Revolution – Propaganda – Iconoclasm

Marking the centenary of the October Revolution, this exhibition explores the rise and fall of the cult of Vladimir Lenin. From the exhilaration of the early Soviet years, to the systematic imposition of a personality cult that was used to enforce the will of the Communist Party, FALLEN documents the inglorious fate of the Soviet Union’s deification of Lenin.

Propaganda paintings, posters and film investigate the glorification of Lenin, first by Stalin to consolidate his power and then by the Communist Party who recognised the potency of art as a political weapon. These historic artworks are shown alongside contemporary photographs by Niels Ackermann that document the process of de-communisation following the break up of the Soviet Union by focusing on ‘Leninfall’ – the removal of public statues of Lenin – in the Ukraine.

These extraordinary photographs resonate with the often violent act of taking down the sculptures, speaking of indifference by some, nationalism by others and bouts of collective amnesia by the Ukrainian government.  Some statues are simply discarded near to where they fall, while others are the subject of creativity and humour, such as when Lenin is transformed into Darth Vader. Yet in another photograph, we witness a statue hidden in the woods so it can still be visited by locals: the overwhelming sense of loss is palpable. Ackermann’s insightful photographs capture this post-Soviet country at a crossroads, revealing a complex and often confused situation 100 years on from the Russian Revolution.

FALLEN is co-curated by Jess Twyman and Myroslava Hartmond (Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford,)with the support Colin Rideout (MA student from the School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex).