Deconstructin Lenin and three conversations in Murmansk
:Deconstructing LeninLenin, is the name of an important man in Russian history. It is also the name of streets andbuildings and statues all over Russia. But in this particular case, it is the name of the NuclearIce Breaker we visited in Murmansk. Lenin was built in 1956 in St. Petersburg, it served as anicebreaker for thirty years, has been out of duty for twenty years, and a museum for the past twoyears. Nuclear icebreakers are rare ships. There exist only nine of them in the world, and they allbelong to Russia.When entering Lenin, a whole new world opens. The ship contains 1200 rooms. Everything isbeautiful, but incomprehensible. Objects I cannot describe with words, because I have no vo-cabular for what they are. Doors leading into spaces, small worlds opening when entering them. Ahospital inside a ship. A small swimmingpool. A sauna. A room with empty chairs. A representationof how it was. I wanted to look at those objects, that I did not understand. To see if I could tell theirstory.
:Three conversations in MurmanskVisiting his grandmother i Murmansk. She is wearing a yellow dress, and her eyes are full of life.At eightythree. She holds my hand in both her hands. I talk to her i Norwegian and she talks to mein Russian. Igor calls her Babuschka. All elderly women passed a certain age are called Babusckain Russia. Her building is different from the one we visited yesterday. These are Staliniskas, ap-parantly there are obvious differences from the buildings on the hills. To me the staircase looks thesame, it is worn down and the mailboxes are torn open. But her appartment has big spaces andbeautiful wooden floors. It looks like any grandmother could live here. She talks about the threephotographs on a table. When she was young, thirteen years old and a ballerina. She has lived inMurmansk her whole life.I am annoyed to be wearing jogging shoes when I see their high heals. Two girls at work, my age,they look so elegant. They sit behind their desks in a PR agency. Igor and I sit in the sofa facingthem. I can see their beautiful shoes under the table. They dont speak English. I dont speak Rus-sian. Igor translates. What part of Murmansk did I prefer? What do I think of the architecture? Howis it to live in Norway? I am impressed by how direct they are. How engaged they are in discuss-ing Murmansk. Both have been to Norway, though they dont seem really impressed after all. Theonly difference she says, is that you live in small wooden houses, and we live in big blocks. Butthe people are the same. When I was a kid she continues, we would go to my grandmothers inthe countryside, and construct houses out of cardboard boxes. And those houses where the mostbeautiful we knew.He serves us tea in his office. He is a photographer and speaks English. His shelves are filledup with cameras from the Soviet period. What a collection, he picks them down one by one andshow me their functions. Hundreds of thousands of these cameras, all over Russia. And thisone, he says, was usually a camera given to kids, as the functions were so simple. But the opticis really good and durable. And brought on the very first expedition to Mount Everest. I ask himabout being a photographer in Murmansk. He says it is difficult to find good locations in the city. Inparticular we talk about wedding photography. It is not like Moscow or St. Petersburg where theyhave old beautiful buildings he says. And the photographers from those cities, they tell us it easyto find good locations in Murmansk. Though we are quite inventive, we take people up to the hillswith the view over the city. Or some young people even think it is cool to shoot their weddingpho-tos in old and degraded structures.
:ThoughtsDeconstructing Lenin, focuses upon the material heritage from the Soviet period. Whilst the threeconversations in Murmansk are a way of understanding a sosial heritage. Though living in thesame building structures as they did during the Soviet regime, people do not live the same livesas they did then. They renovate their appartments, or search for places in the city to take weddingphotographies, or make a youth house in a degraded building. As Lenin is a place where time hasstopped, the people in Murmansk have not. One can say that the constructed Murmansk does notanswer to todays social culture. The new movements of modern, post-sovietic Murmansk, utilizesand adapts communist structures to fit with their needs and culture, their way of living. This canbe viewed as the clash of soviet and post-soviet cultures, and an exploration of potential, in thedynamics inbetween.In this task I wanted to deconstruct Lenin, and look at each object separatly, to see if I couldunderstand the language of these aesthetics. And in the making of this, I had to create a newvocabular for each object. Can the method of deconstructing be applied to existing buildingstructures in Murmansk? In the case of Lenin, could a total deconstruction of the ship, and puttingit back together again in a different way, lead to contemporary and interesting spaces? I person-ally think the soviet language/aesthetics, the objects and spaces, developed with limitated exposalto nonSoviet expressions, are an interesting and important element in the discussion of Russianidentity and future architecture.