Danarti Magazine, Tbilisi

Samizdat were dissident, self-published printed materials that circulated across the Eastern Bloc during soviet times. Passed by hand from reader to reader they were a vital form of resistance. Danarti is a contemporary publication from Georiga, but one that places itself in this tradition of self-published print as a form of defiance.

The word danarti translated means enclosure; a place where alternate visions of the future can take shelter from the heavy-handed top-down narrative dealt out by mainstream politics. Diverse and multidisciplinary, artistic and academic, each issue of Danarti seems to have a different take on manifestations of ‘the future’. From the LGBT scene whose future to rights seem to be in perpetual limbo. To the portrait of a historic future in the form of the international and colourful Georgian Dada movement.  

The latest issue addresses a pertinent topic, but one mired in difficulty: post-soviet architecture. A confused vision that promotes the virtues of so-called  ‘development’, that is none-the-less doing permanent damage to the city of Tiblisi in the name of progress. Public space has been desecrated by poor planning, public consensus on huge changes to the city’s fabric is not sought, building regulations are labyrinthine and corrupt and mired in issues of ownership.  Soviet pomp and grandeur has given way to free market braggadocio.

The pivotal article in this issue attempts to unpick a historical precedent for this process. The principled but over-bearing Soviet city-planning that preached buildings should be ‘national in form and socialist in content’ but which often manifested in mass construction of homogenous forms that are still associated with a sense of meaninglessness, then gave way to the ‘free’-styled and often non-linear erections under capitalism that seem to flout any concept of planning.  This new thrust to build iconic buildings by ‘starchitects’, who design structures for cities they have sometimes never themselves visited, is a whole new way of dictating space.  Ironic is that this ‘turbo capitalism’ that has installed itself in many post-soviet states displays an aesthetic confusion, on the one hand it promotes a ‘free’ looking architecture that manifests a present standard of what could be considered ‘futuristic’, at the same time it betrays a deep nostalgic romanticism for the ‘historic past’, this creates an aesthetic style that is at once gaudy and sentimental. At the end of his article author Levan Abashvili makes a polemical plea, he would like to see Georgia’s recent history reconsidered and redrafted, the primary political offenders in the ruthless and destructive development of the city called out, for without a change in the current narrative he believes it will be impossible for young architects to ever build with their conscience.

It is easy to feel cynical when faced with such blatant levels of corruption and yet this issue of Danarti remains level-headed, representing different perspectives and acknowledging that every city is, in Jane Jacobs words, an ‘organised complexity’ and a perpetually incomplete project, and rightly so.  The issue opens with a quotation from Gramsci ‘the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying, and the new cannot be born’, for it is the duty of the present to make space for new and progressive futures to flourish.

Read more at danarti.org

Or better, pick up a printed copy from Hochparterre

Leila Peacock

Guest Blogger