An exhibition by Ilya Orlov, a symposium, and a city walk
Symposium Participants: Bini Adamczak, Elena Agudio, Sezgin Boynik, Esther Leslie, Minna Henriksson, Michele Masucci, Aimo Minkkinen, Paul O’Neill, Ilya Orlov and Nora Sternfeld
City walk participants: Minna Henriksson, Ritva Hartzell and Jyrki Siukonen
Curator: Joanna Warsza
Associate Curator: Giovanna Esposito Yussif
MUSEUM OF THE MUSEUM
Exhibition by Ilya Orlov
Opening: Friday 29.9.2017, 17.00–20.00
Exhibition Dates: 30.9–22.10.2017
Thursdays & Fridays, 14.00–18.00; Saturdays & Sundays, 12.00–16.00
Address: Sörnäisten Rantatie 1 E 61, 00530 Helsinki
“Museum of the Museum” is an exhibition by Helsinki-based artist Ilya Orlov, dedicated to the history of the Lenin Memorial Room, a museum that opened in Hakaniemi Square in 1976 and closed in 1993. Shortly before the October Revolution, Chief Kustaa Rovio of the Helsingfors police sheltered Lenin in this room for several weeks so that he could avoid prosecution by the provisional government. Here Lenin worked on his book State and Revolution and prepared for the uprising. Upon the museum’s closure in 1993, the apartment was sold to a private individual. For this research-based exhibition, Orlov has rented another apartment in the same building, where he will recreate the museum for three weeks in October 2017 to coincide with the centennial of the revolution.
Symposium, 30.9–1.10.2017, with Bini Adamczak, Elena Agudio, Sezgin Boynik, Esther Leslie, Ritva Hartzell, Minna Henriksson, Michele Masucci, Aimo Minkkinen, Paul O’Neill, Ilya Orlov, Jyrki Siukonen, and Nora Sternfeld
This year marks the 100th anniversary of both Finnish independence and the October Revolution. These two events are closely linked, even dependent, on one another, although in both countries these topics are sensitive and painful. The one-day symposium will address whether and how these events should be remembered, disremembered, or simply reconfigured within the current political context. It will trace the fate of Lenin’s museums in Finland and ask whether the October Revolution should have some kind of memorial. What is the legacy of Alexandra Kollontai—a Finnish-Russian revolutionary and advocate of free love? Can some form of communism still provide a working theory for everyone? Participants will convene in Paasitorni, the historic Helsinki Workers’ House building in Hakaniemi, to discuss these matters.
The singularity of a revolution provides a point of departure to think about how radical transformations are possible. These moments of change derive from a complex constellation of interconnected struggles where politicization traverses the social to arrive at the crest of uprisal. However, it is erroneous to assume that the concealment of collective struggles (especially those that move against exploitation and oppression toward equality and liberation) implies that they have been successful. Ironically, their historical erasure allows political gains to neutralize what still remains to be accomplished. This irony lies at the core of a meaningful articulation of memories and their capacity to remain present. One hundred years after the Bolshevik Revolution and the Finnish independence that followed, the interdependence of these events are like a ghostly memory that still echoes an uncanny fragility. The need to remember the demands of these collective struggles is as urgent as questioning what has been learned and still needs to be learned in order to revive their unfinished processes.
UNCANNY INTERDEPENDENCE is an invitation to think beyond national forms of memorialization in a discussion with individuals engaged in thinking critically and reading widely about this revolutionary time and its traces, claims, and contemporary forms.
Saturday, 30 September
Paasitorni (Helsinki Workers’ House)
Room Karl Lindahl
Paasivuorenkatu 5 A, 00530 Helsinki
Symposium is free of charge
11.00–11.15: Welcome by Paul O’Neill; Introduction by Joanna Warsza and Giovanna Esposito Yussif
11.15–11.45: A Conceptual Art Objection to the Politics of Memory by an Artist-researcher, Ilya Orlov
The Lenin Memorial Room at Hakaniemi Square opened in 1976; an initiative of the Finnish government, it was part of President Kekkonen’s good-neighbor policy toward the USSR. Following neoliberal anti-communist shifts in both post-Soviet Russia and Finland, the museum lost its diplomatic function and was closed in 1993. A place of memory disappeared when that memory was exhausted as a resource. Now that this “usable past” has been rendered useless to state interests, is there anything substantial left concerning Lenin? For Ilya Orlov, the re-creation of the museum functions as conceptual art, known for its love of dialectics and tautology— techniques also employed by Lenin in his writing. Might this be a way to come closer to Lenin’s thought rather than the never-ending disputes between pro- and counterrevolutionary “memories”? Orlov will present the the theoretical background of the project along with the results of his research in the Russian and Finnish archives.
11.45–12.15: Lenin’s Museum in Helsinki: History and Memory, Aimo Minkkinen
The former director of the Lenin Museum in Tampere will introduce the concepts of history and memory around the politics of Lenin’s museums in Finland. Starting from Lenin’s former hideout at Hakaniemi Square, we will be guided through the heated times leading up to the October Revolution, Lenin’s national politics and their relation to Finnish independence, and the way these events have been remembered and dismembered in Finland.
12.15–12.50: Aleksandra Kollontai and Finland, Michele Masucci, moderated by Elena Agudio
The feminist revolutionary and writer Aleksandra Kollontai was the only female member of the first Soviet government. She is best known for her political work and writings on sexual politics, including the so-called woman question, approached from a Marxist perspective. She was also an expert on Finland for the Russian Social Democratic Party, writing extensively on the condition of the Finnish proletariat and its relation to industry in Finland. Through summers spent in the Finnish countryside with her family, she developed a close connection to Finland that allowed her to play a key role in negotiating the end of the Winter War while serving as the Soviet ambassador to Sweden. What can we learn today from Kollontai’s scientific work on political economy, her studies on the Finnish working class, and the “Finnish question”? This talk will address the extensive scientific and political writings about Finland by an agitator of Finnish independence.
