Page 17 - Studio International - December 1970
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literary groups passed the busy Lenin by' and   freedom for their own ideas was  a  practical   universal term, but takes its meaning from the
          the  futurists and  the new proletarian writers   one,  that they were still essentially part of a   real situation of each. 'The formless talk about
          simply made him angry'.  Lenin himself said,   bourgeois tradition. They are 'fond of calling   proletarian culture in antithesis to bourgeois
          ' ... I  have  the  courage  to  declare  myself  a   themselves  "proletarian"  Communists,  be­  culture, feeds on the uncritical identification
          "barbarian".  I  cannot  regard  the  works  of   cause  there  is  very  little  that  is  proletarian   of the historic destinies of the proletariat with
          impressionism,  futurism,  cubism  and  other   about  them  and  very  much  that  is  petty­  those of  the bourgeoisie.' 7 It is precisely this
          isms  as  the  highest  expressions  of  artistic   bourgeois.' 0The revolution was threatened on   kind of uncritical 'identification' which Lenin
          genius: I don't understand them. I get no joy   the left, not just by peasant anarchy, but by   criticizes when he talks of those who 'devote
          from them.' 56  We know that Lenin's personal   the  anarchy  of  individualism,  'that  petty­  more  effort  to  learning  by  heart ... revolu­
          taste was for the nineteenth-century classics;   bourgeois  diffuseness  and  instability,  that   tionary slogans than  to thinking them out',  68
          but what is interesting is that, even theoreti­  incapacity'  for  sustained  effort,  unity  and   i.e. those who used Marxist slogans, particu­
          cally, he saw nothing revolutionary in Russian   organized action, which, if encouraged, must   larly those demanding freedom from tyranny,
          Futurism:  nothing to parallel the social and   inevitably  destroy  any  proletarian  revolu­  to attack the centralized power of the Party.
          political changes of the time. 'The bolshevik   tionary movement.'  There is a philosophical   But, as Trotsky says, referring to this period of
          poets,  painters,  sculptors  and  architects who   conflict  between  the  tradition  of  Romantic   dictatorship, 'There can be no question of the
          have  been  trying  to  crown  Lenin's  mighty   individualism  in  art,  expressing  an  ideal   creation of a new culture, that is of construc­
          work  by  their  creative  activity,  complain   world-movement  which  appears first  in  the   tion  on  a  large,  historic  scale,  during  the
          despairingly  about  the  complete  blindness   inner being of the artist, and Lenin's materia­  period  of  dictatorship. The  cultural  recon­
          • and deafness of  the Master,  who was unable  lism  which  sees  the  creative  act  as  actually   struction,  which will begin when the need of
          to grasp the supreme and ultimate manifesta­  making the new world-movement in the real   the iron clu�ch of a dictatorship unparalleled
          tions of his own system.' 7                world,  by actually changing  man's  relation­  in history will have disappeared, will not have
          The  reasons  for  this  are  clear  enough  in  ships with himself and with nature, a process   a class character. ' 69  The future will work itself
          Lenin's own writings. The desperate needs of  which  he  considered  hardly  begun.  'To   out;  in  the  meantime,  'It  is  impossible  to
          the war and the continuing problems of peace­  attempt in practice today,  to anticipate this   create  a  class  culture  behind  the backs  of  a
          time  (leading to  the apparent  contradiction  future  result  of  a  fully  developed,  fully   class.' 0
          of  the  New  Economic  Policy,  which  many  stabilized  and  constituted,  fully  comprehen­  It  is  true  that  Trotsky  is  concerned  very
          Leftists  saw  as  a  betrayal  of  Socialism),  as  sive  and  mature  communism  would  be  like   largely with literature and with many qifferent
          well as the need to educate the illiterate and  trying to teach higher mathematics to a child   artists with different theories of revolutionary
          to win over the few skilled engineers,  execu­  offour.' 62                          socialist or proletarian culture. It is also true
          tives and professional men, made it necessary  Trotsky,  in Literature  and Revolution,  gives  the   that the Constructivists were very much more
          for the Party to assume an unexpected degree  problem a fuller analysis, on the grounds that   'materialist'  than  Malevich.  Tatlin,  whose
          of  control.  In  other  words,  the  Revolution,  it is neither winning the war nor achieving its   first constructed  reliefs  date  from  1913,  was
          which so many intellectuals thought was over,  economic objectives which are the true test of   clearly very involved in the idea of materials
          had only just begun in Russia, and was still to  socialist victory. He says,  'Only a movement   itsel£ His pre-revolutionary reliefs are neither
