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Kasimir Malevich and suprematism : art in the context of revolution 1971

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KASIMIR MALEVICH AND SU PREMATI SM: ART IN THE CONTEXT OF REVOLUTION by Dennis F. Wheeler THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF FINE ARTS We accept t h i s thesis are conforming to the required standards: Faculty Advisor Head, Fine Arts THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l , 1971 In p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s in p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f the r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Co lumb ia , I a g ree tha t the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e and s tudy . . I f u r t h e r agree t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be g r a n t e d by the Head o f my Department o r by h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . It i s u n d e r s t o o d tha t c o p y i n g o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l not be a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . . «. - FINE ARTS Department o f The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Co lumbia Vancouver 8. Canada A p r i l 16, 1971 Date "The struggle i s eternal, the r e s u l t never stable." Geza Roheim The Gates of the Dream "Throughout the world the d i c t a t o r s h i p of speculators i n pursuit of p r o f i t has d i s f i g u r e d l i f e , thus destroying a r t . A r t i s t i c culture has been replaced by speculation; but the new a r t , architecture and painting of today i s an i n d i c a t i o n that we are on the threshold of a great new c l a s s i c a l age i n a r t . Our contemporaries must understand that l i f e w i l l not be the content of art , but rather that art must become the content of l i f e , since only thus can l i f e be b e a u t i f u l . " K. Maievich, Painting and the Problem of Architecture. V o l . I I Essays on Art ABSTRACT It would seem almost inconceivable that art could, of i t s own accord, move society towards the kind of ultimate resolution of c o n f l i c t necessary f o r an emergence of the e g a l i t a r i a n paradise on earth that was proposed by most Messianic philosophies i n the nineteenth century. A r t continually appears to be i n the process of undermining any attempt by t h e o r e t i c a l philosophy to contain or describe i t as an absolute. This seems to be the source of much of the irony of art objects and t h e i r t a c i t philosophical implications. We can assume then that there i s a somewhat paradoxical basis fo r the phenomenon of art as we have come to understand i t h i s t o r i c a l l y . Any object, i n order to be meaningful, has to carry a charge. Whether t h i s i s of a magical q u a l i t y or pertains, as we conventionally recognize i t , to some s o c i a l understanding, what we c a l l an ideology, the art-object does not e x i s t without meaning. It i s important to r e a l i z e that I am not drawing a d i s t i n c t i o n here between ordering or disordering phenomena. Destruction i s equally meaningful as construction, these are not value judgments, e v i l i s as present a phenomena as good, and probably as i n t r i n s i c a l l y human. The concept of c r e a t i v i t y that permeates our know- ledge and respect for the powers art t r a d i t i o n a l l y held, are h i s t o r i c a l understandings. As a c i v i l i z a t i o n , we may have done i i away with mythological s t o r i e s of our o r i g i n s , cosmogonies, etc., but we have tended to unconsciously replace them with conceptual, as opposed to imagistic, alternatives, s t i l l l a r g e l y mythic i n construction, although we do not popularly recognize them as such. I am using myth here i n Levi-Strauss' sense of the word, i . e . : "the unconscious s o c i a l truths, those p r i n c i p l e s which provide the broadest base for a society's conception of i t s e l f . One task of t h i s thesis w i l l be to sort out the confusion which has resulted because of the i d e o l o g i c a l entanglement with mythic (religious) and s c i e n t i f i c conceptions that has characterized the central arguments surrounding the arts i n the e a r l y years of the twentieth century. Revoluntionary Russia now appears as a p a r t i c u l a r l y dense arena f o r the combat of extreme or polarized b e l i e f s as to the nature of art, and the a r t i s t ' s r e s p o n s i b i l i t y r e l a t i v e to an emerging mass consciousness. In t h i s context there was a comparatively conscious merger of i d e o l o g i c a l propositions into what was previously considered a uniquely aesthetic or pure art production. Such a s i t u a t i o n was contingent to the l i f e and work of Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935). My intention i s to demonstrate the art h i s t o r i c a l antecedents to such a period relevant to Malevich*s conceptions and the relationships which i n t e r - connect the development of h i s aesthetic with the philosophical and p o l i t i c a l concerns of h i s time. The ethos i n which the a r t i s t emerges i s e s p e c i a l l y i n d i v i s i b l e i n t h i s instance from i i i any serious understanding of Malevich's growth, both formally i n h i s art production and i n h i s capacity as a t h e o r e t i c i a n of the h i s t o r i c a l process which i n t e r - r e l a t e d art and l i f e as a conscious part of i t s aesthetic. In previous art, the mimetic role had preserved a c e r t a i n obvious balance between the pursuit of a formal vocabulary and a r e l a t i o n s h i p to society o v e r a l l , while the •non-objective' a r t Malevich 2 proposed had no such s u p e r f i c x a l l y v i s i b l e s o c i a l conscience. It becomes necessary, therefore, to follow Malevich's development as an e x i s t e n t i a l drama, the painting or object related s p e c i f i c a l l y to the a r t and s o c i a l ideology of i t s context. I t i s important, i n t h i s respect, to e s t a b l i s h how S o c i a l i s t and Communist theories of the period receive a more 'comprehensive' h i s t o r i c a l meaning, "only when viewed as part of a larger and more comprehensive movement of ideas, one may even say of a r e l i g i o n - p o l i t i c a l messianism. This i s to c a l l f o r an entrance, i n t e l l e c t u a l l y , into the body of material which comprises the 'myth* of our own recent h i s t o r y and e s p e c i a l l y the myth of our own p a r t i c u l a r culture, our own 'ruling ideas'. Through the so p h i s t i c a t i o n of other professional d i s c i p l i n e s , we now have the a n a l y t i c a l tools 'necessary to define the underlying structure of our s o c i a l conventions. Under normal circumstances, the psychic d i s l o c a t i o n s which t h i s information might generate could be enormous, enough i n f a c t to destroy a culture, as usually happens when a t e c h n i c a l l y superior culture invades one less t e c h n i c a l l y sophisticated. However, there i s one important d i f f e r e n c e : we are destroying our own s o c i a l i v i n s t i t u t i o n s . This f a c t i s an indispensible t h e o r e t i c a l perspective p r i o r to many investigations of c u l t u r a l phenomena i n the twentieth century. V i s u a l a r t , e s p e c i a l l y through the perceptions of Marcel Duchamp, was c e r t a i n l y not exempt from t h i s a n a l y t i c a l self-consciousness. While Malevich did not f e e l despair at the transparency of previous h i s t o r i c a l solutions, and indeed went on to create a c u l t u r a l a l t e r n a t i v e for h i s time, I do not believe that the argument placing Malevich and Duchamp at opposite ends of the spectrum i s a h i s t o r i c a l l y j u s t i f i a b l e one except when we describe the art of the past on the basis of i t s capacity to act as a prefiguration of the present. Malevich was as a n a l y t i c a l as Duchamp, but he l i v e d i n an e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t context, one which f i r s t pro- duced i n him and then f i n a l l y demanded from him, an application of h i s perceptions to some constructive s o c i a l end. The p o l i t i c a l ethos extended the forseeable horizon into a 1future of p o s s i b i l i t y rather than the kind of i n c r e d u l i t y and misunder- standing which l a r g e l y characterized the public reaction to Duchamp's work and decreased rather than increased the a r t i s t ' s p o s s i b i l i t y f o r a f f e c t i v e extroverted a c t i v i t y i n society at large. Malevich, as most other European a r t i s t s of t h i s generation, shedded a r t - s t y l e s or ideologies as frequently as an animal adjusting to i t s variously d i f f e r e n t environments w i l l shed i t s skins. Malevich's s t y l i s t i c e c l e c t i c i s m i s another process of h i s aesthetic that holds a larger s i g n i f i - cance i n i t s explanation f o r the condition of the arts of t h i s century i n general. We w i l l follow h i s transformations i n s t y l e V complicit to the ideas they involved i n t h e i r development. Prom the impressionist beginnings, to the ea r l y Fauvist- primitive pictures i n a l l of t h e i r manifestations, we have a cle a r picture of h i s s t y l i s t i c e c l e c t i c i s m both i n i t s p o s i t i v e and i t s negative r e s u l t s . He passes through a Cubist phase, and then develops a hybrid which he c a l l s Cubo-Futurism. P a r a l l e l s t y l i s t i c paths can be seen throughout these e a r l y years. At the same time that he i s doing a kind of i r r a t i o n a l collage-painting i n a cubist mode, he i s also o r i g i n a t i n g the forms of the movement for which he i s pr i m a r i l y responsible, Suprematism. We w i l l follow the abstract geometric foundation of Suprematism, and i t s l a t e r applied manifestations, the ar c h i t e c t o n i k i and the hovering visionary housing schemes that he c a l l e d ' p l a n i t i ' . J . L. Talraon, i n h i s book, P o l i t i c a l Messianism. said that "the urge that prompted every one of the prophets of p o l i t i c a l messianism did not come from the discovery of s o c i a l problems created by the i n d u s t r i a l revolution, but from the need to solve the antinomy of i n d i v i d u a l self-expressionism and s o c i a l cohesion, and i n a s t i l l wider sense the problem of man versus nature.... Everyone of the messianic thinkers voiced the solemn conviction that h i s message was destined to supplant the C h r i s t i a n dispensation, undo the e v i l r e l i g i o n had engendered (or according to some make good the pledge given but u n f u l f i l l e d by r e l i g i o n ) and as i t were s t a r t h i s t o r y upon i t s r e a l course." I t w i l l be my task to v i demonstrate how and why t h i s e f f e c t i v e l y describes the s o c i o l o g i c a l superstructure of SUPREMATISM as a p a r t i c u l a r movement, and how Malevich operated as a prophet much i n the fashion that Talmon here describes the c a r r i e r s of apocolyptic s o c i a l theory i n the nineteenth centure. I do not want to maintain that Malevich's art was pre-destined to f u l f i l l c e r t a i n h i s t o r i c a l n e c essities, instead t h i s argument i s included to counteract the heavily overbalanced understanding of art as a s e l f - s u f f i c i e n t h i s t o r i c a l e n t i t y , conceivable as a study separate from i t s contingency i n a s p e c i f i c context. At the l e v e l of aesthetic theory Malevich's debt to and extension of d i a l e c t i c a l philosophy merged with a personal and often times ambiguous metaphysical structure, a realm of pure f e e l i n g which he conceived of as ' a l o g i c a l ' i n i t s method, p a r t i a l l y as an a g i t a t i o n a l content, (the negation of the 'rational') and p a r t i a l l y as a continuation of h i s theory of the s i n g u l a r i t y of aesthetic phenomena which could not be prescribed by conventional epistomologies. The major problem w i l l be to develop a vocabulary that, while remaining true to Malevich's intents, w i l l s t i l l describe the v i s i o n of h i s a r t that survives the immediate context of s o c i a l e f f i c a c y . Complicit with the idea of Bolshevism, the notion of a vanguard o i l i n g the wheels of revolution, Malevich saw that conditions were ripe f o r a heretofore inconceivable harmonization of the various component parts of society. He was however not a part of the more r a d i c a l l y m a t e r i a l i s t c o n s t r u c t i v i s t program v i i which heard T a t l i n and three friends announce i n Mb scow; on December 31, 1920, i n a Manifesto e n t i t l e d , THE WORK AHEAD OF US, "We declare our d i s t r u s t of the eye, and place our sensual impressions under c o n t r o l . " Although t h i s sounds si m i l a r to Marcel Duchamp's re j e c t i o n of the tyranny of the eye, i t was towards e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t i f not a n t i