Walker Art Center

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Avant Museology: Hito Steyerl



A Tank on a Pedestal: Museums in an Age of Planetary Civil War

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. Is the museum a garage? An arsenal? Is a monument pedestal actually a military base?