Trojan Squirrel – What Does It Mean for Alma-Ata Citizens?

A giant squirrel, which has seemingly walked out of movies about prehistoric animals, is a symbol of bad taste and poor aesthetic and artistic culture of the urban environment. This installation is completely nondescript in an artistic sense. It is a blown up shapeless ‘sack’, especially the lower part. Its size is too big even for Atakent’s area. It matches the surrounding architecture poorly. The squirrel’s massive size is oppressive even to the fair’s high arches, not unlike an elephant in a china shop – it is a real squirrelsaurus that is a height of a four story building and weighs 13 tonnes.

How the Squirrel Installation Came About

All the fuss in the social and mass media is about the ‘conflict’ of proportions of buildings, arches, a few trees and a huge incomplete squirrel; about the ‘conflict’ of urban environment and ‘dead’ nature, the lack of ‘air’, trees, greenery and natural environment.

Such forms (of smaller size) are right at home in a park, zoo, on the ground among the greenery, in the trees, somewhere in nature, at Kok-Tobe and etc. It is an unsuccessful work of a British sculptor Alex Rinsler, but what else could be created with straw and of such a huge size? His previous works despite their ‘laxity’ have a certain ‘air’ to them, a free environment, especially surrounded by water. Moreover, many of them are smaller than the squirrel and are designed better.

However, it turned out that this bulky, rough, unnatural form of a squirrel was suitable for Almaty where trees, canals, parks, ordinary earth with greenery that absorbs rain’s moisture were forgotten. It is unsurprising that in the southern metropolis, which in the years of independence lost its ‘green dress’ to deforestation and shrinking number of parks and flowerbeds, floods after rain became a norm. On top of that, the installation Squirrel suited the local authorities’ taste, and the organizers of the project proudly proclaimed this straw colossus art, even though the squirrelsaurus is overbearing in its size disparity and sculptural flaws.

A bureaucrat’s hand can be seen in many fragments of the urban environment, even where it should not be. For example, in street design, memorabilia, monuments and etc. After all, our officials and their low cultural level should not interfere with trade unions’, art councils’ and urban councils’ work. Our cities do not have the most attractive look as it is with their unkempt streets and parks, greyish buildings, broken sidewalks and roads. If we also take into account the infamous Kazakhstani corruption, the state of urban environment sets off metaphorical alarm bells.

For example, it is unclear how exactly numerous animal and horsemen monuments look attractive to the city authorities. Is it unaesthetic look? Is it frailty? Is it comparative cheapness? For instance, the horseman that the storm ‘dropped down’ last year in Astana. After all, these ‘herds’ are not installed only in Astana, but also in other cities.

The decline in artistic culture can be seen on the streets of Almaty: garish horse figurines, ‘frighteningly beautiful’ green sportsmen and etc.; even in front of the Art Academy named after T. Zhurgenov the sculptures were not made by professionals. These installations are not the cheapest ass well. For example, cyclists’ green forms cost the local administration 2,5 million tenge. Moreover, usually such figures made of moss are installed in park zones.  

A Giant Squirrel – Symbol of Almaty?!

Late Timur Suleimenov, who unchangingly directed the Designer Association of Kazakhstan, has shared a secret of how exactly decisions in the architectural council are made.

“The Council consists of only 5-6 independent members who are not governmental officials. All other members (around 40) are officials, local heads of administration or municipal service and organizations. The most disappointing fact is that even in the Council akim’s opinion is predominate. Whatever he likes gets approved. It also concerns emblems and logos that are approved. It is rather sad because they do not always listen to professional opinions. I read online about what we had already been saying. For instance, the millennium emblem and the city’s logo all over the city – they are unprofessional” (vlast.kz, 02.02.2017).

Timur Suleimenov meant that Almaty’s new logo looks more like Ariel detergent’s logo than our city’s emblem.

And now a foreign author has chosen a symbol for poor Almaty citizens’ cultural capital all by himself.

“Why was a squirrel chosen for Almaty? Because it is a city dweller’s neighbor. A squirrel is neither better nor worse than an apple that is associated with Almaty. A squirrel is associated with a city dweller like no other; surviving in an urban environment is a challenge for it. Squirrel meets the same obstacles and problems as townsfolk,” answered the artist when asked about the chosen symbol.

Indeed, famous aport and apple gardens were ruined. Imported apples in the city of apples. All that is left is to nibble on nuts, locals like squirrels in the spinning wheel of a metropolis with never-ending traffic jams, trash in the streets, felled trees and ruined gardens. Truly, surviving in an urban environment is a challenge for Almaty citizens, a big problem, where everything is done against natural environment and ecology.

Numerous flowerbeds, alleys, gardens were Alma-Ata’s distinguishing feature. Remember the famous flower garden on Bogenbay street (former Kirov street) opposite the Central Post Office? They were amazing places for citizens, very humane places. Or flowerbeds and fountains in front of the Palace of Republic – what was the need to demolish them?!

It is impossible to live in Almaty without gardens, greenery and canals. Walking under the sun without tree shade is a great trial. Such ‘lifeless’ areas are becoming bigger with each passing year – free areas are paved with asphalt and tiles. Look at the reconstruction projects of major streets – Abay, Ablai Khan, Dostyk, Nazarbaev. All over ‘protective’ trees are removed, freed up space is tiled, lone trees or fountains are put in some places. Famous Almaty alleys along sidewalks, light cities and protection for pedestrians are becoming a thing of the past. Soulless stone, tiles, concrete take their place. They significantly rise the air temperature and pollute it. Sun, heat, dirt can touch people unhindered.

When Mosow subway station was being constructed, a gorgeous alley was turned into a desert covered with pathetic mops for trees. Now it is impossible to walk there in daytime – it is like dying from heat. It is obvious that the city’s reconstruction is being carried out by non-resident ‘reformers’.

Money down the drain – the squirrel will be removed in 9 months

Where is the pragmatism, realism, Almaty’s traditions in urban architecture and environment? Where is Almaty’s unmatched scenery? Where is fragrant apple aroma in the air? Where is public discussion and voting in the area of urban design?

And now a temporary installation worth 23 million tenge was constructed, of which 15 million were taken out of the city budget. The straw colossus will be displayed for 9 months, becoming darker and deforming, after which the squirrel will be taken apart. Money down the drain…

If the squirrel manages to get established as a new symbol of Almaty, it will become an informational threat for our metropolis. This tendency clearly contradicts medium-healer Galiya Kerey’s information about Almaty as an energy and informational center of the Earth. Galiya Kerey does quite a lot for the resurrection of Almaty’s aport, the coming of ‘paradise-like’ tropical climate in our region, city-garden’s restoration, winter season’s decline and etc.

Galiya Kerey is the only person who stands against seismologists’ forecasts about a devastating earthquake in Almay and their projects. There will never be a devastating earthquake in the southern capital. So, both local authorities and citizens are becoming more confident in their city’s future.

This is Galiya Kerey’s commentary on the Squirrel installation:

“Any construction in a city has its own energy, be it negative or positive. The squirrel and materials it is made of carry negative energy. The sculptor suppressed the people with it, not even speaking about the expensiveness of the project. In Almaty Atakent’s area is the path of Jupiter, meaning the author burns the path of Jupiter, which can have a negative influence on the people. Such material can melt in the sun. Height of such installations must not exceed 6 meters. Moreover, the author sets his sculptures on fire after some time, which shows that it is not for us. If the Squirrel installation is bound to be burned and removed in 9 months, what is the point of such expenses?! Not to speak of aesthetics”.

Dastan Eldesov

22 July 2018    

Translated by Aya Kerey

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