Joan Fontcuberta «Sputnik: The Odyssey of the Soyuz II» 1997.
Sponsored by the Sputnik Foundation, the extensively researched installation details the life of Ivan Istochnikov, a Russian cosmonaut who, we are told, disappeared during the flight of Soyuz 2 in 1968 and was then removed from history by the Soviet bureaucracy. Photographs of Istochnikov were retouched to remove his likeness, his family was moved to Siberia, and his friends and colleagues were threatened.
: original photograph sold at Sotheby's, New York, Dec. 11th, 1993. It is dated, Nov. 7th, 1967 and is signed by, from left to right, Leonov, Nikolayev, Istochnikov, Rozhdestvensky, Beregovoi and Shatalov.
: The same image, manipulated, as it was published in the book "Bound for the Stars" by Boris Romanenko.
Fontcuberta researched the topic for ten years, visiting space museums in the US and the Soviet Union and interviewing former cosmonauts. The exhibition materials--family photos of Istochnikov, as well as publicity shots, newspaper articles, archival and documentary material concerning the US-Soviet space race, technical photographs transmitted from space, documentary videos, a fragment of a meteorite, a space capsule, and uniforms worn by Istochnikov—seem real. They are, instead, a combination of archival materials, manipulated photographs, and wholly false images. Istochnikov is, in fact, Fontcuberta (the artist used his own likeness because of ease of availability, but by doing so he has also inserted himself into history). The name Ivan Istochnikov is an approximate translation of his own, Joan Fontcuberta.
When first shown at the Foundation of Art and Technology, Madrid, in 1997, the exhibition drew an alarmed response and protests from the Russian ambassador; the hoax of Sputnik was complete and the premise was well supported by knowledge of the secrecy that surrounded the Soviet space program and Stalin's practice of removing disenfranchised persons from history. With Sputnik, Fontcuberta created an illusion that meshes seamlessly with our experience.
From the record: Only five minutes before the launch, all the controls in the craft activated and cut his dreams. In the command module of the launch bunker, Mishin's first assistant inserted the launch key in position. Everything was ready. Two and a half minutes before the final moment, the booster propellant tank pressurization started. When only one minute was left, one of the two umbilical towers separated. Forty-five seconds later, the second one did the same. The countdown was continuing. Ten seconds: engine turbopumps are at flight speed. Five seconds: first-stage engines at maximum thrust. Zero: fueling tower se-parates. Lift-off. A minute later booster velocity is 500 meters per second. Two minutes after, it is 1.500 meters per second. The four strap-on boosters are jettisoned. In three minutes the rocket leaves the atmosphere; the escape tower and launch shroud are jettisoned. The three modules of Soyuz remain in the open on the top of the spacecraft. Five minutes later the core booster separates, after having placed Istochnikov at 170 km of altitude. Ignition of the third stage. In seven minutes velocity is 6.000 meters per second. In nine minutes, the third stage is cut-off. Soyuz separates and is in orbit. Antennas and solar panels deploy. Istichnikov maneuvered an ellipse whose perigee was 180 km and its apogee 215 km; orbital period was 88,5 minutes. A short time before flying over Baykonur, in the twelfth orbit, at 12:33 p.m. (7:33 G.T.M.), Soyuz 3 was launched and flew directly into orbit. Beregovoi approached Istochnikov during his first orbit, using an automatic system to maneuver within 180 meters. Both ships closed to a few meters and flew in maintenance formation. During the capture phase , they established radar contact; onboard computers detectected distance, relative velocity, angular velocity, and relative angle of the spacecraft, and informed about the exact positions, which was essential considering they were moving at nearly 8 km per second. In the mooring phase , preceeding the final docking, Beregovoi acted as the active spacecraft and Istochnikov as the passive one. Although Beregovoi had the responsability of maneuvering, Istochnikov had to use attitude control rockets to slightly orientate the vehicle and align it to the Soyuz 3 axis. Something failed. The wrong processing of some radar information or the contamination of the computer by some interference activated one of the rockets of Soyuz 2, which ascended rapidly towards a higher orbit. When Stochnikov managed to stabilise the spaceship again, he had lost touch with Beregovoi and had to rekon the necessary orbit corrections for a new rendezvous. Nobody could exactly know what happened after that moment. The double bidirectional system failed and Istochnikov eventually remained cut off. After a few hours, Soyuz 3 could perform a Hohmann transfer in order to enter a new landing orbit for Soyuz 2. The two ships met again on October 27, but Istochnikov and Kloka had completely disappeared.
The Telefonica Art and Technology Foundation in collaboration with the Sputnik Foundation of Moscow is pleased to present an exhibition that brings together newly discovered material on the almost unknown history of Soviet space exploration: photographs, videos, voice transcriptions, original annotations, navigation instruments, personal effects and even a replica of the Soyuz 2 spaceship... That the pieces that compose the exhibition are of an important documentary and scientific value does not exempt them from the poetic dimension that the exploration of the cosmos invokes.
For the theme of this exhibition, the Sputnik Foundation wanted to focus on one of the most shocking events of cosmonautics. On October 25, 1968 the Soyuz 2 was launched from the Baikonur aeronautics center with the cosmonaut-pilot Colonel Ivan Istochnikov on board. The spacecraft was to be the target of a space manoeuvre carried out by the Soyuz 3 which, piloted by the Lieutenant Colonel Giorgi Beregovoi, was going to attempt an orbital docking of the two capsules. In those days, the United States and the USSR were racing against the clock to be the first to reach the Moon. Political pressure prevailed over technical considerations and the space race had already claimed some victims. For example, the flight of the Soyuz 1. Starting off badly, it eventually ended in tragedy when the cosmonaut Komarov crashed on his return due to a malfunction of the parachute. For the next mission, precautions were carried out to the extreme and all signs pointed to a satisfactory result. But it was not to be.
After a failed attempt at space docking, the Soyuz 2 and the Soyuz 3 drifted apart and lost contact with each other. When they found each other the next day, Istochnikov had disappeared and his module showed signs of having been hit by a meteorite. In truth, what had really happened was never known for certain and the enigma inspired a series of conjectures. However, the Soviet authorities were determined not to admit to an another failure. They came up with a solution appropriate to their style by declaring that the Soyuz 2 had been an unmanned flight. Officially, Ivan Istochnikov had never existed and to prevent anyone from contradicting this version, they confined his family, blackmailed his colleagues, manipulated files and retouched photographs. Reality had surpassed the most fantastic science fiction plot. However when fear ended, so did the pact of silence. With Perestroika, the secret documents were declassified and investigators could reconstruct the course of events. With the information currently available, the Sputnik Foundation asked the academic Piotr Muraveinik to curate a touring exhibition which would tell the story of this thrilling and tragic episode in the history of cosmonautics.