05 September | 08 November 2020
The heavy influence of humanity over their natural environment and living condition is undeniable, to the point that the changes in the landscape are visible, tangible and directly reflect on the health of their bodies. The technological hubris that pushes humanity to the limit of their abilities and extremes of their imagination will be absorbed by nature almost effortlessly: the elements will find a way to bring back balance, patiently conquering and reclaiming their rightful domain. The first part of the third chapter focuses on the historical event of the Sunken Ships and the consequent erection in the city bay of the monument dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the siege of Sevastopol.
The first siege of Sevastopol lasted for almost a year, at the hand of English and French troops, which aimed at conquering the city, its strategic position and the main naval base of the Russian Black Sea fleet. In order to resist the unrelenting attack of the enemy, the people of Sevastopol sank in the city bay a total of sixteen ships over the course of 11 months: the first wave of vessels was sent out during September 1854, set on fire to protect the bay and the inhabitants of the city. This episode is still vivid in the memory of the Crimean peninsula, which has also seen many sacrifices subsequently happening at a fast pace soon after that very one.
The Monument to Sunken Ships was placed in the bay of Sevastopol in 1905, where it still stands to this day, as a reminder of the libation of so many vessels to the eternal glory of the city and celebration of the strength of the Crimean people. A proud spear, emerging from a cluster of rocks in the middle of the waters of the Black Sea. With the increasing rise of the sea levels, it is safe to predict that in a few decades the Monument to Sunken Ships will be underwater, along with houses and other buildings currently near the shore of the city. The water of the Black Sea will reclaim the stone and the metal of the monument, to join the wood of the ships at its bottom: will then the substantial sacrifice of the vessels be avail? When there will be no more collective historical knowledge and those that hand it down to the next generation will have disappeared from the face of the earth- will then the suffering be still meaningful? Or it will be a mere faint shadow, on the sand dunes at the bottom of the Black Sea?
The human body naturally absorbs the smells of the labour: being it wood for woodworkers or metal for mechanics, the olfactory element of these materials settles deep in the flesh and its smell perspires then through the skin. The body takes in and makes it its own the main component with which comes into contact, a process that is active and requires for the body to be alive and lively; something that ceases all together once the body turns cold and stiff.
Exhuming bodies one might expect a variety of acrid and unpleasant smells, while, instead, the overpowering scent is simple soil; an overwhelming smell of soil.
Coffins are a conservation method that consists of a multi-layered barrier meant to separate the body and the natural elements, which would otherwise foster the decay. This is done to preserve the body as intact as possible for the longest period of time viable: a resolute promise for a reward in the future, which will see the dead resurrected from their tombs.
Caskets are made of three main materials, which are encapsulated within each other in order to create a tight cocoon that, lastly, encapsulates the body. The materials outside and inside this cocoon will decompose at different rates and in different ways: wood will rot, metal will rust, fabric will thin away and the body will turn to dust. But the remains to be found will vary in quantity depending on the time passed since the burial: ninety years after the parting ceremony, bones can still be found inside; bones that will tell stories of how they ended up there.
This catholic habit of handling the body and its preservation is a deeply instilled hope for a brighter future in those that live and are born in this kind of mentality. A brighter future that will only come in the afterlife to those who live their lives in a properly mannered way, being careful, judicious and prudent.