PRINT May 1992


TODAY, ANY EFFORT to save Russia’s Socialist Realist monuments from destruction would surely be seen as an attempt to preserve a totalitarian tradition. We propose neither worship nor annihilation of these monuments, but a creative collaboration with them—to leave them at their sites and transform them, through art, into history lessons.

Fate has provided a unique opportunity: we can turn Moscow into a phantasmagoric garden of “posttotalitarian” art. It would be a shame to miss this chance, which is already passing. The statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet secret police, for example, was simply removed from its home in front of the KGB headquarters. But it might have been possible to supplement this monument with bronze figures of the courageous individuals who climbed onto its shoulders and wrapped a noose around its neck on that historic day last August; or to add, say, a huge pigeon to the head of one of the now-dethroned statues of Lenin. And it is still not too late to turn the monument to Marx in front of the Bolshoi theater on its head, in homage to what he himself did to Hegel’s dialectic.

Where else in the world could tourists see something like this! Why not erect a cage, or a giant aquarium with fish and octopi, around the statue of some other historical figure. Or else lift a statue by hydraulic cranes, as if to remove it, but then leave it hanging in the air, ambiguously arresting the moment of dismantlement and extending it into eternal retribution. The possibilities for such installations are unprecedented.

For us, the most important monument is Lenin’s mausoleum. We propose adding a mere three letters—“ISM”—to the leader’s name. So doing, we would save this 20th-century masterpiece and transform it into the symbolic grave of Leninist theory and practice. Perhaps pink flamingos could be allowed to wander about the tribunal from which the leaders once greeted people on state holidays.

We call on our Eastern and Western readers to submit more sketches, maquettes, and written proposals for possible monumental installations of this sort in Russia. The most interesting will be exhibited at the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Art (which opened last December, under the direction of Joseph Bakshtein) for the purposes of general discussion. Our goal is to revolutionize society’s view of world history. If even one of these proposals is eventually realized, it would be a magnificent example of fruitful cooperation between Eastern and Western artists and governments.

All proposals for “What Is to Be Done with Monumental Propaganda?” may be sent to Komar and Melamid, c/o Artforum, 65 Bleecker Street, NYC, NY 10012, by 15 September 1992.