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Lenin

After seven years of restructuring, the Noorderplantsoen – an English garden designed by Hendrik Copijn (1842-1923) – has been largely restored to its original state. An open meadow, sloping upwards and bordered by shrubs and monumental trees, provides a natural stage for a piece of political theatre in which a nine meter-high bronze statue of Lenin plays the leading part. At the foot of this statue, which has been brought here by the Groninger merchant Koop Tjuchem after the fall of the Wall, forty tons of potatoes have been dumped.
Changes in the public domain inevitably lead to confrontations and conflict. The reshaping of the Noorderplantsoen focused on bringing a dishevelled park back to its original state, but unwittingly turned into an open invitation for public interference. The park is publicly owned, and the public demands the right to co-decide. Nature lovers, joggers, musicians, gays and junkies, all want to recognise themselves in the way the park changes. Seven years of protest, legal procedures and bureaucratic bickering passed before consensus was reached. In this turmoil, art too makes itself heard and “is faced with the challenge to demand a place of its own in this lively situation,” as the organiser of the exhibition in the park states. Art too, dances on the waves of social consensus around its rationale.
In a theatrical manner, the Lenin work uncovers the political characteristics of the place, as sketched above; it shows the park as a democratic (conflict) model. From time to time, contradictions in society play a great role in history and grow to be historical icons. Against the bourgeoisie, who recognises itself in Copijn’s romantic garden this Lenin symbolises the resistance of the working class.
By placing such historical metaphors in a contemporary context, their old meaning is taken away and a drama develops, which demonstrates the contingency and vulnerability of the actual political circumstances. Lenin’s generous gesture to the people, allowing them to consume a mountain of potatoes – the people’s food par excellence – represents a weighty invitation to expressing one’s opinion. Some will take a meal home, and some will use the potatoes for protest.

Source : Hans van Houwelingen, project explanation, 09-05-2000