The DIY Art Movement Reshaping Russia's Streets

moscow parking day russia© Alex Petelin. Park(ing) Day 2011 in Moscow.

Urban art projects can help change the way we see our cities, but can they actually improve the way cities work? A group of Moscow-based artists/activists think they can.

Anton Polsky (a.k.a. Make), the creator of a DIY bicycle map of Moscow, is one of the founders behind Partizaning, a new website and movement focused on "the role of art in reshaping public spaces, cities, and human interactions." (Its physical base is an old shipping container that serves as a mobile art gallery and activism studio.)

Public Art As Political Protest
In Russia, artists have been at the forefront of a recent upswell in public protest, and many of the first projects featured on Partizaning have a strong political or social message.

drunk pedestrians fake street sign moscow russia© Partizaning. Make's 'Drunk Pedestrians" sign outside a Moscow nightclub.

As his alter ego "Make," Polsky last year installed a series of unsanctioned and alternative street signs in Moscow and St. Petersburg, including ones designating a "Zone for Free Political Protest" in a square where opposition supporters were planning to gather; one warning of "Drunk Pedestrians" outside of a popular nightclub; and one designating a cycling lane on a busy road for bike traffic.

Challenging The Automobile's Reign
Traffic's reign of terror and the extreme bad behavior of some elite drivers has been another popular target of Partizaning actions.

citizen ticketing parked car moscow russia© Partizaning. Citizen 'ticketing' of a car parked in a pedestrian crossing.

A recent initiative saw pedestrians "ticketing" parked cars that "unabashedly block pedestrian crossings, trolley ways and bus paths" by slapping on stickers designed to emulate official traffic and parking-violation notices over the vehicles' doors and gas tanks.

Though some of the "interventions" featured on the site may seem frivolous, or even dangerous, they represent a serious effort to re-engage people with their environment and give them a sense of ownership. As Shriya Malhotra writes about the project for the Pattern Cities blog: "They demonstrate a pattern of local, urban activism, and strategic DIYism among citizens who are trying to make better cities and taking the responsibility onto themselves."

Tags: Activism | Artists | Cities | Russia | Urban Life | Urban Planning

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