Baku’s Not-so-Ephemeral Public Banners

We Apologize for the Temporary Inconvenience: Capturing Baku’s Not-so-Ephemeral Public Banners

 

The following is an interview with Ilkin Huseynov, a Baku-based artist, photographer, and publisher. In this interview, Ajam Editor Rustin Zarkar speaks with Huseynov about his recent book, “We Apologize for the Temporary Inconvenience” (2017) by Rally in the Streets Publishing.

The book documents a municipality-led initiative to place graphic banners over active (and idle) construction sites in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

For more information on urban transformation in Baku, check out Mehelle, an AjamMC project capturing the sights, sounds, and memories of rapidly changing neighborhoods in the Caucasus.


Baku’s Government House, an example of Stalinist-era architecture which houses a number of Azerbaijan’s ministries.

1) AjamMC: Your book takes a detailed look at urban transformation and idealized visions of public space through the lens of banners covering Baku’s construction sites. Could you give us some background on the political and economic processes that fuel this  development?

The title of the book is called “We Apologize for the Temporary Inconvenience,” but in reality this inconvenience is permanent. Since the second oil boom of the 1990s, there has been a constant string of new construction projects, often without any forethought. It is common practice for companies to break ground on a project before they have acquired the necessary funds to complete the building.

Due to limited financial resources, they rely on selling individual units to fund the later stages, and if they do not reach their goal, they will just freeze construction. This dilemma was exacerbated during 2015-16 manat crisis, so a good number of building sites remain idle. There are many people involved who do not have much experience in the industry, and they see it as a way to make a quick buck without considering the risks involved.

In order to mask the unsightly building process, Baku City Hall has placed banners on the fences and barriers that run along the construction sites. With this book, I want give a sense of the imposed artificiality that is slowly displacing the actual cityscape.

More