“A tank on a pedestal. Fumes are rising from the engine. A Soviet battle tank—called IS-3 for Joseph Stalin—is being repurposed by a group of pro-Russian separatists in Konstantinovka, Eastern Ukraine. It is driven off a WWII memorial pedestal and promptly goes to war. According to a local militia, it “attacked a checkpoint in Ulyanovka, Krasnoarmeysk district, resulting in three dead and three wounded on the Ukrainian side, and no losses on our side.”
One might think that the active historical role of a tank would be over once it became part of a historical display. But this pedestal seems to have acted as temporary storage from which the tank could be redeployed directly into battle.
Apparently, the way into the museum—or even into history itself—is not a one-way street.’ – writes Hito Steyerl in her 2016 essay published in the e-flux journal, which explores, among other issues, the role of museums and art institutions in an era defined by planetary civil war, growing inequalities and digital technology. According to Steyerl, ’in the example of the kidnapped tank, history invades the hypercontemporary.’
The video installation Mission accomplished: Belanciege presented at Trafó Gallery reveals similar ’invasions’ of history and emphasizes their cyclical nature by turning towards the processes of economic and political realignment that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall, and by featuring examples that target our hyper-contemporary world armed with trend analysis, data mining, political advertising and audience targeting.
The video installation is co-created by Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze, Hito Steyerl and Miloš Trakilović and is based on their lecture in 2019 at n.b.k. – Neuer Berliner Kunstverein. Almost 30 years to the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the lecture reflects on post-1989 transformations and political rearrangements in the former Soviet territories, sheds light on the interconnections between culture and populism, and examines in a broader context the mechanisms of oligarchic-capitalist culture that emerged during the ‘privatisation’ of the former Eastern bloc.
The luxury fashion brand Balenciaga acts as a starting point for the artists’ reflections on politics, culture and populism, and reveals connections between trends, social media and political processes, such as the success of alt-right movements, the manipulation of the US presidential elections that enabled Donald Trump’s victory, or the rise of populist and neoliberal politics in the countries of the former Eastern bloc.