Answering the question of what to do when public art is no longer relevant, or represents a history that no one wants to be reminded of every day, Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov took an inventive approach. Giving the existing Lenin statue a plaster covering and adding a cape and helmet, Milov created a new icon with a sci-fi flavour, and brought it into the 21st century by adding a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Leaving the original statue inside untouched – lest it need to be recovered in the future – Milov’s representation of Darth Vadar is a timely construction that coincides with the release of the new Star Wars saga The Force Awakens, due to be released worldwide in December. Perhaps more significantly, Milov’s choice to turn Lenin into Darth Vadar echoes the country’s attempts to move beyond its ‘dark side’.
Symbols and statutes that represent communist rule and the reviled ex-leader are now, by law, being removed from all over the Ukraine. Given the decline of Lenin’s popularity in the Ukraine, it is hard to imagine that the statue’s revamp is not being well received, but one has to wonder at the comment being made by replacing Lenin with Darth Vadar.
The idea of ‘repurposing’ public art when it becomes obsolete is a not uncommon dilemma for city officials. But, while Milov’s alternative is truly an inspired solution, does it say more about the influence of popular culture in the East or more about the political climate in the Ukraine?