Tiksi by Evgenia Arbugaeva is a mesmerizing project about a small town on the Arctic coast of northern Siberia, where Arbugaeva comes from.
During Arbugaeva’s childhood, Tiksi was an important military and scientific base and a popular port on the Northern Sea Route. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the global crisis of the 1990s turned Tiksi into a dilapidated ruin, with ships rusting in seawater, and people emigrating en masse in search of better lives. In spite of the grimness of the situation, the photographer portrays Tiksi, the town of her childhood, in a highly sentimental and ‘poetic’ way.
In Arbugaeva’s words, Tiksi sounds like a fairy-tale with the Polar Night, frozen tundra, Aurora Borealis, snow painted green, blue, yellow, and pink, and the snowy mountains resembling blueberry ice cream. The photographer is clearly trying to travel back in time and portrays the settlement through the eyes of a young girl Tanya, whom we see running with a massive white balloon in the tundra or playing on a rusty shipwreck. Tiksi we can see in Arbugaeva’s photographs is full of colours, brightness, and light, as if made from candy floss. Even though some claim that ‘her photographs show the struggle of the people against the never-ending cold, deprivation and loneliness’, it seems to me that everyday struggles of the Siberian life have no place in Arbugaeva’s Tiksi. All that is left is pure magic.