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Moscow Cinemas-Transforming Periphery

03   /   07   /   2018

Artists: Vasilena Gankovska


If you happen to be in the periphery of Moscow, which means to step across its central ring (Okryzhnaya) you find yourself in a scenery which can be best described as 'Soviet meets turbo capitalism, accompanied by some new features of an ultra postmodern urban development concepts'. What we can see are huge 'microrayons', the residential units from the Soviet past and among them the heritage of the 1990s, small to middle scale commercial constructions, made of cheap, not really sustainable materials, painted in bright colours and covered with logos, advertising, etc. In the middle of this scenery the carefull observer can discover the small to middle scale abandoned buildings of old cinema theatres. Once the epicentre of leisure and social life, now they are waiting for the next chapter of their existence - to be transformed into multufunctional centers, e.g. to be demolished. 

39 cinemas were built between 1938 and 1988 in the so called 'bedroom' districts, the oldest one of them, Kinoteatr RODINA on Semyonovska will be the only one which will survive the big development plans. 

During the month of June 2018 I visited all of them and made a documentation of their current state. At least five have been already demolished and undergo the so called 'reconstruction', the bigger ones are still functioning as cinemas, but most of them are silently waiting, reminding us of the times, when work and leisure have been strictly divided, not only timewise, but also spatially.

Artistic approach and outcome


My working method consists of taking pictures while having walks in the area of the cinemas and the precise observation of the architecture and urban structure. During the walks I try to depict the characteristicts of the area, important landmarks, if there are any and to listen to what people talk about while waiting for the bus. 
The second phase is the studio work, during which small scale drawings (format A3) are made. They show a schematic, colourful and in a way abstract impressions from the sceneries. The colours relate to the actual colourscheme of the buildings, marking not only what is remained from the original state, but also later changes and interventions in the structure of the fassade.

The demolished cinemas are presented by schematic drawings of the construction sites, with the names marked with pencil, mimicing the font, which the company owner uses for the information shields and visualisation. It was important to depict also this state of absence or decay in relation to the surroundings. 
The drawings are an impulsive, basic representation, based on the experience during the visit of the sites and later on through the picture material which was taken and carefully examined.


The next level of the project will be executed in Vienna and will take some more time since its result will be a small publication about the 39 cinemas, with pictures of surroundings and details, as well as some personal notes, accompanied by a longer text. The purpose is to create a documentation of the cinemas and its condition at the time of the research, conducted in June 2018. For some of the buildings, this probably will be the last documentation of this type and maybe the last artistic project dealing with their physical presence in the urban space.

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