From the editors
CULTURE IN A "FOREIGN" SPACE: AN INTRODUCTION
TO GENIUS LOCI KALININGRAD AND KOENIGSBERG
KALININGRAD IN THE YEAR 2020 - A NOT QUITE FICTITIOUS CONVERSATION
DESTINATION - KALININGRAD
FROM KALININGRAD DICTIONARY
MAP OF THE CITY
FORMA URBIS. SYMBOLIC PARALLELS
IN OR OUT
THE RAILWAY STATION AND ENTRANCE TO THE CITY OF KALININGRAD
BINARY STATES OF "K" CITY
Eugeny Umansky, Karpenko-Karpenko
IN THE CENTER
Andrei Monastyrsky, Sabina Haensgen
EMPTY CENTER K.
FOLLOWING SILENT WORDS
FA+ (Ingrid Falk & Gustavo Aguerre)
THE MYTHICAL FOUNDATION OF KALININGRAD
PRETERITION: KNEIPHOF ISLAND
THE BRIDGES AND "THE PREGEL'S ODOR"
John Craig Freeman, Greg Ulmer
IMAGING KALININGRAD: THE SEVEN BRIGES OF KOENIGSBERG
FORGOTTEN KANT AND THE KANT-BRAND IN KOENIGSBERG
KANT'S BRIDES: A READYMADE PHOTOGRAPHIC CHRONOTOPE
THE CATHEDRAL AND KANT FOR EVERYONE, OR IS GOD FEARSOME WITHOUT MORAL
THE CASTLE OF SOVIETS
THE ROYAL CASTLE
A WHITE SEAGULL ABOVE THE CITY: THE SYMBOLS OF THE OLD NEW CITY
WRITING OF DREAMS
LIGHT UP DOM SOVETOV
THE HOUSE OF SOVIETS
THE MOST PROFOUND SECRET OF ONE KOENIGSBERG LAWYER: HOFFMANN
A LEGEND ABOUT FIVE LITTLE ULRICHEN AND FERRYMAN ANDRE
KOENIGSBERG-KALININGRAD. THE TASTE OF MARZIPAN
THE COUNTRY OF PENSIONERS - OR THE GERMANS
CONCRETE ELEMENTS OF KALININGRAD
THE UNDREAMED OF CITY
TOWN PLANNING MATHEMATICS
MOSKOVSKII PROSPECT & THE SHADOWS AROUND ALTSTADT
OUR TOWER Ivan Chechot
THE TOWER-REDAN "KRONPRINZ"
THE KRONPRINZ TOWER. Projects for the National Centre for Contemporary Arts by Students of the Institute for Theory and Design in Architecture (Braunschweig, Germany)
THE AMBER ROOM
BASTIONS IN DIAMONDS AND EMERALDS
THE HOUSE OF MACHINERY: THE RECONSTRACTION AND EXPLOITATION OF THE POPULATION
V.I.P. (Very Interesting Person)
PLACE OF EXECUTION
TRACES OF A VIRTUAL HISTORY IN A VERY REAL CITY
CHRIST THE SAVIOR CATHEDRAL
LIFE AND EGGS (A sketch about trams)
A STROLL THROUGH THE CENTER
IN THE FLOW: FOUNTAIN SEASON
WILD WEST OF RUSSIA
ANIMALS IN KALININGRAD AND A MOSAIC
KOENIGSBERG'S SPIRITUAL HERITAGE IN TONS, ITEMS AND SACKS. From the history of lost and found cultural heritage
WE ALL ARE GOING TO BE THERE
MONUMENT TO 1200 GUARDSMEN IN KALININGRAD
MATTER AND SPIRIT
FRAGMENT OF A SYMPHONY FOR SLOW READING: IVANOV AND HIS SURROUNDINGS
ATTIC OF RECOGNITION
MAN AND WOMAN
THE SMALL SCULPTURE "GIRL"
ON THE STREET
Igor Isaev, Dmitrii Demidenko
THE FIRE HYDRANT
Kalle Brolin, Kristina Muntzing
THE WATERFALL HERACLES' BOLT
V.I.P. (Very Interesting Person)
NATASHA POTERYASHINA. Inteview
TO BE IN THE MOOD FOR PACKING
Dmitrii Bulatov, Pavel Savel'ev
ACEPHALUS: OPTICAL MODELS
LIGHT THE CRYSTALS OF KALININGRAD!
