Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dead Commies

I finally got to go inside the infamous Vitkov monument to dead commies and soldiers/proletariat mausoleum. The giant block of concrete communist ugly sits high atop a prominent hill in Zizkov, Prague, and is directly behind the largest equestrian statue in the known universe. The horse and rider statue is so large in fact, that standing beneath it, you can only crane your neck and see horse naughty bits and hooves. It's actually quite frightening. Children cry and old ladies swoon.

The monument is rarely open to the public. This is because a) the hike up the hill can kill a bull moose and b) nobody really wants to see a bunch of marble memorials to dead bolsheviks and their misled leaders. Well, I do, but I doubt they keep it dusted solely for me and a few other freaks.

The occasion was an art installation as part of a larger whole; a citywide exhibition which covered several galleries in Prague. Having seen one of the other gallery's exhibition of 'art' (an exhibition of gay/lesbian art which was mainly a collection of dick photos), I decided to see what was on display in the now-open Museum of the Dead Commies.

The lighting was dim and the hall was vast. The whole monument was filled with rumbling vibrations, moans and distorted wails. I thought to myself 'what is WITH these Europeans and their sex obsessions?' I later found out that the entire exhibition was sound. Every corridor, stairwell and marble-encrusted balcony was jammed with speakers. As it happens, the sounds were industrial and mechanical in nature, not as 'organic' as I had first assumed. Or at least that's what the artists' statements read.

It was explained to me that the sound volumes of the various speakers were closely monitored to keep the monument from being damaged. Apparently, one artist's soundscape was rattling the concrete and had to be muted down considerably.

As I walked through the cavernous building, I observed a dog jumping playfully from coffin to coffin and a kissing couple off in a corner. I thought the hundreds of deceased socialists nearby would no doubt be spinning in their graves--if in fact they were actually in them. Apparently there was a screw-up in the embalming. What was supposed to yield the equivalent of the stuffed Lenin in Moscow actually fell short of the intended effect. Whatever poor bastards were in there shriveled and crumbled in mere weeks. So they cremated the shriveled mummies and took the bags of ashes elsewhere.

So after a little art and and too much history, I bade the dead commies farewell. I'm actually surprised the Czechs didn't dynamite the whole structure after the fall of Communism.

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