Exhibition Review: The Return of Memory

Outside the Home arts centre in Manchester stands an unsubtle statue of Frederick Engels, removed from Ukraine. Inside the centre is an exhibition ‘The Return of Memory’, of contemporary works from the ‘New East’, relating to the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and on till early January.

It includes a number of displays, from videos and murals to photographs and an installation that involves cabbages grown from one of the world’s oldest seed banks. Gluklya presents ‘Clothes for Demonstration Against False Election of Vladimir Putin’, which contains slogans relating to Putin’s re-election as president of Russia in 2012: for instance, ‘Two terms in office – make the next one in prison’, ‘Your election is a joke’ and simply ‘No’.

In ‘On Republic’s Monuments’, Yevgeni Nikiforov shows photos of the fate of statues and other monuments to Bolshevik rulers in Ukraine, a process known as ‘Leninfall’. Many were pulled down or otherwise vandalised; some were painted in the Ukrainian national colours of blue and yellow. ‘Freedom Village’, by Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho involves photos and a video relating to Taesung, a village isolated in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea: it is under UN control and has remained basically unchanged since 1953.

In ‘One Day the Sadness Will End’, Declan Clarke and Sarah Perks present names of people or places who were supposedly betrayed by revolution. Names are added to the list daily, but it seems odd to include Marx and the Luddites alongside Robespierre. The booklet accompanying the exhibition notes that ‘revolutions invariably turn on themselves’, though with no explanation of this.

In connection with the Engels statue, the same booklet continues these simplistic political views by claiming that the ideas of Marx and Engels ‘changed the course of history by inspiring the Russian revolution’….


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