The Assassination of Leon Trotsky

The Assassination of Leon Trotsky

The exhibition, marking the fifth year anniversary of the gallery, takes as its title the murder of Leon Trotsky on August 21, 1940 in Mexico City. The moment is chosen for its evocative, allusive potential—and as an introduction to the theme of the exhibition, which is the relationship between art and ideology. The figure of Trotsky, and particularly his last years in Mexico, serve as a symbol of the strange terrain where art and ideology meet, entangle, dissolve, and become other. Trotsky is here conjured as a liminal figure of paradoxes, chiasmuses: North (Russia) and South (Mexico), the reality of revolution and the fantasy of escape, (but, conversely, the fantasy of revolution and the reality of escape—escape leading to death); the uncanny entanglement of art (Frida Kahlo) and politics, and even art and violence.

Why the question of ideology—and why now? In James Joyce’s Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus famously laments, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” How to wake up? Presumably by understanding the causes of the crisis; by bringing to light the ideology that created it. Presumably the matter can be addressed directly. But: Ideology has no history. This is the claim of Louis Althusser. Individual ideologies have histories, and can be analyzed, scrutinized, challenged, and critiqued. Ideology itself is however beyond such modes of apprehension. It is eternal and invisible, and therefore analogous to the Freudian unconscious. A source of dreams—a world of masks and symbols. Althusser, again:

“[The] proposition: ideology has no history, can and must... be related directly to Freud’s proposition that the unconscious is eternal, i.e. that it has no history. If eternal means, not transcendent to all (temporal) history, but omnipresent, trans-historical and therefore immutable in form throughout the extent of history, I shall adopt Freud’s expression word for word, and write ideology is eternal, exactly like the unconscious.”

The Assassination of Leon Trotsky

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