Project1917: day by day through the Russian Revolution

Sometimes I think I have a Russian soul. Since the age of eight, when I read EM Almedingen’s Little Katia for the first time, I’ve been drawn to all things Slavic. After picking German over French at the age of 11 I disappointed my mother again by going for Russian at 14, not a common choice in the late 1970s. She partly got her way when I decided to take single honours German at university rather than joint with Russian, or Politics for that matter. Sometimes I still regret it.

For English speaking Russophiles the BBC’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution included inter alia a lively dramatised version of John Reed’s 10 Days!, Ten artists who shook the world and the topical Emigranti. And a daily vodka toast is still being raised here to Project1917 (FB), a Russian initiative from Yandex Publishing with English updates from Pushkin House, broadcasting daily since February and due to close on 18 January 2018, 100 years after the Bolsheviks dissolved the Constituent Assembly.

on this day (28 December)

Project1917 is based on first hand accounts from a host of ‘heroes‘ drawn from all walks of life, spread throughout Russia and beyond. Employing every #some trope going (FB style friends lists, ‘is attending’life events), the volume of voices has built into a nuanced portrait of how normality subtly changed by the day.

John Reed is predictably present, while Rosa Luxemburg was in prison for the duration. Lenin gets down to library business pretty quickly (13 Dec):

13 December: Lenin lays down the tasks of the public library

Artists, musicians and writers are well represented, both through their works and commenting on events: 
Yevgeny Zamyatin quote

Anna Akhmatova quote

Some humour is also found in events:

humourous quote

What quickly emerges is how the events of November were just the beginning; no one knew how things would pan out, or the consequences for the course of WW1, in what feels like a forgotten story among a sea of poppies. The now Soviet Russia and the Central Powers, led by the German Empire, signed an armistice on 15 December, kicking off negotiations for what became the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed on 3 March 1918.

armistice quote

Meanwhile it’s Christmas at the British embassy:

embassy quote

and new republics are formed in the chaos, some of which will survive to celebrate their own centenary:

republics quote

More Project1917 features to explore: live reporting during the October Revolution | network map of crowned heads | data for posts about Danish connections to 1917, coming soon.

Thomas Mann quote


B_Tours 2015: Berlin and Leipzig

Last updated: 31 July 2018

2017 update: interesting post on how participation works

This year’s walking inspiration from Germany – see posts on B_Tour Berlin and Belgrade in 2014. Twitter: @b_tour_festival | Facebook.

B_Tour Berlin, now described as “a new hybrid form of public art that provide locals with a new perspective of their city and an opportunity to experience it differently”, ran from 26-28 June, with the theme of Re-placing the periphery. 

First up, B_Talk #1 around the festival theme:

The terms “center” and “periphery” are conceptual constructs denoting not only geographical but social, economic and cultural formations. Representatives of artistic and academic institutions will illustrate the challenges these conceptual constructs bear and present their approaches to creating new and thought-provoking conceptualizations of contemporary spaces. Which are their approaches to the problematization of the terms “periphery” and “center” and why is this extremely relevant to every and any city inhabitant?

Presented in cooperation with Ogino Knauss, who run a Re-centering Periphery project, working with VJing as a technique for creating open narratives and developing creative and critical ways to observe, describe and perform the city.

Come in, Vestegnen and Udkantsdanmark!

Next, B_Talk #2 on  Touristification! New ideas for sustainable tourism:

Museum tours, “underground” or “alternative” tours and traditional sightseeing have become common day practices in most urban environments. This panel will investigate the more nuanced effects of tourism on the city. How does tourism and touristification impact spaces, people and local culture? B_Talk #2 will look at the ways in which tourism can become a more sustainable practice and what could be the role of artistic interventions in redefining and challenging touristic practices.

This is of interest due to the increasing #touristification of Copenhagen, lapped up on all sides at the moment, but fashions change. Plus is there an element of benign ‘Nordicism’ at play? I don’t identify with this fairy tale city, nor does much of the imagery reflect the two thirds of the population who don’t live in the capital (back to B_Talk #1). See too Leipzig’s Hipster Walk (below) – lovely Leipzig has now made it as far as the Guardian’s Alternative Europe series.

