This photographic essay reflects on this question and aims to contextualise some of the (counter-)processes of the urban-rural tug of war by focusing on transitional (post-)industrial landscapes in the peripheral secondary cities and countryside of Estonia. Some images seem to confirm primary prejudices: factories both in operation and abandoned as well as waste and empty housing. Other photographs hint at a more complex narrative of layered spatial adaptation, cultural- and recreational appropriation and everyday practices of living. Clearly, the meaning of rural life is changing. The question is what is it changing from and to as well as who has the ability to orchestrate these changes? Here concepts of the periphery, the idyll, reality, connectivity and local specificity are key.
The first session presents a monumental statue and two industrial landscapes. The first is a ten-meter tall free-standing monument at the entrance to the Baltic Electrical Power Plant in Narva, in the East of Estonia. The Icaros-figure stretches towards the sky welcoming workers to the grand complex. It glorifies Soviet positivism and romanticises work, the worker and industry. Without explicitly displaying the power plant itself, the pair of landscapes present the backdoor of the same complex—pairing labour enabled techno-optimistic narrative with the concrete outcomes of heavy industry. These landscapes of the alkaline pools formed as a result of the extractive industry. These turquoise lagoons stretch for kilometres within a stone’s throw of the Narva Reservoir, with its armies of leisurely fishermen and border guards. These neighbouring bodies of water require careful management for equilibrium. The result is a highly fractal landscape where the natural thoroughly meshes with the anthropogenic.