Gazprom’s PR office has pulled off another coup: information has circulated that the Okhta Center [Gazprom City] will house a museum of contemporary art. The message is clear: our corporation is progressive and its programs are progressive and modern, while the people who protest against the construction project of the century are retrogrades who cherish only what is covered in dust and mold. But do contemporary artists need such a museum? Can cutting-edge art be herded into a museum? ZAKS.Ru correspondent Anna Danilevskaya put these questions to well-known Petersburg artist Dmitry Vilensky, a member of the Chto Delat art group.
ZAKS.Ru: Dmitry, how do you relate in general to the idea of Okhta Center?
DV: A lot of awful things have now been built in the city. For the first time since the art nouveau period, in the early part of the twentieth century, the conscious production of a new, extremist capitalist environment is taking place, an environment of consumption, displacement, control, and entertainment. This is a unique historical moment. The question is when this will make people disgusted. For the time being, it would seem, a general atmosphere of rapture holds sway, and the population has delegated to the new bourgeoisie the right to treat the city in accord with its own notions of space. At first this was done more or less bashfully: all those crappy imitations of classical Petersburg and the shopping malls in the outskirts. But the Gazprom tower is a full-on manifestation of the power of capital in the city’s public space. Because it is not Matvienko who is in charge nowadays (you can easily imagine anyone whomsoever in her place). It is capitalism that rules, and imagining life without it is the really serious challenge. In my view, all the conservationist slogans (“We won’t let them ruin our city’s classical look!”) are uninteresting. It will be good if they lead to a total understanding that all this capitalist development is a waste, and our society proves capable of formulating an alternative program of development. But this isn’t happening yet, and I think that Gazprom’s insolence is an excellent provocation that finally shows the most convinced liberals what the power of capital really means.