My friend Agata Pyzik, author of the excellent Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West (Zer0: 2014), recently uploaded some pictures from her visit to Moscow. One of them shows her holding a copy of her book inside a reconstruction of the Lenin Workers’ Club by Aleksandr Rodchenko, originally designed for the 1925 Paris Exposition. The scale reconstruction traveled to Tate Modern back in 2009, and currently resides in the State Tretiakov Museum in Russia, which is where Agata had her picture taken.
She left a copy of Poor but Sexy in its display of revolutionary literature — a valuable addition, in my opinion. Right now I’m waiting to hear back from the LARB about my review of it, though if I don’t hear back from them soon I’ll likely submit it elsewhere. All I can say is pick up a copy and read it posthaste.
For now, here are some photos and drawings of Rodchenko’s famous design along with some well-known passages written at the time of the exhibition. It appeared as part of the same show that saw the premier of architect Konstantin Mel’nikov’s outstanding Soviet Pavilion.
Here’s Petr Kogan, an historian of art and literature, who wrote the catalogue introducing the club’s design:
Our section [of the exposition] has no luxury furniture or precious fabrics. At the Grand Palace visitors won’t find furs or diamonds. But those who can feel the rising tide of the creative classes will be able to appreciate the studied simplicity and severe style of the workers’ club and rural reading room…We are convinced that our new constructors have had much to say to the world and that everything most vibrant in humanity will not delay us from knowing and seizing through art the true meaning of our struggle. With this conviction we resolutely enter the lists of the new artistic competition among nations.
And here’s a passage by Rodchenko himself that’s often cited in connection with “comradely objects.” The Soviet avant-garde understood itself to be fashioning a new world.
Naturally, this would entail new relationships between men and women with respect to each other. But it would also involve new relationships between communist subjects and the objects they create. In objectifying their own subjective content, humanity would finally create a world in which it truly felt at home, not under the command of social and economic forces that appear alien and independent to its own activity. Rodchenko wrote:
The light is from the East…not only the liberation of the working class. The light is from the East — in a new relation to man, to woman, and to objects. Objects in our hands should also be equal, also be comrades, and not black, gloomy slaves like they have been here.
The art of the East should be nationalized and rationed out. Objects will be understood, will become people’s friends and comrades, and people will begin to know how to laugh and enjoy and converse with things.
One could easily imagine the late Soviet experiments in robotics, the projected dialogues between rabotnik and robotnik, as bearing this logic out. We will perhaps return to this in another entry.
I leave you with Agata’s photo, which inspired this post in the first place, along with some more shots of the reconstructed reading room.