In Улитка (Спираль)/Snail (Spiral), Chingiz Aidarov revisits his experience as a foreign worker in Russia focusing on the specific experience of migrant life that revolves around the monotonous and predestined daily existence of those ensnared in the system of sweatshop exploitation. Aidarov devised his performance while employed as a loader at a confectionery factory and lived in what is colloquially known as a ‘rubber apartment’, a term that refers to austere apartments that house people en masse and where residents pay for space for a bed. In this harsh reality, weekends barely exist, and each day commences and concludes on a roll-up mattress. Aidarov recalls that, after three months of working without a day off, ‘time and the experience of time transform; one loses the connection with time, and life is measured by the rolling and unrolling of the mattress.’ For his performance, Aidarov swapped several dozen old mattresses belonging to his fellow workers on a construction site for new ones and sewed them together into a long, uninterrupted strip of fabric that can be understood as an image of his colleagues’ collective fortunes. He then laboriously rolled this fabric into a colossal cylinder almost surpassing his own height. Aidarov chose a lush forest glade as the site for his performance—a place yet unmarred by aggressive urban development but which may well soon become another construction site. Illuminated by direct light from the sun and teeming with organic life, the chosen space is a robust antithesis of the dehumanizing sunless world that many immigrant workers are forced to dwell in.

Work in the exhibitionУлитка (Спираль)/Snail (Spiral), performance documentation, 10' 9"
Courtesy of the artist