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When you vandalize, do it properly!

  • When you vandalize, do it properly!
August 26, 2014

Protestors (and alpinists) from Russia painted the half of the star on top of the Moscow skyscraper in blue and planted the Ukrainian flag on top of the structure. Three hours later, the flag was taken down and the protestors arrested. Still, the image travelled around the globe, triggering discussions on-line. Although the meaning of the message is quite clear, it is always interesting to contemplate the context of such an action…

When you vandalize, do it properly!
A selfie on the top (photo Ilya Varlamov / Reuters)

Inscribing Meaning in Monuments

Apart from representing an artistic expression, monuments have a significant culturological connotation. This is especially the case with monumental structures which are commissioned by the state. In this context, the particularities of ideological meaning, as well as symbolic social interpretation, can be read from the art piece and are intended to emanate a certain value toward the community. This was especially the case with monumental structures in the socialist societies of the 20th century. A large number of monuments still reside in cities of the former Eastern Block, but many have been repurposed or are interpreted in a completely different code in the contemporary societies of Eastern Europe. As a former part of the Soviet interest zone, Bulgaria is one of the countries with numerous examples of monumental structures. In the last three years, the monument honoring the World War II Soviet Army in Sofia has been the object of interesting and intriguing urban interventions… Or was this vandalism?

When you vandalize, do it properly!
World War II Soviet Army monument, Sofia, (homage to Prague Spring)

Messages of Support?

The mentioned monument was sprayed over in 2011 to depict the symbolism of popular culture. There is the question of interpreting this gesture – was it an elaborate prank with elements of a Pop Art message, or perhaps, there was a deeper idea behind the intentions of unknown artists, conveying the message of the new social paradigm of contemporary Bulgaria? In any case, the monument was a playground for similar activity in 2013, when it was painted in pink. This time, the message was clear: the graffiti on the monument said “Bulgaria apologizes”, referencing the anniversary of the Prague Spring. Finally, this year, in February, the soldier which represents the central figure of the monument was painted in blue and yellow, as well as the flag behind him. This coincided with the intensifying of the crisis in the Ukraine. What followed was a complaint by the Russian Foreign Ministry to their colleagues in Bulgaria. The monument in Sofia is an homage to the fighters in WWII, rather than simple reflection of communism. In addition, today’s politics represents quite a different state of affairs to those from decades ago. This is the question – although the contemporary reinterpretations of meaning represent an inevitable process, with today’s instruments reflected in spray cans and social media activity, how do these acts actually transpire new meaning? After all, a message is only powerful as much as its context…

When you vandalize, do it properly!
World War II Soviet Army monument. Sofia