t h e t i c a l ends. Duchamp's mastery of irony and humour would make him wholly outside any p o s s i b i l i t y to see the a r t i s t bound to such u t i l i t a r i a n ends as T a t l i n had i n mind. Of course these were a r t i s t s i n extremely d i f f e r e n t contexts and so the comparison i s not intended to represent alternative p a r a l l e l d i r e c t i o n s . This would presume a s i m i l a r s i t u a t i o n which was not the case. They shared a p a r a l l e l a r t - h i s t o r i c a l heritage, but not a s o c i a l one. These are some of the differences that have to be kept i n mind. One of the most p r a c t i c a l , although not the best, examples of art h i s t o r i c a l research among innumerable to deal with the larger s o c i a l context and i t s concomitant ideology i s Peter C o l l i n s * book, Changing Ideals i n Modern Architecture. His attempt was to trace the influences of the h i s t o r y of Ideas on the various movements i n architecture, 1750 to 1950. The dilemma of an architecture conceived by analogy i s the mainspring of h i s argument and h i s work at deciphering the inter-relatedness of formal a r c h i t e c t u r a l propositions to i s p e c i f i c ideas i n a h i s t o r i c a l context provides a useful back- ground to my own d i r e c t i o n . He f e l t that "As a method of a r c h i t e c t u r a l research, Constructivism was undoubtedly very 7 useful as a means of throwing o f f the legacy of Revivalxsm." but he doesn't take h i s own argument f a r enough i n the very v i i i d i r e c t i o n i n i t i a t e d . It may have been that he wasn't interested i n pursuing the matter beyond the surface r e f l e c t i o n of ideology i n design programmes, but the fac t of the matter i s that there i s a r e a l congruence and debt between the revolutionary programme of Constructivism and the enacted ideals of Marxist-Leninist analyses. While i t made sense f o r the purposes of i n i t i a l h i s t o r i c a l mapping to describe what appeared to be manifestations of the ori g i n a t o r s of Modern Design, the more revealing probes take us into the presumptions that designs apparently take for granted and the relationships they have as organic phenomena with t h e i r larger context. Regarding an often committed blunder, the confusion of the task of the theoretician with that of the h i s t o r i a n , Professor C o l l i n s says: "The dangers of t h i s confusion can c l e a r l y be seen i n recent attempts at art h i s t o r i c a l witch-hunting i n pursuit of new manifestations of Revivalism, and one of the most s t r i k i n g and perhaps most disquieting paradoxes of modern architecture i s that whereas the 'Pioneers of the Modern Movement' considered that t h e i r p r i n c i p a l v i c t o r y l a y p r e c i s e l y i n the overthrow of the nineteenth century concept of 'styles', no generation of a r c h i t e c t u r a l h i s t o r i a n s has ever c l a s s i f i e d i t s contemporary architecture into so many s t y l i s t i c subdivisions as our own."8 The example of architecture, e s p e c i a l l y the problemswhich matured i n the nineteenth century, provide a graphic model of my proposition i n the extreme. The opposition between the engineer, proposing a r a t i o n a l thoroughly modern materialism as against the architect's reconstruction and extension of h i s t o r i c a l s t y l e s comprises the two p o l a r i t i e s of an argument which f i n a l l y becomes an insurmountable problem for the v i s u a l arts during the years immediately following the revolution i n Russia. i x My purpose therefore w i l l not be to v e r i f y the legacy which i t has been claimed Suprematism and Malevich as i t s progenitor l e f t for our c i v i l i z a t i o n , but to c l a r i f y the events i n t h e i r contextual s p e c i f i c i t y . I propose to "concentrate not so much on the solution arrived at as on the formulation of 9 the problem posed." It i s i n the complex of our h i s t o r i c a l misunderstanding of Malevich that we have f a i l e d to r e a l i z e the wisdom Panofsky implored when he said that the art h i s t o r i a n , " w i l l do h i s best to f a m i l i a r i z e himself with the s o c i a l , r e l i g i o u s and philosophical attitudes of other countries, i n order to correct h i s own subjective f e e l i n g for content. Malevich, although conventionally portrayed as an ab s o l u t i s t with a single-minded and formal a r t i s t i c v i s i o n , had d i f f e r e n t conceptions of art corresponding to d i f f e r e n t h i s t o r i c a l junctions. At one point, he believed that easel painting had l i t e r a l l y o u t l i v e d i t s usefulness, and that the 'new art' committed to the success of the material revolution around i t , would concommitantly mature into some appropriately revolutionized phenomena. But, as we s h a l l see, when the revolution f a i l e d to l i v e up to the i n i t i a l v i s i o n that the a r t i s t s , i n t h e i r enthusiasm had supposed, some of them, Malevich c e r t a i n l y among them returned to e a s e l - p a i n t i n g . ^ In reprimanding the c r i t i c s of 'new a r t ' i n Russia, he seems to look forward to the ensuing seizure at a l l l e v e l s of creative endeavour that occurs with S t a l i n : "But the art of innovators i s used to t h i s and goes i t s own way; sooner or l a t e r i t w i l l overcome the bourgeois c r i t i c a l b r a i n and become part of l i f e i t s e l f . People always demand that art be comprehensible, but they never demand of themselves that they adapt t h e i r mind to comprehension; even the most X c u l t u r e d s o c i a l i s t s have taken the same l i n e and make the same demands o f a r t as a merchant a s k i n g a p a i n t e r to make him a signboard showing i n a comprehensible manner the goods a v a i l a b l e i n h i s shop. And many people e s p e c i a l l y s o c i a l i s t s , t h i n k t h a t a r t e x i s t s f o r the purpose o f p a i n t i n g comprehensible buns; b u t they a l s o suppose t h a t motor c a r s and the whole o f t e c h n i c a l l i f e s i m p ly serve the convenience o f economic and b a s e l y m a t e r i a l a f f a i r s . " 1 2 The q u e s t i o n f o r M a i e v i c h becomes, although without a d i r e c t v o c a b u l a r y , whether o r not i t i s a t a l l c o n c e i v a b l e t o communize knowledge and t h a t would have mean a r t . Por M a l e v i c h , a r t was a form o f mind, a p r o c e s s o f knowledge t a k i n g p a r t i c u l a r shape and known through i t s e s s e n t i a l m a n i f e s t a t i o n s i n form. He a s c r i b e d an importance to the a r t i s t which, f a r from b e i n g a t one w i t h the r e v o l u t i o n a r y t e n e t s o f L e n i n , r e l a t e d more to the t r a d i t i o n o f p r e v i o u s h i g h a r t and t r a n s c e n d e n t moral v i s i o n a s c r i b e d t o the a r t i s t by N i e t z s c h e , f o r one, where i n h i s a n a l y s i s o f knowledge p r i o r t o P l a t o , embodiments by o t h e r than c o n c e p t u a l means, appears as the u l t i m a t e method f o r the communication of moral t r u t h s and s p i r i t . A J S h e l l e y , i n h i s A Defense o f Poetry, conceived as a response to an a t t a c k by h i s f r i e n d Thomas Love Peacock, e s s e n t i a l l y moves f o r a c o n c e p t i o n s i m i l a r to M a l e v i c h ' s i n n a t e understanding when he says, "Poets are the unacknowledged 14 l e g i s l a t o r s o f the w o r l d . " The h e r e s y o f such an i d e a g i v e n as d i r e c t a form i n R u s s i a would have been i n c a l c u l a b l e , but through analogy, a r t to s o c i e t y , M a l e v i c h was a b l e to say: x i "Evolution i n art progresses further and further, for every- thing i n the world moves forward: i n art i t i s not always a case of evolution, but sometimes also of revolution. Cubism and Futurism were revolutionary movements i n art, a n t i c i p a t i n g 15 the revolution i n economic, p o l i t i c a l l i f e of 1917." The h i s t o r i c a l emergence of a synonymity between left-wing p o l i t i c a l r a d i c a l s and the 'avant-garde* or radicalism i n the arts has been a problem which has harassed scholars f o r almost a century now. The most recent account, and I think the most decisive study to date i s Renato Poggioli's, The Theory of the Avant-Garde,- published i n 1968. His thesis i s that the avant-garde unconsciously functions i n a reactionary way and that, "the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of a r t i s t i c revolution with the s o c i a l revolution i s now no more than purely r h e t o r i c a l , an 16 empty commonplace." He also says: We recognize that the avant-garde more often consciously adheres to, and s u p e r f i c i a l l y sympathizes with, l e f t i s t ideologies; we affirm that the anarchistic i d e a l i s congenial to avant-garde psychology. But neither one nor the other serves to deny what was said above con- cerning the eminently a r i s t o c r a t i c nature of avant-gardism - a nature not, i n turn, b e l i e d by i t s displays of the plebeian s p i r i t . Thus the withdrawals into i n d i v i d u a l solitude or int o a c i r c l e of the few e l e c t , into the q u a s i - r i t u a l i s t posture of a r i s t o c r a t i c protest, are, l i k e the gestures of the plebeian, anarchistic, and t e s s o r i s t i c r e v o l t , equally owing to the tortured awareness of the artist's s i t u a t i o n i n modern society - a s i t u a t i o n we s h a l l describe l a t e r as alienation."I? Poggioli also sees avant-garde communism as the product of an eschatological state of mind, messianis and apocolyptic, compatible pyschologically i f not i d e o l o g i c a l l y with the K i i anarchistic s p i r i t . He then goes on to describe the state of mystical-ecstacy which such a high energy i n the s o c i a l context can induce i n the a r t i s t , and while t h i s may be immediately productive, he f e e l s that i t only prevents the a r t i s t from envisioning h i s future s u r v i v a l i n a communist society. Of course the model he uses i s gained from hindsight and i s Russia where the revolution atrophied and f a i l e d to r e a l i z e i t s v i s i o n . Marcuse's Soviet Marxism has an excellent chapter on the nature of the aesthetic which i n fact occurred and why i t r i g i d i f i e d . I w i l l make use of t h i s i n a l a t e r chapter. P o g g i o l i 1 s approach i s the paradigm of conservative art h i s t o r y but at i t s most sophisticated plane and while t h i s i s not an attack on h i s observations, i t does suggest that one should not necessarily, as he does, accept the extant models as the l i m i t s of what i s possible. My proposal then i s that Malevich conceived a b e l i e f i n art that made i t as tangible a process i n l i f e as i s natural r e a l i t y . When Plato banished the poets from the Republic i n any serious capacity, he was i n a sense, al i e n a t i n g that very power i n himself that brought him closest to the esse n t i a l human mystery, the question of existence i t s e l f ; art afte r a l l i s the residue of such an engagement, and seeks to be re-enacted each time one comes to i t . A world l i v e d e n t i r e l y i n the realm of argument proposes wisdom as some sort of f i n a l destination, which as I understand i t , i s not the path art takes. Progress, while the central myth of technocratic man, holds no ultimate content f o r the a r t i s t . The language which seeks to explicate the truth as such, f i n a l l y i s necess a r i l y a n a l y t i c a l and reductive, rather than d i r e c t l y x i i i productive. A r t, for Malevich, moves on a contrasting course and takes as i t s mode an e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t task. Malevich's aesthetic was one that aspired to un i f y and integrate art with l i f e . "Art must become the content of l i f e , since 18 only thus can l x f e be b e a u t i f u l . " This i s not a cry for a paradise without d i s t i n c t i o n s but i t does demand that we cease c r e a t i n g over-simplified categories which tend to create d i v i s i o n s a r b i t r a r i l y where i n fa c t , they may not e x i s t . Mallarme f o r instance, was a poet who believed that, "the poet's consciousness no longer r e f l e c t s the changing r e a l i t y around him, but creates a new r e a l i t y and, i n so doing, f i x e s i t forever. In one sense he ca r r i e d the Romantic view of l i f e to i t s l o g i c a l conclusion, but, i n another, h i s achievement was at the opposite pole from that of the Romantic m o v e m e n t . & s with Malevich, t h i s was not an escapist fantasy, but a proposition which bore credible r e a l i z a t i o n i n psychoanalytic terms. One could read into the above statement both the proposition of Freud, i n h i s investigations i n t o dreams as a v e r i f i a b l e formative element i n the creation of personality or the more contemporary p o l i t