Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935
“Architecture and the Russian Avant-garde” On sale in Royal Academy Shop. Also may be purchased here
29 October 2011—22 January 2012
In the Sackler Wing of Galleries
Buy tickets online or telephone 0844 209 0051 (booking fees apply. Price includes £2.50 gallery guide. RA Friends go free and do not need to book)
This exhibition examines Russian avant-garde architecture made during a brief but intense period of design and construction that took place from c.1922 to 1935. Fired by the Constructivist art that emerged in Russia from c.1915, architects transformed this radical artistic language into three dimensions, creating structures whose innovative style embodied the energy and optimism of the new Soviet Socialist state.
The drive to forge a new Socialist society in Russia encouraged synthesis between radical art and architecture. This creative reciprocity was reflected in the engagement with architectural ideas and projects of such artists as Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Liubov Popova, El Lizzitsky, Ivan Kluin and Gustav Klucis, and in designs by such architects as Konstantin Melnikov, Moisei Ginsburg, Ilia Golosov and the Vesnin brothers, as well as Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn, European architects who were draughted in to help shape the new utopia.
The exhibition juxtaposes large-scale photographs of extant buildings with relevant Constructivist drawings and paintings, vintage photographs and periodicals. Many of the works have never been shown in the UK before.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, known as ‘Tatlin’s Tower’, specially commissioned from Jeremy Dixon of Dixon Jones Architects has been installed in the Royal Academy’s Annenberg Courtyard.
A supporting exhibition in the Architecture Space (23 September – 29 January 2012) explores the conception, vision and symbolism of Tatlin’s Tower and uncovers the intriguing process undertaken for its special recreation at the Royal Academy.
Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts in collaboration with the SMCA-Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki, and with the participation of the Schusev State Museum of Architecture, Moscow, and Richard Pare.
List of objects proposed for protection under Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (protection of cultural objects on loan)
Posted in - Renaissance or revolution, abstract art, Alexander Rodchenko, Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-garde, Architecture, art, Constructivism, Copernicus Films, Filming in Russia, Malevich, Tatlin, The Russian Avant-garde - Renaissance or revolution
Tagged architecture, avant-garde, constructivism, copernicusfilms, futurism, Purcahse DVDs in the UK, Russia, tatlin
Have been updating the web site to include a store front which specifically gives the opportunity for those in the UK who are interested in buying Copernicus Films DVDs the opportunity to do so. Previously it was necessary to buy the disc on Amazon.com in the USA and pay for shipping to the UK. People have been approaching me on social websites and by e-mail wanting to purchase the discs in the UK. Now there is a facility to purchase disc in the UK with free shipping. Check here
for more information. Alternatively click on the tab above PURCHASE DVDs ON LINE and in the sub menu click “Purchase DVDs in the UK”
Contact us with any questions.
Posted in Alexander Rodchenko, Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-garde, Architecture, Copernicus Films, David Burliuk, David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde, Filming in Russia, Kandinsky, Kandinsky and the Russian House, Mayakovsky, Meyehold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde, Meyerhold, Purchase DVDs in the UK, Russian Avant-garde, Stanislavsky, Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre, The Russian Avant-garde - Renaissance or revolution
Tagged avant-garde, Copernicus Films, copernicusfilms, DVDs, moscow, Purcahse DVDs in the UK, Russia
Making my way around Moscow to meetings and checking out various possibilities, cameras etc, for the films. The last few days have been a question of working out a tone and style for the film adaptation of The Fairground Booth. The accompanying documentaries in the project “Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre” and “Carnival in Russian Theatre” are relatively straight forward with the stress on relatively. However a film adaptation of Blok’s play is distinctly problematic. Firstly, there are many stereotypical takes on the main characters -Pierrot, Columbine and Harlequin which I want to avoid. I aim to find a particular tone and style for the production and this will effect the overall design for the play, costumes set and general look. This will take time so the best thing is to continue with the shooting script and background research to all the three films. This will provide the necessary depth once some of the other questions begin to get solved. Its a similar situation I faced in the film “Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-garde”. It was the first film I made in Moscow and required scenes showing Rodchenko at work at his desk and other scenes of Rodchenko. For an extended account about the making of this film click here.
