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The Soviet Avant-Garde: Culture, Politics, Aesthetics

Explore Russian and Soviet avant-gardes during the first three decades of the 20th century. Discover how artists grappled with finding "communistic expression of material structures" and the shifting status of the arts in the early Soviet state. Dive into the works of Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitzky, Sergei Eisenstein, and more.

  • All levels
  • 21 and older
  • $335
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  • Online Classroom
  • 12 hours over 4 sessions

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  • $335
  • 12 hours over 4 sessions
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Class Description

Description

What you'll learn in this lecture class:

What is the role of the cultural avant-garde in a nascent post-revolutionary society? The decades prior to the 1917 Russian Revolution saw profound changes in Russian cultural life, as artists dispensed with traditional materials, practices, and aesthetic criteria in order to give expression, as Susan Buck-Morss has put it, to the “changed anthropology of modern life in forms and rhythms that left the perceptual apparatus of the old world triumphantly behind.” The Revolution channeled the anticipatory imagination of the avant-garde, giving sensuous expression to socialist ideals. The subsequent decade of artistic innovation and cross-fertilization—from the architectural fantasies of Vladimir Tatlin to the filmic innovations of Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, the functional workwear of Varvara Stepanova, and the pedagogical experiments of the VKhUTEMAS faculty—posed questions about aesthetics and politics that would reverberate across the century. Can art anticipate, or even produce, new forms of social consciousness? What is the avant-garde’s relationship to mass culture? What becomes of the avant-garde when it is given official recognition?

In this seminar, we will take up these questions through a critical examination of the cultural objects, aesthetic strategies, and theoretical texts associated with the Russian and Soviet avant-gardes during the first three decades of the 20th century. We will begin by situating works from the pre-revolutionary avant-gardes (including Cubo-Futurism, Zaum, and Suprematism) in the context of transformations in Russian social and political life, and in conversation with contemporaneous movements in Western Europe. We will consider the shifting ideological and institutional status of the arts in the early Soviet state, and ask how artists across the visual, performing, and applied arts—particularly those associated with Constructivism, and its call for art’s entry into everyday life—grappled with the task of finding “communistic expression of material structures.” We will pair close readings of manifestos and artists’s writings with rigorous visual analysis of representative artworks, including those by Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitzky, Vladimir Tatlin, Sergei Eisenstein, and Dziga Vertov. Readings may also include selections by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and György Lukács.

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

Refund Policy

  • Upon request, we will refund less 5% cancellation fee of a course up until 6 business days before its start date.
  • Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to 75% refund or full course credit.
  • After the first class: 50% refund or 75% course credit.
  • No refunds or credits will be given after the second class.

In any event where a customer wants to cancel their enrollment and is eligible for a full refund, a 5% processing fee will be deducted from the refund amount.

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

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