Wall Stalker | Revisiting The Zone
“Roughly speaking, we make sure that the extraterrestrial marvels found in the Zones come into the hands of the International Institute.”
“Is there anyone else after these treasures?”
“You probably mean stalkers!”
“I don’t know what they are.”
“That’s what we in Harmont call the thieves who risk their lives in the Zone to grab everything they can lay their hands on. It’s become a whole new profession.”*
A Stalker is what people in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic  call a whole new profession of misfits that risk their lives in the Zone [a mystical place of transcendental powers] to seize valuable things. The influence of Roadside Picnic in the context of science-fiction has reached novels, films and even video games as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The most well known adaptation of the novel is Andrey Tarkovsky‘s film Stalker, released in 1979. The film depicts an expedition led by the Stalker as a guide, that brings his two clients to a site known as the Zone, which has the supposed potential to fulfil a person’s innermost desires.
With this background, it’s not surprising to see that a young think-tank as WAI has created their own homage to the Strugatsky’s brothers: the Wall Stalker. As they said:
A Wall Stalker is somebody who is taking the same risk to grasp whatever he can find in an equally mysterious Wall.
WAI’s Wall Stalker is an animated architectural narrative, in which the characters of Andrei Tarkovski’s 1979 film become the protagonists of a three man exodus from a city of icons, in search for the essence of architecture.
Olesya Petrash and his sketches for “Roadside Picnic” area good example of what we’re talking here. When a narrative is so strong it’s easy that becomes an influence on artist’s work, same influence that we can recognise on WAI‘s project.
If Roadside Picnic begins a decade after the so-called Visitors very briefly landed at six different locations around Earth [called Visitation Zones by the human scientists]; Wall Stalker starts showing an overview of Egoville, the capital of Ego in which the skyline is highlighted by a wasteland of desolated icons. As WAI describes:
This post-apocalyptic environment offers no hope for the three characters as they decide to break away from this city product of the cynicism of man, and reach for the legendary wall, where they believe the essence of architecture can be found. Once the characters leave the city behind them, they find themselves melancholically traveling through a purgatorial landscape of post-iconic desolation.
The three carachters appear submersed in a forsaken desert with their last hopes about to evaporate, when they finally spot the legendary wall they’ve been looking for.
The relationship between architecture and fiction seems to be re-emerging nowadays, with the work of people like Bruce Sterling, Geoff Manaugh and Pedro Gadanho, who pointed on the first issue of Beyond that if you’re prone to dystopian tendencies, you can’t but start imagining OMA, MVRDV or Foster’s recent proposals as the last resorts that will turn suburbia and federal city centres into the announced urban slums of the near future. This image proposed by Gadanho is deeply related with the narrative behind the Wall Stalker film.
WAI proposes a mysterious presence of mystical elements [the post-iconic desolation] that is accentuated by its striking visual silence, to reinforce the message that the wall is only offering an inherent inertness for the three exhausted men. After completing their intended journey, the new predicament of the three wanderers will be how to grasp the mythical “essence” of the wall. From that moment on, their lives and the city will never be the same.
Wall Stalker is a graphic journey through the fictional subconscious of architecture. Using pieces of Jan Garbarek as acoustic background the architectural narrative is built around twelve chapters/photomontages that depict the three men odyssey through the dialectics of architecture and the city they created. The compositions of the twelve chapters not only absorb into its plot Tarkovski’s film but also pieces of El Lissitzky, Vladimir Tatlin, Paolo Soleri, Caspar David Friedrich, and Giambattista Piranesi in the form of collage, in order to create a scheme full of symbolism while simultaneously being disconnected from any other plot.
It’s interesting to follow Gadanho‘s thinking on fiction as the new architecture criticism. Or the new way of architectural thinking. The relationship between architecture, philosophy, fiction, art and politics is a fertile ground for speculation and we can think on the future of the current iconic buildings as the artifacts left by Visitors in the Zones of the Strugatsky’s novel. If architecture is a form of fiction, maybe the unpredictable odyssey we’re constructing will be the perfect scenario of a future dystopia.
Title: Wall Stalker
Music: Jan Garbarek
Author: WAI Architecture Think Tank / Nathalie Frankowski + Cruz Garcia