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Lovely people who read The Streetlamp

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Griff says: A Russia and a push and the land is ours

I don't think that anyone can have failed to notice events in Russia this week. An estimated 50,000 people have gathered in Moscow, with a further 10,000 in St Petersburg (pictured), to protest against what appears to be widespread fraud in last Sunday's elections. The authorities have responded in typical fashion and the media reports that there have been more than 1,000 arrests. Undaunted by this, the protestors have pledged to take to the streets again on December 24 and continue to insist that the election results should be annulled. They also want; the resignation of the head of the election commission, an official investigation into vote fraud, democratic and open elections and registration of opposition parties. The Streetlamp salutes them and wishes them success!

Thus, while our eyes are turned to the East in hope and admiration, now seems a good time to bring a couple of Russian cultural artefacts to your attention.

The first sees the Streetlamp take another of its very occasional forays into the interface between the worlds of gaming and art (see 'here' for previous) in the shape of stark, homeless-themed game Ulitsa Dimitrova.
Designed by German game designer Lea Schonfelder, Ulitsa Dimitrova is really more of a political, arts-project than a game. The central character, whom the player controls, is Pjotr - a chain-smoking street-child in St. Petersburg. Pjotr steals glue and trades it to his glue-sniffing friend for cigarettes. His mother is a prostitute, who in exchange for stolen vodka gives him money, which he also uses to buy cigarettes. The player soon finds himself trapped in a world of ever-dimishing returns; he can beg for money, steal, vandalize Mercedes cars and trade their emblems (for cigarettes, naturally) but any sense of achievement or hope is soon inexorably reduced to zero.

You see, Ulitsa Dimitrova has been deliberately designed to ensure that progress isn't an option. Pjotr is condemned to endlessly repeat the daily soul-sapping grind or to lie down in the street and be gradually covered by the falling snow. Thus, if the player stops playing, Pjotr will freeze to death. As harsh as that sounds, it is, unfortunately, real life for millions of street children. When you play this beautifully illustrated game you are placed, for just a very short time, into Pjotr's shoes, and the experiences you have, and the emotions you experience through him, will live with you for considerably longer. Do then, please, go ahead and experience this paradoxically simple and sophisticated game for yourself, as this is gaming constructed to be both art and social commentary. The game can be downloaded for free 'here'.

If you need further convincing, then have a look at this short youtube presentation:

Rather serendipitously, I've also recently come across an indie-pop band from St. Petersburg, Russia who seem to have the theme of childhood running through their work. Called ЧАЙЛДИШ (Childish) the line-up is as follows:

Andy Rozberg: voice, guitar, harmonica
Alexei Belyaev: bass guitar, double bass
Nikolai Novikov: guitar
Andrew Heller: drums, glockenspiel

They've just released their first recording, in the shape of a gentle and wistful five-song EP (also called ЧАЙЛДИШ), which can be freely downloaded from their bandcamp page. They say (if my translation is correct) that the songs are:

"for those who still believe in those things we were taught in the books that we read in childhood, and who like the music that we listened to in our youth. These are the delicate hymns to our fears and dreams. This is our quiet manifesto."

I'm embedding the first track, Свидетели (Witnesses), below for your listening pleasure.



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