THE BRIDGE THAT THE "RUSSIANS COULDN'T PULL DOWN"
THE ROAD TO BERLIN: FROM EPIC TO BANAL. Interview with Valerii Bugrov
HOAR-STONES AND BOUNDARY SYMBOLS
MUSCOVITES ARE HANGING
BEFORE THE CITY
FRAGMENT OF A SYMPHONY FOR SLOW READING: IVANOV AND HIS SURROUNDINGS
Aleksandr Popadin / Kaliningrad, Russia
1. Old Houses
I always pity big cities, sagging under their own weight and size. There are no normal basements or roofs in such cities, and, besides, one can hardly call these parallelepipeds houses. They are not houses but drawers of lost chests, which do not touch the sky but skate on the asphalt ground. There are no attics whatsoever. Can you imagine this? There are no attics!
But if you've been so lucky as to grow up and live in Kaliningrad, close to secrets of all kinds, you must take advantage of this. To touch shrouds! To look into flickering twilight! To open a fount of mysteries in your own soul! In the late 1980s old things (German, pre-war) were given the value of ancient ones. All the trash and old junk was carted off to antique shops. Against the background of wearisome five-storied houses, they played with the basic meaning of home, where time forms sediment on the walls. Many generations of children grew up in these houses and have left so thick a shroud of laughter and monkey tricks that on a hot day, when the past thaws out and comes off the walls, the doorways fill with mist of a non-physical nature.
Oh, those old houses! These intricate facades, nice and pleasant trifles, enveloping each house in the course of a long life!
One would think it is a simple thing: walls, ceiling, a foundation, a roof, doors… and, voila, a house! But no, it's not that simple. This is the way a house of cards of the new concrete construction differs from "the House", a brick box - from an infinity of important trifles, gathered in living handful and going off into different dimensions, times and perhaps into our very own depths. Tiny features that form a unique image: attic and cellars, secret nooks and crannies in walls, stairs with steps that are beyond all calculation (there were 12 of them yesterday, today there are 15, yesterday they were high and difficult to reach, today we jump over two of them). Handrails, polished bits of granite, drainpipes, fireplaces (more rarely), mailboxes, spiders in corners, goblins behind brooms, echoes in doorways (there is always an echo there, as doorways cannot live without them). The sounds of yard life, the jumping of a whitewashed ceiling and hard floor, a tiled roof, pigeons and cats, mice and wood-lice that are called karamora (according to Gogol). The glow of sunrise and the glow of sunset in windows, the midnight glow of the moon on the glossy sides of drain pipes, from time to time the gloomy roar of the wind, or maybe not the wind (it is difficult to enumerate everything that can roar so gloomily in a mysterious pipe). The outer image of the house is clear and intelligible, while the private inner image is mysterious and enigmatic.
One can live one's entire life without noticing it.
There is a strange human trait: to investigate the secrets and mysteries of the past thousand years, while paying no heed to the secrets and mysteries of the present! I pity so much the cellars and attics of Kaliningrad: they were paid no heed for decades, when everyone's curiosity was directed towards the thickness of centuries and the depth of exotic continents. But our local secrets keep staying on without any hint of a clue, like forgotten treasure.
For some reason, I don't want to live such a life.
