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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Underground Party Defies Era of Restraint

ushkinskaya 10 would not give up. The artistic underground commune, which moved into a decrepit, abandoned building in a quiet street off Nevsky Prospekt, claiming squatters' rights, is very much alive. But somewhere in the bureaucratic hierarchy of city administration, the building itself is at the center of a bitter struggle between various groups, each of which has a claim that is more or less legitimate. In spite of the continuing scandals and conflict, the building still has spirit, proved by the latest Prazdnik Dvora ("Yard Party"), the annual event that was celebrated for the fifth time on June 25. The building's inner courtyards and indoor galleries became the arena for a nine-hour festival. Each event had a genuine, festive generosity of its own. A dozen rock, jazz and dance bands played non-stop on the open-air bandstand. Performance groups and theaters staged their improvised productions on the asphalt, in archways or on roofs. Timur Novikov's Academy of New Arts presented a retrospective study of post-modern photography, and Kirill Miller, in the newly opened Salvador Dali Gallery, provoked the public with the highly erotic images of his "Unpainted Whore" installation. Gallery 21 featured a postcards/video art installation titled "New York Flying Party." Happy people with beers in their hands wandered from site to site, dancing and laughing, seeing old friends and making new ones. As often happens, I was being a chaperon for two friends from Germany. Totally unprepared for such an event, they were lucky to witness it and seemed to realize and appreciate that fact. It was interesting to hear their comments. An inevitable comparison between St. Petersburg and Berlin or Paris of the 1960s and '70s came up, a remark I had heard and made myself hundreds of times. Nevertheless, hearing it again from my guests, I realized it has already been years since I last thought this way. Reconciled early to the inevitable movement towards harsh market reform, Russians almost gave up and became as nostalgic for the golden days of our not-so-distant underground as our Western friends are for theirs. Rational thinking seems to lead to the conclusion that no matter how hard you fight it, there will have to be a time of restraint -- something between the first breath of post-Communist euphoria and a true economic maturity -- not unlike that which Western Europe went through in the 1950s. Pushkinskaya 10, though, does not rationalize. Nor does it accept harsh realities. Nor does it want to give up. What is it? A stubborn retroactive splash? Or a bold leap into a future that ignores the unpromising present?