See this Barcelona story and Nana Rebhan’s documentary Welcome Goodbye:

15 tours in Berlin, including:

  • Eat the wall – foraging on bikes with two Danes who have MAs in Rhetoric and German Studies from KU
  • Mapping stories on the Ringbahn – “during a 37.5 km journey participants are invited to share their personal memories of, and imagined fantasies about, the stops along the way; these intimate offerings will determine the route of the tour and will be collected and edited into a textual atlas of the city”
  • Plattenbautour (review) – “The ‘Plattenbau’ has a bad reputation. It is perceived as anonymous and boring. The names of individual Plattenbauten seem almost scientific – PH16, WBS70, M10, Q3A –  yet people live in them and call these strange architectural forms home. How do people turn concrete jungles into liveable spaces? What are the small scale, but crucial, techniques they use to bend the alienating into something familiar?…Boring was never so exciting.”
  • A sesnsual expedition to urban voids –  the hidden magic of linear district heating pipes, abandoned industrial landmarks and community gardens within GDR housing blocks
  • Shadow – seen this before, several times; “After a brief exchange of text messages at the beginning of the tour, the participant will find themselves setting out on an adventure in the footsteps of a stranger. At the end there will be a meeting and a surprise. Bring an open mind, curiosity and a phone.”

No B_Tour Belgrade this year, but instead we have B_Tour Leipzig in cooperation with Tanzarchiv Leipzig, from 2-12 July with the theme of movement in urban space, reflecting on current perspectives of city development and stories of public spaces in Leipzig.

13 tours, including, although pretty much all of them are inspiring:

  • Ghost Tracks: Karl-Heine-Straße – the hidden tracks of the urban space, traces left in the present by ghosts from the past and the future; the audience is led through the so called “booming districts“ of Plagwitz and Lindenau via a GPS-based audio tour
  • Kaufhaus Ury – performative installation, reconstructing the ground plans of what was once Leipzig’s biggest department store owned by a Jewish family
  • Hipster Walk – some people call Leipzig ”the better Berlin“ while others have used the terms ”Hypezig” and ”Likezig”; the walk brings a literary, ironic perspective to the notion and status of ”hype” districts and streets which no longer lie on the periphery of public awareness; available via Talk Walks
  • The Living Boundary – “The airport is the ultimate symbol of the modern world. It is an inbetween space that represents the contemporary hunger for speed and information. Kursdorf is an island of memories, nostalgia and dreams hidden behind the highway noise barrier at the edge of the Leipzig/Halle Airport.”
  • The Monday Walks – follows the Leipzig Montagsdemos of 1989 on the city Ring; audio tour, based on interviews with eyewitnesses aimed at triggering the imagination of participants about how urban spaces can be re-appropriated as public sphere, for the expression of democratic rights and as a place of political action
  • Nightwalkers – follow the traces of countless workers in the former industrial area of Lindenau
  • Phonorama – self guided tour through the Clara-Zetkin-Park, where the Sächsisch-Thüringische Industrie- und Gewerbeausstellung took place in 1897
  • Silent Walk – cross the Waldstraßen district, once the main Jewish quarter of the city

Also four B_talks, on art and activism (3 July), urban sounds and imaginary spaces (4 July), creative capital(ism) (8 July) and tracing histories of public space in Leipzig (12 July), not tweeted.

Finally, B_events in Leipzig include a workshop entitled Traces of walking: creating an imaginary sound book of Leipzig, with noTours, augmented aurality:

Jewish wildlife recording pioneer Ludwig Koch made a ‘sound book’ of Leipzig mid 1930s which was intentionally destroyed in WWII. We recreate this sound book (imaginary maps, urban interventions and site-specific soundscapes) retracing Koch’s paths through the city and his urban and natural recordings, inspired by his memoires. Participants are introduced to methods of artistic and sound walking and field recording, using noTours, a free online editor, to create their own sound walks.

#byentalertildig: talking about apps in the city

It’s Social Media Week in Copenhagen! This year Realdania (@Realdaniadk) has gone large, with ~25 sessions, their own hashtag (#smwjarmers) and a social wall, bringing together Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the whole shebang.

On Monday they kicked off with Byen taler til dig: oplev byrum og arkitektur med din smartphone (#byentalertildig | Realdania), all about apps in the city. This would have had my name on it if it hadn’t happened at 09:30, but luckily the whole thing was streamed by Jyske Bank TV (@jyskebanktv; “a TV station with a bank attached”), followed in no short order by the recording.

Involved were @norm_sloth (Online Manager, Realdania; slides), @runehj (Comms/Marketing Manager, DAC; slides) and @jakobam (Greener Pastures; slides), facilitated by @missmunter (slides).

