Pavel Peppershtein

peppershtein_pBorn in Moscow in 1966. In 1985-1987 studied at Academy of Fine Arts (Prague). Since 1987 he is a founding member of the Medical Hermeneutics Inspection Group. Selected solo exhibitions: 2007 City of Russia, Regina Gallery, (Moscow), 2008 EITHER – OR. National Suprematism as a Project of a New Representative Style for Russia, Regina Gallery, (Moscow), 2009 EITHER – OR. Kewenig Gallery, Cologne, (Germany)

City of Russia
One of the oldest private galleries in Moscow, “Regina”, is pleased to welcome you to our new exhibition space in Winzavod. We turn a new page of our history and present a futuristic project “City of Russia” by Pavel Pepperstein, artist, writer, critic and art theoretician.

Pavel Pepperstein is not the first one trying to draw the authorities’ attention to the fact that total overhaul of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, which runs parallel to post-Soviet Russia’s economic growth, has not only changed the look of these cities, but also leads to much more serious consequences. While we destroy these cities and call this process “reconstruction”, we have lost and continue to lose much more than old, dysfunctional buildings and narrow streets, which aren’t fit for heavy traffic. We kill off the historical memory and make an attempt upon the nation of Russia’s self-consciousness.
The artist decided to draw the authorities’ attention to this problem with a radical gesture (in the context of Russian art-world’s connections to the higher powers). Pepperstein authored a letter addressed to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and governor of Saint-Petersburg Valentina Matvienko, where he puts forward his understanding of the problem and discusses variants of solving it.
“When the soul of these cities is destroyed, no achievements on the way to rooting these cities and Russia as a whole in the world economic structure can justify these changes,” – writes Pavel Pepperstein. “The consequences of killing off these fascinating and mysterious souls would be very grim for the country. First of all these bereavements undermine “The Meaning Of Russia”. This meaning cannot be put into words, but is profoundly felt on a deep level by Russia’s inhabitants and outside world alike. It cannot be reduced to the idea of economic growth and progress”.

Pepperstein thinks it’s possible to save the historical sights and unique atmosphere of both capitals, in spite of the irreversible nature of destructive process in Moscow. The artist doesn’t address the authorities’ sense of shame, he is not bent on counting the losses. His suggestion is worthy of Solomon: let us impart the capital status to a new entity, a new city to be built somewhere between the old capitals. It is to be called City of Russia. And Moscow and Saint-Petersburg are to be open-air museums.
This new capital comes alive in Pepperstein’s new pictorial cycle, “City of Russia”. The artist depicts a futuristic city, encumbered in science fiction architecture, which simultaneously brings to mind Russian avant-garde’s massive scale utopias seeking to reinvent the space, architectural projects of the 1920s, which relied on new social theories, and Russian’s space age faith in the future (the 1960s). This project is not purely artistic. It has social and political connotations, which are close to other great endeavors of oil giant countries trying to reinvent themselves on an international scale (think Dubai). Of course, Pepperstein’s propositions still look purely utopian from a pragmatic point of view. Then again, the history of Russia shows that even outstanding utopias can become reality.

An Open Letter
D.A. Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation
V. V. Putin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation
V. I. Matvienko, Governor of Saint-Petersburg
Y. M. Luzhkov, Mayor of Moscow