i c a l manifestation i t received as a sentiment scribbled i n g r a f f i t t i i n Paris, May, 1968; "I take my desires for r e a l i t y 20 because I believe xn the r e a l i t y of my desires." , a kind of Marxist-Surrealism taken root. Mallarme wrote overtly, "Poetry i s the expression, by means of human language brought back to i t s e s s e n t i a l rhythm, of the mysterious sense of existence: thus i t endows our stay on earth xiv with authenticity and constitutes the only s p i r i t u a l task." My point i s that Malevich did i n f a c t propose such a v i s i o n of the world, one molded out of the creative recesses of h i s own mind and having no substantial twin elsewhere. It i s p r i m a r i l y i n t h i s i n i t i a l metaphysical difference as well as re l a t i o n s h i p s to the p a r t i c u l a r Russian context, that Malevich's i n c l u s i o n as a forerunner of the l a t e r western formalist abstraction repre- sents more a symptom of our own c u l t u r a l ethnocentrism than a v a l i d h i s t o r i c a l perception. The metaphysical preoccupation i n Malevich's aesthetic i n any other context may have gone unhindered, but the d i f f i c u l t y i n Russia was to determine within the r a p i d l y transforming s o c i a l milieu exactly what comprised the 'public' in art and the paradoxical i n t e r - r e l a t i o n s h i p of freedom and necessity that the a r t i s t , by v i r t u e of h i s r o l e , i n e v i t a b l y embodied. Malevich f e l t that i t was unnecessary, indeed, beside the point, to r a d i c a l l y transform art i t s e l f i n d i r e c t i o n s other than he had already i n i t i a t e d . What the revolution affected was a seri o u s l y potential context f o r the consideration of what had previously been present only as an i d e a l or conceptual t r a d i t i o n and one that had remainded h i s t o r i c a l l y untenable u n t i l t h i s moment. The concept of Revolution for the moment superseded evolution i n the minds of the masses and the a r t i s t s a l i k e . What remains to be demonstrated are the p a r t i c u l a r s of Malevich's production i n these terms. XV TABLE OF CONTENTS Page 1. BIOGRAPHY AND EARLY YEARS 1 2. FUTURIST INFLUENCES A. Influence of the Futurist Painters and Poets 17 B. Russian Futurism and Malevich*s Cubo-Futurism 19 C. Zaum, Alogism and Berlin Dada 28 3. THE RUSSIAN INTELLECTUAL HERITAGE AND CONTEXT A. The Destruction of That Which Is. 38 B. Radical Idealism: Hegel or Marx? 41 4. THE PROJECT OF SUPREMATISM A. "Suprematism in World Reconstruction" 51 B. What was Suprematism? 67 C. Suprematism and the English Vorticists: What relationships? 72 D. The Psychology of Suprematist Pictures 76 5. MALEVICH'S THEORETICAL PROPOSITIONS A. Suprematism: Medieval or Modern? _ 84 B. The Charts: A 'dynamics' of Visual Response 88 6. ETHICAL IDEALISM A. Berdyaev and Malevich: The ijourney From Nihilism to Christian and Aesthetic Mysticism 99 7?. THE MATERIALIZATION OF UTOPIA 105 8. SUPREMATISM, IDEOLOGY, DREAM OR MILLENARIAN MOVEMENT? 123 9. EPILOGUE 132 FOOTNOTES 134 BIBLIOGRAPHY 146 APPENDIX A 156 APPENDIX B 162 xvi LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Fig. 1. Lying in state i n the artist's union, Leningrad 2. Self portrait, Drawing i n letter, June 8, 1934. 3. Malevich lying in state in his f l a t . 4. The coffin was taken to the railway station on a truck, the black square mounted on front. 5. Leatatlin glider without fabric. 6. Malevich was buried i n the fields near Nemchinovka. A cube with a square was placed on the grave. Photo taken in 1935. 7. Flower G i r l , 1903. 8. Landscape with River and Bathers. Kursk, 1908. 9. Portrait of a member of the artist's family, 1904. 10. Chiropodist (at the Baths), 1910. 11. The Card Players, 1890-92, Paul Cezanne. 12. The Bather, 1910. 13. Peasant Women at Church, 1911. 14. The Reaper, 1911. 15. The Woodcutter, 1912. 16. Peasant Woman with Buckets, 1912. 17. Morning in the Village After Snowfall, 1912. 18. Head of a Peasant G i r l , 1912. 19. Three Heads (After 1930). 20. Mystical Religious Turn of Form (After 1930). 21. Drawing for Portrait of Ivan Klyun (c. 1911). 22. Portrait of Ivan Klyun, 1911. 23. Sketch for decoration of 'Victory Over The Sun', 1913. 24. Sketch for 'Victory Over The Sun', 1913. 25. The Knife Grinder, 1912. 26. Malevich Retrospective, Moscow, 1919-20. x v i i 27. Khlebnikov and Kruchyonykh, 'Igra v adu', (The Game in Hell), 1914. Illustrations, front cover and t i t l e page by Malevich. 28. K. Malevich, Twelve Costume Designs for 'Victory Over The Sun', 1913. 29. Sketch for Woman At The Tram Stop, 1913. 30. Musical Instrument/Lamp, 1913. 31. Cow and Vi o l i n , 1912-13. 32. Sketch for Cow and V i o l i n , with manifesto. 33. Laughter On the Boulevard, 1913-14. 34. Brawl On The Subway, 1913-14. 35. The Arrow, 1913-14. 36. Two Zeros, 1913-14. 37. An Englishman in Moscow, 1913-14. 38. Left to Right: M.V. Matyushin, A. Kruchyonykh, Malevich, Photograph taken in 1913 while the stage performance of 'Victory Over The Sun' was being prepared. 39. Woman at Poster Column, 1914. 40. The Black Square, 1913. 41. Contre-relief, Exhibited in Berlin i n 1922, V. Tatlin. 42. Corner r e l i e f , suspended type. Collation of materials, iron, aluminum, primer. 1915. V. Tatlin. 43. Suprematist Drawing, 1915-16. 44. Suprematist Painting, Eight Red Rectanges, 1915. 45. wyndham Lewis, 1915(?) 46. Study for an airport on the outskirts of Moscow. 1927. 47. Study for an airport on the outskirts of Moscow, 1927. 48. Chart #9, 'New Art as an Independent Movement of Thought', 1927. 49. K. Malevich Teaching at the Institute of A r t i s t i c Culture, Leningrad, 1925. 50. Suprematist Drawing, 1914-15. 51. Sketches for Painting #63, in this thesis, Pencil on paper. x v i i i 52. Sergeant, 1913-14. 53. V i o l i n i s t , 1913-14. 54. What Insolence, 1913-14. 55. Pish. 1913-14. 56. Tailor, 1913-14. 57. Row Boat, 1913-14. 58. Cross, Circle, Square and Grave (After 1930). 59. Malevich Retrospective, Moscow, 1919-20. 60. Suprematist Studio, Vitebsk Academy, 1920. 61. Nathan Altmann, Decoration of the Alexander Column in celebration of the revolution, Leningrad, 1918. 62. White Square on White, 1918. 63. Ceramic cups designed by Malevich (c. 1922). 64. Suprematist Painting, 1917-18. 65. Standing Figure. This drawing i s closely related to a number of works made after Malevich*s return from Germany. 66. Alexander Rodchenko. Construction of Distance, 1920. 67. Georges vantongerloo. Construction of Volume, 1921. 68. Future Planits for Leningrad. The Pilot's Planit, 1924. 69. Future Planits for Earth's Dwellers, 1924. 70. Modern Buildings, Suprematism, 1923-24. 71. Monument to the Third International. V. Tatlin, 1920. 72. Zeta. Architectoniki. 73. McGraw-Hill Building, New York, 1931. 74. Beta. (Before 1926). Architectoniki. 75. Dynamic Suprematist Architecton. 76. Suprematist Architecton (1929?). 77. Suprematist Ornaments, (1927). 78. Malevich Exhibition, Berlin, 1927. 79. Malevich Exhibition, Berlin 1927. 80. Malevich working; Photograph by N.M. Suyetin, April 3, 1933. 81. Self-Portrait, 1933. 82. Portrait of N. Punin, 1933. 83. Portrait of the Duke of Montefeltro, Piero della Francesca, 1965. 84. Malevich at his last major exhibition, RSFSR-XV Years, 1932. 85. Suprematist Painting (After 1920). CHAPTER 1 BIOGRAPHY AND EARLY YEARS On May 15, 1935, i n Leningrad, Kasimir Severinovich Malevich, died of cancer, leaving behind him h i s mother, Lyudviga Aleksandrovna, h i s wife, h i s young daughter, Uno, and a vast legacy of art works, poetry, t h e o r e t i c a l t r e a t i s e s , h i s a r c h i t e c t o n i k i , the p l a n i t i , educational practices, and most importantly, the example of a man who, even i n death, l e f t h i s mark i n d e l i b l y upon the time and place i n which he grew. His was a consistent r e f u s a l to divorce ideas and h i s b e l i e f i n them, from practice i n the day-to-day l i f e he l i v e d . Even h i s funeral was ca r r i e d out as a protest i n the t r a d i t i o n of h i s uncomproraised adherence to a be l i e f i n the ultimate value of imagination to understand r e a l i t y more f u l l y than i d e o l o g i c a l or conceptual a l t e r n a t i v e s . The repression he had suffered i n h i s l a t t e r years followed by h i s arrest, the open denunciation of h i s work as 'decadent' i n an e x h i b i t i o n i n 1930, had f i n a l l y brought the dreams of a revolution he had so e n t h u s i a s t i c a l l y p a r t i c i p a t e d i n crashing about h i s f e e t . He had designed and l e f t i nstructions for Suetin to b u i l d a Suprematist c o f f i n ( i l l u s t r a t i o n #1) and l y i n g i n state i n the a r t i s t ' s Union i n Leningrad, the famous black square on the wall above him at the head of the c o f f i n , a v i g i l was maintained by four of h i s followers, Suyetin, Katurkin, Ellonen, Klyun and Isakov. On the l i d of the c o f f i n was a black square and green c i r c l e . When the c o f f i n F i g . 1. Lying i n state i n the a r t i s t ' s union, Leningrad F i g . 2. Self p o r t r a i t . Drawing i n l e t t e r , June 8, 1934 F i g . 4. The c o f f i n was taken to the railway s t a t i o n on a truck, the black square mounted on front. 2. was to be taken to Moscow, i t was transported to the railway station on an open truck that had the Suprematist Black Square attached to the front. I t i s reported that i t aroused such a procession i n i t s travels through the streets that afterwards the government f e l t i t necessary to r e s t r i c t any such public funerals from being repeated i n the future. The f i n a l i r o n i c gesture of Suprematism was completed by Malevich i n the theatre of the streets as a glamorous symbolic extension of the o r i g i n of Suprematist form, the o r i g i n a l manifestation of which he attributed to the designs created for the production of Kruchonykh's "Victory Over the Sun", a f u t u r i s t opera on December 3, 1913. Malevich was then cremated i n Moscow, and h i s remains were subsequently buried i n the f i e l d s near Nemchinovka under a p l a i n granite stone cube that had a red square emblazoned on i t s f r ont. Curiously enough, such a denouement makes a rather good beginning, analogous as i t i s to the o r i g i n a l enthusiasm and energy that launched Malevich into the mainstream of h i s own uniqueness and invention.''" He was born February 26, 1878 near Kiev, the son of a rather well-to-do foreman of a sugar r e f i n e r y i n the South of the Ukraine. I t was expected that Kasimir would follow i n the footsteps of h i s father and take over at the sugar re f i n e r y , but i t was clear, even e a r l y on (as reported i n Malevich's.autobiographical segment) that i n spi t e of the f a c t that h i s day to day l i f e F i g . 5. L e a t a t l i n g l i d e r without f a b r i c . F i g . 6. Malevich was buried i n the f i e l d s near Nemchinovka. A cube with a square was placed on the grave. Photo taken i n 3. was common to that of a l l people working at sugar r e f i n e r i e s at the time, and there was no mention of art as such, h i s i n t e r e s t s and strongest impressions were not related to the operation of the r e f i n e r y or i t s mechanics, but i n c l e a r l y aesthetic preoccupations. He recounts how he and h i s father shared a fas c i n a t i o n over nature that could not be a r t i c u l a t e d . He describes a heavy r a i n f a l l , just before sunset ... "there were enormous puddles i n the street. A herd of cows was going through them and I was standing as though turned to stone and watching shreds of clouds pass across the d i s c of the sun which was forcing i t s rays through the gaps between the tattered clouds r e f l e c t e d i n t h i s undisturbed puddle; sometimes the water was s t i r r e d by the cows and i t would r i p p l e and at the same time the cows themselves were r e f l e c t e d i n i t . M a l e v i c h seemed to have a mind as receptive to the negative masses between forms as to t h e i r p o s i t i v e outline, already a h i n t , i f only i n germination, at the abstract q u a l i t y of Suprematism to come. He had, of course, no idea what the 'impact* they had on him could possibly mean, he had no way even of knowing that there was such a thing as a r t i s t s , l e t alone that these images and t h e i r a f f e c t might contain messages of import, besides t h e i r immediate sensual fa s c i n a t i o n . And so he says: " A l l t h i s had an impact on me, but I repeat i t was only an impact, I could only carry these phenomena i n my v i s u a l memory; to me they were s t r i k i n g l y 'wonderfulI A l l these scenes were stored by the nervous system somewhere i n a suitcase, l i k e negatives which had to be developed, but there was no question of t h i s happening either, t h i s had not yet arisen i n me yet, nor did advice come from outside, for no one knew what was happening to me, what I was thinking and experiencing, i f indeed I was experiencing anything at a l l . " 3 4 Malevich relates his astonishment when he f i r s t discovered that one could use paint to capture images of nature, "For some reason I noticed a painter who was painting a roof; the roof was turning green, l i k e the trees and sky. This gave me the idea that one could portray the trees and sky with this paint." When the workmen had gone for lunch, he climbed onto the roof, and attempted to reproduce a tree i n colour with paint ...'Taut nothing came of i t " . However, this did not discourage him, for he "experienced a very pleasant feeling 4 from the paint and brush". These were the earlxest beginnings and i t was his mother who f i r s t recognized any talent in him and went with him to Kiev to purchase his f i r s t box of paints. Apparently from this point on, he f e l t that his family acknowledged him as the black sheep. His father would even hide his applications to the Moscow art school he had heard about and announce a month later that there were no vacancies. This could not however, forestall the inevitable. "I resembled some sensitive instrument, something like a barometer, which reacted to a l l the changes in the light the sun throws on 5 nature; and I did react." The family had moved to Konotop, xn the Chernigov province, near Kiev in the mid 1890's where he began painting with great zeal and application "landscapes with a stork and cows in the distance." 