Thursday, July 30, 2009

From The Workforce Of The Bucharest Heavy Machinery Plant, With Love

I've been meaning to write about this for some time. Taschen's book of political souvenirs has been lying around on our office bookshelves for so long I can't recall who brought it in. It features photographs of hundreds of political gifts presented to the East German Communist Party leadership by visiting dignitaries from the fifties to the late eighties.

They are fabulous objects, combining political/military bombast with miniaturisation. Many of them take the format of elaborate retirement gifts (which some of them in fact are) or executive toys, but with the toys replaced by representations of rockets, heavy machinery or spaceships.

They are kitsch and full of bathos. Many of them serve an obvious function of declaring political obedience, or as examples of mutual back scratching or one-upmanship. They are baldly literal but put together with an eye for surreal juxtaposition.

My personal favourite is the "Desk Set" at the top, a gift from Lieutenant Colonel Kurkotkin to Erich Hoenecker on the occasion of his 60th birthday. I was hoping for something similar for mine.

The book is now sadly out of print. The objects are from the Deutsches Historiches Museum in Berlin, and the photographs are Sebastian Ahlers.

Incidentally this post is also a kind of parting gift to you, People of the Blogosphere (alright then, Person of the Blogosphere), as I am off on holiday for the next couple of weeks to a distant land with no broadband. So there will be a break in broadcasting. No twittering neither.

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