The weather we experienced last week led to a lot of joking about Raleigh being a better site for this year's Winter Olympics than the subtropical climate of Sochi, Russia. Indeed, the early days of the games were rife with reports of no snow, of melting half-pipes, of shirtless victors. But the warm weather is only the surface of a deeply fraught event, one that has seen crackdowns on gay rights activists, the all-too-convenient release of Pussy Riot members from prison, and the recent jailing of a prominent critic who has attacked the event for its unconscionable carbon footprint.
In 2007, when the Games were awarded to Russia, Dutch artist-journalists Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen began The Sochi Project, an exercise in what they call "slow journalism." Working with crowd-sourced funding, they spent years reporting from the Black Sea resort, which is situated near the Georgia border and the conflict zones of the Caucasus Mountains. In research they published online and then in a book, The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus, they document Sochi's fascinating history as a winter getaway. In the Communist era, Sochi became a proletarian vacation destination, a reward for hard work in service of the revolution, while Stalin and his security chief Beria planned their purges while basking in the sun.
For one week only, Feb. 19 through Feb. 23, SPECTRE Arts exhibits newsprint artifacts of this project. —David Fellerath