Anna Jermolaewa


Opening: June 2016

A project by KiöR in cooperation with Karl Franzens University Graz



Physical conditioning, self-presentation and positioning for the purpose of confirming and preserving one’s power are factors that are forcefully visible in monuments. This visualisation of power erected in public places is followed by the destruction of the same at turning points in history. But if one loses sight of one’s own history, represses it or destroys ist symbolic value by means of violence, this elimination does not constitute a reappraisal of the past but is rather indicative of authoritarian regimes to come.


Created on the basis of an established canon, male dominated historiography is accompanied by monuments set up at prominent sites in public space, commissioned by those in power with the aim of buttressing their glory. In keeping with this canon, in the European context equestrian statues have ever been reserved for military commanders and rulers, statues of figures for orators and politicians since the times of Marc Aurel. A multiplicity of replicated statues is characteristic of restrictive authoritarian regimes. However, the destruction of these statues, but also of other monuments of religious or cultural importance in terms of identification with the aim of eradicating one’s own and humiliating others’ history is a recurrent phenomenon in the form of iconoclasm.


“One may generally argue that all historical upheaval leads to a certain iconoclasm”, says Anna Jermolaewa. “But according to Boris Groys, the resurgence of a new, contemporary iconoclasm hails from Russia, where people began toppling Lenin monuments. The Americans, who had seen this in the post-Soviet era, exported this iconoclasm to the Arab world, also starting to bring down monuments to Saddam Hussein when they occupied Iraq. The toppling of one of these monuments became an icon of the American occupation of Iraq. ISIS, initially supported by the USA in the fight against the Assad regime, just like Al-Qaeda against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, have adopted this contemporary Russian and Eastern European iconoclasm. According to Groys, modern iconoclasm is thus essentially a post-socialist phenomenon.”*


Anna Jermolaewa, born in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, in 1970, was forced to leave her home country in 1989 as cofounder of the Democratic Opposition magazine and was granted political asylum in Austria.


In her work she combines her own experience with an analytical deconstruction of totalitarian systems, examining their strategies,symbolisms and rhetoric, individual and collective memories and unmasking their indoctrination.


More than 500 Lenin statues were toppled in Ukraine in 2015 alone. Jermolaewa brought one of them, painted bronze outside and hollow inside, to her country of asylum, thus ironically unmasking and questioning bizarre formulations of pretension and failure.


Continuing on this basis, she is now erecting a MONUMENT TO A DESTROYED MONUMENT,

combining tragedy with comedy. Specifically, she has the plinth and remains of the figure

portrayed, i.e. those parts that survived the toppling of the monument, recast in concrete. This allows the viewer to experience the absurdity of imaginary inflation of power, that continues to exist, while at the same time humorously undermining its intention despite all the atrocities of totalitarian regimes.


The paradox of people still laying flowers or tending existing beds at the remains of monuments is contrasted with the paradox of erecting a duplication of the ruin of former glory.


Set up right outside the Institute of History at Karl Franzens University Graz, this work combines political criticism with an uncovering of historical structures and fundamental patterns of human behaviour. In the absence of the protagonist portrayed, this serves not only as a universally valid analysis of society, but also raises questions concerning plinth and artwork, genius loci, site of production, and significance of artworks.


- Elisabeth Fiedler


* Boris Groys: «За пределами США нельзя объяснить ничего, кроме Супермена», Interview in Afisha, 25.03.2015

Art in Public Space

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