Dublin Castle, June 2 - 04, 2016
Deadline: Sep 30, 2015
Beyond Constructivism: Soviet Early-Modernist Architecture Revisited
Panel at European Architectural History Network Fourth International Meeting Dublin Castle
Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted to the conference website along with applicant’s name, professional affiliation, title of paper or position, a C.V. of no more than five pages, home and work addresses, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers.
Architectural production of the two decades after the October Revolution is often, from the perspective of a Western architectural historian, neatly divided into two eras: that of “Constructivism” in the 1920s and that of “Socialist Realism” in the 1930s. However, this periodization might be considered too neat. The dichotomy of Constructivism and Socialist Realism is based on an assumption that the course of Soviet architecture directly mirrored the changes in the political regime—an assumption that simplifies the complex and complicate character of early-Soviet architectural theory. For example, whereas Classicism and Expressionism enjoyed a noticeable presence in Soviet architecture during the 1920s, in the subsequent decade, the former avant-gardists created prominent experimental works that offered their vision of the new Soviet architecture. Moreover, in subsuming all avant—garde production under the notion of “Constructivism,” architectural history follows a tradition developed by art historians, who singled out a movement that, as it seemed, presaged the forms of post-Second-World-War American art. In fact, however, apart from the work of the Constructivist OSA group, Soviet architectural avant-garde entailed a vast variety of non-Constructivist movements and practices, such as Nikolai Ladovskii’s Rationalism, Il’ia Golosov and Konstantin Mel’nikov’s neo-Expressionist fascination with form, or Iakov Chernikhov’s architectural fantasies. By challenging reductive periodization, architectural historians can better grasp the complexity of Soviet early-modernist architectural landscape, stylistic overlaps, and the diversity of practices and theories that constituted it. The aim of this panel is to go beyond the notion of Constructivism as a style-based label for the Soviet avant-garde and to present to the public academic work on the rich and stylistically and ideologically dissonant field of architectural innovation in design education, visual repertoires, politics of artistic production, and design for everyday life. We welcome papers that present alternative accounts of Soviet Interwar modernity and its relationship to institutions of power and the scientific, artistic, political discourses of the time.
On the approach of the centenary of Ireland’s Easter Rising and the subsequent establishment of the new Republic, IMMA is pleased to announce the exhibition, El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State. This exhibition reflects on the artistic and cultural community who gave voice to a new image for the emerging state and a visual language for its politics. It places this local reflection within a broader global consideration of the role of artists in the imagination of emergent states of the early 20th century, and acts as a contemporary exploration of the task of the artist in relation to civil society.
The exhibition brings together a significant body of works from the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, by El Lizzitsky (1890 - 1941), one of the most influential artists of the 20th century who is shown here for the first time in Ireland. El Lizzitsky was an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian Revolution. For him the construction of the Soviet Union meant the opportunity to break away from traditional constraints. He used it to develop visions of a collective aesthetic of the new world, which he then embodied in his artworks.
These works, including an important body of his noted ‘Proun’ series, are shown in the context of archive material referencing the work of Irish nationalist poet and writer Alice Milligan (1865-1953), and her collaborator Maud Gonne (1866 - 1953). The exhibition explores their parallel visions of the activated artist central to the imagining of a new state. El Lissitzky and Milligan both envisaged their creative practices as tools for social and political change, although realising this through very different aesthetic languages and strategies. What becomes clear is the conviction and active participation in the task at hand: the artist as active in the formation of the new world order.
A contemporary counterpoint to the historical narrative is provided by the work of four artists - Rossella Biscotti, Núria Güell, Sarah Pierce and Hito Steyerl - whose work, in different ways, reflects on the position of the artist within our society now. Núria Güell and Rosella Biscotti directly address our position as individuals within the mechanics of the state. Sarah Pierce questions the task of the artist (both past and present) in addressing any kind of cohesive experience in civil society. Hito Steyerl will exhibit two works which both reflect on the important history of the Russian Avant Garde while pointing towards more contemporary concerns within today’s digitised and militarised global context.
El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State brings to Ireland for the first time an extraordinary body of El Lissitzky works generously lent to IMMA by the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, shown alongside archival material related to Alice Milligan and Maud Gonne’s theatrical tableaux, and newly commissioned and recent works by Rossella Biscotti, Núria Güell, Sarah Pierce and Hito Steyerl.
The exhibition is curated by Annie Fletcher, Chief Curator, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and Sarah Glennie, Director, IMMA, with Dr Catherine Morris as curatorial advisor.