Wonderlands of the Avant-Garde: Technology and the Arts in Russia of the 1920s (Studies in Russian Literature and Theory (Hardcover))

Wonderlands of the Avant-Garde: Technology and the Arts in Russia of the 1920s (Studies in Russian Literature and Theory (Hardcover))

Julia Vaingurt

Language: English

Pages: 322

ISBN: 0810128942

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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. 

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Dapertutto attempted to cover the full gamut of expressive situations on the stage; the authors also note the innate relation of these early exercises to Meyerhold’s future biomechanics: [These exercises] differed from his later Biomechanics in a purely functional manner—the Sixteen Etudes pertained mainly to Meyerhold’s preRevolutionary studio work, which was a synthesis of many traditional theatre conventions, while Biomechanics, based on physiological principles of movement, was designed as a

poetry, and that of other representatives of the Proletcult movement, inspired the utopian rhetoric and vision of OneState and its inhabitant D-503, the setting and the protagonist, 88 Writing as Bodily Technology in Zamyatin’s We respectively, of Zamyatin’s We.6 Patricia Carden, for example, reads We as an uncompromising satire of Gastev’s hyperbolic rhetoric and a condemnation of his vision of man’s ecstatic melding with machine.7 Lewis and Weber’s discussion of the novel’s metaliterary

self-cognition and cognition of the potential existent in the universe. He believes that the study of technology will reveal the latent potential of the body (“organs that have not yet been discovered in a body”) and “thus can and should provoke further developments in biology” as biology provokes technology.43 Florensky finishes his tract with a philosophical statement on the reciprocity between technology and human life, propelled forward by the drive for knowledge: “Searching in ourselves and

famed assembly line, its harmony and faultless organization, and, on the other hand, stories of discontented workers. Writing his notes in the mid-1920s, when the Soviet government-appointed Central Institute of Labor was working on methods of introducing Ford’s system into Russian factories in order to increase productivity, Mayakovsky complains that Ford’s assembly line depletes workers’ strength, summing up: “Detroit has the greatest number of divorces. The Ford system makes workers

unfamiliar, and Il’f and Petrov’s trip to America was almost a return to childhood. Throughout the book, even while managing to provide descriptions many have found truthful, they retain their certain playfulness; it is as if they have set out on their journey determined to regard this land as a magical place, and they stay true to this project. They record sorcery: elevators in the midst of deserts; dynamic drugstores concocting strange and exciting elixirs (“malted milk”); brightly colored,

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