City of Transformers (2016)
The project is about the transforming cityscape of Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia. With the brand-new buildings and “Transformers,” who often stand in the city center, I visualized my impression of this unique transforming modern multicultural city.
In Kazan – the millennium old capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, newcomers would soon notice some brand-new futuristic bizarre architecture scattered around the city’s center. Tatarstan, which is home to the Tatar people of the Turkic ethnic group, is located about 600 km east from Moscow in the middle Volga and is one of the fastest growing regions of Russia. Those buildings are somewhat reminiscent of the contemporary but ambiguous glittering buildings in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana and Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat, though Kazan has much fewer of such eccentric buildings than the capitals of those post-Soviet independent “Turkic-brother” states do. In Kazan’s city center, apart from those brand-new buildings, you would see a little awkward costume characters including ones from the American-Japanese robot anime/film “Transformers” - those costume characters are just giving out leaflets or getting pictures taken with kids for money. Kazan, home to predominantly-Islam Tatars, is unique in that Tatar, Russian and Soviet cultures have been intertwined in the past centuries. Now, the Western capitalism was added onto the top of those multiple layers and gets mixed with this cultural melting pot, bringing even “Transformers” to the city and turning parts of the cityscape a little Disneylandish. As a result, there is something bizarre in the atmosphere and appearance of the city. And, the city is still in the process of this interesting transformation. To visualize this unique feeling and atmosphere, I called up the local business that produces and sends out homemade “Transformers” around the city and asked them to dispatch their “Transformers” for the photo shoots. But, the authentic Transformers turned out to be expensive - $40 per hour for the shoot. After months of consideration, I finally decided to invest in the Transformers to share my vision of this unique transforming multicultural city found near the edge of geographical Europe.