2. The Attic
Most people believe that a roof is a very simple thing. That it is just a shelter of branches above the walls of a house, whose aim is to protect the dwelling itself from rain, the sun and wind. I can declare confidently that this is not the case, because a roof is a small pyramid. I've read somewhere that things in the form of pyramids acquire new properties: water is charged with positive energy, while seeds that have been placed in pyramids sprout more quickly and are superabundant. Attic people, if they exist - but of course they do, it couldn't be otherwise - must be charged with this energy in surplus as a result of living in attics.
Pigeons, for example, are charged.
Attics, being centers of silence, of mysterious chest of drawers and dusky secrets, have attracted me since childhood. They are like an opposite pole, situated on equal latitude with the basement but not equal to it. There is the same prevailing timeless lumber, the same dust, yet it is mixed with water and gives birth to slush. Pigeons and spiders are the omnipresent inhabitants of attics; while in basements, aside from rats (those on business, who are always persecuted by their instinct) there are those very mysterious whitish creatures, which have never been seen, but that are known from childhood dreams…
When we ascend to the attic invisible bugs and spiders look at us disapprovingly. Who are you? What do you need? When in Rome, do as the Romans do? But you should have paid attention to our life too: How do we bugs and spiders live? How do we, the pigeons, dance? What we are talking about, and what century is it now outdoors?
Let's move a couple of pegs back. Let's lend an ear to the local atmosphere.
3. A Timeless Dialogue in the Attic
It is a common misperception that spirits are quite independent and that they are empowered to intrude on people's business, acting like invisible and peculiar spies. I must admit that this isn't so. At least, not completely so, and in our city it is absolutely not so. The democratic autonomy, which the local spirits have possessed since ancient times, was transmitted to newly arrived spirits. Their manners mixed and developed in the spirit of freedom, equality, brotherhood and so on - in other words, in the spirit of the French Revolution. The connection is more slender, it is not even a connection, but rather it is a mutual submission to common laws. One cannot categorically deny the existence of malicious and nasty spirits, but it is not they who have the key role in Olympus or, rather, in the attic.
It is day now and, to be more precise, not any definite time of the day or night but rather timelessness. Silence reigns, which is very strange even for an absolutely abandoned place. From time to time distant voices are heard from the yard, the noise of cars rattling on the road and the quiet rustling of voice resumes a stilted florid worldly dialogue.
"Herr Underwood! Herr Underwood! … Answer me! In this town there will always be a place for a conversation between two Germans, even if they have lost sense of reality a little bit .
To all appearances, the voice belonged to a battered wicker armchair. With the colorlessness peculiar (as we know from novels) to the voices of ghosts, this voice absolutely corresponded to what it filled: an armchair. Because in vocal spaces not occupied by the hiss of colorless sounds, the remaining places are occupied by squeaky and rasping sounds that clearly point at the family connection of its owner to the skeptical branch of Konigsberg spirits.
"Again these endless conversations…"
"On the contrary, I'm not infected with the virus of eternity. I want to offer conclusive argument to the critics of your rationalism…"
"Oh no, Herr Zinger! I've told you a thousand times, and I will tell you thousand times more: the fact that we do not see any sensible actions in the new citizens of the city does not speak in favor of the fact that we are bad observers, but it proves that there is nothing sensible going on in the city. Everything happening in it is barbarously silly and absurd. I tell you for the hundredth time: one shouldn't look for ghosts in attics, especially when there are no ghosts!" And the voice, happy with its joke, rocked with dry senile laughter, while the letters of an old typing machine rustled on the thinnest of rice paper.
"I realize that I can look a little out-of-date because of my presumption of comprehension, but they are doing something! They are building for some reason…"
"And not very successfully!"
"They are repairing, restoring…"
"But they are living here, and as time goes on the surer they become that they will live on here further!"
"But how? How do they live? They have neither their own nor a foreign city! Konigsberg is dead and stinks the way only a dead Prussian city can stink. And we are the only living things in it, while they are only shadows. They want to attach themselves, to enter our world, because they are simply unable to create their own! And they don't notice that everything for them is dead, and dead not because of their own death. Optimists! They want to build a hydroelectric power station on the River Styx and to start generating energy for their life."
