In a lovely example of synchronicity, I am suddenly surrounded by Vladimir Ilich Lenin. When he was alive, being surrounded by him was rarely lovely, I believe.
First there are the readings for this week’s Seminar – about the Russian Constructivists, Kasimir Malevich, and the government-directed art produced in Russia after the Revolution and World War I.
Secondly, as I was hopping the galleries this afternoon I ran into Lombard Freid Gallery at 518 West 19th Street (lombard-freid.com). Their new show by The Propeller Group is titled Lived, Lives, Will Live! which is based on a quotation from Kim Il Sung (founding dictator of North Korea) who said, “Lenin lived. Lenin lives. Lenin Will Live.”
The exhibition shows Lenin as he might be viewed today – wearing bling, trying on new hairdos a la Leonardo diCaprio, and riding high on the global spin machine. Everything old is new again.
Which leads me to synchronicity part 3: the fact that I am just finishing rereading one of my favorite books: Lenin’s Embalmers by Ilya Zbarsky and Samuel Hutchinson. This is the fascinating story of the decades-long job of the Zbarsky family to preserve Lenin’s body so that it could remain on display to the public. Their own lives were dependent upon pleasing Stalin for years, and then ironically they had to preserve Stalin (and Mao) as well. Lenin is still on view in the former Red Square in the former Leningrad, but Kruschev had Stalin removed in disgrace and buried in 1961.
Imagine going to Graceland and being able to see Elvis displayed in a glass coffin. After the creepy frisson down your spine, it might be kind of cool, in a Walking Dead kind of way.
I recommend The Propeller Group exhibition. It is a very clever take on publicity, fame, and the kind of celebrity that lives on after death. (Think Marilyn, or Ho Chi Minh – whose body is also preserved).
If you can afford a team of scientists working around the clock, year after year, just think of the wonderful legacy you too can leave.