In the summer of 2015, Anna Jermolaewa traveled throughout Ukraine documenting empty or repurposed pedestals that had once displayed statues of Vladimir Lenin. Leninopad, or “Leninfall”—a term coined to describe the systematic toppling of monuments to the revolutionary leader—was the most visible manifestation of the state-instituted process of “decommunization” introduced in Ukraine by government decree in May of 2015. By the following year, more than thirteen hundred Lenin statues had been removed from civic areas, and nearly one thousand villages and cities had been renamed.
This exhibition focuses on the video component of Jermolaewa’s Leninopad project. To locate the pedestals, Jermolaewa relies on directions from the people she meets, whom she urges to reflect on the demise of Ukraine’s communist monuments. “Is it a pity?” she asks. The resulting commentaries range from expressions of bemusement and resignation to resentment and disillusion. One passerby blames Lenin for Holodomor, the 1932–33 famine of genocidal proportions that was caused by Joseph Stalin’s policies. Erected in the post–World War II era, statues of Lenin promoted allegiance to the socialist state by commemorating its revolutionary origins. Most of the older residents whom Jermolaewa encounters are aggrieved by the expunging of their past, although a young woman echoes their frustrations. “History is history,” she protests. “We can’t change it.”
Anna Jermolaewa: Leninopad is presented in conjunction with the 2016–17 theme of “Revolutions” organized by the Center for the Arts and Humanities.