"Petersburg floats into its future while turning into Leningrad. Blok tells us that we should change our writing, that it's very difficult to write lightly. And it is difficult for me to quote thatconversation with Blok amidst the empty embankment. The poet, having found himself, was looking around himself. He wanted to see something other than his self, how the time burnt with tension."
Viktor Shklovsky, Povesti o proze
Let us begin with the obvious questions: why river? Why Karpovka?
My decision to concentrate on this small river at the outskirts of Petersburg as a pathway through the map of urban modernity was inspired, somewhat unexpectedly, by Charles Baudelaire. In his seminal essay The Painter of Modern Life, Baudelaire defines the city of modernite through the idea of fluidity, the "floating existence" "which envelops and soaks us like an atmosphere". This image of floating urban sensation prompted me to look at the St. Petersburg rivers as meaningful objects of exploration; where if not at a river bank could a citizen experience the literal and the symbolic powers of city flow at once? But which one of the city's 93 rivers would tell us the most?
Karpovka that runs across Petrogradskaia storona enveloped the northern part of the city, known for centuries as a locale where the antithetical extremes of urban society met and mixed. Those who strolled along the banks of Karpovka decrepit slums, modernist buildings of the new bourgeoisie, aristocratic mansions, and the impressive facades of the industrial giants, all mingling in surprising proximity. Here, on the margins of the city, afar from the censorship of the central avenues, the new concept of city life was emerging.
In order to re-create the experiences of the early twentieth century inhabitants of that area, we will meet emblematic figures of Petersburg modernism who lived and worked on the banks of Karpovka: The "Russian Aubrey Beardsley," Dmitrii Mitrokhin, the Mel'tser family that owned the most prestigious furniture factory working in the Art Nouveu style, famed actress Maria Savina. These were only a few of the notables who represented a cross-section of artistic circles in the neigh. A "Map of Personalities" of the Karpovka area needs and will be assembled to represent the modernist scene in this dynamic section of Petersburg.