Realdania, it turns out, is a foundation supporting projects in the built environment. They have just? launched a project app with profiles of 500 of its 2.5K projects. Pins on a map, so not the most exciting app in the world, and while I can imagine using it to find interesting buildings to look at I’d like to be able to search the projects in other ways too, perhaps by keyword or theme. I’m still an information manager at heart!

In addition to basic points about finding a target group and use case, marketing etc, Normann stressed that an app starts with data (aka content) in the right form, and that this needs to be maintained if people are not to delete the app after a couple of uses. He also conceded that an app is not html, hence functionality is limited.

I’m pretty familiar with DAC’s apps, which started with its podwalks (English) dating from 2007 and podrides from 2009, initially available as sound files. A podwalks app (English) debuted in 2011 and a podruns app in 2013. These are not regularly updated, but are still downloaded.

Jakob of app builder Greener Pastures raised the question of whether new technology can create a better experience in the city, putting up a slide with a range of trends and use cases. There’s lots to discuss here, as well as issues around smart cities, which couldn’t really be addressed in a time limited session aimed at #some types. Again, he stressed that everything depends on content – for example, the current trend for overlays (ie holding up your phone and seeing what the view looked like before) depends on an appropriate archive photo being available. He also reiterated key messages around marketing and maintenance, plus the need to start simple with a clear user focus.


Thanks to all involved, and a shout out to Normann for introducing me to some new Danish apps, in particular Afveje, a blend of geocaching and experimental travel similar to the Dérive app. Time to revisit my apps links post of nearly 18 months ago, particularly as I’ve now actually tried some out!

The Water of Leith: a storymap

At the beginning of December I spent a weekend in Edinburgh, combining shopping for festive essentials with some heavy duty city walking. I’m now a tourist in what used to be my home town, although my Edinburgh, of the late 1970s and early 1980s, is still there too.

On the Sunday I walked a section of the Water of Leith, somewhere I had never really been before. Rather than a series of photos I’ve tried something different as a way of curating this walk, using Knight Lab’s Storymap JS. It’s a really easy to use tool, synching with Google Drive as a back-up. Among the maps on offer is Open Street Map, which shows the walkway perfectly, although it seems to pick the scale it fancies. The end result is attractive, with the drawback that it’s not possible to draw a route – and it doesn’t play with

Click on the image below to go to the interactive version of my My Water of Leith storymap.

WoL storymap

For more see the walkway and audio trail on the Water of Leith Conservation Trust (@wolct) website. If you are in Edinburgh you can pick up a free leaflet with a basic route map in the TIC at Waverley Bridge, but the £1 version, with text from a book now out of print, is well worth the investment.

Creating overlays with Aurasma: an Xmas project

Updates: Copenhagen got sliders! Københavns Statsarkiv has a set of photos comparing Copenhagen at around 1900 with today, while Time Travel Aarhus blends photos dating back to the late 19th or early 20th centurywith a new picture taken between 2013-14. Then there’s Edinburgh: then and now, where little seems to have changed other than the street furniture, and Moscow: ditto and account, plus the Barbican.

An alternative app is Layar, used here in Los Angeles. Plus Time Window Weimar, mapping the town’s history using augmented reality.

Interesting event at #beinghuman15: Expl[AR]ing humanities in Belfast, highlighting “new ways to think about the city, history and its gentrification”.

I discovered the Aurasma app via Tracey Benson (@bytetime), who uses it to create augmented reality walks revealing historic images by overlaying old and new photos of specific locations. Three of her walks are currently being exhibited as Finding ghosts (review) in Canberra, with one, Walking backwards to find the future, set in Dragør. See also Walks of absent memory in Dunedin.

The approach is similar to Guardian Cities’ Street View sleuth, which superimposes old images over Google Street View (see classic paintings | 18th century paintings | WW1WW2 | classic album covers | Ghosts of London’s Xmas), sliders showing development over time (London’s Olympic Park | Before and after the shard | Before and after the London riots), or plain old holding a postcard up to reality – all present a layered geographical narrative.

2014-10-03 13.34.46

Peggy Guggenheim on the balcony of her home on Venice’s Grand Canal – OK, it’s not as easy as it sounds!

Aurasma describes itself as the “world’s leading augmented reality app”, developed by old friends Autonomy.  It’s a bit difficult to get your head round – according to the site it uses image recognition technology to allow a smartphone’s camera to recognise real world images and overlay rich media (videos, webpages) on top of them, creating “an augmented world where every image, object and place has its own aura”. Basically, hold your phone up to a building (or just the image of it), wait for a few seconds and the linked content will float above (or cover) the image on your phone – try one out here, or see Tracey’s instructions for the Dragør auras (the historical images are also presented on a conventional tour page).

