Down the rabbit hole OR If Lenin is a mushroom, then…

Since 2018, I’ve been working on a multimedia project that considers the physical remains of Vladimir Lenin (including statues as well as his preserved corpse) as a queer body. I’m continuing this work as part of Nonconform 2.0, focusing on nonconformist art that uses Lenin’s image, seeing it as another part of this body. These are some reflections on my process so far.

I’ve been thinking about Vladimir Lenin, Lenin’s body (preserved altered flesh), Lenin’s other bodies (stone, whole and crumbled), Lenin’s other bodies (legacy in all forms), for a few years now. As I delve into the contemporary artwork that makes up Lenin’s contemporary body, I find that he is slipping through my hands. He is unstable.

Me as Lenin, “Planet 65” film shoot (2022), Photo, Set & Styling by LAUR

I wanted to create a lineage of queer artists in Russia who utilize Lenin in ways that destabilize him further, that make him multiple, fragmented, and give way to new pathways of integration, future movement. In a way, I was looking to find community, as that’s what I’ve been doing myself: decaying this body through text and performance to find out where the remains lead me. Putting together a particularly queer lineage has been a challenge, though I’ve found some routes, of course with Vladislav Mamyshev Monroe at the starting line, charmingly putting his hand up to greet me. There are other pathways forward that I see, too. I fall down a different rabbit hole than I was seeking. It still leads me to doors I might pass through. Lenin’s body itself, I remember, the one that includes all of his bodies, is already queer. It is scattered, it is not one thing or another, it is liminal, it is not yet here.

There are lots of Lenins. He has become the Joker, the Buddha, a rubber duck, an income to Mayana Nasybullova; a set of twins in Rinat Voligamsi’s unofficial album; a rabbit on the page, or a tamed bust made of fur crafted by Natasha Yudina. I try to weave the threads together, but they lead in too many directions. I remember that Lenin is a mushroom, as Sergey Kuryokhin transmitted televisually in 1991. That he is made of the same material as the mycelial networks below the ground. That he is supposed to be multitudinous, travel miles, shift constantly. When I imagine Lenin’s body ~ flesh, plastic, stone, paint, canvas, text, more ~ as a mushroom, a fungus, I am reminded that fungi can “pass through two doors at once.” Merlin Sheldrake says this in his book, Entangled Life. He writes, “When faced with a forked path, fungal hyphae don’t have to choose one or the other….If obstructed, they branch.” Lenin branched for the first time long ago, like a king. (The King’s Two Bodies)

I’m thinking about painting my own rendition of Lenin as a way into the work, becoming intimate with the shadows, the contours of his visual representation. A friend whose work is about water and telepathy tells me to communicate with Lenin through the mushroom itself. I’m thinking about this, too. I’m falling further down this rabbit hole. I read “Beastly Spirits: A Pack of Folks.” I read “What Lenin Teaches Us About Witchcraft.” (EnglishRussian) I read “The Future of Lenin.” I read “The Mushroom at the End of the World.” I branch. I’m working on a map of this branching.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Virtual residents