Research and Exhibition Project

drift_tablichkaThis collective project was an artistic inquiry into one of Petersburg’s most fascinating and contradictory neighborhoods, Narvskaya Zastava.

Surrounded by a ring of factories, railroad tracks and shipyards, Narvskaya Zastava is a historical hotbed of dissent. After the revolution, the neighborhood was redeveloped extensively to improve life for Narvskaya Zastava’s working class. However, today, Narvskaya Zastava has drifted into a de-industrialized malaise, becoming a ghetto despite its central location: the majority of its inhabitants live below the poverty line; public space and cultural institutions are undergoing privatization, and the ecological situation remains dire.

In summer and early autumn of 2004, the workgroup Chto delat invited sociologists, architectural historians, and fellow artists to collaborate in a research and exhibition project about this neighborhood, using diverse sociological and artistic practices, used in combination with a derive.

The project’s result have been previously published in Chto delat 7, and were shown to the public in two exhibitions in Russia. The following is a more detailed documentation.

Research and Exhibition Project, 2004-2005

The exhibition project “Drift. Narvskaya Zastava” was an artistic inquiry into one of Petersburg’s most fascinating and contradictory neighborhoods. It was undertaken by the workgroup “Chto Delat” in the summer of 2004 with the support of the “ProArte”-Institute. Its results were presented to the public at the Museum of the History of Petersburg (October 2004) and National Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow (February 2005).

 

Location

If you look at a map of Petersburg, you will immediately see 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 outskirts, a historical hotbed of dissent.

The first shots in the 1905 Revolution were fired here, and in 1917, Narva Square served as a www ground for the Bolshevik troops storming the Winter Palace.

During the 1920s, as a symbolic gesture of gratitude for Narvskaya Zastava’s working class, the new government decided to establish the neighborhood as the administrative center of a new, socialist Leningrad. These efforts resulted in some of the most significant ensembles of Constructivist architecture.

Today, Narvskaya Zastava is undergoing slow but certain de-industrialization. It has taken on some of the qualities of a ghetto, notwithstanding its central location: its buildings are falling apart quite quickly; the majority of its inhabitants live below the poverty line; public space and cultural institutions are undergoing privatization, and even if many of the factories have stopped working, the ecological situation remains dire.

The neighborhood has become a “blind zone” in the great megapolis and has taken on the typical traits of a industrial post-Soviet town in the provinces, where the transformation from the old socialist model of society to new market-driven forms of social interaction has been frozen in time.

It is this “paralysis” of the state of transformation that provides the observer with the rare historical chance to analyze everyday life in the moment of its painful historical transformation.