"Oh yes, positivism is out of fashion even in our generation…" To all appearances, the conversation took its usual course, which was not very advantageous for Mister Wicker Armchair…
…We enter at this very moment. The local inhabitants look at the strangers, who have intruded into the attic precincts. An invisible spider rustles in the furthest corner and falls into silence. After a second, the spider rustles in another corner. With a diligence peculiar to him, he is spinning a web so thin that time itself might as well be drawn into it.
"The rest are available only to our mental view, Herr Underwood. These aliens are obvious. Vivid. Visible. This is the only thing that I can say."
"And in boots. Why do they need boots in the attic?"
"The mysterious Slavonic soul, my dear. Unpredictable attributes are its main feature."
"Mysterious … They are mysterious for us, and we for them… And we have nothing but to hold invisible dialogues and to guess at their attributes."
"Dialogue is always invisible. Remember, Ludwig, the ribbon in your typewriter has frayed. All that you type out or speak with its help has no material value."
"It does not curtail my desire to hit the keys. After all, everything that we see around is just an impression left by the punches of the soul on a ribbon of material embodiments. But vision requires eyes, and seeing the invisible requires a mysterious eye… So I repeat once again: You might, just might, be wrong. Otherwise, how could they get in here?"
Captured time behaved quietly; it didn't struggle or buzz like the last fly. There was nowhere for time to hurry, as it always has time at its own disposal. It leaves and arrives, and its existence out of these two actions is noted by few.
The day was in full fling. Sunbeams shining through, indispensable for all roof holes, interlaced into a kind of hammock. Being in the hammock, time didn't hurry anywhere. A spider stopped in the corner to take a rest…
And we will take a rest as well.
4. Weathercock and Underground Vault: The Upper and Lower Boundaries of the City
In addition to an attic between the sky and the earth, there is one last instance between the sky and the attic. It stands alone, like a stone border marker which shares its loneliness only with an inscription carved on it in time immemorial and that is addressed to a traveler. This instance belongs neither to heaven nor to earth, but only to the wind. This instance is the weathercock. He tramples the ground by foot and holds his head open to heaven. His lover is the wind. His mistress is the local weather, which grants him a respite. It is transformed from a device for marking direction into a self- sufficient creature with its own character and reputation. Evil human tongues ascribe to him inconstancy, while the intelligent believe that he is always anxious about relevancy. He is always in full view and always at the extreme top. Only the crosses of churches are higher.
Just as in a mirror reversal, below the cellar and nearer to the center of the earth, where Christian civilization placed Hell and pagan civilization placed Tartar, just as after the cellar and below it yet still before these cauldrons, imps and the rest of the attributes of hell, is a manhole to an underground city. It has the basement extremity of the world at its top and bottomless pulsating magma below. This underground city is a combination of two elements: fire and earth, drilled by human inquisitiveness and the need for mystery.
These secluded nooks are conducive to the blossoming of the flower of mystery and sense of closeness to the limit, the edge, the line after which human existence is impossible; an area where the everyday, love, work and entertainment are impossible. Here a person's ability to exist reaches a breaking point. Hence, the place where a person lives in his/her own way is outlined at top and bottom by this very hem or outline. By this very hem the city in its turn is separated from the endless magma of elements, guarded against pulsations, gives an opportunity to this earthly element for close presence and hints at meeting the possible, the mystical, and, probably, the last fatal one…
It is not in vain that the roof-attic and the basement-underground vault are the places of magicians and criminals. A place for personages consecrated to secret knowledge and a place to rest the mortal remains of the skulls of those who risked entering this place woven from secrets… A place were the deceased paid for their excessive curiosity and lack of common sense with their bodies, which then decayed and, where there are no rats, rests as a picturesque skeleton of the type so adored by illustrators of the adventure novels of Louis Boussenard…
Translation by N. Shtock