Critical Spatial Practice

Portal Zaryadye: A Portal Not Only to Heaven, But Aslo To Hell (24 July – 12 August 2018)
  • Michał Murawski and Daria Kravchuk | Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

  • Ariadne Arendt, The Actionists on Red Square (2017-2018) Animated GIF, oil on canvas, 185х130 см. Animation executed by Mikhail Kishkarev. The painting belongs to the collection of Marat Guelman. Maria Kremer, Curtain (False Façade) (2018). Construction from wooden beams and façade netting. Sergey Kishchenko, Maxim Ilyukhin, King of the Hill (Tsar Mountains), (2017-2018). A mixed-media installation in the Form of an Ecosystem Anya Shevchenko, Putin in Every Paving Stone (2018)  Six hexagonal Zaryadaye paving stones, stencil. Isadorino Gore Dance Collective, The Return of the Gift  Ritual performance, video, audio-guide.
  • Portal Zaryadye: A Portal Not Only to Heaven, But Aslo To Hell (24 July – 12 August 2018)
  • Michał Murawski and Daria Kravchuk | Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, Moscow
  • Zaryadye Park, architecture critic Anton Kalgaev said at the fifth Zaryadyological roundtable, is a ‘portal to hell’.

    ‘Not only to hell’, architect Timur Bashkaev said in response, ‘but also to paradise!’

    Portal Zaryadye, the sacred centre of late Putinist Moscow 

    Zaryadye Park is a multi-billion rouble Kremlin-abutting prestige project, designed by the architects of Manhattan’s High Line on the ruins of the gargantuan Brezhnev-era Hotel Rossiya. It was opened with great fanfare by Vladimir Putin in September 2017.  

    Zaryadye Park is a flagship of the current Mayoralty’s ongoing campaign to erase troublesome legacies of the Soviet era and ‘wild capitalist’ reign of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (1991-2010) from its urban fabric. This campaign, it has been proposed, constitutes nothing less than the most grandiose attempt to engineer the aesthetics and substance of the Russian capital – and its citizens – since the Stalinist General Plan of 1935. But Zaryadye – nicknamed ‘Putin’s Paradise’ – is also a prime exemplar, critics say, of the manner in which Moscow’s makeover has more to do with performance than reality: a cosmetic retouching of the city’s surface (and center), rather than a substantive repair of its dilapidated social and infrastructural fabric (and peripheries). 

    Our exhibition is intended to pour light on the infernal depths of Portal Zaryadye; and to cast its heavenly peaks into darkness. What political-aesthetic complexities and contradictions condense in the park itself and around it? Which rhetorics and aesthetics, ideologies and controversies, patronage and exchange logics, legacies from the past and images of the future, come together on the volatile terrain of this heavenly portal? 


    Michal Murawski is an anthropologist of architecture and Lecturer in Critical Area Studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. He is author of Palace Complex: A Stalinist Skyscraper, Capitalist Warsaw and a City Transfixed (Indiana University Press, 2019) and co-editor (with Jane Rendell) of Re-Activating the Social Condenser: A Century of Revolution via Architecture, a special issue of The Journal of Architecture (2017). He is currently working on a book about architectural aesthetics and politics in Putin-era Moscow; and has co-curated the exhibitions Portal Zaryadye at the Moscow Museum of Architecture (2018) and The Palace of Ritual at Palazzo Dona Brusà in Venice (2019). 

    Daria Kravchuk is a curator and art manager with an MA degree in Curatorial Studies from Smolny college, St.Petersburg, and an MA in Museological Studies from Amsterdam University. Working on international projects in Moscow and Amsterdam. Recent curatorial practice focuses on the topic of re-framing museum collections, rethinking ‘the everyday’, researching projects, which focus on the phenomenon of ‘the city’ and are conceptual, interventionist, contextual, socially engaged and locally involved. Based between Moscow and Amsterdam.


    This exhibition emerges from Zaryadyology, a collaborative research project, carried out by anthropologist of architecture Michal Murawski together with a students and staff at the Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism.

    The research team carried out participant-observer research within and around Zaryadye Park; as well as organizing a series of Zaryadyological roundtables at several Moscow venues, including Triumph Gallery, the Higher School of Economics, the Dostoevsky Library and the Stalinist skyscraper on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment.

    Our methodology emerges from the concept of ‘ethnographic conceptualism’, as coined by Nikolai Ssorin-Chakov. Our curatorial work is intended to act as an ethnographic conceptualist portal between Zaryadyological research and art. Ethnographic conceptualism can be seen as one of the possible methodological paths towards ‘critical spatial practice’;  as well, as, in trans- or anti-disciplinary terms, towards a ‘critical area studies’.

    Critical Area Studies, Moscow, Russia, Ecology, Political Aesthetics, Ethnographic Conceptualism


    Ekaterina Nenasheva, ‘Between Here and There’, Action, Moscow, June 2018.

    Ivan Golunov, ‘V Moskve ulozhili bol’she granita, chem dobyvayut v Rossii. Iz-za etogo v Sibiri defitsit kamnya dlya nadgrobiy’. Investigative report, Meduza, 19 October 2017.

    Mikhail Lifshitz, The Crisis of Ugliness: From Cubism to Pop-Art (Moscow: Isskustvo, 1968). English translation (by David Riff) published by Brill in 2018.

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