Liane Lang (www.lianelang.com) is a German born artist, photographer and sculptor currently living and working in the UK, and with a new exhibition at Art First (www.artfirst.co.uk). I have admired her work for some time.
A few years ago she discovered the extraordinary Memento Statue Park in Budapest where there has been assembled a collection of redundant Soviet-era monuments and memorials. Many of the collected memorials are in the grandiose scale and style you might expect of that period when ‘art’ served only to promote the dictators in power. She started to explore making temporary interventions in the memorials using life size sculptured models and then photographing the results.
More recently she moved on to explore further the demise of dictatorial sculpture as the dictators represented came to their end. One thinks immediately of the destruction of statues of Saddam Hussein after the invasion of Iraq, but she has found many more examples from Otto von Bismark, to Nkruma of Ghana to the Shah of Iran. Using the residual evidence of their existence, typically photographic records, she has then created small bronze miniatures of these of the broken and defaced statues of dictators.
The quality of the individual work is very high, and the message of the exhibition clear and powerful. If the photographs humble the dictators by showing that intervention is possible, and reminding us that no dictator can survive being the object of humour and disrespect, the bronze miniatures go further. They are themselves a model of the revolution which brought each dictatorship to an end, cutting the dictators down to size, recording permanently how they were damaged and broken and putting them firmly in their place.
This is an exhibition to make you think and, I believe, to make you smile. It is also a useful reminder that however permanent and terrible they seem, all dictatorships are transient. Well worth a visit.