibian Man.

Living behind the "Iron Curtain", we imagined life in the ocean as a metaphor for a clean, free future without borders. The Amphibian Man - how cool! This aroused our imaginations. So we saw in our imagination the young Rembrandt walking through the streets of Leiden in the company of another celebrity - the Amphibian Man.

The woman in the museum, who continued her story, told us that in the 1960-s Leiden Naturalis acquired a collection of materials from the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg. It was about an investigation into the possibilities of replacing the lungs of a human with the gills of a shark and thus creating an amphibian human being. The intention was to later have the ocean inhabited by humans. Even then it was obvious that the ocean was becoming more and more polluted. If the experiment was successful, the amphibian people permanently living in the water would clean the ocean of debris. The experiments were conducted on prisoners without success. Each time a group of test subjects was released into the sea, they did not return. After some time this experiment was discontinued and the research materials were never included in the museum's exposition and remained in the storerooms.

After the opening of the East-West border and our settling in the Netherlands, we often visited Leiden, but never once resolved to visit Naturalis. Perhaps it was because of the reluctance to part with our old fantasies.

For this project we eventually went to Naturalis to unravel the mystery of amphibian Man.