TBH I’m not sure Aurasma adds that much to simply displaying two photos side by side, although there is more you can do with it, and if presented as a component of a larger project, augmenting for example a guided walk, event or piece of writing, it may well be quite effective. I’ve several ideas, which I will out as my Xmas 2014 project. The tutorial for creating auras makes it look manageable once you get in the swing.

Tracey is also collaborating on the Long time, no see? project led by Linda Carroli, which combines an app, visualisation and series of events aimed at engaging walkers in their local community. See her posts on creating walks for the project. Might be worth a punt.

A final aspect of Tracey’s work which is of interest is that a number of her tours have been developed without ever being physically present in the place, opening up a range of experimental possibilities:

I was becoming a ‘remote’ tourist, discovering locations from afar and building a knowledge of a place, which may or may not have any truth ‘on the ground’.

Time travelling in Dragør

Dragør is a small town falling off the map of greater Copenhagen, at the southeast of the island of Amager beneath the airport. One of Denmark’s biggest seafaring towns in the 17th and 18th centuries and a popular seaside resort at the end of the 19th and early 2oth centuries, it now feels like a faintly surreal glimpse back in time, at the end of the road to nowhere. Previously served by a railway and ferries across the Sound to Sweden, today it’s bus or nothing, with the town largely elbowed aside by the Øresund Bridge.

Just what is the future for Dragør? With the redevelopment of the rest of Amager from edgeland to this year’s idea of the future there’s no time to look back. The local council has ambitious climate change policies which may go some way towards slowing the predicted rise in sea levels in the area, but can 21st century Dragør be more than a heritage site?

A nice Xmas present has arrived this year with the showing of DR’s julekalender, a daily family drama which usually channels Denmark’s fairytale traditions with lots of nisser (Xmas elves) but which in 2014 has gone all Doctor Who on us. Tidsrejsen (lit: the journey through time) was shot in the town, and Visit Dragør takker for the opportunity, with a full programme of events and a Jul i Dragør app. The series is set in three points in time – in 1984, with everyone relishing the 1980s vibe, in the present day and in a Bladerunner inspired 2044.

In December 2014 the town was a hive of activity…

2014-12-21 11.53.54

tracking down settings from the series – it’s granddad’s house!


inspecting costumes in Restaurant Beghuset

visiting the Xmas market

visiting the Xmas market

From last night’s episode it looks like things are going to come to a head at the harbour…

Lodstårnet, the old pilot tower

Lodstårnet, the old pilot tower erected in 1820

For more time travelling in Dragør see Walking backwards to find the future, a walk produced for Øko Ø Amager (Eco Island Amager) by Tracey Benson (@bytetime).

If you get the chance, Tidsrejsen is well worth catching – although credits for Back to the future and Ray Bradbury’s 1952  short story A sound of thunder (PDF warning) are lacking. Plus I miss the nisser. One year they were played by actors walking around on their knees – such fun!

The old and the new…

window decoration old style - Staffordshire wullie dugs

old style window decor – wally dugs also popular in Scandi seafaring towns

Denmark's biggest Xmas ball

Denmark’s biggest Xmas bauble with handmade baubles on display inside

Memorials and memory at Copenhagen Art Week

Updates: the theme for 2015 was Shared space, with guided tours of various types (performance, on bikes, in the metro). In 2016 (26 Aug – 4 Sep; ibyen) it’s Open gestures, with B_Tour offering Through someone else’s eyes (FB), eavesdropping on Ion Sørvin of N55 and Anne RommeHjem til Blågården (more) and a packed SMK programme, plus performances by inter alia Nøne Futbol Club (Politiken); other tours include guides to specific parts of the city (FRB, Østerbro, Amager). In a packed couple of arty weekends CHART (26-28 Aug) has slogans on the street by Douglas Coupland (Politiken), plus an architecture competition, while B_Tour is also in action at Alt_Cph (2-4 Sep; participants wanted | review), along with Copenhagen Game Collective, with a number of place based events curated by Råderum. Phew!

Copenhagen Art Week, also known as CAW, is taking place from 29 August to 7 September. The book-sized programme includes eight, count ’em, guided tours.

