Revolution – Propaganda – Iconoclasm
Marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution, FALLEN 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.
The exhibition features propaganda paintings, photography, posters and film by artists including Alexander Rodchenko, Gustav Klutsis and Sergei Eisenstein. They centre around a 4 metre long model of Lenin’s finger from the vast 100 metre high sculpture proposed for the Palace of the Soviets. Its impossible size reveals the scale – and absurdity – of early Soviet ambition.
These artworks are shown alongside contemporary photography that documents the process of de-communisation following the break up of the Soviet Union by focusing on ‘Leninfall’ – the removal of public statues of Lenin. Niels Ackermann’s photographs resonate with the often violent act of taking down the sculptures, with some 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. Empty pedestals persist as stark reminders of the absence of totalitarian rule, posing the question: ‘What next?’ As photographer Donald Weber reminds us, ‘History hates empty pedestals’.
This exhibition is co-curated by Jess Twyman (University of Essex) and Myroslava Hartmond (Dept of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford,) with the support Colin Rideout (MA Philosophy student from the School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex).