Denis Esakov

This Is Not a Tower

Denis Esakov
28. February 2017
All photographs by and courtesy of Denis Esakov

Disgruntled with "gray concrete boxes" in his home city, Moscow-based photographer Denis Esakov set his lens on them in a way that deliberately recalls Bernd and Hilla Becher's photographs of industrial architecture. This Is Not a Tower, presented here, collects fifteen buildings captured by Esakov.

The story is old: iconic objects crumble into dust or, at best, provide a suitable background for selfies. One dramatic fall from grace has been particularly striking: the shift from tower — a dominant presence in the cityscape asserting supremacy of the modernist idea over man — to “gray concrete box,” from icon to index, from a meaningful token to a plain gesture.

Not quite as plain as it seems, though. In the new era, modernist towers are stigmatized with memories and traumas of Homo Soveticus. Some buildings were given cynical nicknames — e.g., False Teeth, Titanic, House of Sex Galore, Centipede — while others became nameless “boxes.” In Bernd and Hilla Becher-style typologies, formerly diverse towers are reduced to faceless archetypes of the strictly functional industrial architecture.

This sign transformation is driven by unconscious defense mechanisms that devaluate and repress traumatic experiences; things that used to be grand are being made insignificant, conceptually dead. Just as during the Communist reign, the bright future is out there and in its light the reality looks bleak and gray and hollow.

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