I managed to snag up one of Yevgeniy Fiks‘ four remaining Lenin memorabilia objects at Winkleman last week and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. “Winter Lenin under a Tree” as I like to call it, a weathered black and white reproduction of a drawing certainly wasn’t amongst the more desirable pieces in the exhibition, the most impressive including various paper-weight sized Lenin busts, a hangable woven portrait with tassels, and a beautiful red and gold communist poster. Meticulously laid out on a horse shoe table resembling an upscale flee market display, Fiks makes each piece available at no cost on the condition visitors sign a legally binding agreement. The document prevents “Lenin Adopters” from reselling or profiting from the object be it in the form of money or tax deductions. Given I’d be more likely to lose the work than sell it, the words “free” and “Lenin” kept me from leaving empty handed.
Of course, at present all I’ve got is the “Lenin Adoption Agreement”. The gallery taped its copy to the wall as a means of documenting the non-visual changes throughout the show; physically however the exhibition remains the same until three days prior. As of October 2nd I can pick up my free trinket, its permanent removal from the marketplace where Fiks first acquired it, as he puts it, “an acknowledgment of Communism as one of the defining features of the 20th century historical narrative”.
Perhaps a result of the capitalist in me, it took a very long to time to ration out the fact that by signing this agreement I’m not erasing the object’s new economic history as a souvenir, I’m just rejecting future iterations. Once I got to that point however the agreement made much more sense. While buying these objects at the Salvation Army or ebay may strangely feel deeply appropriate, (after all it’s capitalism’s way of saying, “good job Lenin”), the process isn’t that hard to let go because it tends to neuter its original political purpose of the piece. Just how much is gained by the act of Adopting a Lenin however, will without question depend on the individual. In my case, while I doubt “Winter Lenin Under a Tree” will deeply speak to me through the ages, I was at the very least reminded by the process that all socioeconomic structures deal with issues of supply and demand.