In this film I needed to solve two basic problems. The style in which I would shoot and casting the role of Rodchenko. It took a long time and followed a specific process of finding the right person for the role. A similar process is emerging once again whereby there are a lot of questions and and you have to wait for some of the answers.
Posted in Alexander Blok, Alexander Rodchenko, art, Filming in Russia, General Articles, Russia, Russian Avant-garde, Russian Theatre Film series, The Fairground Booth, theatre, Vahktangov
Tagged Blok, moscow, Rodchenko, Russia, The fairground Booth, theatre
The Tate Modern
is to host an exhibition of the graphic work of Alexander Rodchenko and Lubova Popova – “Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism
” opening on 12th February 2009.
As part of the exhibition the DVD film “Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-garde”
will be on sale in the gallery bookshop throughout the course of the exhibition where it can be purchased along side other films in the series “The Russian Avant-garde – Revolution or Renaissance”
by Copernicus Films and directed by Michael Craig, (click on various links for more information) and include the titles “Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde”
and “Architecture and the Russian Avant-garde”.
Rodchenko and Popova’s designs revolutionised the way art was conceived in its relation to advertising and society. Popova was active in the world of graphics but also spent a considerable amount of energy designing sets for the theatre. She designed a set for Meyerhold’s production of The Magnainimous Cuckold. The construction was a complete break from traditional concepts of theatre design and began a trend in constructivist set design in the Moscow theatre in the mid to late 1920s.
Popova’s design of spinning wheels and raised platforms against a plain backdrop (see banner above) was the perfect way of fulfilling Meyerhold’s intention of combining the three dimensionality of the actors body and the two dimensionality of the stage design.
The whole production showpieced Meyerhold’s new acting and performance techniques called biomechanics based on movement and dance. Popova’s work with Meyerhold is featured in the film “Meyerhold,Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde” which was filmed in Moscow and uses actors. The goal of the film was to understand the meaning of biomechanics as well as using archive footage and graphics to explore Meyerhold’s development as a director.
In 2008 Bob Duggan reviewed the film “David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde
. His comments about the section which referred to Gauguin
in the film led to a reassessment of the way the whole series of documentary films called The Russian Avant-garde – Revolution or Renaissance.
was constituted, of which “David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde”
is a part and was produced by Michael Craig and Copernicus Films in 2007. On his site, as well as commenting on the quality of the photography in the film, Duggan explained that he was especially interested in the part of the film about David Burliuk and his trip to Ogasawara
, a small Japanese island in the Pacific ocean about a thousand kilometres south of Tokyo. David Burliuk admired and drew inspiration from Gauguin. In 1920, after several successful exhibitions in Japan, Burliuk traveled to the Ogasawara islands to recuperate after his gruelling journey through Siberia and paint in the manner of Gauguin who also traveled to the island of Tahiti in the early 1890s in order to develop what he believed would be a new art for a new era. Gauguin was himself also strongly influenced by Japanese art and this overlapping of interest in the film was of particular interest to Duggan.