6 Then the family moved to Kursk. It was here that he discovered the nature of this obsession of his and that i t was in fact called 'art', and people who accomplished i t were called a r t i s t s . He lived here from 1898 to 1901, where he exhibited for the f i r s t time and f i n a l l y took an office job in order to earn money to attend the art school i n Moscow. "The thought of going to Moscow 5 became a kind of obsession, but I had no money. The mystery was i n Moscow; nature was everywhere, but the means of 7 portraying i t were i n Moscow, where famous a r t i s t s l i v e d . " In 1902, h i s father died and having saved enough of hi s earnings, he decided to move to Moscow. Malevich"s i n t e r e s t s even at t h i s point, according to h i s own record i n retrospect, tended i n the d i r e c t i o n of the formal means of painting i t s e l f , rather than an acute sense of the need to 'express' an overpowering i n t e r n a l force. He was o f f on a quest, the extent of which he could not even have imagined at t h i s point. In Moscow, he attended the school of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, and was able to draw studies from l i f e at the Stroganov School. The f i r s t documented paintings, besides the ear l y works described i n h i s autobiographical segments, are a series of landscapes i n a post-impressionist s t y l e . Flower G i r l of 1903, relates as much to the western European context i n i t s choice of subject matter and set t i n g as well as the more overt s t y l i s t i c dependence, as i t does to the streets and habits of people i n Moscow. The atmosphere and image of Renoirs, Moulin de l a Galette, of 1876, could e a s i l y have been ca r r i e d i n the pages of the popular Russian magazine "Mir Isskustvo", (World of A r t ) . The temperament i s exceedingly French and moves Russia into the homogeneous mainstream of the contemporary European avant-garde. The form of Malevich*s education i n t h i s regard, from imported art works and magazine reproductions obviously had an inestimable impact upon the F i g . 7. Flower G i r l , 1903. 6 formation of the processes that would l a t e r mould h i s aesthetic. In h i s memories of childhood, he has said "For some reason I sat at home, unable to r e a l i z e that I ought to go out into nature, to look and paint. This idea did not ari s e i n me, just as i t never does i n small children. They paint from memory and represent only what has remained i n t h e i r p memory; but I was no longer l i t t l e , yet acted l i k e a c h i l d . " His mind was a mechanism 'storing images as i f they were negatives i n a suitcase', only to be retrieved and developed at length l a t e r . The Impressionists had l i b e r a t e d the a r t i s t from the burden of h i s studio and sent him o f f into the environment to seek the powerful moment. Malevich was returning the a r t i s t to the studio of h i s mind, an introverted and exceedingly Russian process. With an increase i n the sophistication of continental communications, information about formerly distant urban centres and phenomena arrived on the scene almost immediately. Moscow r a p i d l y became a suburb of Paris and the youthful Malevich found himself engulfed by an explosive array of high-powered painters and t h e i r ideas. Malevich's rapid s t y l i s t i c growth can be seen as a process very much related to the evolving c a p i t a l i s t markets and t h e i r communicative needs. These were the f i r s t and most dramatic signs i n the 'modern' a r t i s t i c world of the profound r e l a t i o n between art-commerce and the new society, and the actual formal, aesthetic development i n a unique a r t i s t ' s career. Russia o v e r t l y displayed the f i r s t manifestations of regionalism and the e f f e c t s of the magazine syndrome, whereby the a r t i s t 7 and h i s s t y l i s t i c evolution are unavoidably t i e d into needs and b e l i e f s o r i g i n a t i n g i n a distant urban centre, just as a consuming population i s created i n order to make a market for goods produced i n that other context. Many of the struggles that a r t i s t s have undertaken i n the twentieth centure cannot be understood unless seen against t h i s backdrop of the process of ali e n a t i o n , from which a r t i s t s are c e r t a i n l y not exempt. Prominent i n furthering an already shrinking continent were two important Russian c o l l e c t o r s , Morrisov and Shchukin. Between the two of them they had amassed extraordinary c o l l e c t i o n s of some of the best 'avant-garde' art being produced i n France. Shchukin began with a Monet i n 1897 and by 1914 had over two hundred paintings, including more than f i f t y of Picasso's and Matisse's works. Morrosov was more interested i n the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters rather than the more r a d i c a l work being done. Undoubtedly both of these c o l l e c t i o n s were important to Malevich. By 1910, the influence from western sources was at i t s highest p i t c h and although i t has been written that Malevich may have gone to Paris i n 1912, there i s 9 no concrete evidence to t h i s e f f e c t . The primary concerns i n Malevich's pictures of t h i s period were centred on h i s explorations into the phenomena of colour and space; both owing t h e i r i n i t i a l impetus to modernist sources. In Blossoming Trees, and Blossoming Apple Trees (1904), for example, the texture and energy so v i s i b l y patterned F i g . 8. Landscape with River and Bathers. Kursk, 1908. 8 i n paint acts almost as an a r t i c u l a t e d declaration of the self-consciousness of the brush or process of painting i t s e l f . Troels Andersen, f e e l s that two variants of Monet's Rouen Cathedral series which were i n Russia may have had a p a r t i c u l a r influence at t h i s time. The process i s suddenly h i g h l y v i s i b l e and a conscious part of the content of the picture rather than simply the means to a mimetic end. Dis- t i n c t i o n s between foreground and background are already beginning to disappear i n favour of an o v e r a l l f i e l d of i n t e n s i t y . Each object or spacial value i s as capable of holding h i s attention as any other, any hierarchy of focus seems to be f a l l i n g away. I t i s not a mannerist fascination with technique but the emergence of an e n t i r e l y new content and aesthetic ideology. Even i n Malevich's P o r t r a i t of a Member of the A r t i s t ' s Family, 1904, where a single i n d i v i d u a l i s portrayed and i s supposedly the raison d'etre f o r the picture, only the woman's head commands more attention than the surrounding objects and environment. The body of the figure merges and i s almost indistinguishable from the o v e r a l l treatment of the surface; how d i f f e r e n t from The Flower G i r l of only a year before. This p o r t r a i t has an almost numinous presence; rather than s i n g u l a r i t y and s p e c i f i c d e f i n i t i o n of form, our response i s drawn to the i n d i v i s i b i l i t y of her sub- stance from the pulsing immaterial space comprised of l i g h t and colour i n which she s i t s . This painting was no doubt done i n Kursk where Malevich spent the summer of 1904. In 1907, he p a r t i c i p a t e d i n an e x h i b i t i o n arranged F i g . 9. P o r t r a i t of a member of the a r t i s t ' family, 1904. 9 by the a r t i s t ' s association i n Moscow, Kandinsky, Larionov, David Burlyuk and Aleksey Morgunov, among others, were also included. Throughout the next few years, Malevich continued to ex h i b i t with t h i s group and i n 1910, Larionov, i n v i t e d him to take part i n the now famous "Jack of Diamonds" ex h i b i t i o n . The phenomenon of regionalism allowed Malevich to pass through a rapid series of s t y l i s t i c transformations and syntheses that he seemed neither to worry about nor question e x p l i c i t l y u n t i l l a t e r . The post-Impressionist method was abandoned i n favour of a new p i c t o r i a l i s m which bears a clear r e l a t i o n to Picasso, Matisse and Derain, of the time, and probably originates i n Cezannes i s o l a t i o n of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone, as elemental propositions i n h i s v i s u a l language. I t was c l e a r , although as yet unarticu- lated, that Malevich had the kind of mind that tended to see things operating i n terms of relationships and ultimately i n systems. He saw not only the immediately rendered object, but the macro-structure or 'idea' which t a c i t l y informed the p a r t i c u l a r i t y of one d i r e c t i o n as opposed to another. In t h i s respect, l i v i n g i n Vitebsk i n 1919, he writes: "Faced with non-objectivity, we should b u i l d , without imitating ready-made forms, a new p a i n t e r l y form: i n t h i s way we enter the d i r e c t path of c r e a t i v i t y . What i s more, nowhere i n the world of painting does anything grow without a system. These systems or conceptual structures were not however within the main body of h i s work p r i o r to the revolution and only came to predominate af t e r 1917. Of the various p a i n t e r l y elements at h i s disposal, F i g . 10. Chiropodist (at the Baths), 1910. F i g . 11. The Card Players, 1890-92. Paul Cezanne. 10 colour was of great importance to Malevich r i g h t up u n t i l the end. although i t i s true that with Suprematism the function and use of colour changed considerably. In h i s pictures from 1910 to 1912, he u t i l i z e d what could be c a l l e d an 'atonal' sense of colour. Like the Fauves before him, he ceased using colour as a d u p l i c a t i v e mechanism and dropping the d e s c r i p t i v e function, colour became w i l d l y expressive. Larionov and T a t l i n , while working i n a somewhat si m i l a r compositional format were using a monochrome surface corresponding to t h e i r western benefactors, Braque and Picasso. But Malevich was drawn into a world of r i c h c o l o u r i s t i c dissonance. From 1909 u n t i l 1912, h i s central preoccupation with t h i s phenomenon of colour as presented through figures and landscapes that have been abstracted into tube shapes, truncated cones, planes and e l l i p s e s . While the themes of most of these paintings r e l a t e to simple peasant a c t i v i t i e s or landscapes, I think i t would be a mistake to see t h i s as an engagement with primitivism analogous to Picasso's use of primitive A f r i c a n material for i n s p i r a t i o n i n h i s . Maids of Avignon of 1907. For Malevich, the peasants were indigenous and anything but di s t a n t or e s o t e r i c . His 'primitivism', i f one were to i n s i s t on the l a b e l , was a kind of folk-consciousness. If they can be thought of as representing anything, i t would be t h e i r b r u t a l directness and power, commensurate as i t i s to the a f f e c t Malevich wanted to induce through h i s use of colour. The content then i s the fact or subject matter which you see as well as the process of i t s communication, which i s i t s means. F i g . 12. The Bather, 1910. \ F i g . 13. Peasant Women at Church, 1911. 