Friday, June 29, 2007

Radical Revivalism?

In Rodchenko's diaries, confused and depressed by the 1940s and 50s, he reminisces about the salad days of the avant-garde. He fastens onto the Moscow Planetarium, and rapturously cherishes his memories of this temple to science, and the photos he took there. The Planetarium survived Stalin, Lysenko and Yeltsin, but it fell to Yuri Luzhkov, being travestied in a botched 'restoration' last year - the glazed staircase you see below removed for reasons best known to the 'restorers'.

I got my copy of the MAPS' report Moscow Heritage at Crisis Point last week, and highly recommended it is too: the fact that something of such massive historical importance as Ivan Nikolaev's 1930 Dom Kommuna (top) is literally rotting to pieces is genuinely something to make the most detached archi-aesthete angry. Yet I can't help having a bad thought. Isn't there something truly avant-garde about the lunatic model of heritage held by the Moscow authorities? Building whole series of extra stories atop 17th century villas, 'finishing' a ruined 18th century castle, putting billboards of historical buildings over their soon-to-be-demolished ruins, treating the whole city as totally mutable and extendible: isn't this the dreams of the indeterminates and metabolists finally fulfilled by the revivalists?


Blogger Murphy said...

I'm not sure I agree. The differing attitudes to heritage across cultures is definitely something to be discussed further (anglo-saxon romanticism vs globalised pastiche, which encompasses Dubai and Moscow etc...) however. The awareness that simulacra are more potent (and cheaper to build) than authentic heritage is nothing new. I don't think it constitutes unwitting avant-gardeism.

2:53 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Oh sure, I was just throwing that one out: but there's something really weird about it, perhaps 'indeterminate historicism' is a better phrase. There's something crazy about building 4 extra storeys on some listed Palladian villa...

3:10 pm  
Blogger roger said...

It's the thieves world aesthetic. The opening sections of Sorokin's excellent novel Ice are all about the new Russian culture: mix in one part traditional protocols of the elders of zion, another part internazional film, aka porn vids, score to a Phil Collins sound track and there you are. Oh - also, bring jewelry. It is the historicism you get when it is created by people who have absolutely forgotten all history, but have some flickering notion that it is out there, somewhere, probably at Eurodisney.

8:54 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Looking just now at that Planetarium link, Luzhkov had a sodding Orthodox priest consecrate it before the 'restoration'. Just to rub it in, again - 'we won! we won!' ad nauseam.

4:48 pm  
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