It’s from his book Satellites. The background is that the Soviet Union, and Russia following it, launches satellites and spaceships from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is landlocked, so the launch rockets that fall down have nowhere but the ground to go; sometimes they even land in peopled areas. The above is parts of a space rocket, surrounded by a sea of white butterflies. You would never think of that and make it in the studio. Now, scrap metal of the sort used in making space rockets is really lucrative; according to Bendiksen, there’s rivalry between different gangs that compete to find, dismantle and sell the partial spaceships that fall down from the sky, and the most successful of these gangs have contacts inside the Russian space agency that tell them where the metal is going to land, so the gangs go to those spots and stand there, waiting for tons of metal to rain down on them from the sky. That’s some dedication.
Satellites documents “unrecognized countries, enclaves, and isolated communities on the periphery of the former Soviet Union”, including Transnistria, a breakaway part of Moldova that has all the trappings of a modern state — passports, constitution, police, army, currency, government, border controls — except recognition by other sovereign states; Birobidzhan, capital of Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Oblast; Abkhazia, the breakaway republic that was in the news during the short war between Georgia and Russia; and the Ferghana Valley, the most fertile area in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which is extremely funky in terms of borders, because its strategic importance demanded that it be carved up between three different republics in Stalinist times. Listening to this stuff really makes you want to pick up a camera and head out and hunt down these weird, wonderful, sad places.