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The Tower: A Songspiel, 2010
A film by Chto Delat
This film is the final part in a trilogy of socially engaged musicals that the Chto Delat collective began work on in 2008. This cycle includes the video films Perestroika Songspiel: Victory over the Coup (2008) and Partisan Songspiel: A Belgrade Story (2009).
Filmed in April 2010, The Tower: A Songspiel is based on real documents of Russian social and political life and on an analysis of the conflict that has developed around the planned Okhta Center development in Petersburg, where the Gazprom corporation intends to house the headquarters of its locally-based subsidiaries in a 403-meter-high skyscraper designed by the UK-based architectural firm RMJM. The proposed skyscraper has provoked one of the fiercest confrontations between the authorities and society in recent Russian political history. Despite resistance on the part of various groups who believe that construction of the building would have a catastrophic impact on the appearance of the city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gazprom has so far managed to secure all the necessary permissions and has practically begun the first phase of construction. (Although recent oblique signals from the Russian president may have thrown an insurmountable wrench into the works.)
The Gazprom tower is promoted by the authorities as a symbol of a new, modernized Russia. How are such symbols produced? How does the ideological apparatus of power function? How are projects like this pushed through despite the resistance of ordinary citizens? These are the principal questions raised by this film.
The film is structured as a confrontation between two worlds. On the one hand, we see the world of power, which is represented by a group of people working to create the new symbol: a PR manager (the head of the corporation’s branding project for the skyscraper), a local politician, the company’s security chief, a representative of the Orthodox Church, a gallery owner (who is in line to become director of the corporation’s contemporary art museum), and a fashionable artist. On the other hand, we see a chorus comprised of people from various social groups: the intelligentsia, workers, pensioners, unemployed office clerks, migrants, young women, a homeless boy, and a leftist radical.
The film is set in a corporate boardroom, where a meeting has been called to discuss the rebranding campaign for the Gazprom tower. The participants converse frankly among themselves and from time to time rehearse speeches addressed as it were to the public. They get up from the conference table, situated atop a podium, walk to the edge of this platform, and make speeches in which they attempt to persuade society at large of the need to build the skyscraper and the benefits it will bring the city and its people.
The chorus reacts to the proceedings “on high” by singing Brechtian songs and performing choreographic tableaux that illustrate their standing in society and their attitude to what is happening. These dialectical choruses, whose performers constantly contradict one another, are as it were the symbolic manifestation of debates in society about power and violence, love and beauty, and urban planning and the right to the city.Director: Tsaplya (Olga Egorova) Screenplay: Chto Delat Composer: Mikhail Krutik Set: Dmitry Vilensky and Gluklya (Natalya Pershina) Choreography: Nina Gasteva, Mikhail Ivanov and Tsaplya Editing: Vilensky and Tsaplya Director of Photography: Artyom Ignatov Sound: Alexander Dudarev
This video film was made possible with the kind support of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (Spain), Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Germany, and Sociedad Estatal para la Acción Cultural Exterior, Spain, as part of the project The Potosí Principle; and BAK (basis voor actuele kunst), Utrecht, as part of the project Vectors of the Possible. With additional support from the research project Creating Worlds, financed by Wiener Wissenschafts, Forschungs- und Technologiefonds; Vienna Science and Technology Fund, and ar/ge kunst Galleria Museo, Bolzano, Italy.
This film was produced with support from the Chto Delat Fund.