roofing

If you type ‘roofers’ or ‘roofing’ in google most of the searches will lead you to companies who fix roofs. Paradoxically, this term in Russian has been totally created from English language but does not really exist in English in the same sense.

If you type ‘roofers’ or ‘roofing’ in google most of the searches will lead you to companies who fix roofs. Paradoxically, the term in Russian [руферы, руфинг] has been totally created from English language but the word does not exist in English with that meaning – those urban explorers are rather called roof-toppers.

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People have always climbed roofs to have a better of a city festival or to have a romantic date, but it was during 2000s (we also call them in Russia ‘zero years’ [нулевые] ) that roof-toppers formed a movement. It is based on a combination of romantic desire of young people to distance themselves from the ‘zero’ and meaningless life running down there while they are just wasting their time on the top of another roof, and of the interventionist desire to reclaim the territory of their own city (getting to a roof-top is always illegal in Russia although technically they are not anyone’s property). As roof-topers we know our city very well: all its tiny streets, all its codes and unlocked doors, all its angry inhabitants and dangerous dogs, all its back stairs and fire exists. Actually, this city belongs to us.

I have been practicing ‘roofing’ for more than three years now. Here I intend to share with you some of my thoughts about it as well as pictures.

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Photos: Alisa Oleva

real underground

In the urban exploration culture there is a very straightforward but, arguably, most genuine solution for organizing exhibitions. Where to make an exhibition of photos from the roof-tops if not on a roof-top? Where to make an exhibition of pictures and photos from underground if not in an unfinished construction of the heat header?

In the urban exploration culture there is a very straightforward but, arguably, most genuine concept for organising exhibitions. Where to make an exhibition of photos from the roof-tops if not on a roof-top? Where to make an exhibition of drawings and photos from underground if not in an unfinished construction of the heat header?

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In July 2011 a group of ‘diggers’ (those who explore the underground world of the city) led by moscowhite, have organised an exhibition featuring drawings by hatever and kreazot_13. It took place in a heat header right in the central district of Moscow. During one day (due to the illegal and spontaneous nature of such events they essentially have a very short life span) dozens of people would be climbing down not only to see the works but also to get the real feel of urbex life. While most of the guests were from the community itself, there were quite a few for whom the process of getting to the location was a real adventure. The location was specifically chosen so it was not very dangerous and illegal (the header is abandoned) and everyone who wanted could get to the location without getting lost in the tunnels. The exact address was not revealed – only the nickname of the place. Thus, everyone from the community knew it and could get there straightforwardly while all other guests could write a message to organisers and get directions. During that one day several hundreds of people have come down and walked along the tunnels to see the exhibition.

The organisers have installed lights (apart from candles and torches brought by spectators) and played ambient music which could already be heard in advance, as you were approaching the location along the tunnel.

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Have a look at the very atmospheric video from the event: ‘Real Underground’ by Anastasia Zotova.

Photos: w-molybden, huan_carlos, jst-ru

The Star Road

Have you ever tried simply to walk out of your house and keep walking in a straight line through your city? Imagine how many obstacles you will meet: roads, authorities, fences, closed doors, rivers and forests. Recently a Russian artist Anastasia Ryabova has explored this topic by organizing a ‘Star Road’ expedition, where the participants were invited to walk through the city recreating the shape of a star.

Have you ever tried simply to walk out of your house and keep walking in a straight line through your city? Imagine how many obstacles you would meet: roads, authorities, fences, high walls, closed doors, rivers, ponds and forests. Recently a Russian artist Anastasia Ryabova has explored this topic by organising a ‘Star Road’ expedition, where the participants were invited to walk through the city recreating the shape of a star.

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When I say ‘through’ I do literally mean it. The emphasis in the project, a bit similar to the urban practice of parkour, is on the physicality of the experience of the city with your own body. Also, it is not simply a spontaneous act of walking through the city following a certain pattern but is an expedition which is researched into and prepared well in advance. It engages with the history, the structure, the bureaucracy and the authorities of the city. Thus, it offers a new experience and engagement with the city.

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As Anastasia puts it in her own words:

The Star Road is a heroic expedition, which aims to carve out a new route over existed urban landscapes. A group of pioneers will overcome all kind of obstacles, and walk through existing concrete/administrative barriers. This new street will be inspired by the form of a star.

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Il Viale della Stella 

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the Lenin House of Culture, Nizhny Novgorod

More than 1 200 people used to seat in this huge hall. And now it is totally abandoned with only a giant chandelier hanging in the middle. The round stage itself has apocalyptically fallen down.

More than 1 200 people used to seat in this huge hall. And now it is totally abandoned with only a giant chandelier hanging in the middle. The round stage itself has apocalyptically fallen down.

The Lenin House of Culture in Nizhny Novgorod was built in 1927 to commemorate 10th anniversary of the Great October revolution. Lenin is still present here: there is a giant smashed head of Lenin and the other bust is standing facing the corner. A lot of artifacts are scattered everywhere: books, film rolls, slides and course materials. As a souvenir we took tokens, which would be given to people in the cloakroom.

Standing as it is, a sort of contemporary ruin, the former Lenin House of Culture could be a great sight for a performance. So I really hope to come back one day – if it will still be there as life of such buildings is unsecure and unpredictable.

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a letter to freedom

‘I live in Freedom!’ Not many people can say that – but some people can. Idea, Freedom, Hope, Ahead!, Happiness, Ideal, Future – if you look hard on the map of Russian Federation you can find out that these are the real names of towns and villages. Do they stand as signs of forever gone soviet utopia? Does it make one feel happier to live in a town called Happiness or it sounds more like a mockery?

‘I live in Freedom!’ Not many people can say that – but some people can. Idea, Freedom, Hope, Forwards, Happiness, Ideal, Future – if you look hard on the map of Russian Federation you can find out that these are the real names of towns and villages. Do they stand as signs of forever gone soviet utopia? Does it make one feel happier to live in a town called Happiness or it sounds more like a mockery?

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At his recent show in Vinzavod (19.05-17.06 2013) a Russian artist Mikhail Zaikanov exhibited envelopes, which he has sent to all of the above cities. He addressed them to the non-existed people so that the post office had to return the letters back and make a stamp, which would confirm the existence of these places.

Together with those letters the exhibition consisted of canvases with fragments of the map. All of the colours and details were erased making these beautiful titles of towns and villages as if hovering in the created pauses.

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So can you imagine how it feels to write, when filling your address, that you are not from London but from Happiness?

Photos by Anastasia Blyur

the lost world

I am Russian. I was born in 1989. When I fill in a visa application form I need to write that I was born in USSR, Moscow. I was born in the country, which you can no longer find on a map and in which I only lived for a little more than two years. From the 21st of August 1991 it no longer existed…

I am Russian. I was born in 1989. When I fill in a visa application form I need to write that I was born in USSR, Moscow. I was born in the country, which you can no longer find on a map and in which I only lived for a little more than two years. From the 21st of August 1991 it no longer existed.

Urban exploration (urbex) is popular in many countries. However, it is very specific on the post-Soviet territory. In this particular case we are dealing with the abandonment of a whole country, an almost century-long historic period and a never fulfilled utopia.

These buildings stand as phantoms, often with complicated ownership situation, abandoned and in decay. Although not completely destroyed, they are as if suspended between existence and absence.

Together with my friends I have been practicing urbex, travelling around the former Soviet Union countries, for more than three years now. In this blog I will be constantly sharing with you some of the photos (both by me and my friends) of the abandoned buildings we’ve been to.

an abandoned factory ‘Zarya’, Dzerzhinsk, Russia

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Photos by Alisa Oleva