Submitted by jr on Tue, 01/26/2010 - 06:52

Central Minsk can become a nightmare for anybody who prefers to encounter a city like a flaneur. It is the stalinist urban utopia come true, with not even a trace of the labyrinth, that Walter Benjamins flaneur was feeding off:

The city is the realization of that ancient dream of humanity, the labyrinth.
It is this reality to which the flâneur, without knowing it, devotes himself.

   (Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project)

Apparently the only place in Minsk, where a flaneur can heave a sigh of relief, is its underground lifelines. The despair of a flaneur in 'hush city' is reflected by the fragments of text and sound that emerged from some extensive strolling around October Square in Minsk in August 2009, which can be found on radio aporee. Here's the text:

Hush City

Not long ago I wanted to find out how you sound. Having soaked up a remarkable dose of sonic density, carried by the infectious rhythm of your underground lifelines, I felt tempted to encounter what's above.

I turned into a flaneur, strolling around, observing.

Caviar for the common people, on bread and butter, in the vitrines of the peoples drinking palace. Upstairs in the supermarket, teenage style and pop-cultural aficionados were preparing for a clubbing in a parallel universe.

The screen
He needs to be seen, in every public news broadcast. Again it's all about world class potatoes and the best sunflower oil. Don't you love me?
I was the only one watching.

I couldn't make sense of this place by walking across its vast plot of concrete, shadowed by a massive monolith, rising out of nothing. Within a glimpse I could read "Horizont" on a rooftop.
I felt so lost.

Live Forever
I turned around, walked to the other side and took a rest on a bench. Young folks all around, sitting, chatting, but their voices seemed to be absorbed by this place. Soon a man came over, flashily dressed, nervously thumbing through a book in front of me -You know?

Back in the passage of the metro station I felt less scattered. There it wasn't me, passing by.
I could afford to pause, in the middle of the rush, not being part of it. I chose to lose myself in your lifelines again, where humming engines are drowning out the all-dominant sound of high heels.

Minskflaneur has been realised by Jürgen Rendl as part of the international project 'Belarus Inside-Out', organized and published by Plotki. You can download the publication under http://bio.generation.by.

Minsk, Belarus
14-08 till 23-08-2009