December 1, 2012

Monument to a Leader_Monument to a Tyrant

Exhibition booklet not near at hand? Here you find the text linked to this theme.

In many cases we place a memorial to a former leader on a pedestal in a square or in another public place, larger than life size, in bronze, so that we can look up to him permanently. Like a captain on the bridge of his ship, our leader can then show us the way we should be going for many years after his death. Lenin was also often depicted in this way, posing as though he is delivering his arguments, with his left hand on his lapel and his right arm and hand pointing in the direction that the Soviet state should be moving in. Just after the Revolution, there was a great demand for monuments of revolutionary figures in the state and many artists worked on these commissions for public places. A lot of new monuments were made, most for the first champions of communism, Marx and Engels. There were also memorials for the victims of the Revolution, but soon “monuments” were also made for “ordinary” people; for example, a colossal metal worker or a peasant woman, or an allegorical monument for the emancipation of workers. Some revolutionaries had themselves immortalized in a plaquette or a statue during their own lifetime, but Lenin never did this.
From the start of the Russian Revolution, Lissitzky used his work to spread the new ideology. For example, together with Ilya Chasnik, one of his students, he designed a tribune for Lenin. This was a platform which could be adjusted to the right height to see over the crowds. However, the design was never executed and could now serve as a monument to Lenin. Ilya Kabakov’s tyrant has actually had enough of being placed on a plinth and walks away from the square to continue his reign of terror.

Van Abbemuseum


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