Orange Days in St. Petersburg/ Оранжевые дня в Санкт-Петербурге
набережная Адмиралтейского Канала, 2
Events scheduled for July 1-12, 2013
New Holland, or Новая Голландия, is a small island close to the dorms with a reputation as a hip, relaxing hangout. As I was having a “Lazy Sunday,” I decided to head over there and check it out. Low and behold, I ran into the Orange Days Festivities, a two-week celebration honoring “modern Dutch culture” in Russia. Although I only got a small taste of the festivities, it was enough to leave an favorable impression.
St. Petersburg’s connection with Holland, of course, comes from Peter the Great, who studied shipbuilding in Holland and came away with a massive respect for the Dutch. He named the island New Holland and built a shipyard there. That shipyard is now part of an urban revitalization project designed to bring business incubators, art spaces, and much more to the historic island.
The most noticeable beacons of Dutch culture on display featured two photography exhibits by two prominent Dutch artists. The first one that I viewed was Me and My Models by Jan Hoek. Hoek collected a haunting array portraying “Sweet Crazies”, a slang term for mentally ill homeless people from Ethiopia. Some of the pictures were supplemented with small descriptions, in both English and Russian (though strangely not in Dutch), which added to the stark misery of the display. The two that stood out the most included the following: Hoek stated that one he didn’t want to use one of his models, a teenage boy, in the series, because “he was not really a sweet crazy, but a glue sniffing street kid.” However, his Ethiopian assistant predicted that he would become one in just a few short years. For another model, the flashes and the shouts from the crew caused him to go “psycho…in the end, the guards used sticks to kick both of them [the model and the photographer] out.” All in all, this display proved to be a tragic yet fascinating intercultural experience.
The other display, titled “Exactitudes”, posed a very interesting experiment. It presented shots of different people, with shared characteristics (i.e. outfits, poses, physical features, etc.), and compares their similarities while also emphasizing the differences apparent in each unique shot. I was highly intrigued by the display, as it as it expressed both conformity and individuality within a single piece of artwork.
In addition to these displays of Dutch culture, I also ventured around the rest of the island to see what else it had to offer. I reveled in the various gardens and the wide grassy field, which is supposedly a hotspot for free communal yoga lessons. The far corner of the island features small, rustic outdoor cafes, drinks, and snack booths that sell everything from ice cream, corn-on-the-cob, beer, and bread rolls (the robust smell of grilling in the air reminded me of both America and summertime in general). The laid-back, open atmosphere made me feel at ease, helping me savor the moment at Orange Days.
I eventually headed back to the dorms (though if I had waited until evening, I could have jammed out to a Dutch rock band). Nevertheless, I was quite satisfied with Orange Days, and considered it a charming, quirky celebration of Russo-Dutch culture!