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RU
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2016
TRAVELS

The city on the river

How does Irkutsk look when you observe it from the boat?

story
DASHA
KOCHETOVA
story & photo
MORITZ
KÜSTNER
During work on the project we looked at the town from various most unexpected perspectives – we were peeking into windows, we opened invisible doors, and we were wandering through desolated industrial spaces, were watching people and listening to sounds. We wanted to have a different look at Irkutsk, like in a mirror. And to see its reflection. And the town is literally reflected – in the river Angara.

Dasha: In that sense it is very traditional: it stands on two banks – with the historical and business center on the right bank and suburbs, academic and student towns – on the left. The river we see between the banks is the only one flowing out of Lake Baikal. With islands, and luxury white yachts at the pier of the respectable (by small town standards) Solnechny district and fisherman's motorboats at the wharf behind Innokentyevsky Bridge.
Dasha: Going by the usual fisherman’s route from the station to the dam, you can see a river port and a boatyard almost opposite. It happens that in Irkutsk the active port faces the ship breaking yard and vice versa.

Moritz: Dresden is also divided into two parts by a river, one side is the old town, the other is the university campus, but the buildings there are old too. The banks look alike. Irkutsk has a visible distinction: on one side of the river there is an industrial area, while on the other an old town.
Dasha: We went along the river in a boat with an outboard engine with Sergei. He lives in Zhilkino, on Bereg Angary Street (Angara Bank Street), a completely unknown street for us dwellers of the right bank. It is pretty strange that while living at the water's edge he has to go to the opposite bank to get his boat.
Dasha: The town really does look different from the water, the familiar landscape looks unusually scenic, and the buildings on Tsesovskaya embankment and Gagarin Boulevard seem enormous. We wonder how people living by the river on the left bank perceive them.

Moritz: The view from the river is different. You look at the town from within and from outside at the same time.
Dasha: Some of the things we took pictures of during that trip are almost impossible to identify. For example, we took a picture of a viaduct and for a long time couldn’t figure out what it was. It seemed to be part of a suspension bridge built in a parallel universe in Irkutsk. In "The City Otherwise".
Dasha: Our international crew was passing by some island; the one the fishermen call "the Nudist Island". On shore I had never heard of such an island.

Moritz: On the one hand, these islands are in the city center, on the other hand they are natural and you cannot get there except by boat. It is also very unusual to see a backwater for fish in a town.
Dasha: Approaching the dam Sergei stopped the boat and said: "That's it. We won’t go any further. And you cannot take pictures either. Once we tried to fish here and a security boat came up. The conversation is short: they warn you three times, and then they can open fire". Being on the river in this way we felt that everyday townspeople drive, jog and walk along one of the high-security facilities of the town.

We turned around near the dam. We went quickly in order to land sooner and get warm but the captain managed to greet all the fishermen who hadn’t finished the season yet: "We all know each other here, on the river. Our life’s very much the same."

We came in to shore. Sergei moored his motorboat: "And you know the most diligent drivers in the town are fishermen. If you forfeit your right to drive, your driving license for the boat will be taken away from you too. You can go around the town by tram, but without the river there is no life".
1
For the German project participants both Irkutsk and "The City Otherwise" were supposed to start not with the historical center but with the town districts. They are closer to everyday life and further from stereotypes. Among ourselves we called these walks "landing operations": small groups of 2−3 people with an Irkutsk participant as a guide headed off to places where tourists usually don’t go. It turned out that it is not only tourists who don’t go there: our Irkutsk participants were in many places for the first time too. In some cases the group had an extra task (for example, to find various layers of the place), in others they just had to follow circumstances and their own interests and to observe.

We chose three stories for publication. Strangely, all of them took us to the rivers. Although that coincidence was quite understandable: Irkutsk was built on rivers and made a living out of them. Nowadays this connection is not so obvious but it hasn’t vanished.

1
For the German project participants both Irkutsk and "The City Otherwise" were supposed to start not with the historical center but with the town districts. They are closer to everyday life and further from stereotypes. Among ourselves we called these walks "landing operations": small groups of 2−3 people with an Irkutsk participant as a guide headed off to places where tourists usually don’t go. It turned out that it is not only tourists who don’t go there: our Irkutsk participants were in many places for the first time too. In some cases the group had an extra task (for example, to find various layers of the place), in others they just had to follow circumstances and their own interests and to observe.

We chose three stories for publication. Strangely, all of them took us to the rivers. Although that coincidence was quite understandable: Irkutsk was built on rivers and made a living out of them. Nowadays this connection is not so obvious but it hasn’t vanished.

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