At the arty end of the spectrum we have gallery viewings on Bredgade, Gammelholm (the other side of Nyhavn) and in Kødbyen (the ‘meatpacking district’). Inevitably there are bike tours (Kunsten og samfundet/art and society in Vesterbro and Besøg fotokunstnerens atelier/visit photographers’ studios), but two are super-exciting – a Guidet togrejse on the S train with architect Carsten Hoff, responsible with Susanne Ussing for the public art in five stations on the H line (Måløv,Veksø, Stenløse, Ølstykke, Frederikssund) and State of Exception/Undtagelsestilstand, exploring the world of international diplomacy (next Sunday).

On Saturday, after dropping in on the Stasi Secret Rooms in Nikolaj Kunsthal, I joined KØS’s guided walk exploring statues in the city centre. KØS, the museum for public art in Køge, was previously known as the rather less inspiring Køge sketch collection. The walk was part of its memorials project, which kicked off with a tour of 10 monuments around the country (programme | Facebook) and culminates in the Mindesmærker i dag/Memorials of today exhibition running until February 2015. There’s also a creepy talking statues app and upcoming sessions at Folkeuniversitet.

2014-08-30 15.30.07

Hanne Varming’s Hyldemor, named after HC Andersen’s The Elder Tree Mother and modelled on her great grandparents – take a seat!

The walk was led by Sasja, responsible for KØS’ schools service, who had us filling in post-it notes with words we connect with memorials at the foot of the Absalon statue on Højbro Plads. From there we moved on to Frederik VII outside Christiansborg, also on a horse but rather less imposing, and then to Kierkegaard in the national library garden. Our final stop, following a 1km Kierkegaard style menneskebad to Kultorvet, was Hanne Varming’s Hyldemor, completing a narrative arc from imposing to eye level.

Sasja also showed us the empty space previously occupied by the Isted Lion, a familar tale to the Danes on the walk. Erected in Flensborg in 1862 after the First War of Schleswig, moved to Berlin in 1868 after the Second War, then to Copenhagen after instense lobbying in 2000, it’s now back in Flensburg. A symbol of the Schleswig-Holstein Question?

She also related two tales demonstrating once again the importance of trees in urban space. Until 2011 a tree on Kultorvet stood as a memorial for the city’s homeless, who would hang photos and other memories from its branches when one of their number died. The tree was cut down as part of a modernisation scheme, but a new Gravplads for Gadens Folk has opened at Assistens Kirkegård/cemetery (where the trees are protected by the local plan), together with a statue which featured in KØS’ memorials tour. Also with a happy ending for now is the controversy over an old plane tree in the square in front of KØS in Køge. A formal investigation is to explore the scope of potential damage to neighbouring buildings.

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some less successful public art at Kongens Nytorv

Having been on several city walks over the last year or so I’m beginning to put together a picture of the city’s layers – and to spot other tours going on at the same time. It seems there’s no avoiding Segways. Also on during this rainy Saturday was the swimming round Christiansborg thing, with changing rooms slap bang on top of a Kierkegaard quote tastefully embedded in the pavement, and the culmination of both CPH Pride and Cooking. Outside the city centre there were local festivals in Valby and Ørestad, and no doubt a few other happenings I’m not aware of. Could this constant whirl possibly be tipping over into too much? When everything is about performance and play there’s no room for the city just to be. It’s suffocating and confusing.

Next up is Golden Days, after which we settle into months of hibernation during CPH’s grey days. So how about a festival of the everyday? Have that one for free, WoCo.

Thanks to Sasja and KØS for the inspiring walk!

Monumental updates: as part of Golden Days KØS hosted a lecture on Käthe Kollwitz’s Grieving Parents, which also featured on R3’s Essay by Ruth Padel. More Kollwitz on R4’s Germany: memories of a nation, this time focusing on her pietà in Berlin’s Neue Wache (see also The world in 3D and Käthe Kollwitz, a Berlin story)plus more on the red horses (2015 update: they’re back!). 2017 updates: the Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum (Berlin) and an exhibition (Ikon Gallery, Birmingham), while on Free Thinking (14 Sep) is called out for a lack of irony or detachment.

Two more alternative mindesmærker highlighted in an event on 4 Dec: Hein Heinsen’s Talerstol på Vartov commemorating Grundtvig (1783-1872), priest in Vartov for 33 years; the front of the talerstol (speaker’s rostrum) bears the inscription rostra populi on the left and fællesskab & frihed (community and freedom) on the right, while the back bears ord (word) in 54 languages; and Kenn André Stillings Alfabet TURÈLL in Vangede, commemorating Dan Turèll (1946-93), in the form of letters and punctuation marks surrounded by a 47m long bench, one meter for each year of Turèll’s life.