Page 18 - Studio International - December 1970
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     for its own sake, and with industrialization at   of which life is  built and hence art must be   intoxicated senses. ' 6 What is significant here is
     the new reality-he did go an important step   constructed.  States,  political  and  economic   the continuing distinction between Suprema­
     further in his determination to make the new   systems  perish,  ideas  crumble,  under  the   tism and Communism in Lissitzky's mind even
     world  rather  than  simply  paint  it:  to  take   strain  of  ages . . .  but life  is strong  and  grows   after  he  has  said  that 'everything  which  is
     seriously Marx's general theories of creativity,   and time  goes on in its real continuity.' 79   In   produced  is  art',  a  distinction  which  leads
     rather than preserve the special status of the   other  words,  the  laws  of  life  underlying   logically to his rejection of the world  of 'the
     fine  arts.  However,  like  the  later  Construc­  appearance and change mean something very   intoxicated  senses'.  Lissitzky  is  also  guilty
     tivists,  Tatlin  was  still  partially  under  the   similar  to  Hegel's  World  Spirit  and  Male­  of  utopianism,  of  tearing 'out  of  the  future
     spell  of  Hegel,  and  unable  to  grasp  the  im­  vich's 'nature', in the sense that they provide   that which can only develop as an inseparable
     portance  of  class  in  Marxist  thought.  The   the  basis  for  universal  forms,  derived  from   part of it'. He is able to do this the more easily
     other  half  of  Marx's  materialism  is  missing:   Science  and  Technology. 'We  construct  our   because he believes that the struggle is already
     the new culture means nothing to the class it   work  as  the  universe  constructs  its  own,  as   over  and  that  international  socialism  is  just
     supposedly represents.                    the  engineer  constructs  his  bridges,  as  the   round the corner. 'The days of destroying and
     In  a  similar  way,  the  first  document  of  the   mathematician his formula of orbits.' 80  Gabo   beleaguering and undermining are behind us',
     style that was to become International Con­  uses science to create generalized forms with­  he says, and continues, 'Art is international . . .
     structivism,  Naum Gabo's Realistic Manifesto,   out Hegel's idealism; that is,  he bases art on   ignoring  all  distinctions  between  psycho­
     stresses the productive and industrial aspects   the  observed  laws  of matter  rather  than  on   logical,  economic and purely national art.' 87
     of Constructivism -'Art is no mere ground for   the laws of man's cognition; he is able to say,   For this reason the continuing protests of the
     conversation but the source of real exaltation,   'That is why we in creating things take away   Dada group against bourgeois capitalism are
     our word and deed' 4-but significantly, finds   from  them  the  labels  of  their  owners ... all   'anachronistic'. He goes on,' "Object" stands
     its origins before the Revolution, in 'the growth   accidental and local, leaving only the reality   equally  aloof  from  all  political  parties,  be­
     of human knowledge with its powerful pene­  of the constantrhythmof the forces in them.' 81   cause it is not occupied with the problems of
     tration into the mysterious laws of the world,   He is even aware of the pitfalls of claiming to   politics but of art. This does not mean, how­
     which  started  at  the  dawn  of  this  century.   create a proletarian culture: 'Not to lie about   ever,  that we are  in  favour  of  an  art which
     The blossoming of a new culture and  a new   the future is impossible and one can lie about   stands  outside  of  life  and  is  apolitical  on
     civilization  with  their  unprecedented-in­  it at will.' 82  But,  like Tatlin,  he is unable to   principle. On the contrary we cannot imagine a
     history surge of the masses towards the posses­  include the masses in his new style, except in   creation  of new forms  in  art  unrelated  to  the
     sion  of  the  riches  of  Nature,  a  surge  which   vaguely aspiratory terms and on the basis that   change in socialform.' 88  It is at this point-with
     binds the people into one union, and last, not   now all are equally involved in the business of   art  still  claiming  independence  from  any
     least,  the  war  and  the  revolution  (those   production.  Their  specific  relationship  with   specific political involvement, but demanding
     purifying torrents of the coming �poch), have   the business of production is ignored. The art   to be  taken seriously  as participating  (again
     made  us face  the  fact  of  new  forms  of  life,   which bases itself on the forms of science and   unspecifically) in social change-that Russian
     already born and active.' 75  The language here   technology,  abstracted  from  the  question  of   Futurism links up with Western  art and  be­
     is very reminiscent of  Italian  Futurism,  and   social and economic relationships, is still part   comes  International  Constructivism.  In  this
     the  suggestion  of  an  existing  unity,  of  an   of  bourgeois  culture,  which  is,  'for  the   linking-up,  the  association  of  the  Russian
     achieved revolution,  bears little resemblance   enormous majority, a mere training to act as a   artists  with  the  1917  Revolution  gave  to  a
     to  the  realities  in Russia  or  elsewhere.  The   machine'. 83                    style essentially  based  on the abstractions  of
     manifesto rejects both Cubism and Futurism   In  the  writings  of  Lissitzky,  who  was  in­  science and technology the cachet of partici­
      as  representatives  of  the 'new  Great  Style',   fluenced  by  both  Suprematism  and  Con­  pation in the creation of a socialist society.
