Kosmos Photographs by Adam Bartos, with an essay by Svetlana Boym.
Princeton Architectural Press, 2001. 176pp. £28 Adam Bartos'previous book of photographs, International Territory , makes the UN building in New York look eerily trapped in time, writes Andrew Mead.Its unpeopled interiors, its decor and furnishings, its ephemera - through Bartos' eyes, all suck you back into the past; so much so that it is hard to credit that, in its stuttering way, the UN continues to function.
For Kosmos , Bartos has journeyed to another continent, but to terrain just as suited to his particular vision: the main site of the Russian space programme.
The cosmodrome of Baikonur - 'part of the secret geography of the Soviet Union, 'says Svetlana Boym in her essay - was founded in 1955 in the Kazakh desert near the Aral Sea. Thirty years later, it had 52 launching pads,34 laboratories,10 factories, and all the civic necessities for a 150,000 population.
Gagarin went into orbit from here, and Boym's generation grew up expecting they would go to the moon. That has not been the case, of course (and Boym has gone to Harvard instead).
Those thwarted aspirations are palpable in this book.Though the opening image is of a 1998 launch at Baikonur, like Cape Canaveral the cosmodrome speaks more of failure or futility than triumph. It looks set now to be largely a museum, with former protagonists in the space programme - Bartos includes portraits of scientists, engineers, etc - as its elderly attendants. Pictured is one of the abandoned launch-pads at Baikonur.