11 As early as the Fauvist-primitive pictures and c e r t a i n l y by the next stage, a kind of Fauvist-coloured cubism, Malevich was already correcting a d i s p o s i t i o n which weighed too heavily either, i n one instance, (Cubism) towards the a n a l y t i c a l , and i n the other (Fauvism) towards the sensate, an almost hedonistic use of colour. I t was a strength of h i s e c l e c t i c manner to be able to synthesize supposed contraries and out of t h i s new hybrid to produce, so to speak, a more durable art-species. Rather than the metaphor of man i n p o l i t i c a l turmoil, one organism warring with another for dominance, Malevich's i n s t i n c t u a l movement was to demonstrate the shared tendencies of the two p o l a r i t i e s i n solution of the larger common problem of painting o v e r - a l l . What I want further to suggest, i s that even at t h i s stage, p r i o r to any thought of Suprematism as a macroscopic solution to the b a t t l e of s t y l e s , Malevich had an eye f o r the metaphysical, or the superstructure that could encompass disparate and presumably a n t i - t h e t i c a l parts. Suprematism i n f a c t did not accomplish such an end and instead negated alternatives and superimposed i t s e l f as a kind of eschatological destination. This w i l l be studied i n d e t a i l i n a subsequent chapter, but what I do want to emphasize at t h i s stage i s h i s capacity to have singular and disparate a r t - s t y l e s merge i n the ground of a single painting and through t h e i r seeming oppositions create a dialogue which rather than detracting from the effectiveness of the composition, gave i t a unique vibrancy and l i f e . In the Reaper, 1911, i t i s possible to see the schemata of Malevich's compositional method. The figures are i c o n i c F i g . 14. The Reaper, 1911 12 and generalized rather than p a r t i c u l a r or d e s c r i p t i v e . The colour d i s t r i b u t i o n appears i n approximate sets of opposites, a series of checks and balances that when integrated with the human form comes o f f rather awkwardly. I t i s an evidence of abstraction having to adjust i t s e l f mechanically to f i t the compositional imposition of r e a l people because i t had as yet not developed a comfortable sense of i t s own manifestation. Anthropomorphic subject matter was h i s t o r i c a l l y given but can be thought of as e n t i r e l y a r b i t r a r y to the needs and focus that abstraction was achieving at t h i s time. In Frantisek Kupka's Disks of Newton (Study f o r Fugue i n Two Colours), 1912, there i s evidence of a search for a kind of musical analogy f o r a geometry of colour, very much resembling Malevich's e a r l i e r i n t u i t i v e push i n t h i s d i r e c t i o n . This sense of music as a region of i n f i n i t e purity, much l i k e mathematics, was fa s c i n a t i n g for numerous painters of t h i s epoch, o f f e r i n g as i t does the one v i a b l e and l i v i n g model of a successfully non-mimetic art form. Kandinsky, i n t h i s regard, was most overt, when i n 1912, i n h i s Concerning The S p i r i t u a l i n Art, he said, "A painter who finds no s a t i s f a c t i o n i n mere representation, however a r t i s t i c , i n h i s longing to express i n t e r n a l l i f e , cannot but envy the ease with which music, the least material of the arts today, achieves t h i s end. He n a t u r a l l y seeks to apply the means of music to h i s own art, and from t h i s r e s u l t s that modern desire f o r rhythm i n painting, f o r mathematical, abstract construction, f o r repeated notes of colour, f o r setting colour i n motion and so o n . R o b e r t Delaunay, by 1914, c e r t a i n l y was already on the road to such a 13 consideration of colour. This consideration of s i m i l a r i t y i n things o v e r t l y d i s s i m i l a r was the genius of unexpected analogy or metaphor which A r i s t o t l e , for one, applauded: "But the greatest thing of a l l i s to be master of the metaphor. I t i s the only thing which cannot be taught by others; and i t i s also a sign of o r i g i n a l genius, because a good metaphor implies the 12 i n t u i t i v e perception of s i m i l a r i t y i n d i s s i m i l a r things." Malevich was on h i s way to such a discovery through various other mediums, poetry and the theatre included. With The Reaper, by the time that the eye reaches the background t h i s dualism of balances has become complete, even the haystacks are divided v e r t i c a l l y into halves, one darker than the other, and the people have been reduced to alternating dark and white strokes. The option has been taken f o r a symphony of patterns i n colour and form, although i t s 'sensible* shape has not as yet appeared. By 1912, however, most of the a l l u s i o n s to a recognizable landscape have either been e n t i r e l y put aside or have been reduced to representation by a formal pattern of geometric elements i n t e r r e l a t e d by a bold colourism. In The Woodcutter, the only discordant d e t a i l i s the man's boot, the only element that has not been transformed through Malevich's aesthetic c a t a l y s t . One foot s t i l l resides i n the empirical world, however p a r t i a l l y . The axe already e x i s t s within the aesthetic shemata, and so i t s ' r e a l i t y ' does not appear as out of context. In Peasant Woman With Buckets., 1912, Malevich, while s t i l l p r i m i t i v e l y f i g u r a t i v e , began the introduction of dominant  14 repeating elements. What he c a l l e d "the forming element" appears above one of the buckets as two e l l i p t i c a l shapes which both r e f l e c t the eyes of the figures and that have been curiously drawn " i n the same perspective as the ointment jars i n i c o n i c ,.13 representations. By the time we a r r i v e at Morning i n the V i l l a g e A f t e r Snowfall, 1912, and Head of a Peasant G i r l , a l l but the most formal representational a l l u s i o n s have been removed. Each new painting seems to be the stage for some r a d i c a l l y new perception to exercise i t s phenomena, and the process of such a manifestation i s what inte r e s t s Malevich rather than the s t a t i c residue, which i s what i t becomes, acting as a record of h i s former presence, the moment he moves on. Perceptions were the source of h i s energy, the path of a d i s - covering i n t e l l i g e n c e seeking order both i n i t s e l f and i n i t s experience of the external world. By the time of the two paintings mentioned above, the haunting eyes of h i s e a r l i e r Peasant Women at Church, i s l o s t to the abstracting motif of curves and counter-curves of which t h e i r bodies are p r i m a r i l y composed. The energy of the compositional elements themselves, Malevich's mysticism and the s i n g u l a r i t y of h i s d i r e c t i o n i n spite of the v a r i e t y of s t y l i s t i c adoptions and experiment, are astounding during the next few years. Although h i s best known paintings and drawings from these years pursued a most singular course, i t now appears that i n spite of t h i s a n t i - f i g u r a t i v e , anti-mimetic program, he did maintain semi-figurative studies, possibly a l l throughout these F i g . 17. Morning i n the V i l l a g e A f t e r Snowfall, 1912. F i g . 18. Head of a Peasant G i r l , 1912. same years. In t h i s l i g h t , h i s l a t e return to conventional po r t r a i t u r e i n the t h i r t i e s , cannot be seen as a regression, except as i t relates to the very concrete pressures put upon him p o l i t i c a l l y at that time, but instead as a personal record maintained much as one would keep a journal of important events and friends, Miroslac Lamac, a Czechoslovakian c r i t i c and scholar, has said: "The Tretjakov Ga l l e r y i n Moscow possesses a painting representing a woman with a rake, dated 1915, probably by Malevich himself, and the authenticity of t h i s date has been confirmed by the Gallery. Thus s p e c i a l i s t s i n Malevich's work i n the Soviet Union, some of whom count among h i s personal friends, a f f i r m that Malevich always did f i g u r a t i v e paintings, but that he never exhibited them and very r a r e l y showed them to anyone." 1^ I t now appears that even during the period of Malevich's strongest polemics against f i g u r a t i v e a rt (1915-1920), he was carrying out such seemingly a n t i t h e t i c a l works. This only appears incongruous against the background of the extent of h i s tira d e s against art h i s t o r i c a l categories. But when we look at the b a t t l e he was f i g h t i n g p a r t i c u l a r l y I think i t becomes understandable. He was attempting to d e - i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e h i s t o r i c a l l y given 'tastes' i n favour of perception, that i s process as the only absolute, rather than an i d o l a t r y f o r conceptions. Also the manner of h i s own development up to t h i s point helps explain the simultaneous presence of seemingly contradictory modes. Contemporary with h i s cubist works that we have looked at he was already beginning a cubo-futurist v a r i a t i o n of i t . Very soon a f t e r t h i s and concurrent with some of these same works, he began h i s a l o g i c a l pictures. He F i g . 19. Three Heads (After 1930). F i g . 20. Mystical Religious Turn of Form (After 1930). 16 had t h i s habit of moving out along several threads at once, a kind of p a r a l l e l evolution maintained with variant paths that sometimes proved f r u i t f u l and sometimes not. Many of the l a t e r f i g u r a t i v e sketches a f t e r 1930 are reminiscent of h i s drawings many years e a r l i e r f or Kroutchonykov's and Matjouchine 1s opera, V i c t o r y Over the Sun. There i s no evidence that would lead one to suppose that he would have a r b i t r a r i l y leapt back a l l those years i f something had not previously been maintained out of i t ; that could be considered a c o n t r a d i c i t i o n . In 1911, the same year The Reaper was done, we have a P o r t r a i t of Ivan Klyun, which i s almost e n t i r e l y cubist a f t e r the fashion of Braque or Picasso, but includes and i s composed i n combination with Malevich*s own conception of the 'basic forming elements'. His appetite f o r experiment and s t y l i s t i c innovation seemed inexhaustible, but whatever else may be said of h i s e c l e c t i c i s m he did not simply adopt s u p e r i f i c i a l resemblances to e x i s t i n g models, but a c t u a l l y penetrated t h e i r e s s e n t i a l raison d'etre. Because of t h i s , they seemed to surpass s t y l e , and instead, created t h e i r own methodical development, one that was able to include an enormous range of new propositions without losing sight of i t s e l f i n the process.  17 CHAPTER 2 FUTURIST INFLUENCES A. Influence of the F u t u r i s t Painters and Poets Complicit with Malevich's iconoclasra i n the v i s u a l arts, he made many journeys into the world of poetic discourse. His i n t e r e s t i n poetry began with the f i r s t period of Russian futurism. The most general description of Russian Futurism one could give would I suppose, be that i t was a "post-symbolist movement i n Russian Poetry of 1910-1930."i, but t h i s would t e l l nothing of the "complex conglomeration i n which there was not only poetry and prose, but ideology, aesthetics, l i t e r a r y theory and polemics, i t contained elements of impressionism, expressionism, neo-primitivism, constructivism, abstractionism, 2 dandyism, theosophy and so f o r t h . " Markov's only general- i z a t i o n about the F u t u r i s t phenomenon o v e r a l l i n Russia, i s Hegelian, and arises i n the words of Lossky, when he says 3 "Ideas are not thoughts, they are a special kind of r e a l i t y . " Kruchenykh, Malevich and Matyushin went for a holiday together i n Usikirko i n 1913, and a f t e r t h i s wrote a manifesto (July 20, 1913) i n which new experiments i n the theatre and i n 4 l i t e r a t u r e were announced. The task was seen as the renewal of the language o v e r a l l . Part of t h e i r manifesto reads: "The outdated movement of thoughts on the tramlines of c a u s a l i t y , of toothless 'sound common sense and l o g i c ' and b l i n d roaming i n 5 the blue haze of Symbolism must be destroyed." In St. Petersburg on December 3, 1913, the opera, 18 V i c t o r y Over The Sun, to which Malevich attributes the b i r t h of Suprematism, burst onto the stage with propositions so revolutionary to the arts, that i n retrospect they seemed to be p r e d i c t i v e of the approaching general p o l i t i c a l upheaval. Curtains and drop-scenes, backdrops, set pieces and costumes, everything connected with the Opera were, by report, "obviously Cubist, e n t i r e l y i n the s t y l e of Malevich's easel paintings of the same period - for instance, Lady i n Font of Poster P i l l a r , 6 with d i s t i n c t Suprematist elements." The famous Black Square was present along with other Suprematist elements and the whole world of synthetic Cubism with i t s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c displacement of axes, f i g u r a t i v e and abstract signs, l e t t e r s and i n s c r i p t i o n s , wheels, p r o j e c t i l e s , segments of a c i r c l e , numbers and complete objects themselves. The F u t u r i s t l i t t e r a t e u r , Benedict L i v s h i t z , was astounded by the performance and reviewed the l i g h t i n g spect of i t i n the following fashion: "From t h i s night of the f i r s t - b o r n the f e e l e r s of the projectors picked out parts, now of t h i s , now of that object and imbued i t with l i f e by saturating i t with l i g h t . . . . the figures themselves were cut into shape with the knives of the search- l i g h t s and robbed a l t e r n a t e l y of t h e i r arms, legs or head, since f o r Malevich they were only geometrical bodies subject not merely to d i s s e c t i o n into t h e i r component parts, but also to complete extinc t i o n within t h e i r picture space. The only r e a l i t y was the abstract form that absorbed the whole L u c i f e r i a n base of the world. P i g . 