Perhaps the best way to start talking about this book would be to say that it’s probably one of the strangest one I have seen recently, in both form and subject.
Ilkin Huseynov lives in Baku, in Azerbaijan, a former soviet republic which became a very rich country after the fall of the communism, due to its large reserve of oil (I remember when I was a child in primary school, doing a presentation of the Baku oil fields). After the fall of communism, city officials decided to transform the city to erase all traces of the communist past and offer the people a prosperous future. The center then became a huge building site that is constantly being rebuilt on its own, and like everywhere in the world, the current construction site is adorned with promising banners to praise the future project in a dream city (in an idealized sense and not utopian).
The photographs in this book draw our attention to these images that sprinkle the public space, markers of a prosperous future, ambitious and full of beauty, but… who knows if it will ever happen. These are not only project views, they are also images of a dreamed city, which is a way to draw attention of populations who can easily imagine themselves, freed from the communist yoke, living in a brighter capitalist future, and no matter the quality of the image printed on the banner, the future can only be more beautiful and enjoyable ! The city is a palimpsest, the layers are superimposed, printed and reprinted, just as the fortunes are made and unmade, the apartments are sold… or not, in which case, the project will remain in suspense and the banner will degrade on location , becoming the memory of an unfinished project or of a past dream.
But, the work of Ilkin Huseynov is not limited to the observation of these hangings. It documents them in the thickness of time and the object which, according to an Azerbaijani proverb, claims to be “fancy on the surface, bullshit Inside” is reversed with the passage of time. The projects stretch, the time seems printed on the surface of the building sites, as if to remind us the past history and the vanity of wanting to erase everything: a promising future that remains vain! Ilkin is interested in small details which reveal the lies, and the banners remind us of the Chinese dazibaos, dirt and traces denouncing the imposture of the project. In his photographs, Ilkin reverses the proposal of the beauty that is set out to us as a real estate project. There is a real aesthetic of scarification and traces; ugliness is in the background, the image is false, pixelated, desaturated. The impure trace that imposes itself becomes beauty, it is the only reality which, for the moment, is accessible to us and it is played with mischievousness of the megalomania of the decision-makers: whether it is discreet or omnipresent, it finally appears to reveal the fatuity of the project!
The book itself is built on the same principle, a soft cover made of canvas reminds us of these banners stretched, with the casual stamp apologizing for the inconvenience : « we apologize for the temporary inconvenience » which is supposed to help us to wait for a brighter future. The inner pages are printed on a glossy thick paper that is the reminiscent of the vulgarity of the images/projects. The views intertwine and mix, Ilkin Huseynov chose to offer us different image sizes and pages. Smaller pages reveal, in the back, new views, like a « mise en abyme » of these projects that never stop, whose we will never see the end… except perhaps if the oil runs out or if our society is moving towards new energy resources. But then what will happen to this past? Will a new social organization want to draw a line on this recent history, and what new method will be used to redesign the city?
Finally, I do not think that the essential issue here would be to question the city in motion, it is a primordial characteristic of urbanization and of our own adaptation to change and to move forward, the real question would be more about the imposed rhythm, and also, mainly, what to do with memory and thus history !
Published by « Rally in the streets », in 2017 in an edition of 500 signed and numbered copies. Softcover book with a canvas cover, 21 x 29,7 cm, 64 pages with full color photographs.
More info : https://www.rallyinthestreets.com/
And an interview : https://ajammc.com/2017/07/18/temporary-inconvenience-baku/