The Aesthetics of Anarchy: Art and Ideology in the Early Russian Avant-Garde

The Aesthetics of Anarchy: Art and Ideology in the Early Russian Avant-Garde

Language: English

Pages: 360

ISBN: 0520268768

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this groundbreaking study, Nina Gurianova identifies the early Russian avant-garde (1910-1918) as a distinctive movement in its own right and not a preliminary stage to the Constructivism of the 1920s. Gurianova identifies what she terms an “aesthetics of anarchy”—art-making without rules—that greatly influenced early twentieth-century modernists. Setting the early Russian avant-garde movement firmly within a broader European context, Gurianova draws on a wealth of primary and archival sources by individual writers and artists, Russian theorists, theorizing artists, and German philosophers. Unlike the post-revolutionary avant-garde, which sought to describe the position of the artist in the new social hierarchy, the early Russian avant-garde struggled to overcome the boundaries defining art and to bridge the traditional gap between artist and audience. As it explores the aesthetics embraced by the movement, the book shows how artists transformed literary, theatrical, and performance practices, eroding the traditional boundaries of the visual arts and challenging the conventions of their day.

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sand only when it creates for itself a consumer. The goal of Constructivism, therefore, is to organize communist everyday life by creating the constructive individual.”19 Walter Benjamin contrasts the dissipated effect of art addressed to the mass consumer with art that appeals to the viewer's individuality and challenges his intellect and ability to concentrate: “A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it. He enters into this work of art the way legend tells of the Chinese

antics, and attainments of the Dada phenomenon as it manifested itself in Zurich, Hannover, New York, and other western centers during and after World War I” (The Eastern Dada Orbit: Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Central Europe and Japan, ed. Gerald Janecek and Toshiharu Omuka [New York: G. K. Hall, 1998], 137). On Russian avant-garde and Dada, see also Zaumnyi futurizm i dadaizm v russkoi kul'ture, ed. Luigi Magarotto, Marzio Marzaduri, and Daniella Rizzi (New York: Peter Lang, 1991). 9. In 1913,

Dog; Sadok sudei (A Trap for Judges); “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste” (with Khlebnikov, Kruchenykh, and Mayakovsky); “War and Creativity” lecture (with Kamensky) Burliuk, Nikolai; and Hylaea Buzzi, Paolo Cage, John Clinescu, Matei Canguillo, Francesco; “Le Coriste,” Carrà, Carlo Carroll, Lewis Cendrars, Blaise, La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France (with Delaunay-Terk) Cézanne, Paul, Card Players Chashnik, Ilya Chekrygin, Vasilii Cherniavsky, Nikolai

rooted in Tolstoyan concepts of art production based on “an irrepressible inner need,” rather than on any pragmatic goal that drives a “professional” who is forced to make a living from his or her art. Tolstoy's condition of the “total freedom of the artist from any sort of preconceived demands” liberates the artist from the demands of taste and the tyranny of the art market.50 These new categories of valorization, first pronounced in What Is Art? found significant practical and theoretical

anybody. His writing style at that time bears obvious traces of influence by Nietzsche and, especially, Stirner, as Allan Antliff has demonstrated.44 Here it has come—the genuine revolution, the genuine liberating freedom brought by you, the anarchists! That's why we are coming to you, we, exhausted, half-suffocated spiritually and materially. We, the Futurian artists, the artists of the Great Revolt, appalled by the Philistine order of the past…. You know, dear comrades, how badly anything

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