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date: 22 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Opening with a discussion of the Gao Brothers’ sculpture Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head, which appeared in a public space in Los Angeles in 2011, this article provides a meditation on the various post–Cold War disappearances and reappearances of statues of Lenin in Eastern Europe, a space still haunted by its communist past. The analysis is focused on the representation of several of these monumental sculptures evoking their installation, removal, and reconfiguration—in a cluster of films and public statue “performances” across the former Eastern Bloc. It also explores the different hermeneutic registers encircling the statues, registers that often mix experiences of trauma with ludic contestation. The vignettes that serve to organize the article demonstrate how these sculptures have the potential to prompt counter-memories, often becoming triggers that enable the excavation of private or communal remembrance. To clarify this process, each vignette offers an instance of revisionist storytelling, disclosing the unstable relationship between monumental sculpture and memory, and tapping into counter-histories, or histories that demand to be remembered and vindicated.

Keywords: Lenin statues, public art, communist counter-memories, counter-histories, monumental sculpture, Gao Brothers, Grūtas Park, politics of commemoration, revisionist storytelling

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