This collection of essays deals broadly with the visual and cultural manifestation of utopian aspirations in Russia of the 1920s and 1930s, while examining the before- and after-life of such ideas both geographically and chronologically. The studies document the pluralism of Russian and Soviet culture at this time as well as illuminating various cultural strategies adopted by officialdom. The result serves to complicate the excessively simplistic narrative that avant-garde dreams were suddenly and brutally crushed by Soviet repression and to contest the notion of the avant-garde’s complicity in Stalinism. Naturally, some essays document episodes in the defeat and dismantling of utopian projects, but others trace the persistence of avant-garde ideas and the astonishing tenacity of creative individuals who managed to retain their personal integrity while continuing to serve the cause of Soviet power.
Contributors include: John E. Bowlt, Natalia Budanova, David Crowley, Evgeny Dobrenko, Maria Kokkori, Christina Lodder, Muireann Maguire, Nicholas Bueno de Mesquita, Maria Mileeva, John Milner, Nicoletta Misler, Maria Starkova-Vindman, Brandon Taylor, and Maria Tsantsanoglou.
Christina Lodder is Professor of the History and Philosophy of Art at the University of Kent. Her publications include
Russian Constructivism (1983),
Constructing Modernity: The Art and Career of Naum Gabo (with Martin Hammer, 2000),
Gabo on Gabo (co-editor, 2000),
Constructive Strands in Russian Art (2005) and
Rethinking Malevich (co-editor, 2007).
Maria Kokkori is a research fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in 2008 at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she completed a postdoctoral fellowship with a focus on Russian Constructivism. Her latest research project explores Kazimir Malevich’s teaching activities at the Vitebsk Art School in Belarus between 1919 and 1923.
Maria Mileeva is an Early Career Lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where she completed her PhD in 2011. Her latest research project explores the discourse of centre and periphery in Soviet cultural and institutional history by looking at a network of regional art museums in Tbilisi, Yerevan, Baku, Kiev, Saratov and Kazan.
List of illustrations
Introduction: Utopia and Dystopia: The Impulse of History
Christina Lodder, Maria Kokkori and Maria Mileeva
1. Dreaming of the City: Mikhail Larionov’s Provincial Dandy
2. Utopic Sex: The Metamorphosis of Androgynous Imagery in Pre- and Post-Revolutionary Russian Art
3. The Soviet Icarus: From the Dream of Free Flight to the Nightmare of Free Fall
4. Theo van Doesburg and Russia: Utopia Thwarted
Nicholas de Mesquita
5. Fighting for a Utopian Childhood: Militarism in Children’s Periodicals of the Early USSR
6. Spectral Geographies of Soviet Russia: Émigré Visions of Impossible Returns
7. Twice removed: Pavel Filonov and Nikolai Glebov-Putilovskii
8. Exhibiting Kazimir Malevich under Stalin
9. The Old and the New: Solomon Nikritin and Polyrealizm
John E. Bowlt
10. The Ghost in the Machine: The Modernist Architectural Utopia under Stalin
11. Petrified Utopia: Socialist Realism and Stasis
12. Utopia in Retreat: The Closure of the State Museum of New Western Art, 1948
13. The Body Electric: Cybernetics in East European Art in the 1960s Eastern Bloc
14. Geometry after Utopia
Notes on the Contributors
All those interested in twentieth-century art, architecture, literature and culture in Russia and Eastern Europe, Russian history, the history of the Revolution and its cultural and artistic impact in Russia and Europe, undergraduates and postgraduates.