Workshop in Tallinn, Estonia

The Zone: The Heart of Kalarand

We gave up on studying the official detail plan (it being notoriously cryptic document) and left for the fieldwork instead.

Our pretty shoes got muddy, but it was worth it. On the maps and satellite photos, Kalarand looked like a neat and green area with nice pathwalks in the middle, but what we actually saw was something else altogether. Right in the middle of the much-disputed Kalarand area we saw Terra ingcognita, a diverse ecosystem that was extremely hard to access. A closed out Zone.

We made two expeditions trying to map this lost world. We discovered heights and depths, found asbestos and asphalt, we heard the screams of strange birds in the groves and smelt the rotten odour of decomposing bodies on the meadow. But what's perhaps more important, we found traces of nomadic settlements: improvised beds and fireplaces, syringes and bottles, a stairway on the slope of the hill. We saw a luxury jeep with darkened windows and some figures lurking behind the bushes. This made us think about the notion and meaning of "local community". And it made us think about the notion and meaning of "exclusive housing estate".

We got lost a couple of times and some areas of the Zone were literally inacessible. This means that even though we had the very best intentions in mind, we cannot claim that the maps we made are complete and final.

All we can say is that when discussing the topic of Kalarand, a huge territory in the sense of human geography has been totally hushed up. Perhaps it is precisely the more and more elaborate detail plans and growing media attention that has helped the centre of Kalarand - the Zone - to remain invisible.

Our mapping project is only the first (and probably last) attempt to shed some light on the Zone and appreciate it as a reservation - an extraordinary psycho-geographical island where one can find traces of the volcanic spatio-political processes of last decades.
Authors: Aet Ader, Margus Tamm, Łukasz Wojciechowski
Photos: Reio Avaste / Goethe Institute’s archive