23. Sketch for decoration of 'Victory Over the Sun', 1913. F i g . 24. Sketch f o r •Victory over the Sun 1, 1913. 19 B. Russian Futurism and Malevich's Cube--Futurism There i s some reason to believe that M a r i n e t t i , the poet Laureate of I t a l i a n Futurism, had v i s i t e d Russia p r i o r to the well-documented excursion of 1914. Raffale C a r r i e r i , maintains that Marinetti's f i r s t t r i p to Russia occurred i n 1910, "a year after the publication of the f i r s t F u t u r i s t manifesto i n the columns of LeFigaro, the Paris g newspaper, on the 20th February, 1909." Reaction to Marinetti's v i s i t s were always c o l o u r f u l and usually extreme wherever he appeared. The reactions however to any kind of modernism were not unique to Futurism. Even Diaghilev, i n the e a r l i e s t years of the twentieth century, was c a l l e d upon to respond i n the pages of h i s review, The World of Art, to accusations that modern art was a manifestation of decadence. He said:"Our epoch, therefore, as regards painting, w i l l never be able to be considered decadent, because i t does not accept pre-conceived ideas and i t never has pre- established truths on the t i p of i t s tongue. We s h a l l have the 9 reputation we deserve because we have followed a new path." The prophecy of such a statement as regards the next few years i n Russian art and the ensuing recurrence of the accusation of decadence, but t h i s second time by a p o l i t i c a l l y r a d i c a l constituency i n the t h i r t i e s , i s i r o n i c . The i n t e r - national character of the Russian aristocracy at t h i s time i s important to remember i n order to understand the ease with 10 which ideas t r a v e l l e d i n and out of Russia. 20 It was under the leadership of the review Zolotoe Runo (The Golden Fleece) that two very important exhibitions of French art were held i n Moscow i n 1908 and 1909. Larionov was l a r g e l y responsible f o r t h e i r organization and i t was here that the f i r s t large-scale public manifestations of Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin occurred. The second ex h i b i t i o n included paintings by Matisse, Braque, Derain, Ronalt, Vlaminck and Van Dongen. Fauvist and Cubist ideology infected the minds of the Russian a r t i s t s , producing both deri v a t i v e and powerfully new r e s u l t s . Larionov's own response, Rayonnism, was an invention preceded by a whole range of F u t u r i s t s works between 1911 and 1913. Larionov's Rayonnist manifesto appeared i n 1913, the same year as Malevich's suprematism f i r s t took coherent shape under the auspices of Kruchenykh's opera, V i c t o r y Over The Sun. David Burlyuk was c a l l e d the father of Russian Futurism by Mayakovsky, and i t was l i t e r a l l y he who made the f i r s t contacts with Russian a r t i s t s l i v i n g i n Germany at t h i s time, p r i m a r i l y Kandinsky and Jawlensky and also members of Der Blane Rexter.^ While Burlyuk i n h i s gregariousness was moving towards an open-ended eclecticism, Malevich was entering the i n i t i a l stages of what by comparison was a h i g h l y introverted and contemplative study. C a r r i e r i quotes Burlyuk from Katherine Drier's book e n t i t l e d David Burlyuk. and he says that the basis of h i s art was, " a l l s t y l e s , a l l epochs, the f i n e s t things of the entire world. Not a r e s t r i c t i o n but an expansion of program, a protest against formal art - art 21 for art's sake - because art i s for everyone, f o r the people, for the masses ... art i s for the c i r c u s , and the .,12 cxrcus xs for a r t . This highly charged declaration, as C a r r i e r i notes, goes the way of most polemical t r a c t s . It i s f i l l e d with rather ' f a c i l e contradictions' but communicates both the s i m i l a r enthusiasms and the major differences between himself and Malevich i n spite of the f a c t that both were spawned from a si m i l a r sympathy and ground. Malevich's own futurism of t h i s period (1911 to 1912) was much les s I t a l i a n a t e than Burlyuk's and tended to be more o v e r t l y indebted to French cubism and p a r t i c u l a r l y the forms of Fernand Leger.-^ The peculiar hybrid that emerged from t h i s a l l i a n c e he termed "Cubo-Futurism'. In 1929, when Malevich wrote "Cubo-Futurism", Chapter VII of h i s book, New Art, the term 'Legism', appears as one aspect responsible for the 'great movement i n the f i r s t quarter of the twentieth . 14 century'. Where Burlyuk could be considered chaotic or anarchistic i n h i s reaction to the dynamic tenets of the f u t u r i s t aesthetic (a l i t e r a l explosion of form), Malevich consistently o f f e r s a structured r e a l i z a t i o n . For example, i n The Knife Grinder, 1912, Malevich i s obviously conscious of the implications of the F u t u r i s t dynamics, the stroboscopic presentation of forms l i t e r a l l y resonating with the implications of active l i f e . What does not occur i s the complex subservience of Malevich's own formal vocabulary to the current-most objective panacea. F i g . 26. Malevich Retrospective, Moscow, 1919-1920. 22 His i n t e r e s t i n the new image i s not mechanolatry, a d e i f i c a t i o n of the machine-like, but the power of the idea rooted i n such a perception. This i s why h i s move to the suprematist, non-objective world was such a seemingly easy t r a n s i t i o n to make. Unlike h i s F u t u r i s t brothers, Malevich, on the whole, retains something of h i s f i g u r a t i v e heritage throughout t h i s period, as I mentioned e a r l i e r . We could only consider t h i s a c o n t r a d i c i t i o n i f we imagine the a r t i s t to be a servant of some r a t i o n a l or pre-conceived methodology analogous to the empirical sciences. Surely even speculative thought engages i t s most creative p o s s i b i l i t y when causative and l i n e a r connections no longer predominate and i n t u i t i v e forces emerge of t h e i r own accord. What was extremely consistent i n Malevich's method was h i s single-minded focus on the idealism of new styles rather than a s u p e r f i c i a l reading of t h e i r p i c t o r i a l expressiveness. From t h i s point of view, the path he takes appears, rather than r a t i o n a l , i n the l i n e a r sense of the word, creative, by synthesis. The 'phenomenon', as Malevich was l a t e r to c a l l i t himself, rather than the object, was what interested him consistently. The focus was already on the process. I think that t h i s i s the only way that the s t a r t l i n g leap into Suprematist abstraction can be properly understood. Futurism did not emerge from a vacuum. Its presence was contingent to an empirical, i n d u s t r i a l i z i n g urban context; 23 m i l i t a r i s m and s o c i a l apocolypse were a l l present on I t a l i a n s o i l , and M a r i n e t t i o v e r t l y includes references to such phenomena i n h i s manifestos. The 1 anti-democratic tendencies' of I t a l i a n futurisms, . i t s e l i t i s t bias was constantly'being 15 propounded. The Puturxsts were the rexncarnatxon par excellence of 'dandyism', the c u l t of i n d i v i d u a l genius i n opposition to the c o l l e c t i v e consciousness. The reaction against the bourgeois was common to both Russian and I t a l i a n F u t u r i s t s a l i k e but the resounding difference had to do with the sophi s t i c a t i o n of the maturing p o l i t i c a l consciousness i n Russia and i t s integration into the aesthetic discourse. This was more the r e s u l t of s p e c i f i c differences between the two contexts than d i s t i n c t l y available options. I t a l i a n Futurism was 'uncompromisingly a n t i - s o c i a l i s t ' . In March, 1909, Marin e t t i addressed the people of T r i e s t e and sa i d : "In p o l i t i c s we are as f a r removed from a n t i - p a t r i o t i c and international socialism - i f noble exaltations of the rights of the b e l l y .- as from the planks of the conser- vatives - timorous supporters of the clergy who walk around i n padded sli p p e r s and carry a bedpan. 1 , 1 6 The importance of understanding the program of I t a l i a n " Futurism i n terms of Malevich i s l a r g e l y to be found i n Marinetti's v i s i t to Russia i n 1914. I t was there that he received scathing abuse from Larionov i n an attack published just p r i o r to h i s a r r i v a l i n the end of January, 1914. Malevich defended M a r i n e t t i against 'the Rayonnist Larionov' 24 i n an open l e t t e r printed i n the newspaper Nov., No. 12, January 28, 1914, i n which he said, "... giving slaps i n the face, which i s what the Rayonnist Larionov has b u i l t hi-s Futurism and popularity on, a l l t h i s belongs to the savage 17 crowd, as does Larxonov ..." Malevich's own i n c l i n a t i o n towards an 'aesthetic' radicalism here predominates over h i s as yet immature p o l i t i c a l consciousness. This could be seen as a contradiction against the major tenet of my thesis, but i t i s p r e c i s e l y my argument that Malevich's p o s i t i o n was i n e x t r i c a b l y bound up with the conditions of p o l i t i c a l turmoil once they became extroverted as a process i n the counsciousness and l i v e s of the Russians of that time, ht t h i s point, p r i o r to the revolution, aesthetic apocolypse i s not seen as corresponding to the s o c i a l apocolypse of mass society, i n f a c t , almost the opposite. The masses, as a p o l i t i c a l l y r a d i c a l body, were f i n a l l y given t h e i r e f f e c t i v e power through the administration of the Bolshevik vanguard, much as the a r t i s t s of the time turned to the streets to d i r e c t and create out of the p o t e n t i a l mass aesthetic. The metaphor of the people was popular entertainment e s p e c i a l l y i n the form of the c i r c u s so i t was not long before the pagentry of the c a r n i v a l infected the new climate of the arts following the revolution, p r i m a r i l y i n the theatre and the mass fetes. Power i n t h i s sense returns to the people only i n that the previous high art stylism was the hand which shaped t h i s new celebratory and provocative content, but the people who a c t u a l l y held the baton to t h i s choreography 25 were s t i l l those leaders sharing the new v i s i o n , and l a r g e l y those a r t i s t s who had matured through the previous bourgeois order. In t h i s sense we can see how the revolution presented, i n the minds of the a r t i s t s themselves, the option eith e r to become an artist-engineer, i n which case the a r t i s t would consciously choose to give up the prestigious and previously established role contingent to what he saw as the new needs of the new society, as T a t l i n d i d ; or, by the example of the revolution- aries i n h i s midst, even Lenin himself, to become an a r t i s t - r e v o l u t i o n a r y . Malevich never wanted to become an artist-engineer, but he did i n f a c t s e r i o u s l y attempt to apply h i s aesthetic to the task the revolution proposed. Malevich * s a t t r a c t i o n to F u t u r i s t ideology (marinetti had an understanding of the a r t i s t as an agitator) has a t r a n s i t i o n a l h i s t o r i c a l v a l i d i t y i n terms of the impassioned fauvism of h i s e a r l i e r peasant pictures. The Fauves used colour i l l o g i c a l l y , that i s to t h e i r own, as opposed to r a t i o n a l i m i t a t i v e ends. The independence of the a r t i s t , as a s o c i a l r o l e , allowed him to propose a personal v i s i o n as i f i t were i n f a c t , a r e a l i t y . The art r e a l i t y , or context, was acknowledged, i f l i t t l e understood, as s i g n i f i c a n t but separate. Marine t t i c a l l e d h i s peers 'young l i o n s ' , r e l y i n g on al l u s i o n s to animal passion and independent dynamism to carry meaning. The machine-ethic appears as the f i r s t step i n a program that i s self-consciously modernizing and streamlining i t s e l f . Malevich was at once attracted to t h i s a n t i - s o c i a l aspect, the r e j e c t i o n of the c i v i l i z e d past, as well as the 26 p o s s i b i l i t y of moving beyond i t into a pure abstraction purged of the debasement of l i t e r a l references. Futurism's concentration on the dynamic as opposed to the s t a t i c r e a l i t y would have appealed to Malevich, but the ultimate step into i d o l a t r y of what remained mechanical metaphors, was not going to be possible. M a r i n e t t i openly despised the ideal, "Let us go my friends' At l a s t mythology and the i d e a l have been outdone", whereas Malevich had as yet to experience the anguish and dreams of h i s i d e a l i s t i c v i s i o n , through the 19 temper of the revolution i t s e l f . What he did recognize i n Marinetti was a v o l a t i l i t y and energy that was bent on r a d i c a l l y transforming the e x i s t i n g art context almost single-handedly. The i m p l i c i t e l i t i s m of Marin e t t i was a kind of l o g i c a l although perverse extension of the c u l t of i n d i v i d u a l genius that Fascism was to proceed out of i n the very near future i n various contexts a l l over Europe. Malevich's experience of 'high' or r a d i c a l art forms was l a r g e l y because of a supportive bourgeois constituency. In f a c t even the shape of h i s art s t y l i s t i c a l l y was created out of the r i s i n g m o b i l i t y and inter-continental communications that prospering capitalism created i n the Russian context of h i s generation. While the implications of Suprematism as a p o t e n t i a l l y t o t a l i t a r i a n aesthetic are r e l a t i v e l y i m p l i c i t , I think that i t i s equally clear that Malevich had not purposefully created a system intended f o r control, but what he thought was a process inherently l i b e r a t i n g i n i t s experience. But the F u t u r i s t s meaning was r e a l l y taken at another l e v e l e n t i r e l y ; t h i s was i n the a g i t a t i o n a l or subversive and p l a y f u l antics of the i r r a t i o n a l incorporated into a serai-anarchistic framework, under the banner of Zaum and Alogism. 