All posts filed under: My Block

In this section, RETROGRAD takes to the streets to explore how people transform and interact with their cities through street art, graffiti and other forms of resistance and ‘re-appropriation’.

Colours of the night

Located 1448 km north of Saint Petersburg, it takes a 28-hour-long train ride over the Kirov railway to reach the Murman coast. Winters are long and cold in this part of the world and the nights get longer and longer the further we travel deep into Russia’s north beyond the polar circle into the Arctic’s largest city, Murmansk, in search of the polar lights. Every year around the beginning of December, the polar night begins and the sun doesn’t rise for 40 days. With temperatures between -20 and -40 degrees, everything is covered in ice and snow. The clouds hang low and merge with the steam of the misty landscape and industrial towers. The plain white reflects the colours of the night, giving even abandoned and broken places a numb beauty. In absence of the natural rhythm of day and night the light is lost as a point of orientation.  It could be 5pm or 4am; you would not notice the difference. The streets are almost empty and the tiny bars with shiny TV screens are always open. And then, …

Inside the Kommunalki: Life in Tbilisi between past and present

During summer in Tbilisi, time seems to stop as people slow down to cope with the heat. Jacopo Miglioranzi shares his impressions of life in the Kommmunalki, where the effects of political and social change are felt, yet modern Georgia feels still far away. “Soviet power plus electrification make no communism.” I had been living for a couple of months in Tbilisi, in the flat of a friend, in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. Kommunalki, concrete blocks, house numbers written with spray paint, old block numbers discolored by time. Underwear and bedclothes hanging from the fragile metal supports of the balconies. Stray dogs. Taxi drivers sleeping in their cars. Summer. Men under a canopy. Smoke of cigarettes. Butts scattered around. Ritual sounds and screams. ნარდი, nardi, backgammon. Guys flock around hoping to steal some secret. From the seventh floor, where my apartment is, you can see almost everything in almost the whole quarter. The trees, the stray dogs, the slow suburban life. Women coming with huge shopping bags. Summer. Forty degrees in …

Southern Italy’s “Korea”

On the edge of Monte Sant’Angelo sits “the Korea”, the biggest social housing project in the southern Italian town. Originally built under a Communist Party administration, “the Korea” soon gained the reputation of a ghetto and the site is still the subject of much prejudice and stigma today. Maurizio Totaro re-visits his hometown and looks at the housing estate through the lens of the town’s history and his family’s own story.

“Who’s last?” The mysterious art of queuing in Russia

If anyone asks you what the major symbol of the USSR is, forget the hammer and sickle. It’s the “queue” (or the “line”). The line of people. All dressed in dark colours with a sad look on their faces. If you have lived in Russia for more than ten years, this image is most likely to be burned into your brain. It’s a part of our culture, and it’s not the best part.

Follow your inner moonlight: Blake, Bukowski and Ginsberg on the streets of Tbilisi.

A few years ago, an unknown individual with the initials “A. E.” began transforming the facades of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi into canvases of poetry. Around the city, walls were covered with quotes by poets and artists like James Blake, Charles Bukowski, Patti Smith and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Unlike ordinary graffiti, these fragments appeared mysterious and thought-provoking. Who wrote them and why? What was it that they were supposed to communicate?