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Swetlana Heger, Animal Farm


Thierry Goldberg Projects
5 Rivington Street, 212-967-2260
East Village / Lower East Side
March 1 - April 1, 2007
Reception: Thursday, March 1, 6 - 9 PM
Web Site

Swetlana Heger is primarily known for her project Playtime, a series of glamorous performances and staged photographs in which the artist has placed herself alongside luxury brand items. In her new project Animal Farm Heger presents a series of black and white photographs in custom-made color frames. An essay by artist and curator Gean Moreno will be published in conjunction with the show. For the full text please visit the gallery website, the following is an excerpt.

Swetlana Heger has been taking photographs of bronze animal statuettes that are scattered in parks, zoos, and defunct kindergartens throughout the eastern part of Berlin. There’s a peacock with its plumage replaced by intricate metal lacework, a pair of baby giraffes, a fierce goat, a cuddly bear, a trio of plump chickens. Innocent as all the beasts seem, they guard a secret: they’ve been made from Stalin’s remains.

In 1949 the Stalinallee became the main drag in the socialist half of the city. A giant bronze statue of the benevolent leader was eventually erected to crown and commemorate the achievement. Upon Stalin’s death in 1961, it was urgent that a new name be found for the boulevard. This time, however, party officials waged on a name that was perhaps beyond opprobrium. They went with the much safer choice of Karl-Marx-Allee. A choice so safe, a name so beyond reproach, that it still stands today. But even after finding the perfect name for the street, there was still the matter of that bronze monument. It stood like a bad reminder of Stalin’s intolerance, of the magnitude of his crimes, surely, but also of the quiet complacency of all those who had to pass by it everyday on their way to grim jobs and scripted university lectures. The statue itself needed to be eradicated. And so it was brought down.

Unlike the images that censors and revisionists simply made go away whenever someone refused to toe the Party line, there was the matter of the actual physical substance that made up the Stalin statue. The bronze was melted and redistributed into all the animal figurines that Heger has been hunting down and documenting throughout Berlin. These insignificant animals, tucked away in insignificant parks, quietly carry not only a bit of the historical narratives of the last century but literally some of the material through which these narratives found physical form in the world. These innocent and abandoned animals, like a big joke on History, have become its depository. It’s like alchemy, but in reverse. These are the cuddly forms where the narratives that we banked on with such hope go to die, adding, as they say, insult to injury.
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