This project is an artistic inquiry into one of Petersburg ‘s most fascinating and contradictory neighborhoods, Narvskaya Zastava.
In looking at a map of Petersburg, one immediately sees that Narvskaya Zastava is an isolated zone, surrounded by a ring of factories, railroad tracks and shipyards. Before the revolution, it was part of the city’s proletarian periphery, an historical hotbed of dissent. After the revolution, during the 1920s, the neighborhood became the main center for the development of a new, socialist Leningrad, which is why it contains most of Petersburg’s constructivist monuments. Today, Narvskaya Zastava reflects the entire complex of social problems that arise with the “transition” from socialist to capitalist society. Unlike the tourist-center of Petersburg, the neighborhood has become an “invisible zone”. This state can be interpreted as typical of many smaller towns on post-Soviet territory, where the old models of socialist community composition and new class-constellations coexist in considerable tension.
On the whole, the project is dedicated to the analysis of everyday life, continuing the traditions of critical realism and situationist practices on a higher level. Using contemporary methods of documentation, it attempts to capture the neighborhood’s social, architectural and demographic situations. In order to do so, a workgroup of artists, architects, sociologists, writers etc. organized a mobile sociological center, which was set up at a number of different points in the neighborhood. The information collected in dialogues with the local population was archived through a specially developed questionnaire as well as in video-interviews and photo-documentation. Using this material as a base, the workgroup’s artists have created video-films, sociological diagrams, audio-art, and installations, realizing a subjective mapping of social space.
Aside from such socio-documentary and artistic methods mentioned above, the project culminated in a variant of the Situationist “dérive”. Within the space of two days, the workgroup’s members drifted through the neighborhood, re-exploring the points of its territories. This part of the project reflects the results of the communication within the group, its personal life, its associations, reflections etc. The objective cartography of the neighborhood’s space arises in parallel to the subjectivity of the community, which finds itself confronted however briefly with a completely alien setting. This two-day “dérive” does not only represent a further development of the famous Situationist praxis but also addresses the Leningrad-Petersburg tradition of cultured strolls through strange places, a praxis that arises from a culture of communities based on friendship, attempting to overturn and take temporary control of urban space, an experience that demonstrates the contrast between what life is and what it could be.