The Monument to a New Monument

Artist: Zhanna Kadyrova
Location: Ex-Lenin square, Shargorod, Ukraine

Year of completion: 2009
Lesia Prokopenko

Zhanna Kadyrova has been working extensively with public art in Ukraine, aiming at reconsidering and transforming the heritage of Soviet urban planning and traditional notions of art in public spaces.

As the artist states in her comment to the work, for more than twenty years after independence, Ukrainian society has been experiencing a sharp conflict of interpretations and (non) acceptance of various aspects of its historical heritage. One of the clearest indicators of such differences is shown in relation to the historical monuments. Should monuments to the heroes of previous eras, whose beneficial effects on the development of the Ukrainian state today are under question, be dismantled? Should monuments to the people whose activities were previously censored and blotted out of historical memory be placed instead?

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“The Monument to a New Monument” is a sculpture made of white tile in full human height and designed to resemble a monument covered with a white sheet as if on the eve of the opening ceremony. The tiled white mass undoubtedly shows outlines of a human body, but the identity of a “new hero” is unrecognizable. The metaphorical white sheet can be concealing anything and anyone, which is a way for the artist to comment on the historical and political games within modern Ukraine, the ambiguity of power and its multiple faces. Spectators observe in it what they are willing and able to see.

The installation “Monument to a New Monument” by Zhanna Kadyrova was presented in Shargorod (southwest of Ukraine), in 2009. Zhanna Kadyrova came to Shargorod for the first time during the architecture festival held in 2007, where she presented the first version of the work. Willing to explore the potential of art for the small town, Zhanna suggested its municipality to construct the permanent work and see how people would react. The city council agreed to arrange a new small square for the piece — as a part of the big urban installation, with paths and benches around it in Lenin Street, practically reconsidering the structure of post-Soviet public space. The preparations were taking place during the following couple of years, and the work was finally launched in 2009, with the active participation of the town’s community and municipality. The locals contributed to the work on space arrangement, adjusting and improving the infrastructure of their hometown. The piece was further presented as a video hologram within Ukrainian pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, but the actual Monument is an integral part of Shargorod, where the artist often presented and created her other pieces. Zhanna received the official acknowledgement from the mayor of Shargorod, and collected positive feedback from the community.

The piece demonstrates the capacity of non-traditional objects to catalyze change in quite immobile environments, simultaneously preserving the conceptual value of the work itself. Using the example of Shargorod, the project addresses the issue of alienated public space in ex-Soviet region, which is especially visible in small towns. Its main vector is the soft negation of authority figures placed in city squares — followed by the suggestion to introduce pieces that generate individual meanings for every agent of the community and contribute to the creation of a new urban environment with the participation of the local community.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency