"Let's put Lenin's head back together again!"

Pinchuk Art Prize Nominees' Exhibition in collaboration with curator Tatiana Kochubinska, Kyiv, Ukraine, October 2015-April 2016

with texts by Elena Vogman and Yevgenia Belorusets and elements of recently demolished statues of Lenin found in Ukraine 

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СONVERSATION

Elena Vogman

Osiris's Ghost

“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism.”

With this line, although he perhaps didn’t realise it himself, Marx expressed the utter tragedy of this event that hadn't come to pass, and which kind of hadn't yet begun either.

The tragedy of a life of a ghost, unable to find its body.

Marx repeated the line, calling up the ghost. He clearly suspected something.

But how was he to know that this ghost which never grew tired of haunting was coming from afar? For indeed, it had appeared earlier, to Transcarpathian witches, to ancient Greek philosophers, to medieval gnostics, and even to Francisco de Goya, spotted one day so obviously among the bodies torn to pieces of his “Disasters of War”.  

These apparitions were like quotations, condensed forms of the entire truth of history.

Except that according to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, there was a time when this soul and its body really were united - in the face of Osiris. 

The son of the goddess of the sky, Nut, and the god of the earth, Geb, Osiris taught the inhabitants of Egypt how to farm and garden. But his bloodthirsty brother Set, who wanted to rule the people and their land, hacked Osiris's body into small pieces, and strew them all over the country.

Ever since then, this disturbed, archaic spectre has been wandering through time and space in search of parts of its lost body, so that, having restored its strength, it can return land and freedom to the people. But the traumatic memory of this dismemberment is so strong, that time and again elements which have become whole burst apart into fragments. And some pieces try to unite and become whole – in the Tsar, the supreme leader, the monument.

Poor desperate Osiris has long since left the mausoleum altar and the stone bodies of the supreme leaders. The ghost summoned by Marx simply flashed up momentarily in the history of communism, incarnating itself only in part, roaming across the centuries of its tireless fight.  

They say that his ghost is currently haunting empty factories and inundated mines, vending kiosks, and houses ruined by war.

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Let's put Lenin's head back together again!

Yevgenia Belorusets

Let's put it back together, this dirty, smashed and sinister thing all caked in spit,

Which became hateful, struck fear, and made you want to forget it.

Which relinquished its meaning.

But which, at the moment it was destroyed, so patently stood witness alongside us.

Which had been sentenced to death.

Which we renounced.

That which we didn't get round to discussing, and neither do we care to discuss it.

Which we should trample back into the ground.

Smash into smithereens, so that it couldn't be put back together again even in a thousand years, not like some Greek vase.

Roll up at night, throw a rope over, pull it over with a car, smash off the ears, nose, hand, and carry them off like relics.

When it fell down, take your own back and give it a good clobbering for everything. Poke out the eyes, break off the arm, and don't forget to cut off the head. Have a go at drowning it. Have a go at raping it.

“They came to our village on the weekend, late at night when we were all at home, although I wasn't asleep yet, they went up to him some time during the night, when no-one would come out to them, they pulled him down, milling around and shouting, smashing it, we were frightened and didn't go out, they seemed to be arguing, they beat something, and then drove off. In the morning all we saw was a mound of debris. For some reason, they took the hands and the head with them.”

Laying flowers at an empty spot.

You’re surprised that now, in Ukraine, you can even go to prison for him. 

Slam down the phone in horror, if someone should ask about him.

Don't discuss anything. Don't talk to anyone.

Draw a line.

Here are we.


And there, is he.

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Lenin's nose turned out to be the only intact piece of the giant monument. It completed the journey to Kyiv and now, following its exhibition at the Pinchuk Art Centre, it is available for hire.

Trying to assemble not even an entire figure, but even just the head of a Lenin, is an undertaking doomed to fail.

The pieces are scattering in all directions. The meaning of the present is slipping away. Imagination, action, politics, tears, hands extended in a dramatic gesture, - I have to cut short my reading of the events connected to the destruction of monuments to Lenin. We can freely arrange them into any narrative, but in this particular work, it seemed better to me to present fragments which resist attempts to build something from them.

LENIN DIMITROVO

Down with the tsarist monarchy, which has drawn Russia into a criminal war, and which oppresses the peoples! Long live the world brotherhood of the workers, and the international revolution of the proletariat! 
Appeal on the war, 1915 
Lenin Collected Works, published in open access.

The consciousness of exploding the continuum of history is peculiar to the revolutionary classes in the moment of their action. The Great Revolution introduced a new calendar. The day on which the calendar started functioned as a historical time-lapse camera. And it is fundamentally the same day which, in the shape of holidays and memorials, always returns.
Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History, 1940 
Translation: Dennis Redmond 
published in open access.