Daily Archives: April 16, 2011

International Leaking Roofs Day (Saint Petersburg)

By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
April 13, 2011 (Issue # 1651)

Residents, artists and anarchists united Sunday to protest the St. Petersburg authorities’ failure to deal with housing issues by celebrating the fictitious International Leaking Roofs Day in the courtyard of a 19th-century building on Kolomenskaya Ulitsa.

The celebration, which included a discussion, an outdoor art exhibition and tea party, was organized by Verkhotura art group, one of whose members, Polina Zaslavskaya, lives in the building.

“The main idea was that people should unite and organize themselves to fight the problem, rather than deal with it alone,” Zaslavskaya said.

“And we came up with this humorous form: An exhibition, to invite artists to unite and tackle the problem with their artistic means. The housing problem is a common one; it doesn’t matter what you do, the main thing is to do it all together.”

Called “Everything Leaks and Everything Abides,” the art exhibition featured satirical posters criticizing the city’s housing services for the lack of transparency and alleged corruption, as well as documenting the effects of leaking roofs — a problem that affects thousands of the city’s households.

Zaslavskaya painted a series of watercolors with titles such as “Roof Pierced By a Crowbar,” “Electrical Wiring Has Burnt Out” and “Leak in the Kitchen. A Hot Water Pipe Burst in the Attic.”

The anarchists — some of whom held a regular Food Not Bombs event nearby, distributing free vegan food to underprivileged and homeless people — provided vegan snacks and hot tea as well as background music.

According to Zaslavskaya, the date was chosen to mark the first anniversary since the roof of her building, located at 38/40 Kolomenskaya Ulitsa, first started to leak. Despite promises from St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko to fix city roofs, the leaks returned last winter.

Zaslavskaya attributes this to corruption and inefficiency. “When such housing horror occurs, when things are on the verge of catastrophe, it immediately becomes clear to everybody how everything works,” she said.

“The Housing Code was issued back in 2005, but it still doesn’t work. City Hall came up with the “St. Petersburg Roofs” program in which they replaced old roofs with new ones, but it made things even worse because they were poorly made.

“It’s an example of solidarity among thieves and completely insane corruption, because incredible amounts of money are just draining away.”

The exhibition’s title, “Everything Leaks and Everything Abides,” is a play on words on Heraclitis’ quote “Everything flows and nothing abides” (in Russian, there is one word for both “leak” and “flow”), and was used on a poster that Zaslavskaya and her friends made for a rally against leaking roofs last month.

“The residents asked us to do something like ‘Valya, Fix Our Roof,’ which was an almost supplicating tone,” she said.

“I don’t know how productive that is. Quite the opposite, I think it makes sense to say, ‘Let’s battle, let’s unite, let’s organize ourselves and take everything over.’ There should be moods like that.”

Zaslavskaya believes that outdoor art events could overcome alienation and unite people — at least the residents of a specific building.

“There are severe problems now, and they can be used to try and stir up people,” she said.

“To overcome total loneliness and isolation, because I think it’s sad.”

Photos by Sergey Chernov. They are used here with his permission.

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Filed under activism, art exhibitions, Russian society, urban movements (right to the city)

Save Rugina! (petition)



To: Acting President of the Republic of Moldova, Marian Lupu
Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, Vlad Filat
Mayer of Chişinău, Dorin Chirtoacă
Copies: Attorney General of the Republic of Moldova Valeriu Zubco
Deputy Secretary-General of the National Commission for UNESCO in R. M., Constantin Rusnac

It took the artists Nicolai Ischimji and Valerii Moshkov 25 years of hard work and several tons of scrap-metal and industrial waste to sculpt this unique art installation of European significance – the outdoor sculpture complex “Rugina & Co” – “РЖАвЧИНАХ” (“RustInRanks”). The exhibition of sculptures is organically integrated into the landscape and includes pieces such as “Purgatory”, “Bureaucratic Apparatus”, “The Shepherd”, “Iron Curtain” – a vivid three-dimensional contemplation on the age of totalitarianism and industrialization.

“Rugina” by any account is a major phenomenon of Moldova’s contemporary art: this sculptural complex is a testimony to the conceptual power and a vast creative potential of its artists. Moreover, it is a true blueprint of non-conformity, an example of selfless service to the ideals of art and expressional freedom in the conditions of underground under a totalitarian regime, a powerful manifesto of intellectual independence and global mentality.

What is the problem? Admired by audiences and highly valued by the expert community, “Rugina” has not yet gained the recognition of Moldovan authorities and is now under a threat of demolition! One of the pieces has been stolen, several others badly damaged. The artists’ studio, which serves an integral part and the technical basis for the project, containing the archives, sculptures, tools, paintings and a library, has been taken over by unidentified individuals with the connivance of some employees of the Mayor’s Cabinet (Primaria). The case of illegal breaking into the studio has been stuck in the Prosecutors Office for a year now. The public space, which is home to the “Rugina” complex, is being continuously diminished and blocked by new illegally installed fences. The land is now subject to privatization and is earmarked for conversion to private use.

Will photographs and books remain all that is left of “Rugina”, a unique multidimensional space born as the result of a tremendous creative effort, an embodiment of an incredible spiritual power? The authors of “Rugina” have always rejected tempting offers to sell individual sculptures of the complex or move them abroad, so that the integrity of the complex could be preserved. They are now eager to make “Rugina” their gift to the city.

We the undersigned petition the Acting President of the Republic of Moldova, the Government of the Republic of Moldova and the Mayor of the city of Chişinău to save the “Rugina” complex from demolition and to preserve it for present and future generations; to provide and guarantee unrestricted access to the sculptural complex for all viewers – be it the residents of Chişinău or tourists; to prevent the growing threat of privatization of communal lands; to stop the illegal seizure of the studio of Nicolai Ischimji and Valerii Moshkov.

How can “Rugina” be saved? The problem is not unresolvable and the solution does not require extraordinary effort or costs. It can be solved by creating an inter-departmental commission to include representatives of local authorities (Municipal Directorates of Culture and of Assets), Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Moldova, the Artists Union and the Architects Union, the Tourism Agency of Moldova, Parliamentary Commission on Culture, the Academy of Sciences, as well as independent experts on modern culture and representatives of non-government organisations.

Now is the time to grant “Rugina” an official status, which would help it survive and take its legitimate place in the history of Moldovan as well as European art. Then the project “Rugina – XX century – Globline” will get the chance of its full realization and will become truly global. We now need to act IMMEDIATELY to protect our cultural legacy from theft and destruction. Therefore, until the Commission takes an official, legitimate decision, all actions in regards to the artists’ studio and adjacent land, including “Rugina” must be suspended, including but not limited to its partitioning or any change in status or zoning. It is within our joint power and in our common interests, it is our responsibility as citizens of the local and global community to protect this monument of contemporary culture which is one of Moldova’s key Cultural Heritage objects of the late 20th – early 21st century.

Moldova has to share its art with the world, to be proud of it and to preserve it for future generations.

—“Rugina & Co.”, 3 Ghidighici, Chişinău

Sign the petition here.

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Filed under contemporary art, film and video, open letters, manifestos, appeals