A Revolutionary Museum After Ideology

(in collaboration with Natasha Kraevskaya)

MANIFESTA 10

Curated by Joanna Warsza

2014

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The work commisioned by Manifesta 10 consisted of two parts, located in two Lenin memorial museums in the outskirts of St. Petersburg.  

The installation at the Shalash (the 'Hut' or the 'Branch Shelter') Museum reproduces three identical versions of a part of the museum’s classic 1964 Soviet exhibition (dismantled in 2006), widely known from numerous photos – the minimalist cube glass case containing objects from Lenin’s secret hideout in Razliv. 

 

On the wall is a photocopy from the museum’s archive of a cutting from an unidentified newspaper from the late 1920s, which was censored, presumably in subsequent years. An unknown museum employee cut out the name of, presumably, Grigory Zinoviev, with whom Lenin hid in Razliv in 1917, from the caption underneath the photo, as it was prohibited to mention Zinoviev or his time with Lenin following Zinoviev’s execution in 1936. Soviet postcards and photographs of Lenin’s hideouts on the opposing wall lead visitors to consider today’s process by which historical memory is eroded. Devoid of their captions (which are on the reverse of the postcards), Lenin’s hideouts become ordinary rural landscapes and banal interiors, potentially parcels of land or properties for sale.

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The slide installation at the Sarai  (the ‘Shed’) Museum, based around postcards from the late 1960s, refers to the mass rituals of political commemoration that took place at Razliv in the Soviet era. One of Lenin’s favourite songs, the Worker's Marseillaise, provides the soundtrack, but it has been assembled in a special way: the consonants which support the form of the song’s words have been removed from the choir’s singing, leaving only the sublime and inspiring solemn pathos of the vowels.

 

The exhibition was based on the museum's photographic archive.

Historical background:

The Razliv Museum Complex includes the "Emelianov's Sarai (The Shed)" and "Lenin's Shalash (The Branch Shelter)" museums, both covering the period of Lenin's hiding from the prosecution of bourgeois Provisional Government. First, the attic of proletarian Nicolai Emelianov's shed, then the shelter of branches by the lake, have housed the future leader of the October Revolution and his comrade-in-arms Zinoviev during the summer of 1917. The museum was founded in 1925 after Lenin's demise.  In 1928 the granite "Shelter" monument was erected by architect Gegello. In 1964, the exhibition pavilion designed by architect Kirchoglani was built nearby to hold the museum collection.  In 1970 the Emelianov's Shed was covered with the glass housing. In the Soviet period, these museums were visited by hundreds of thousands yearly. 5946000 attended between 1939 and 1975. The museums were known worldwide and attracted numerous international delegations. Both museums are conveniently located in the popular out-of-town public rest area by the lake about 30 km from the centre of St. Petersburg. The distance between the two is 7,5 km.

 

Ilya Orlov's article about the project for CuMMa Papers #14