#5- 29: Whose city is this?

The screenplay for the video film “The Tower: A Songspiel”

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The Characters:

1. Gazprom PR Manager (PR Manager)

2. A Politician

3. The Head of Corporate Security (Security Chief)

4. A Church Representative (Orthodox Priest)

5. A Successful Gallery Owner (Gallery Owner)

6. A Hip Artist (Artist)

The Chorus:

1. Members of the Intelligentsia (Intelligentsia)

2. Pensioners

3. Workers

4. Fired Office Clerks (Clerks)

5. Migrant Construction Workers (Migrants)

6. A Leftist Radical (Radical)

7. Civil Rights Activists

8. Young Women

9. A Homeless Boy

10. A Giant

In the center of the stage we see a high podium on which the characters have gathered at a round table. A meeting is taking place to discuss a new image for the Gazprom tower project. There is a large black telephone in the middle of the table. A thick network of red telephone lines runs from the telephone down through the podium, spreading across the entire stage. The Chorus is situated below the podium. During the songs, it dances and moves around the podium. A camera on a dolly tracks its movements: the bad infinity of pointless gyration.


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Galina Stolyarova /// Golden Potatoes and Dried Butterflies

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August 16, 2010

Conservatism and lack of a coherent urban vision are having a strange effect on St. Petersburg. While faceless office blocks proliferate, cutting-edge architecture is scorned by officials and the public alike.

Galina Stolyarova is a writer for The St. Petersburg Times, an English-language newspaper

ST. PETERSBURG | Russia’s second city and former imperial capital attracts more tourists than anywhere else in the country. Visitors come from around the world to marvel at its architectural landscape. These views, however, have been undergoing dramatic changes over the past decade.

As the city administration tries to boost foreign investment and attract and accommodate new and expanding businesses, many charming historical buildings are being destroyed to make room for glass and concrete business centers. According to the St. Petersburg pressure group Living City, more than 80 such buildings have been destroyed in the heart of the city, and dozens more remodeled.

At the same time, stylish new architecture is having a hard time finding its way into this captivating city, where architectural experiments are regarded as a threat to the city’s priceless historical legacy.

As Alexander Viktorov, St. Petersburg’s former chief architect, put it, “New architecture is welcome to the city, but it is not for the architects to dictate their terms to the city; it is the city of St. Petersburg that dictates the rules of the game and sets its conditions.”

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Dmitry Vilensky /// Afterword to the publication of the Whose City Is This? issue of Chto Delat newspaper

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The question we posed in this issue was not merely the demonstration of a researcher’s idle interest in questions of developing the urban environment; it unexpectedly turned out to be a thorny question of everyday life and work in our city. The theme of the number was a litmus test to inspect control over the state of the city’s printing houses. When tested, these “independent” private businesses were revealed to be obviously dependent, as it is accepted in our country, not on legal norms, but on entirely explainable fears that the local authorities can always find a way of interfering in their business if some publication or other appears to them inappropriate.

Four Petersburg printing houses refused to print this issue even though, after reading the texts, they all expressed total agreement with the publication’s position. They did add that, in their situation, they were unable to publish something that criticized the city’s policies and Gazprom in such a fashion, since the risk of running into serious problems was too high.

The answer to the question we ask in the title of that issue of our newspaper seems banal and obvious: to whom does it belong? We know to whom: to those who control the city; to those who are in power; to those who have money; to those who are able to profit from real estate speculation, from controlling production, from receiving dividends on paid education and medicine. And you don’t have to be a Marxist to understand this elementary truth: a city, like a factory, belongs to the people who control the profits and means of production. And just as factories do not belong to their workers, neither do cities (not only Petersburg) belong to the people who live in them.

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