28 C. Zaum, Alogism and B e r l i n Dada Kruchenykh appears to have been a vibrant and resourceful member of the F u t u r i s t community at t h i s time. A book from him during h i s peak was l i k e l y to contain anything, including manifestoes, polemics, d e f i n i t i o n s , h i s t o r i c a l information on Futurism, discussions of h i s or h i s colleagues poetry, unfavourable reviews of Puskin, and on and on. Malevich collaborated with Kruchenykh through 1913 and 1914 and produced i l l u s t r a t i o n s f o r several of h i s most important books of poetry, including The Game i n H e l l , Let Us Grunt, Words as Such, which was a combination of Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh, and others. The importance of the F u t u r i s t poetic being exercised i n Russia at t h i s time, on Malevich's growth as a v i s u a l a r t i s t cannot be overemphasised. Vladimir Markov, i n h i s book on Russian Futurism, says of Kruchenykh's publications, "In these writings, Kruchenykh often generously explicates h i s own poetry, which otherwise would probably never be properly understood by posterity; the three cornerstones of h i s aesthetics are sdvig ( " s h i f t " ) , faktura 20 ("texture") and zaum ("transrational language")." According to Markov, sdvig means ' s h i f t ' or 'dislocation', and was a term used by avant-garde a r t i s t s f i r s t and was then l a t e r picked up by the F u t u r i s t poets. In the v/idest sense i t includes a l l of the conscious v i o l a t i o n s and d i s t o r t i o n s made on t r a d i t i o n a l aesthetics. "Painters used the word to denote that which takes place i n Cubist and F u t u r i s t pictures when portions of an object 21 are jerked loose and reproduced separately." Malevich's p r a c t i c a l Fig. 27. Khlebnikov and Kruchyonykh, 'Igra v adu', (The Game in Hell), 1914. Illustrations, front cover and t i t l e page by Malevich 29 understanding of 'sdvig' had been derived as an experience by and large from French Cubism. It i s no mere accident that Cubist compositions of both Picasso and Braque included elements that Malevich u t i l i z e d i n his Musical Instrument/Lamp of 1913. Troels Andersen pointed out what this picture owes i n fact to Picasso's Le Poete, dating from the spring of 1912. The open corners in the composition, and the vaguely indicated oval form- that circumscribes and p a r t i a l l y unifies an otherwise disparate tending whole are a l l formal means derived from French Cubism and in spite of the fact that they are here given an unique expression they are an emulation rather than the kind of invention Malevich was soon to move to. Leads adopted from the French Cubists can be seen now as having created an a r t i f i c i a l option for Malevich's eclecticism. Musical themes suddenly appeared i n his work and are obviously derivative and lack further contextual relevance or meaning other than a formalist preoccupation. His individualism however could not stand for this for very long. Cow and Vi o l i n , 1912-13, was a peculiarly combinative work that acted both as a painting in i t s own right, as well as a manifesto through i t s l i t e r a r y content and the proclamation written on the back which reads: "The alogical clash between two figures, the v i o l i n and the cow, represents the fight between logic, the law of natural middle-class reason and prejudice."22 Malevich also accomplished some l i t t l e known concrete- poetic drawings which are startlingly current i n terms of the 23 recent New York based conceptual art propositions. (See Illustrations). His Composition with Mona Lisa, includes a crossed-out reproduction of the Mona Lisa, a negation of that F i g . 30. Musical Instrument/Lamp, 1913. F i g . 31. Cow and V i o l i n , 1912-1913. 30 aspect of art h i s t o r i c a l i d o l a t r y that he systematically rejected from h i s art, and which pre-dates Marcel Duchamp's gesture, L.H.O.O.Q. of 1919 by f i v e years. This example alone, where there are i n f a c t many others w i l l s u f f i c e to demonstrate the retarded attention that has-been paid to Russian innvoation i n the arts of the twentieth century by h i s t o r i a n s . Another manner i n which 'sdvig' appears i n Malevich's pictures i s by way of the simple d i s l o c a t i o n or i n t e r s e c t i o n of forms, one by the other, so that i n An Englishman i n Moscow, 1913-14, an i l l u s o r y sword v i s u a l l y s l i c e s several objects, the candle, ladder, etc., into pieces, while they i n f a c t remain i n t a c t . V i s u a l puns are another part of Malevich's repetoire at t h i s point, the use of language, actual words amongst the objects and i l l u s i o n s , counterpointing, or commenting on them, as well as e x i s t i n g i n and for themselves as values i n the composition. These are a l l elements learned i n co-operation amongst the painters and the poets of t h i s period here, as elsewhere i n Europe. The other d i r e c t antecedent to F u t u r i s t poetic practice was Malevich's notion of "alogism'. I t probably owed most to "Zaumist" poetic techniques, and although Markov f e e l s that an entire book could be written about the essence and various kinds of Zaum, i t was e s s e n t i a l l y concerned with the creation of meaning i n speech-sounds, i r r a t i o n a l combinations of words, etc., taken for t h e i r own aesthetic merit, rather than as the symbolists F i g . 33. Laughter On The Boulevard, 1913-14 8 CU& F i g . 34. Brawl On The Subway, 1913-14. F i g . 35. The Arrow, 1913-1914 Fig. 37. An Englishman in Moscow, 1913-14. 31 would have i t , that one thing, necessarily represents something other than i t s e l f . It was a step towards the concrete i n poetry much the same as Malevich was making i n the v i s u a l arts, an appreciation of the value of inventing wholly new modes for an a r t i s t ' s s e n s i b i l i t y to be enacted through, without dependence on e x i s t i n g , and i f necessary, even ra t i o n a l models. "In zaum one can howl, squeak, ask f o r the unaskable, and touch the unapproachable subjects ... one can create for oneself, because the mystery of the tran s r a t i o n a l word's b i r t h i s as deep for the author's consciousness as i t i s for any outsider. I t sounds very much l i k e the concerns the Dadaists and even the S u r r e a l i s t s had for the sources and process of creation as a phenomenon, a question which however asked, seemed to d i s t o r t accordingly the r e s u l t i n g object-form. In the i d e a l i s t ' s eyes, i t would be a c a l l to a new communism i n the arts, i n spite of i t s apparently anarchistic f i r s t appearance, because what happens i s that the audience of such an art-form i s c a l l e d upon to become a r t i s t s themselves, to pick up the tools of t h e i r perceptions and make what they can of such an experience. In t h i s case, the poetry was believed i n as a t r a d i t i o n a l aesthetic proposition, unlike the l a t e r B e r l i n Dada manifestations where the ent i r e occasion was conceived p r i m a r i l y as negational and art became the means of subverting the e x i s t i n g order. B e r l i n , i n the sense of i t s maintenance of a p o l i t i c a l commitment, was unlike Paris, New York or Zurich. In t h i s way i t i s even more in t e r e s t i n g than the s t i l l a r t f u l manifestations of the other urban centres. Dada was, as well as Futurism, a d i s t i n c t l y urban art F i g . 38. L e f t to Right: M.V. Matyushin, A. Kruchyonykh, Malevich. Photograph taken i n 1913 while the stage performance of 'Victory Over The Sun' was being prepared. 32 form. The i n t e l l e c t u a l assumptions i t made i n i t i a l l y presumed a kind of c u l t u r a l experience that simply could not have been recognized by a r u r a l i n t e l l i g e n c e . The importance of B e r l i n was that i t had an actual revolution i n the streets, with r e a l f i g h t i n g and i d e o l o g i c a l c o n f l i c t ? the anarchists, the communists, etc., a l l held programmes and were acting on them. Dada i n t h i s instance, had i t s f i r s t r e a l p o s s i b i l i t y of being something other than an evidence of bourgeois f r u s t r a t i o n and impotence. This i s one of the few other examples, besides the Russian p o s s i b i l i t y of an art form that has had such an opportunity. The major difference with the Russians was the fa c t that a r t i s t s l i k e Richard Hulsenbeck, had id e o l o g i c a l as well as emotional or romantic a f f i l i a t i o n s with left-wing i n c l i n a t i o n s , p a r t i c u l a r l y the communists, and t h e i r entire program was conceived as i n s u r r e c t i o n a l . The a r t i s t s of B e r l i n Dada were p o l i t i c a l l y self-conscious very e a r l y on i n t h e i r a c t i v i t i e s but t h e i r r e a l revolutionary consciousness only developed into the mechanism i t did a f t e r the example of the October revolution i n Russia. I t was an invaluable example and source of confidence and inspiration: i n th e i r program and cannot be divorced from the subsequent Spartakist u p r i s i n g . Many of the even,ts held i n B e r l i n under the auspices of the Dadaists sound very much l i k e corresponding events put on by the Russian F u t u r i s t s a short time e a r l i e r . S a t i r i c a l magazines were created and d i s t r i b u t e d with fanfare throughout the streets of B e r l i n . Walter Mehring, i n h i s book Berlin-Dada describes the d i s t r i b u t i o n of one of the most successful magazines c a l l e d Every Man His Own F o o t b a l l . "Through the streets of grey tenements, marked by the machine-gun f i r e of the Spartakus b a t t l e s and ripped open by the Howitzer's of the Norske regime, the band was greeted with j u b i l a t i o n and applause as i t played i t s two star turns, sentimental marching songs,'Ich Hatt' 'einen Kameraden' and 'Die Rasenbank am Elterngrab'. A f t e r the cannibal dances of the Kapp-putsch, more savage than Sophie Taeuber's marionettes, a f t e r the danse macabre of the Stahlhelm movement and i t s swastika ornaments which seem to have strung straight out of Hans Arp's Heraldry, our Dada procession was greeted with a joy as spontaneous as the only danse of the Paris mob before the B a s t i l l e . The phrase 'every man h i s own f o o t b a l l ' became a popular B e r l i n saying as an expression of contempt f o r authority and humbug."25 The new aesthetic mode, photomontage and poster art as well as manifestoes arose as a natural necessity committed to the achievement of t h e i r intentions. Whereas the Russians, I am thinking here s p e c i f i c a l l y of Malevich, were not on the whole, d i r e c t l y involved i n the 'affecting' of the revolution. They were a part of the problem more than they can be said to have assisted the solution i n those early stages. I t was only through t h e i r l a t e n t l y left-wing s e n s i b i l i t i e s and t h e i r humanitarianism more than anything else that they cane f i r s t to celebrate the revolution and then secondly to believe i n i t . Other a r t i s t s were much more involved than Malevich, but on the whole, the phenomena was d i f f e r e n t from B e r l i n i n t h i s respect. Again I must remind the reader of the dilemma I outlined i n the introduction to t h i s thesis. The d i f f i c u l t i e s a r i s i n g out of the immediate assumption that because the a r t i s t has come to be seen as a renegade or bohemian figure he i s necessarily committed to revolutionary p o l i t i c a l propositions when they a r i s e , i s compl 34 i n that i t speaks of our capacity to continuously create mythic figures that embody or resolve fantasies society needs to have about i t s e l f exactly i n the midst of the s c i e n t i f i c age that supposedly implies an end to such 'aesthetic' needs. It i s no mere accident i n t h i s regard that "the i d o l i z a t i o n of HISTORY should have been the outcome of and sequel to the collapse of concrete h i s t o r i c continuity embodied i n organized r e l i g i o n , national t r a d i t i o n , l o c a l custom and s o c i a l 26 hierarchies of long standing." History seen as such a universal scheme necessarily makes a l l i t s component events meaningful r e l a t i v e to the inevitable a r r i v a l at the f o r e - t o l d destination. I t was with B e r l i n Dada however that a d i f f e r e n t kind of p o l i t i c a l perspective was being u t i l i z e d , one that i n i t i a l l y did not suppose i t s e l f to be the l a s t word on questions of ultimate human import. I t i s as i n t e r e s t i n g as i t i s p r e c i s e l y because of the s p e c i f i c i t y of i t s focus and the S o c i o - p o l i t i c a l or human, as opposed to abstracting or formal tendency that i s i t s basis. It i s important to remember that when I say 'human' I mean that i t was so i n i t s insistence on the necessity for physical change to benefit a mass of people disenfranchised from any r e a l power i n terms of creating the conditions i n which they l i v e d and without r e a l access to the means necessary f o r such transformations to occur. But the Dada method was always provocative and depended for i t s success on the administration of a kind of s o c i a l "shock-therapy", that i n i t s process i n i t s p a r t i c u l a r occasions may look anything but humanitarian. 