      on  the  grounds  that  Cubism  is  a 'logical   structivism,  these  problems  of  fusing  the   From  this  point  on  in Western  Europe,  the
      anarchy',  its  world 'broken into  shreds'  and   artistic  traditions  of  Futurism  with  Marxist   social problem,  and the contradictions it im­
      quite unsuitable for those who 'have already   ideas of culture become even clearer. He is, on   poses, is increasingly seen as secondary to the
      accomplished  the  Revolution  or  who  are   the  one  hand,  a  cultural  relativist,  with   problems of art-a process made easier by the
      already constructing and building up anew.' 76   similar  attitudes  to  art  and  production  to   linked social and artistic developments in the
      Futurism is praised for 'its devastating criti­  those of Marx. 'We then went on to establish   Soviet  Union  itself.  For  example,  Moholy­
      cism of the past', 77 but is seen as still obsessed   that  expression  and  form  in  art  are  not   Nagy's  The New  Vision  is  an  analysis  of the
      by  purely  visual problems,  while 'No  new   eternal,  and  that no one epoch in art stands   relationships between the separate entities of
      artistic system will withstand the pressure of   in any relation to the following one, and that   art and industrial technology, and the psycho­
      a growing new culture until the very founda­  in art there is no such thing as evolution ... In   logical  problems  this  raises  for  the  artist,
      tion of Art will be erected of the real laws of   the new order of society . . .  work is given free   particularly  the  problem  of  specialization.
      Life.' 78  These are the laws of action and con­  scope  and  every  thing  which is  produced is   The  only  real  change  from  early  Futurism
      struction-the laws of'efficacious existence' as   art.' 84  On the other hand, he is forced by the   is  in  the  recognition  that  Industrialization,
      opposed to 'rationally  abstracted  truths'. At   smooth  development  of  Russian  Futurism   far from being  opposed  to bourgeois culture,
      first sight this appears fully materialistic,  but   throughout the revolutionary period  to echo   is  its  essential  characteristic.  'Everything
      it conceals both a hidden absfraction  and  a   Tatlin in saying that 'the October Revolution   functions-and functions alone-on  the  basis
      desire for absolutes as strong as Kandinsky's   in  art  originated  much  earlier',  as well as   of  a  production  system  which  only  recog­
      or  Malevich's. Class as a real cultural factor   asserting  the  ultimate  primacy  of  artistic   nises  motives  of  material  gain.' 89   For  him
      is entirely ignored and the vague phrase 'the   intuition over socio-economic reality-'and if   the 'solution lies, accordingly, not in working
      laws of Life' has nothing to do with dialectical   communism which set human labour on the   against technical advances,  but in exploiting
      materialism,  with  real  change  in  the  real   throne  and  Suprematism  which  raised  aloft   them for the benefit of all',  but he is writing,
      world. Indeed the manifesto displays, in spite   the square pennant of creativity now march   not  in  socialist  Russia  where  technical  ad­
      ·of  its  concern  with  Technology  and  its  together, then in the further stages of develop­  vances might be exploited for the 'benefit of
      references  to  the  masses,  the same desire  to  ment it is communism which will have to re­  all',  but in capitalist Germany where such a
      create universal forms, outside of and protected  main  behind  because  Suprematism .:_ which   process  is  likely  to  present  specific  political
      from change,  that we find in Kandinsky and  embraces  the  totality  of  life's phenomenon­  problems.  Thus  when  he  says, 'man's  func­
      Malevich.  This  bec.omes  clear  when  Gabo  will attract everyone away from the domina­  tional capacities must be safeguarded; but not
      says that 'space  and  time  are the  only forms  tion of work and from the domination of the   only safeguarded; the outward conditions for
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