(read the complete article which also has a collection of photographs at huffingtonpost.com/jfrede/ncca-kronstadt-the-flame-_b_4690700.html)
Standing in a courtyard in the abandoned Zverev fortress, I am surrounded by red brick buildings. I can already see signs of the fort’s dramatic end, and fumbling with fingers that are completely numb from the cold, I prepare my camera before entering. Walking up to the shattered door I step inside. To my left is a large charred chamber, and before me is what appears to be steps, now buried with rubble, leading down into the basement. Upon reaching the bottom, I see what could easily be the gates of Hell (or at least the foyer of Hell). Every inch of the ceiling is covered with black stalactites. The walls and ceiling have melted, dripping and oozing from exposure to an unimaginable inferno.
Engineer Konstantin Zverev built Fort Zverev in the 1870s, which is located on an artificial island in the Baltic Sea just north of Kronstadt. One hundred years later in 1970 a fire made its way through the fort until it reached the basement where, unfortunately, Russia’s equivalent to napalm was stored. The fire, which reached temperatures of more than 3600° F, melted the bricks forming a mass of brick stalactites that now grip the ceilings of the basements and ground level rooms.
This video was created as part of my time as Artist in Residence at the National Center for Contemporary Art in Kronstadt, Russia (Saint Petersburg) in the beginning of 2014.