When this section was included in the film, not only did it have implications for the structure of the film, in so far that Burliuk was interested in Gauguin and wanted to emulate Gauguin, it also had implications for the entire series. Gauguin was a precursor of the Russian Avant-garde and strongly influenced this unique artistic event in the history of world art. In this sense the episode devoted to Gauguin did not simply draw together strands of the Burliuk film but also drew the strands of the entire series together, connecting the sometimes disparate and amorphous phenomena which is known as the Russian Avant-garde. The Russian avant-garde incorporates movements from neo-primitivism, rayonism,constructivism and lasted roughly through a period from the 1880s until the early 1930s. This section of the film about Burliuk, gave the series a prisim though which all the various themes of the series could be viewed even if the structure is somewhat imposed on the material. Self evidently any structure which is applied to the history of the Russian avant-garde is not a true reflection of its development but merely a method of organising material into a coherent and accessible form for digestion by the public or viewer. The most important thing while preparing such a film is to be aware of this framework as something which is imposed and try not allow it to dominate an understanding of the material. In this way the viewer can reach their own conclusions or can be stimulated to discover the subject further for themselves. An example of the problems which arise for instance is associated with the whole project of presenting artists as if they were individuals working in isolation of the world around them. I will try to explain this in more detail.
In the west we privilege the individual over and above the collective and this is a result of our liberal humanist tradition derived form Christian-Judaeo concepts of the individuals place and role in the world. The development and progress of western culture is presented as a parade of past individual geniuses who serve as pillars or supports upon which society rests and in the present a further group of lone geniuses which will propel it into the future. For many Russian avant-garde artists and writers this obsession (or what they considered an obsession) with individual genius was in their eyes an obstacle to artistic progress and a false assessment of the contribution by artists to the overall development of society. As Alexander Rodchenko commented in the 1920s that in the modern era, in the age of the machine and industrialisation …”there will never be a unique airplane or car” ..therefore …”we need artist workers, not geniuses”. This belief was further underlined by Osip Brik, the futurist thinker who announced in a clear attack on the notion of authorship and its connotations of genius, that if Pushkin had not written Eugene Onegin somebody else would have sooner or later. This brings me back to the documentary arts series: The Russian Avant-garde – Revolution or Renaissance. Nearly all the films where about individuals “Rodchenko and The Russian Avant-garde”, “Meyerhold, Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde”, “Kandinsky and the Russian House”, “Mayakovsky” and of course “David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde”. Only one film in the series “Architecture and the Russian Avant-garde” has a more general thematic structure, however even in this film I concentrated on three main figures – Malevich, Tatlin and Constantine Melnikov. It was very difficult to wriggle out of such a thematic straight jacket but nonetheless in each film a concerted attempt was made to relate the individual accomplishments of each artist to the wider concerns of the period and not portray them as lone geniuses working in isolation of each other but part of an artistic movement which had deep roots in the social and political events of the early part of the 20th century. Artists like Gauguin, Kandinsky, Burliuk and Rodchenko were grappling with some of the same artistic problems of their age, albeit exploring different solutions depending on the context in which they found themselves. The film “David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde”, with its reference to Gauguin’s influence on the work of the Russian avant-garde artists of the era, presented an opportunity to draw together many of the threads which constituted this artistic epoch without forcing a preordained framework on the series. Instead the viewer could make up their own mind as to how the phenomena of the Russian avant-garde developed and influenced art in Russia before and after the revolution.
Posted in Alexander Rodchenko, Architecture, Constructivism, David Burliuk, Filming in Russia, Futurism, Gauguin, Japan, Kandinsky, Malevich, Mayakovsky, Melnikov ( Constantine), Meyerhold, Russian Avant-garde, Tatlin
About the photography of Alexander Rodchenko and the making of this film in Moscow.