14.00–14.30: Relational Politics and the Memory of the Future, Bini Adamczak (via Skype) and Nora Sternfeld in conversation
“How might have the Russian Revolution worked?” is the central inquiry of a new book by author, theorist, and artist Bini Adamczak. This dialogue departs from Adamczak’s previous book The Gender of Revolution, which examines the writings of Alexandra Kollontai. The audience is invited to rethink, together with Adamczak, revolutionary practices as relations of radical freedom, equality, and solidarity that point toward a possible future horizon for memory. Additionally, the conversation will also address the relationship between culture and politics: Is there anything to gain and learn from the revolutionary impulses of cultural projects and practices? If so, where do we identify the potential in actualizing the commemoration of Lenin and Kollontai in present-day Helsinki?
14.30–15.30: The Centrifugal Forces of a Revolution, Esther Leslie and Sezgin Boynik, moderated by Giovanna Esposito Yussif
Shiny Metal Things and Memorializing the Nameless, Esther Leslie
In 2011, Ukrainian steel magnates dismantled a Lenin statue at one of their plants in order to protect it from revolting workers. This act functioned as a curious riposte to years of Stalinist glorification of leaders against the masses as well as Lenin’s own Monumental Propaganda decree from 1918. The latter was an inauguration of the countermemorializing gestures of Walter Benjamin and the Situationists who themselves, like Lenin in brass and embalmed flesh, are threatened with falling victim to the solidifying memorial—the shiny metal of statuary. A shiny metal thing takes on the form of the cream separator in Eisenstein’s The Old and the New (1929), and as such is a memorial to the movement of revolution, a centrifugal force that activates history, and in so doing negates the situation that garnered Lenin’s disgust: the theft of cream from the mouths of peasant babies. The appearance of this shiny metal newness denies the old but does not forget it. It is a form of practical memory or memorializing in the name of the nameless—in the temporary and revolving medium of film, a metallic gloss only.
Lenin-disc: Atlases, Herbariums, and Rituals, Sezgin Boynik
Lenin is usually portrayed as a statesman, and his work is discussed in relation to state power and conspiratorial policies that led to the revolution. This is partly true. Lenin was a militant activist defending Soviet rule. But as the author of the Philosophical Notebooks, he insisted on reading Hegel and writing on dialectical abstraction in the midst of political turmoil, while authoring numerous texts on Tolstoy as well. Following Alain Badiou’s argument that politics lacks, in its vocation, what Mallarme describes as “atlases, herbariums, and rituals,” Boynik attempts to find such a vocation in the name of Lenin. By constructing a Lenin-disc, a device that exposes the figurations of these strange references, he aims to reveal the contradictory nature of the effect Lenin had throughout the twentieth century. Compiling over seventy citations by or about Lenin, the artwork indexes the unconscious of communism and the October Revolution as manifested through art and theory. Arguing that artistic representation of revolutionary events requires complicated forms, Boynik will also discuss the form of centrifugal movement in relation to Lenin’s theory and practice.
15:45–16:15: Minna Henriksson in conversation with Joanna Warsza
Minna Henriksson, who has followed the fate of Lenin’s memorials in Finland and elsewhere, will guide us through her research, opening a space to reflect upon how Lenin might be remembered today. Is a monument for Lenin in Lenin Park even thinkable? If so, what form would it take? Could it follow the practice of the early Bolsheviks, who made temporary monuments out of plywood and cardboard so that they could be moved from one street corner to another and replaced when needed? Should the memorial be a collective endeavor? And who should be included in the discussion about the remembrance of Lenin at a time when his legacy is disputed and his monuments are still being taken down?
16.15–17.30: Collective Discussion with Guest Speakers, moderated by Paul O’Neill
In the context of the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution and Finnish independence, the legacy of Lenin, Kollontai, and other thinkers that contributed to advance the path toward the people’s liberation should not be neglected. How might we remember such dynamic and influential events today when their legacy is contested and their narratives reshaped in response to current political ideologies? How might we update their ideas? Should memorials still be considered? How might the question of preserving collective memories be addressed?
Sunday, 1 October
11.00–13.00: A Memorial Site for the Working Class, guided tour of Alppiharju and Lenin Park by Minna Henriksson, with Jyrki Siukonen and Ritva Hartzell, in collaboration with the Worker Housing Museum (Helsinki City Museum)
Meeting Point: The Worker Housing Museum, Kirstinkuja 4, at 11:00. The tour includes The Working Mother Park, the House of Culture, and Lenin Park.
Alppiharju is among Helsinki’s traditional working class neighborhoods; here, Kulttuuritalo (the House of Culture) was built by volunteers for the People’s Democratic League and inaugurated in 1958. Some years later, in 1970, a nearby park was selected to commemorate Lenin’s legacy and was renamed Lenin Park. However, plans to erect a statue in his memory there were never realized. Minna Henriksson will guide us through the Alppiharju district, reviving the neglected histories of those and other memorials located in the area. Along the way, Jyrki Siukonen, who has been pursuing research on Bolshevik monumental propaganda from 1918 to 1920, will discuss the gradual decay of historical memories. Ritva Hartzell will also speak about her ongoing campaign to erect a Lenin statue in Lenin Park.