Tourists at the Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monument, Marx-Engels-Forum, Berlin, Autumn 2011.
The statue of Marx and Engels, and the surrounding park, were commissioned and built by the East German government in 1986. In 2010, due to ongoing construction work on the U5 U-Bahn line, the statue was moved to a different area of the park. Since German reunification, the statue has become a popular tourist attraction — visitors often pose sitting in Karl Marx’s lap.
Part of the logic of triumphalist Soviet memorials, and other works of public art, was to create reproducible iconic images. Portrayals and reproductions of Soviet monumental art were commonplace throughout the USSR, and many remain today. The memorials themselves, usually combining totalitarian vastness with unintended kitsch, occasionally lend themselves to strange juxtapositions, such as this image of the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park, Berlin, appearing on the wall of an abandoned school near Chernobyl. The image has been doubly abandoned; first by human-created nuclear catastrophe, and then by political downfall and collapse. The slideshow it is part of doesn’t even mention the memorial, it’s simply part of the scene (in a story about another nuclear disaster a quarter of a century later).
Image of Soviet War Memorial, Treptower Park, Berlin, in an abandoned school in Pripyat, near Chernobyl, Ukraine (Photo: Getty; no photographer credited in original article)
Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park, Berlin (Photo: Bernd Brincken, via Wikipedia)
Swing was part of a trio of works called Carousel Slide Swing, about which Szejnoch said:
The project Carousel Slide Swing aims to pursue a dialog with memorials that served as communist propaganda. Although such memorials have been consigned to the historical scrap heap, we can still meet them in the streets and parks. To suggest a change in the function of the monuments is an attempt to build a bridge between the present and the past, to add a contemporary layer distinct from their original style and function. For example, the idea of Swing is based on a contrast between the monumental bronze Berling Army Soldier and a tiny individual swung by a big hand of history. It is a monument from a former era, but at the same time — from the Berling Army soldier’s point of view — it is a well-deserved tribute paid to his sacrifice. This is an example of how much history can differ from the perspectives of individual and collective memory. My aim is to make this complexity and ambiguity more conspicuous, to show the relation between an individual versus the historical machine.
The statue where Swing was installed can be seen on Google Maps, and was constructed by the communist government of Poland in the early 1980s and officially unveiled in 1985. Swing won the Szpilman Award in 2008, an international competition for works of ephemeral or temporary art.