“Damm i Kolori” (Give Me the Colors)
was filmed in Tirana, by Anri Sala. It is a movie about a project initiated by Edi Rama (the city’s mayor at that time and a former artist as well as a current Albanian Prime Minister) which aimed to give a life to gray Tirana’s buildings by colouring them.
Rama mentioned: ,,People discussed this as some kind of positive thing. The discussion was more about what kind of painting should it be, and not if it should be or not. General feelings of the citizens was that the city is much better colored, then grey. There were even artists that contributed to the painting. After 1-2 years there was no discussion any more, because the city really started to look better with all those colors on and people got used to it.”
Many participants of the discussion have visited Tirana and for some of them it was a surprise to see the city in such a different state. For them it was different to watch the movie before and after visiting Tirana. Participants mentioned, that it was quite useful to read additional sources about the situation, about Edi Rama and decisions he made and how they influenced the life of Tirana. Majority liked the general idea of coloring. We all admitted, that it is difficult to change the cities, but supporting life and culture is something good that was done.
Although, some of participants thought that the coloring could be only masking the problem. It was interesting to compare the grey, communist buildings of Eastern Europe to the current “Freedom” of transforming the area about you. With the end of Communist Era, the housing became private and from the first look, everything became more “democratic”. The governments gave the citizens the fake feeling of decision-making e.g what color will the public transport buses will be, but the price of the very same public transport was not a subject of citisens’ decision.
According to one of the participants, the concept of The Avant-garde and the Democracy concept was interesting for describing the coloring work done in Tirana. First, the concept is important, due to today’s major problem – the tyranny of majority in representative democracies, because of the popularism domination on the politics. Second, a modernisation in Turkey and most of Balkan countries has started lately, thus, they are the “late comers” and as it is described in the movie, the building painting was an anti-avant-gard action that attempted to trigger the alternative modernization.
Participants that live in Tirana gave us broader perspective on the topic; Brief facts: There were many young people, artists, journalists, etc. including Edi Rama, that gave their own contribution to the crash of totalitarianism in the 90s. Edi Rama was a painter, that after became minister of Culture, later the mayor of Tirana and finally the Prime Minister of Albania. There were many transformations of the country that were pushed by him and his government.
We also thought, that coloring can be a pretty good solution for resurrecting a city and small budget can make huge things. Edi Rama is explaining: this is only what we see, but we need also to work on the organs, on the internal parts. Before, the cities were industry oriented, but now they are service–oriented. In service-based economy there are not real products. All governments should take care of abandoned places and unpleasant streets. If not, we will have more and more centralised cities and gentrification – what‘s currently happening, because of city governments and free markets. These all causes increased segregation. There are new blocks of buildings for example in Istanbul, fenced, with public spaces available only for those that live in this blocks. Belgrade is also becoming like this. People with lower income can not enter those areas and not even dream of buying a flat there.
Gentrification will be the major problem in the Eastern Europe. We must find new ways to fight against it. For instance we could use methods such as guerilla grow-occupation of empty lands/houses, turning them into public spaces from gentrification areas.
Redesigning urban space is a highly idealogical decision. Cities in the Eastern Europe got “nicer” in the last couple of years. Most of the citizens benefit from it but others (e.g. minorities, people with no housing, migrants) are kept out. Authorities have an interest in “clean” cities – those decisions are top down decisions – undemocratic and unjust ones.
Colours are positive for post-communist cities. The question is how can those actions support economy and welfare for cities and improve local business. e.g. Car-free days in cities. Those changes should also have a sustainable impact.
Conclusion of the discussion is:
COMPLETE TRANSFORMATION of CITIES NOW!!!
We need cities planned and adjusted to its citizens’ needs (especially the most vulnerable ones), not to the will of blindly profit-oriented companies which are bringing benefits to very few.
Urban planning is all about ideological decisions: Every decision has a reason. Look behind the curtain.
To watch Dammi i Kolori, visit https://vimeo.com/8254763
To read additional materials, visit following links:
To be added to the Alternative Urbanization working group mailing list, please, contact Anastasija Pejovic ( firstname.lastname@example.org )