Dear Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister , Mrs. Governor, and Mr. Mayor!
There are happenings in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg that pose a threat to the foundations of our country’s culture and dignity. The look of these cities is brutally changed, while neither the citizens’ opinion, nor civilized norms of managing the cultural and historical heritage are taken into account. Reconstruction and commercial redevelopment, which is not in any way rest on decent cultural and aesthetic foundations, causes destruction of valuable historical monuments and simply beautiful old buildings of various epochs that bear witness to various stages of our state history, and elimination of whole quarters that constitute an important share of the spirit and atmosphere of the main centers of Russia. This cannot be called anything other than barbarism. The results of this activity are presented to society as signs of economic growth, success, pragmatism, glamour, grand scale, and contemporariness. While being undoubtedly luxurious and economically proficient, these changes reduce two of the most important cities of our country in the European region to being a Russian version of a third world city during an economic boom.
The changes cannot be justified by the cities’ success in growing into an international economical infrastructure, because it is the mysterious and fascinating soul of the cities that is being destroyed, and the soul cannot be replaced by infrastructure. The after-effects of the destruction will be frightfully grim for the country. These losses undermine the “Meaning of Russia”, by which we mean something that cannot be put into words but is felt on a deepest level by its inhabitants and the outside world. This “Meaning” cannot be reduced to the idea of economical development and progress.
Colossal financial and organizational investments in the renewal of these cities turn to be a profound devaluation of their very essence.
“Destruction disguised as prosperity” assumed a catastrophic scale in Moscow. Saint-Petersburg can still be saved. I call for urgent halt of the destruction of these important international culture centers. However, I am fully aware of the necessity of urban spaces which are pointed to the future and must be more suitable for contemporary needs. The urban spaces of Russia’s capital need be this way more than any other. But why do we have to build something new in the place of something destroyed? This practice seems merciless and vile to the cultural heritage. It is cruel to the atmospheric and emotional values that hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people hold because these values give them a feeling of wholeness and purpose to their lives. The practice also undermines the new that emerges at the expense of eliminated old, it lays the early stages of a future collapse because of the guilt and poor ethical quality.
In the light of these considerations I present you a project of erecting a new capital of Russia, a city that has to share the name of the country it purports to be the centre of. City of Russia. This title is to serve as a sign to all Russians that the new city won’t be another “free economy zone” but an embodiment of the country in a city, a place where every Russian feels at home.
I propose to locate the center of the new capital right in the middle of the route from Moscow to Saint-Petersburg, in the area of Bologoe-Vyshni Volochiok. It is a splendid place with many lakes that have to play an important role in the urban landscape of the future capital. This intermediate location of the City of Russia between two old capitals will put an end to the citizens’ argument about which city deserves the capital status more. The new capital is to be a favorite child of both. The new city is to be seen as a “lovechild” of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. I also think that at the early stages of its existence the City of Russia can be administered jointly by the city halls of older capitals.
Building a new capital in a wide and hardly urbanized landscape can lend some range for the most daring and revolutionary architectural and infrastructural projects to be realized without the constraints of the older cities. Creation of a grandiose “city of the future” will draw large investments and serve as pledge of Russia’s economic growth in this century onwards, maybe even for centuries to come. This city must become a symbol of our country’s future in its emerging and appearance as well as in carefully programmed social and economical organization. It is to be a sign of hope, a place where the most wonderful dreams come true.
This city will serve as a symbol and embodiment of a system of ideas that is just forming in the present time. Ideological horizon of the young democratic Russian state schould not be enclosed in the idea of personal well-being and success of an individual. People come into this life to experience the world and themselves, to take part in the creation of the world. But a participation of this kind must be careful and full of meaning. That is why the spirit of Experience, the cult of spiritual questioning and science must be recreated in the City of Russia. Deep respect to the past, keeping it alive, research and development of every spiritual, linguistic, religious, ethical and aesthetical experience of the peoples of our country and the whole world must be pursued alongside a resurgence of avant-garde conscience in Russia, a revival of a courageous and captivated outlook towards the future, that has been in effect in the 1920s and 1960s.
The old capitals – Moscow and Saint-Petersburg – schould be granted status of “live museums”. Every old building, every street and side-street, every yard, every tree – in a word, everything (including shabby and non-functional constructions) must be declared precious property of the country and its people! The old capitals have to be cared for and restored in a delicate way. People of the creative spirit, such as artists, scientists, religious leaders, philosophers will live in the former capitals alongside the young and reckless, those who are enamored with the beauty and ancient mystery, and the elderly, who want to spend their days calmly on the favorite streets of their childhood without the fever of contemporary life.
Dear Mr. President! Dear Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Governor and Mr. Mayor! With this letter I enclose a series of drawings. These fantasies depict several grandiose constructions and urban landscapes at different times in the future. With the drawings I aim to stimulate the imagination and to give a feeling of “fresh wind of the future” that once has filled the air or the 1920s and 1960s. This wind can touch our souls even now, providing us with an almost forgotten possibility to suddenly look into the future with fascination and curiosity, having no fear (and that is against the spirit of our times).
At the same time I beg you not to dismiss this letter and the idea of a new capital as a product of artistic imagination, an artist’s folly. This suggestion is made by an artist, but the necessity of this project is no fiction.

Yours faithfully,
Pavel Pepperstein