Thirty-one years on from the fall of communism in Romania, Anton Roland Laub’s album Last Christmas (of Ceausescu) is a prying look at the Eastern bloc’s bloodiest revolution through the lens of pop culture.
Combining collages and photography, the project focuses on three places: the private house of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena in Bucharest, the place of their execution at a military base in Târgoviște, and the megalomaniacal presidential palace, which now serves as Romania’s Parliament. Yet the book incorporates pop culture motifs too: not only in the book’s title, but in images of the castle of the tyrannical Dracula. The real-life inspiration for the fictional vampire, King Vlad the Impaler, resided in Târgoviște — which also became where the Ceaușescus were executed.
“The pop schmaltz of the 1980s reminds me of the extreme contrast between the stark TV images of the Ceaușescus’ execution on Christmas day in 1989, while the rest of the world was probably in a Christmas, jingle-bells-mood,” Laub told The Calvert Journal.
Born and raised in Romania, the Berlin-based photographer witnessed the fall of communism as a teenager. One personal element in the album is a photo of Laub’s father’s typewriter, which the artist took with him in Berlin. “Every year in the 1980s, around Christmas, [my father] had to register the imprints of each key and submit them to the police, who archived the profiles of all typewriters. This way they could identify the typewriter should [it be linked to] any critical writings, leaflets etc.”
Laub himself is drawn to the unresolved aspects of his native country’s recent history. To this day, little progress has been made to bring those guilty for the deaths of 1,000 people during the revolution to justice, and it’s not yet clear whether the regime change was due to a staged coup d’état, or a revolution. The European Parliament called on the Romanian state “to strengthen its efforts to clarify the truth in relation to the events of the  revolution” last year, claiming that “no act of military aggression against one’s own people should remain unpunished.”
“I’m interested in the present perspective on the past, and in questions of representation of a past that has not yet been juridically dealt with, the so-called ‘stolen revolution’,” says Laub.
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