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Lenin’s Image

Editors’ Note:

For this month’s column, we are presenting a new essay by Boris Groys together with e-flux journal’s most recent issue.

This year, the People’s Republic of China celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding of the Communist Party. The history, its evolution and current state of the communist phenomena, and its founding leaders reoccupy much of the rich discussions among historians, politicians and thinkers all over the world.

The essay explores the long-lasting effect that Lenin imprinted onto Soviet art and culture, the changes that he engendered in the system of the Russian society, and the implications of these events for the global community.​ Groys contemplates on the image of Lenin, the ideology and hidden meaning beneath this image, the characteristics of communism understood from the perspectives of politics and aesthetics, our “nostalgia for the project of the future,” and the belief that we shall anticipate “a new universal political and artistic project.”

This is part of e-flux in Chinese Column, a collaboration between Heichi Magazine and e-flux journal, with curator and writer Xiaoyu Weng as the column’s guest-editor.

The English version of Lenin’s Image is published on e-flux journal #120—September 2021, link.
This essay is published courtesy of Boris Groys and Ulvi Kasimov, founder of the .ART Registry. ​
Originally written in Russian, it is translated from Russian to English by Thomas H. Campbell, translated from Russian to Chinese by Maxim Mikhalev and Fedor Mikhalev, and co-edited by Xiaoyu Weng and Qianfan Gu.

Boris Groys is a philosopher, essayist, art critic, media theorist, and an internationally renowned expert on Soviet-era art and literature, especially the Russian avant-garde. He is a Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, a Senior Research Fellow at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe, and a professor of philosophy at the European Graduate School (EGS). His work engages radically different traditions, from French post-structuralism to modern Russian philosophy, yet is firmly situated at the juncture of aesthetics and politics. Theoretically, Groys’s work is influenced by a number of modern and postmodern philosophers and theoreticians, including Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, and Walter Benjamin.

Maxim Mikhalev, D.Sc. is Russian anthropologist, writer, and traveler. His research interests include the trans-border areas of China and Russia as well as Central Asia and Tibet. A graduate of Minzu university of China, he is currently affiliated with the Russian State University for Humanities.

Fedor Mikhalev is a student of Moscow State University. He is one of the winners of the All-Russia Chinese Language Competition.

Alexander Rodchenko, Lenin’s Funeral (1924), photo collage.

El Lissitzky, Poster for the Russian Exhibition in Zurich, 1929.

Gustav Klutsis, Under Lenin’s Banner: For Socialist Construction! (1930), photo collage.

Gustav Klutsis, Long Live the Stalinist Tribe of Stakhanovite Heroes! (1936), photo collage.

Art & Language, Portrait of V. I. Lenin with Cap, in the Style of Jackson Pollock III, 1980. Copyright: Tate, London, 2021. 

Published: 2021.09.09