Victor Tupitsyn: The Museological Unconscious: Communal (Post)Modernism in Russia (2009)

18 August 2016, dusan

“In The Museological Unconscious, Victor Tupitsyn views the history of Russian contemporary art through a distinctly Russian lens, a “communal optic” that registers the influence of such characteristically Russian phenomena as communal living, communal perception, and communal speech practices. This way of looking at the subject allows him to gather together a range of artists and art movements–from socialist realism to its “dangerous supplement,” sots art, and from alternative photography to feminism–as if they were tenants in a large Moscow apartment.

Describing the notion of “communal optics,” Tupitsyn argues that socialist realism does not work without communal perception–which, as he notes, does not easily fit into crates when paintings travel out of Russia for exhibition in Kassel or New York. Russian artists, critics, and art historians, having lived for decades in a society that ignored or suppressed avant-garde art, have compensated, Tupitsyn claims, by developing a “museological unconscious”–the “museification” of the inner world and the collective psyche.”

With an Introduction by Susan Buck-Morss and Victor Tupitsyn
Publisher MIT Press, 2009
ISBN 0262201739, 9780262201735
x+341 pages

Reviews: Raoul Eshelman (ArtMargins 2009), Gillian McIver (a-n 2009), Alexander Etkind (Russian Review 2010), Sven Spieker (Slavic Review 2010), Lara Weibgen (ArtJournal 2011).


PDF (6 MB)
PDF chapters

Halina Stephan: “Lef” and the Left Front of the Arts (1981)

22 April 2012, dusan

“This study analyzes the artistic theory and practice of the Left Front of the Arts (Levyi front iskusstv – Lef) with a special focus on the journal Lef (1923-1925). Two themes are central to this account: the organizational activities of the Lef group directed toward making Futurism a formative force within the Soviet culture and the artistic proposals published in Lef that had the same goal.”

Publisher Otto Sagner, Munich, 1981
Slavistische Beiträge series, 142
ISBN 3876901863, 9783876901862
242 pages

Review: Jullan Graffy (Slavonic and East European Review 1983).


PDF (8 MB, updated on 2012-7-18)
PDF (6 MB, added on 2020-11-25)
JPGs (added on 2015-8-10)

LEF, 1-7 (1923-25), & Novyi LEF, 1-24 (1927-29) [Russian, English]

22 April 2012, dusan

LEF (“ЛЕФ”) was the journal of the Left Front of the Arts (“Левый фронт искусств” – “Levy Front Iskusstv”), a widely ranging association of avant-garde writers, photographers, critics and designers in the Soviet Union. It had two runs, one from 1923 to 1925 as LEF, and later from 1927 to 1929 as Novyi LEF (‘New LEF’). The journal’s objective, as set out in one of its first issues, was to “re-examine the ideology and practices of so-called leftist art, and to abandon individualism to increase art’s value for developing communism.”

Although LEF was catholic in its choices of writers, it broadly reflected the concerns of the Productivist left-wing of Constructivism. The editors were Osip Brik and Vladimir Mayakovsky: fittingly, one a Russian Formalist critic and one a poet and designer who helped compose the 1912 manifesto of Russian Futurists entitled, “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste”. The covers were designed by Alexander Rodchenko, and featured photomontages early on, being followed by photographs in New LEF. Among the writings published in LEF for the first time were Mayakovsky’s long poem About This, and Sergei Eisenstein’s The Montage of Attractions, as well as more political and journalistic works like Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry. The journal had funding from the state, and was discussed critically, but not unsympathetically by Leon Trotsky in Literature and Revolution (1924).

The later New LEF (“Новый ЛЕФ” – “Novyi Lef”), which was edited by Mayakovsky along with the playwright, screenplay writer and photographer Sergei Tretyakov, tried to popularise the idea of ‘Factography’: the idea that new technologies such as photography and film should be utilised by the working class for the production of ‘factographic’ works. In this it had a great deal of influence on theorists in the West, especially Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht. Linked journals also appeared such as the Constructivist architectural journal SA (edited by Moisei Ginzburg and Alexander Vesnin) and Proletarskoe Foto, on photography. The New LEF closed in 1929 over a dispute over its direction between Mayakovsky and Tretyakov, and under pressure for its ‘Formalism’, which jarred with the incipient Socialist Realism. (from Wikipedia)

LEF at Monoskop wiki

LEF, 1-7 (ZIP; updated on 2012-7-19)
Novyi LEF, 1-24 (ZIP; updated on 2012-7-19)
All issues in PDF (added on 2015-7-21)
All issues in HTML (added on 2015-8-11)
English translations of selected essays (trans., ed. & intro. Richard Sherwood (LEF) and Ben Brewster (Novy LEF), Screen 12(4), Winter 1971-72; added on 2015-7-21)