Monty Python featured numerous surrealistic references to communist history throughout their career as a comedy group, both within sketches from Monty Python’s Flying Circus and in their films and videos. One of the most well-known is from their 1982 video, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.
“Well done, Karl — one final question, and then that beautiful non-materialistic lounge suite will be yours…”
One of the stranger manifestations of Soviet messaging in the 1950s and 1960s was the use of silviculture propaganda: giant signs created in fields and forests by carefully-planted plots of trees. Back in the mid-20th century, these were presumably thought of as tokens to be seen by future generations from communist spaceships above the earth.
The content of the messages were fairly simple, but they are still visible today. And through Google Maps, anyone can now see them, even decades after their aspirational creation.
Click the images to view them larger, or click the titles to view on Google Maps (smaller embedded maps are below each image — zoom in to get more detail).
Some slightly surreal Ostalgie from the mid-1960s. ORWO was the East German state camera film production monopoly, and their advertising of the era apparently focused on all the fun things to take photos of in the Eastern Bloc.
After the end of the East German regime, ORWO was privatised, and ultimately became FilmoTec. The former ORWO warehouse in eastern Berlin is now a music rehearsal space called ORWOhaus.
Spomenik (‘Monument’) is a photographic project by the Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers, documenting various monuments and commemorative sculptures built in the 1960s and 1970s by the Tito regime in Yugoslavia.
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.