On October 23, at 7 pm, in Mariupol, IZOLYATSIA launched an exhibition, Letters to the Mayor, organized in a joint effort with Storefront for Art and Architecture (New York). The project continues the research in the field of architecture in Eastern Ukraine, initiated by the international residence program Architecture Ukraine.
The purpose of the Letters to the Mayor project is to provide a public forum for discussion. In this perspective, a selected diverse group of architects and designers was invited to write a letter to the Mayor of the city of Mariupol, articulating some of the pressing concerns and desires that, as an architect, they believe play an important role in transforming the city.
The letters are exhibited as an interactive installation that also comprises specially designed “Office of the Mayor”, Poster and Wallpaper. Eighteen letters are presented in the exhibition; as only five Mariupol-based architects applied, the project is represented by both residents, regional contributors in Ukraine, and international architects who had conducted research and work in Mariupol during the Architecture Ukraine residency. Issues of concern and in need of reformation include corruption, pollution and ecology, preserving historical sites, letting go of dying industrial focus and developing new creative industry, and the unconventional reaction that a shrinking city might have advantages after all.
The Site: The city of Mariupol was chosen as the site for the project, as it is one of several cities in Ukraine facing the challenges of how to rebuild and re-imagine a city and its culture while under continual conflict due to its strategic location. IZOLYATSIA’s temporary “Office of the Mayor” is symbolically located near the City Hall building that was destroyed during fighting with separatists.
The Office of the Mayor: The Mayor’s office, decorated to reflect the lazy comfort and personal gain of the “fat cat” politicians, features a massage chair for the mayor and plush furry chairs and desk for industry lobbyists and oligarchs—the only guests that seem to have the mayor’s attention. The fake fur speaks to the level of deceit, mismanagement, and corruption that consistently plagues politics in Mariupol as evidenced in the current elections. The chairs create a place to be pampered and rewarded rather than a place to work hard to face the challenges to represent the citizens and move the city forward.
The architect’s desk is the opposite—a simple, unadorned place to labour—but minimalized and barely noticed within the decadent environment for the mayor. It is designed to reflect the architect’s lack of influence in city development, a situation that affects cohesive, intelligent, long-lasting and meaningful benefit for Mariupol.
The Wallpaper: Marina Samokhina, a visual and graphic artist born in Horlivka now residing in Kyiv, created a design in the “old soviet style” reflecting Mariupol’s political management style and sending an alarm that the old ways are in danger of continuing. The images reference the well- financed steel and coke chemical industry with factories pumping out heavy pollution and nautical motifs including the symbolic life buoys as a gesture to save the drowning city plagued by loss of business, identity, hope, and a significant portion of its population.
Over one hundred people—artists, journalists, activists and local authorities—have visited the opening of the exhibition.
The original idea of the project belongs to Storefront for Art and Architecture who organized the first exhibition in New York in 2014. Recent and forthcoming editions also include Panama City, Bogota and Buenos Aires. The aim of the project is to inspire other Ukrainian cities that went through local elections to join a constructive discussion featuring Ukrainian and international architects understanding Ukrainian context.
Address: Mariupol, 116a Italiys’ka Street.