By Michael Craig
When I began to make films in Russia in the mid 1990s, I was prepared for all kinds of problems but none of the problems I subsequently encountered. I had already worked in the UK for many years in the film and television industry. I finally decided to move to Moscow to make films and to write. The first two years was a question of finding my feet both linguistically and culturally in a city and a society which was undergoing a total transformation. I had an advantage in that I had already learnt Russian language at school and also had worked in St Petersburg for almost four months on a BBC Drama in 1993. It was this experience which decided me to move to Russia, albeit Moscow. All the same there is a great difference between working in Russia with all the support that a paid position offers and actually living day by day in an alien environment. As I already mentioned the first two years were a case of acclimatization. Just as I ran out of money during my first winter in Moscow in a tiny room in a large apartment built in the Stalin era, I was offered a job on a feature film “The Saint”. This got me through the worst deprivations of that first year. It wasn’t so bad in reality. The apartment was warm and the old lady who owned it, let me live my life as I pleased without interfering. As long as I paid the rent, that’s all she worried about.The job on the “Saint” ended and a BBC film “The Stringer” started shortly afterwards in Moscow and I worked on this film for the next six months and by the time the following winter arrived I was in a better financial position than the previous winter. I had also got into the Moscow rhythm of life so that even the financial collapse of 1998 passed me by more or less unnoticed as it did many Russians who considered it just another one of those things which they had to cope with.However I felt it was time to start on my own work and make a film. That was one of the main reasons I came to Moscow. When I was working in Warsaw I was introduced to Zygmunt Malanowicz, who played the role of “the young man” in Roman Polanski’s first film “Knife in the Water”. I asked him why he didn’t go to Hollywood with Polanski when he had the opportunity. He wasn’t able to give me a good answer but he said he was much happier making feature films in Minsk for under $70,000 than spending his time in Hollywood. It was one of those moments which opened my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities for making films outside the usual political system for raising money for film projects. Also the aesthetic of Eastern European and Russian Film making appealed to many of my sensibilities. So now I was in Moscow with all kinds of ideas for making films but where to start. I became interested in the Russian avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s and by chance picked up a book in the Tretiykov Gallery about the avant-garde artist and photographer Alexander Rodchenko. What attracted me to him especially was that he gave up painting for photography, denouncing paining as “finished” and unfit to express the modern social and visual realities of life in the early 19th century with its speed and industrial cityscape’s and mass culture. Photography he believed could better express and embody this reality and Rodchenko set about experimenting with new techniques of photography and photo collage, exploring new visual territory in his home in Moscow. What especially interested me about Rodchenko was that he denied the value of painting and art as a matter of principle and this I thought would be a good starting point for a film.I decided there and then to make a film about Rodchenko and his work. I gathered together some money and began researching Rodchenko’s work and managed to find a good camera operator, Valentin Savenkov. I wrote a script showed it to Valentin and worked out where and what in Moscow I wanted to film. This was relatively straight forward at that time.The first day of filming around Moscow was not good. After about an hour it began to rain and didn’t stop for four hours. I had checked the weather forecast but light drizzle was all that was expected. A week later we tried again. It was mid october and the weather was perfect. A deep blue sky, such as you only get in Russia at that time of the year when the air is cold, crisp and clear. Perfect weather for the kind of effect that I wished to bring to the film. Sharply defined edges of light and shade to give volume to the composition of shots and which would compliment Rodchenko’s photographs. One of the hallmarks of Rodchenko’s work is the balance between light and shade, volume and line all of which are contained within the composition of the photograph and its subject. Nothing needs to be added or taken away afterworlds, no effect or mystification is necessary everything exists already in the photograph and its compositional value giving a visual power and strength which is immediately apparent.The real problem came when I decided that I wanted to film a dramatisation of Rodchenko using an actor. I had a venue where I could film – a small room in a Museum which had a desk exactly like one in a photograph with Rodchenko working in his study. It just needed a bit of rearranging and we were back in the 1920s. The hard bit was finding Rodchenko. Rodchenko had a shaved head which gave him a very distinctive look. It would have been possible to find any bald actor and film them in shadow or partly hidden so that the face was not important but just the over all impression. I interviewed actor after actor but it just