Iconoclash! opened at the Goethe Institut in Washington, DC in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – in conjunction with the Museum’s Los Angeles-based The Wall Project.
With artifacts from The Wende Museum collection, the exhibit ‘attempts to show … the trajectory of images and objects that began as political icons during the era of the Cold War and often ended up as commodities to be sold at flea markets or department stores.’ (see the exhibition catalog).
The pink and teal painted bust of Lenin that inspired this blog was a headliner in the Iconoclash! exhibit: seated squarely between the identical unaltered bust omnipresent throughout the GDR until 1989 and a bottle of ‘Leninade’, available at a hip convenience store near you!
As a Soviet Union transplant, this commodification allows me, in a way, to acknowledge and ‘come to terms with’, or ‘own’ my history. But if I saw a kid walking down the street in a Lenin t-shirt just because it looks cool I wonder if I’d be peeved, perhaps in the same way that other cultural groups are bothered by people sporting tribal tattoos or ethnic clothing without understanding its significance. So, commodification: does it trivialize history or make it accessible? Maybe I’ll be glad so long as we don’t forget, maybe any attention is good attention. Even better if commodification leads to discussion, discourse, research, understanding, etc.