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OPEN13 texts

Liane Lang: Monumental Misconceptions by Kayung Lai

Monumental Misconceptions encapsulates the historical journey of the rise and fall of the Hungarian communist regime. The project was photographed in Memento Sculpture Park, a disposal site on the outskirts of Budapest where 42 exiled communist monuments stand. These colossal bronze monuments capture the glory days of the Soviet Union. Lang's awareness of their symbolism is apparent through the way she playfully poses her silicone dolls, staging an alternate reality that opens the sculptures to new narratives.
Lang's conceptual strategy uses the viewer's misconceptions as a way of delivering irony. Upon closer inspection the first misconception is revealed, her featured protagonists are in fact life size dolls. The chosen size is significant because at life size the doll's representation becomes uncertain, oscillating between their reality as inanimate objects and the animated fiction that they convey. This is particularly effective when coupled with the monumental sculptures that lack the uncanny human qualities of Lang's dolls. This juxtaposition between inanimacy and animacy is employed by Lang to subvert the totalitarian force of the Soviet era, as these sculptures no longer exert the same influence or command the same respect as they used to. The irony is reinforced by the fact that these sculptures are no longer permanent objects in their original locations, instead they have been collectively relegated and their status as artworks has been renounced.
The dolls are posed in the midst of iconoclastic acts and the compositions are reminiscent of action film stills. In Grand Gesture Lang's protagonist is caught swaying in mid air, courageously holding on to Vladimir Lenin's hand, in what appears to be an attack against him. Furthermore, the backdrop of swaying trees emphasises the motion of the protagonist's struggle, dramatising what would otherwise be just two inanimate objects meeting. The contrast in size between Lenin and Lang's protagonist is employed purposely to undermine Lenin's heroic pose. By staging her dolls in acts of iconoclasm Lang's doll could be referencing the individual who is posed against the authoritarian state. After all, the fall of the Soviet Union during the early 1990s saw the destruction of many public sculptures of despised dictators; this public rebellion marked the emancipation and championing of a new cultural identity.
Currently, the sculptures of Memento Sculpture Park are one of the main tourist attractions in Budapest, with many visitors posing alongside the sculptures in tourist snapshots. Lang's ironic approach critically negotiates the disparity between the sculptures touristic present and their problematic past. Her innovative ways of responding to these exiled sculptures raise many questions surrounding the issue of retaining artwork from Hungary's communist past. However, the alternate reality Lang stages embraces the sculpture's historical significance and the importance of this open-air museum in reflecting upon our cultural history.