Wonderlands of the Avant-Garde: Technology and the Arts in Russia of the 1920s (Studies in Russian Literature and Theory (Hardcover))
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In postrevolutionary Russia, as the Soviet government was initiating a program of rapid industrialization, avant-garde artists declared their intent to serve the nascent state and to transform life in accordance with their aesthetic designs. In spite of their professed utilitarianism, however, most avant-gardists created works that can hardly be regarded as practical instruments of societal transformation. Exploring this paradox, Vaingurt claims that the artists’ investment of technology with aesthetics prevented their creations from being fully conscripted into the arsenal of political hegemony. The purposes of avant-garde technologies, she contends, are contemplative rather than constructive. Looking at Meyerhold’s theater, Tatlin’s and Khlebnikov’s architectural designs, Mayakovsky’s writings, and other works from the period, Vaingurt offers an innovative reading of an exceptionally complex moment in the formation of Soviet culture.
liberated. Freed of former constraints, the new man inhabits a new multi-dimensional reality, attained by way of cognition and calculation. Clarity of perception can only be achieved, suggests the painting, if the human being becomes a machine. In “The Cine-Eyes. A Revolution,” Dziga Vertov sings encomia to the 33 Homo Faber, Homo Ludens Fig. 2. El Lissitzky, Tatlin at Work on the Monument to the Third International, 1921 aesthetic defamiliarization wrought by such a mechanical device as the
writing of active poetry in Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature.”100 Marinetti’s manifesto aims at freeing words from the constraints of immaterial thought, while Gastev’s reform of words, on the contrary, entails their constrainment; but both thinkers evince a predilection for rendering language a material product worthy of taking its place in the new, machinistic life. Gastev, who in an attempt to avoid mimesis turns to the buzz of machines for inspiration,
desire for the new, a transgressive urge in the entropic world of OneState, which, insofar as everything worth wanting has officially been achieved, is “finished.” The possibility that his reader (whoever that might be) might have a different value system only intensifies D’s feeling of newness. Though D initially trusts that his values are the only correct ones, the implied otherness of a potential addressee leads him into a sort of dialogue with himself, the process of explaining the bases of a
vision of ever-potential discovery on recent scientific advances. Life as energy is sustained by this potential, which OneState has attempted to erase by the enforced delimitation and simplification of all living systems. The failure of OneState implies that each human number embodies a universe of the unknown and unintegratable. Further, in keeping with the thrilling complexity and unpredictability of life, machines in their turn, being products of human inspiration, contain the same ills,
Monument to the Third International, 1920 Fig. 10. Vladimir Tatlin, drawing for The Monument to the Third International, 1920 Alternative Technologies a flying machine, Letatlin (1929–31), built on the principle of organic, natural form. Retrospectively, Tatlin emphasizes his art as subject to timeless (“natural”) laws rather than temporal social, ideological, or political goals. Several critics mention that the Monument to the Third International reveals the influences of President of the