Kristin Romberg: Aleksei Gan’s Constructivism, 1917-1928 (2010)

31 July 2015, dusan

“This is the first monograph about the Russian constructivist Aleksei Gan (1887-1942) and an experiment in the formal analysis of a materialist practice.

Best known as co-founder of the First Working Group of Constructivists and author of the group’s agitational and theoretical texts, Gan’s own oeuvre was comprised of amateur performances and mass-media objects (texts, books, journals, and films). This dissertation shows that the same qualities of ephemerality and dependency that make Gan’s work resistant to art-historical analysis were also what made it representative of constructivism’s ambitions for a materialist approach to art. In exploring these forms, Gan redefined the ‘work of art’ as a labor process through which the material world, human beings, and normative (common or social) frameworks simultaneously produced one another. The result was an alternative modernism, what I call an aesthetics of embeddedness, whose objects were extensive and responsive structures designed to permeate and shape their environment. Through close readings, the dissertation redefines art-historical concepts such as style and medium in ways specific to Gan’s historical moment, also examining them as manifestations of tensions in the early Soviet imagination. Most crucially these involve the cult of labor, the politics of group formation, and the power of the mass media to mold the normative frameworks governing social reality.

Chapter 1 reevaluates the origins of Russian constructivism by examining Gan’s early career in cultural and political enlightenment organizations, particularly his work in amateur theater and as a ‘constructor of mass action’. Chapter 2 focuses on the crystallization of constructivism as a movement and aesthetic theory in 1921. Chapter 3 looks closely at Gan’s book Constructivism (1922), developing an understanding of constructivism based on a typographic rather than sculptural model of material making. Chapters 4 and 5 examine Gan’s journal projects in terms of architecture and cinema, defining a set of constructive paradigms that run throughout Gan’s work. Finally, chapter 6 treats Gan’s work as a filmmaker in relation to contemporary efforts to rationalize artistic labor.” (Abstract)

Ph.D. Dissertation
Columbia University, New York, 2010
576 pages


PDF (24 MB, illustrations missing, updated on 2017-3-21)

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind