Project

Soviet Innerness: Secrets Kept by the Walls of Abandoned Apartments

Elena Amabili and Alessandro Calvaresi photograph the walls of abandoned Soviet buildings to show the stories hidden under the layers of wallpaper and plaster.
Elena Amabili and Alessandro Calvaresi

Creative professionals from Italy and Berlin, who both work in web industry. Published their works in Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, Domus, Calvert Journal, It’s Nice That, iGNANT.

— Soviet Innerness is a collection of what is to be found on interior walls of abandoned buildings left to rot and forgotten behind the former Iron Curtain. The idea of this project came to us in the summer 2014 while taking photographs inside a derelict Plattenbau in Irbene, a ghost town in Latvia. Irbene was once a closed city built to host military officers and their families.

Who lived there? What job did they use to have? Were they happy? Could people actually be happy in such accommodations? To answer this question, we decided to focus on the apartment walls, as the way a home is furnished and decorated usually says a lot about its occupants.

The project aims to show that behind the gray concrete outer panels there was life, and often it was a surprising spectrum of color. Polka dot kitchen walls, teeth-brushing apes sketched above bathroom sinks, bright flowery wallpaper over layers of Pravda newspaper — all of this confirms some deep symbolism involved.

The project aims to show that behind the gray concrete outer panels there was life, and often it was a surprising spectrum of color.

Every photo is taken at the same angle to get a definite sense of cataloguing, as if the images were part of a sample book, conceived to rescue them from oblivion and destruction. Through Soviet Innerness, we are conducting a research and preservation project concerning a world that no longer exists.

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