History in Reverse – Re-erecting Monuments. Part 1

Post by Elisa Adami

“There is nothing as invisible as a monument”, Robert Musil once wrote1. Paradoxically, it is when monuments are altered, modified or even removed, that they gain more visibility and exposure. The weight of their absence becomes much more tangible and concrete than the stone in which they were carved. That is exactly what has happened in the Baltic states in recent years where, as part of a programme of de-Russification, statues and symbols of the former Soviet domination have been erased or transferred to the outskirts of the cities. In 2007, in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, the Bronze Soldier monument, a Soviet War Memorial, was removed from the city centre and relocated in a cemetery on the periphery. The act, far from go unnoticed, resulted in an outbreak of violence and riots between members of the Russian-speaking community and exponents of the nationalist movement.

Norman After War

The artist Kristina Norman has intervened precisely within this loaded void and, for the brief moment of an ephemeral performance, she has filled it again. On 9 May 2009, a replica statue of the Soviet War Memorial, made in gold-painted papier-maché rather than bronze, was re-installed by the artist in the original location. The statue reappeared as unsettling as an haunting ghost. After War is the video documentation of that symbolic and provocative action. The video was also part of a larger installation of the same title, which was shown in the Estonian pavilion in Venice in 2009. The elaborate installation documented the history of this former Soviet Republic and the ongoing tensions between nationalist and Russian-speaking Estonians. Unusually for a work made in the Baltic States, After War refuses the dominant post-independence narratives of Estonian and Baltic victimhood and Russian aggression. Instead it implicitly exposes the need for reconciliation between the two communities.

1 Robert Musil, “Monuments” in Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, (60).

Find out more about the work here.

Listen to the artist speaking about her work.

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