          begin abroad. It is quite clear that the avant  of scientific thought on a  national scale and   cubist, though Picasso's work was  a  starting
          garde  had  seen  the  revolution  as  freedom­  the development of  a  new  art would signify   point, nor are they connected with Duchamp's
          freedom  from  the  dead  hand  of  bourgeois  that the historic seed has not only grown into   doctrinaire ready-mades. They are concerned
          culture and freedom to reach a wider audience  a plant but has flowered.'  Most of the book  to  investigate,  intuitively,  the  properties  of
          for  their  essentially  pre-revolutionary  art.  is an  examination of contemporary trends in   materials as such. 'An Exhibition held in 1917
          Gorki  talks  about  Lenin's  and  Trotsky's  art,  to  determine  whether  they  really  do   presented a  number of examples  of  material
          'shameful  attitude  to  freedom  of expression  represent  the  new  culture.  While  more   combinations, which were the results of more
          and  freedom  from  arrest  and  to  the  whole  sympathetic  to  the  avant  garde,  Trotsky   complicated  investigations  into  the  use  of
          sum of those rights for the triumph of which  reaches  essentially  the  same  conclusions  as   material  in  itself,  and  what  this  leads  to:
          democrats have fought.' 58  It is the assumption  Lenin. Since 'all through history, mind limps   movement,  tension  and  mutual  relation­
          that proletarian or socialist culture could be  after  reality',  and since a true socialist state   ships.' 71 For Tatlin, after the Revolution, 'an
          instantly  created  by  a  small circle  of  artists,  does not yet exist,  it is absurd 'to tear out of   opportunity emerges of uni  ting purely artistic
          without  great  changes  in  the  material  and  the future  that which can only develop as an   forms with utilitarian intentions'7 (that is, of
          mental  situation  of  the  proletariat  and  inseparable part of it'.  For Trotsky, Futurism   uniting the ideal and the real, the artistic and
          peasants themselves, that Lenin attacks again  is still  part of bourgeois culture,  so that 'the   the social), 'and the results of this are models
          and  again.  'Only  a  precise  knowledge  and  call of the Futurists is meaningless to the pro­  which  call  upon  the  producers  to  exercise
          transformation  of  the culture created by the  letariat who are not part of that tradition in   control  over  the  forms  encountered  in  our
          entire development of mankind will enable us  the least. So far,  'Politics is the only field in   new  everyday  life.' 73   Tatlin's  'culture  of
          to create a  proletarian culture. The latter is  which the  proletarian  has  really  created  his   materials' and  his attempts to fuse 'art' and
          not clutched out of thin air; it is not an inven­  own  style.' 66  Freedom means  quite different   'production'  make  him,  perhaps,  the  most
          tion  of  those  who  call  themselves  experts  in  things to a bourgeois artist, even one in revolt   Marxist of  all  the Russian avant garde. Al­
          proletarian  culture.' 59  His particular  charge  against  bourgeois  society,  and  a  factory   though  he  is  still linked  to  the  tradition  of
          against  the  left  intellectuals  who  demanded  worker or peasant, since it is not an absolute,   Italian  Futurism-in  love  with  the  machine

           CAREL  BLOTKAMP  lectures  on  modern  art  at  the  Art­  at  the  Technische  Hoogschule,  Eindhoven.  Jeffrey   JOHN EPSTEIN, director of the Black Box group, is senior
          Historical  Institute  of Utrecht  University  and  is  art   Shaw is a member of the artists'  panel of APG.   lecturer in charge of painting at Ulster College of Art,
          critic of the Dutch weekly Vrij Nederland.                                           Belfast.
                                                     JEAN  CLAY  is  an  art  critic  and  editor  of the  French .
          JOHN LATHAM calls himself a professor of nonentity, and   magazine Robho.            JOHN  COPLANS  was  until  recently  director  of  the
          is known in Europe and America for his  works  made   SOL LEWITI currently has an exhibition at the Pasadena   Pasadena Art Museum and organized the Andy Warhol
          with  books.  Inno  70  centres  on  the  interrelationship   Art Museum.            exhibition  which  will  open  at  the  Tate  Gallery,
          between art and economics.                                                           London, in mid-February.
                                                     TERRY MEASHAM, senior lecturer in art history at Stour­
          JEFFREY  SHAW  and  THEO  BOTSCHIUVER ,  who  compose   bridge College of Art,  will  shortly be  j oining the Tate   DEREK BOSHTER has an exhibition of sculpture, drawings
          the Eventstructure Research Group, are both lecturing   Gallery's Department of Exhibitions and Education.   and prints at the Hayward Gallery till  J anuary 10.
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