#7:Drift. Narvskaya Zastava


Dmitry Vilensky /// Drifting through Incomplete Utopia (Editorial)

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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.

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Guy Debord // Theory of the Dérive

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One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

But the dérive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities. In this latter regard, ecological science — despite the narrow social space to which it limits itself — provides psychogeography with abundant data.

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Cracking the Urban Cheat Code (a practical account of how to do it)

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In 1969 George Spencer-Brown wrote his seminal book ‘Laws of Form’1 in which he states: “…a universe comes into being when a space is severed or taken apart”. From here on Spencer-Brown develops a calculus not based on numbers but on distinctions. The actual operations of Spencer-Browns mathematical system does not need to concern us here. What matters is that when he turns the frame or the boundary into the central unit of his system it opens up a shelter of logic in which the paradox that
– one can move from one place to another in one frame
– while simultaneously remaining in one space when viewed from another frame
is incorporated in his calculus.

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The artists of the workgroup /// Project Descriptions

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On the whole, the project “Drift. Narvskaya Zastava” was dedicated to the analysis of everyday life, continuing the traditions of critical realism and situationist practices. Using contemporary methods of documentation, it attempted 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. 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.

Tsaplya (Olga Egorova)
“The Soviet Way of Life” – A Video Excursion

This film is about the lives people lead in Narvskaya Zastava. Since this region was created for the cultivation of the most ideal of all Soviet people – the Soviet worker – it is haunted by the soaring specters of strong desire and directed will.

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Alexei Lepork /// Memories of Narvskaya Zastava

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I can’t say that I have any personal connection to Narvskaya Zastava. In my personal perception from childhood onward, this neighborhood seems very far away. And this is what makes this neighborhood so strange. Because if you look at it rationally, it’s actually quite close to the center. You don’t actually have to travel very far; you only have to cross the Obvodny Canal and drive down Petergof Prospect or Gaza , as it was been called for all of my life, for as long as I can remember. On the one hand, it’s very close, but on the other, this neighborhood is very far away, as far as psychology is concerned.

So let’s say you’ve reached Repin Square . On the one side, there’s the Admiralty. On the other side of Repin Square , the Fontanka River ends. You already have the feeling that you’ve reached the end: gate, bridge; the end of the city. If you drive on, you’ll have reached Narvskaya Zastava, and you’ll already have the feeling that everything is different.

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