wasn’t right. I was introduced to a famous Punk singer, Sasha Sclyr, who had also shaved his head. I met him but again it just wasn’t right. I began to get desperate. I found an American who seemed to fit the part but he disappeared almost as quickly as he appeared. I started to look for bald men on the streets of Moscow, on the Metro trying to gather enough courage to ask them if they would be interested in working on a film. The few attempts I made were not very successful. I began to contemplate using Yuri Lushkov, the bald Mayor of Moscow and drafted a letter which with the help of an influential friend I could maybe enlist him in the part of Rodchenko. I wanted to get on with the film and I was getting nowhere.I had given up, nothing was working. Then one evening I was in a cafe in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall waiting to meet someone and I saw that in an enjoining cafe they were filming something. Always interested, I walked round to get a better look. One of the actors that I worked with on the “Saint” was playing one of the roles in the main scene they were filming in the cafe. Suddenly a guy with a shaved head walked onto the set from behind the camera said something to the actors and walked back into the shadows from where he had appeared. My first thought was “its Rodchenko”. The resemblance was uncanny, not just that he had shaved his head but everything. In a free moment I caught the eye of the actor that I knew and asked him who is that guy. “He’s the director”. “Introduce me to him”. I said. I had to wait to the filming stopped and I was introduced to Anatoly Artemanov, the director of the film. Anatoly was a Russian Director living in new York and he had come over to Direct Russian in Moscow quickly explained to him what I needed him for and he immediately agreed and when I told him I had some money and that I could pay him he said “and you’ll pay me as well !- that’s even better”.This was the final piece in the jigsaw of the first film I made in Moscow and the film was completed with final editing and sound recording in March 1999. I found an English actor William Rousey, to do the narration. In this I was very lucky. He had studied at the famous Moscow Arts Theatre and so had a good grasp of Russian culture and the kind of voice that I thought would suit the film. I hadn’t intended to make any more films about the Russian avant-garde but as always one thing leads to another. The Rodchenko film was quite successful and the outline of a second film began to emerge about avant-garde architecture of the same period. This again would pose problems but of a very different kind.
Features of the Russian avant-garde.
Features of the Russian avant-garde. One of the important things to remember about Rodchenko and his co artists was that they sought to de-mystify art, to reveal its most fundamental character, its reality, exposing its materials and processes. And they attempted to engage the viewer in a direct and unmediated experience. There was no attempt to represent an outside reality or a reality which was doctored in the developing process, with the viewer responding only to what was in front of them. As a communist his idea of photographic truth would have satisfied many of Rodchenko’s ideological and concerns as well as his “aesthetic” quest for truth.Rodchenko used qualities already inherent in the subject – light,shade, volume. line, contrast etc and drew the viewers attention to these qualities by his system of Rakursy or perspectives i.e. using the angle from which the object is photographed to maximize the compositional value of the subject or the visual dynamics of the subject without falsifying it. In other words these qualities are already inherent in the subject and the camera is used merely to bring out these qualities in new and interesting ways – to make the usual unusual and and make the unusual usual. Rodchenko was against manipulating the technical capacities both in photography and and developing stages by interfering unduly in the process to produce effects, which would distort the reality of the subject. “Rakursy” exploited the visual “laws” already given in the everyday world as seen by human beings. The function of the camera is to exploit these laws, volume, light shade, rhythm etc) to the maximum advantage for presenting the subject to the viewer. Not arbitrarily as Rodchenko was often accused of doing but consciously and deliberately. As Rodchenko himself noted. “These laws have always existed even though they are hard to describe and explain.
For instance there is one picture of a diver on an ascending upswing before descending into the water. The diver is placed in the far right hand corner and the question arises why not in the center or in the left hand corner or to the side. Rodchenko consciously exploits two of the specific features of human perception.
In western culture we read from left to right. The placing of the figure in the top right hand corner creates a natural dynamic drawing our vision upwards to the rising figure. We seem to be looking up as if we were at the event itself staring up as a spectator even though we are looking at the photograph square on. Secondly the illusion of motion is purposely created from a still image, which at that time was an innovative and bold approach to photography which today we very much take for granted . Its not clear if they are connected but Rodchenko’s sketch on a note pad on the left hand side seems to show how important these geometric “laws” were for Rodchenko’ approach to photography.
Michael Craig 2007