35 Hulsenbeck was the most r a d i c a l and a r t i c u l a t e spokes- man f o r t h i s d i r e c t i o n i n Dada. In h i s statement of 1920 En Avant Dada: A History of Dadaism, he said: "To make l i t e r a t u r e with a gun i n hand, had for a time been my dream. To be something l i k e a robber-baron of the pen, a modern U l r i c h von Hutten - that was my picture of a Dadaist. The Dadaist should have nothing but contempt for those who have made a Tusculum of the ' s p i r i t ' , a refuge f o r t h e i r own weaknesses. The philosopher i n the garret was thoroughly obsolete - but so was the professional a r t i s t , the cafe l i t t e r a t e u r , the society 'wit', i n general the man who could be moved i n any way by i n t e l l e c t u a l accomplish- ment, who i n i n t e l l e c t u a l matters found a welcome l i m i t a t i o n which i n h i s opinion gave him. a sp e c i a l value before other men - the Dadaist as far as possible was to be the opposite of these."27 Dada was conceived out of a s o c i a l urgency but with the difference that i t s phenomena l a y i n the hands and hearts of a r t i s t s and not ideologues; Dada was anything but systematic. Hulsenbeck, l a t e r i n t h i s same essay goes on to say: "What Dada was i n the beginning and how i t developed i s u t t e r l y unimportant i n comparison with what i t has come to mean i n the mind of Europe. Dada has operated - not as mild suasion but l i k e a thunderbolt, not l i k e a system set down i n a book, which through the channel of superior minds, afte r years of chewing and rechewing becomes the universal possession of the nations, but l i k e a watchword passed on by heralds on horseback. The immense e f f e c t of Dadaism on the great mass of the a r t i s t i c a l l y i n d i f f e r e n t l a y i n the senseless and comic character of the word Dada, and i t would seem that t h i s e f f e c t , i n turn must derive from some profound psychological cause, connected with the whole structure of 'humanity' today and i t s present s o c i a l organization."2 8 The difference between the German approach to the problem of the ' i n d i f f e r e n t masses', which was the central problem of art i n Russia a f t e r the revolution, and Malevich's 3 6 understanding was one of method. Malevich learned much from the techniques of Zaum and a l o g i c a l poetics, but only thought of i t as t r a n s i t i o n a l a f t e r the revolution a c t u a l l y created the p o s s i b i l i t y to conceive of a future rather than being necessarily caught i n the labyrinth of each e x i s t e n t i a l moment. But even Hulsenbeck's p o l i t i c a l l y self-conscious Dada f i n a l l y thought i t s e l f eternal and the l a s t sentence i n h i s essay states that: "On March 5, we were i n Karlsbad, where to our great s a t i s f a c t i o n we were able to ascertain that Dada 29 i s eternal and destined to achieve undying fame." which i t has, but not for the reasons which ins t i g a t e d Hulsenbeck's v i s i o n i n the f i r s t place, reasons which were af t e r a l l extremely close to Marx's famous maxim at the end of the Thesis on Feurbach where he says: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world d i f f e r e n t l y , the point i s , to change i t " . Malevich's alogism was only p a r t i a l l y Dada-like. It s t i l l contained conscious references to e x i s t i n g presedent from the art context and could not have thought of t h i s as reactionary. He had i n mind a p a r t i c u l a r reconstruction, and was already onto the process of i t , however t e n t a t i v e l y . But both Malevich and Futurism o v e r a l l also operated a f f e c t i v e l y at a subversive or a g i t a t i o n a l l e v e l i n terms of ridding society or s p e c i f i c a l l y one's art, of the old, the baggage of h i s t o r y . I t must be remembered however, that Malevich and Russian Futurism as a movement, were not, l i k e t h e i r I t a l i a n counterparts, r e j e c t i n g h i s t o r y wholesale. They never approached Marinetti's hedonistic appreciation and even adultation for war. Some of the F u t u r i s t exhibitions i n Russia even included c r a f t s and 37 a r t i f a c t s from t h e i r own p r i m i t i v e h i s t o r y and environment, a l a t e n t l y nostalgic Futurism, a humanized and searching Futurism, one that wanted to see beyond the very blinders i t had erected i t s e l f , i n order to move at a l l i n the f i r s t place. Alogism was something that infected everything that the a r t i s t s were doing at the time, i t was l i k e Dada i n that i t had to be acted out i n the streets i n some way, i n order to be f u l l y understood. Malevich's alogism went so f a r as to claim that he had i n f a c t purposefully rejected reason on February 19, 1914, 30 at a public l e c t u r e . i n being so prognostic he made the i r r a t i o n a l , r a t i o n a l , which i s of course absurd and ultimately i r o n i c . While a l l of these e a r l y manifestations appear to be almost p l a y f u l i n terms of the l a t e r confident 'rationalism' and high p r i n c i p l e d harmony of Suprematism, I think that i t can be maintained that i t i s only an apparent contrast. Both Alogism and Suprematism are completed systems of understanding, or at least systems which put themselves forward as complete or absolute and s e l f - s u f f i c i e n t processes as one of the main fascinations they o f f e r the observer. They demand that one become an i n i t i a t e of the perceptual experience and thereby insure that t h e i r p a r t i c u l a r r i t u a l of knowledge w i l l become known, and i f the assumptions can be shared by the observer, the theory or experience w i l l be accepted, on that basis. They offered a confidence of a v i s i o n i n an age that had consciously set out to destroy such a world p i c t u r e . But i t i s i n the t h e o r e t i c a l or p h i l s o p h i c a l heritage of r e j e c t i o n i n Russian aesthetics that a further c l a r i t y i s to be achieved. The next chapter w i l l deal d i r e c t l y with t h i s t r a d i t i o n . F i g . 40. The Black Square, 1913. CHAPTER 3 38 THE RUSSIAN INTELLECTUAL HERITAGE AND CONTEXT A. THE DESTRUCTION OF THAT WHICH IS Nothing, much l e s s the revolutionary ferment of Russia, emerges from a vacuum. Russia had even had the not unique experience of revolution organized and instrumented from above under the ambiguous reign of Alexander I I , 'the Tsar Liberator', or 'great Reformer' as he has become known. Although he was d i r e c t l y responsible for the emancipation of the serfs, he seems neither to have had the strength nor- determination to see such moves through to t h e i r conclusions, and the emancipation eventually proved a f a i l u r e . There was a considerable reaction to t h i s ambiguous relegation of powers, and, "Some of the more bigoted representatives of the dominant reaction (Katkov, the Metropolitan P h i l a r e t , Panin, Pobedonostev, P.A., Shuvalov, D i m i t r i Tolstoy) believed that the Tsar was l o s i n g control over the country by defying t r a d i t i o n , by c a p i t u l a t i n g to the enemies of autocracy or aristocracy."" 1" Larapert f e e l s that the f a i l u r e s of Alexander's 2 reforms were l a r g e l y due "to i n f i r m i t y of purpose." His l i f e was threatened f i r s t i n 1866 and was follwed by many other attempts u n t i l f i n a l l y there was a successful assassination i n 1881. But under Alexander there had been released a 'current of radicalism', 'expressions of a new mood coincided with great economic changes' and a new climate which could not be ignored suddenly seized the conscience of Russia's i n t e l i g e n t s i a . The fate of the peasant had become 'the chief human and s o c i a l 4 preoccupation of Russian thinkers'. Malevich's immediate a r t i s t i c and philosophical predecessors had the doubly strange 39 role of being both exemplars of 'precocious e r u d i t i o n ' at the same time as they were 'the symbol of Russia i n r e v o l t ' . N i k o l a i Chernyshevsky (1828-1889) was one such figure, n o v e l i s t , s o c i a l c r i t i c and charismatic public personality. His r e l a t i o n s with the e x i s t i n g power structure took on a f a m i l i a r enough pattern for Russian History; he was imprisoned on May 5, 1864 to fourteen years forced labour (later reduced to seven) i n S i b e r i a 'with permanent loss of a l l r i g h t s ' , and i n a l l 'spent nearly a quarter of a century, that i s about 6 h a l f h i s l i f e , . . . i n penal servitude and deportation.* The importance of such a figure to our h i s t o r i c a l under- standing of Malevich i s I think best revealed i n a quote from Lampert generalizing what such a man and h i s l i f e represent i n the Russian context. "It has become a l a r g e l y unquestioned commonplace that Russian thought was linked with s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l attitudes to an extent unknown almost anywhere i n contemporary Europe. The idea of philosophy as a neutral technical enterprise, as mere methodology, i s n a t u r a l l y a l i e n to the Russian i n t e l l e c t u a l scene. " This w i l l be an invaluable perception to the proceeding argument concerning the growing i n d i v i s i b i l i t y i n Russia of the i n t e l l e c t - ual and the a r t i s t i c consciousness. There were other figures as well, but the one who remains most s i g n i f i c a n t to our problem i s Dimitry Pisarev (1840 - 1868). Although the fever of anti-aestheticism was already latent i n the writings of Chernyshevsky and others, with Pisarev i t became an overt programme, intent on 'The Destruction of Aesthetics', which was i n f a c t the t i t l e of h i s most scathing attack. Pisarev e s s e n t i a l l y 'launched a campaign against art i t s e l f and the 40 culture which has produced i t ' . He f e l t that Beauty, as a notion, 'ideal' 'universal' or 'true' ... was just 'a mumbo-jumbo of i n d e f i n i t e Platonic and Hegelian notions'. 'Nothing i n h i s view was more r e l a t i v e than our sense of the b e a u t i f u l , and any attempt to divorce i t from the concrete Q experience of the b e a u t i f u l had no meaning'. Lampert goes on to say that: "Aesthetic n i h i l i s m i s a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y Russian atti t u d e . I t i s shown i n the many views of many Russian writers pursued by a sense of g u i l t at being writers at a l l . . . . The experience sprang from an acutely f e l t c o n f l i c t - pace Rousseau, almost unknown i n Western Europe - between culture and l i f e . Pisarev's r e f l e c t i o n on t h i s c o n f l i c t impelled him to expose the myths of i d o l s of culture to which men have become enslaved, and for the creation and maintenance of which they have enslaved others." 4 Pisarev envisioned a 'disappearance of culture altogether, which was to be succeeded by "the emergence of a 'non-cultural', s c i e n t i f i c culture, whose i d e a l was neither invented nor abstracted but found and l e f t where i t alone could be represented, 'in actual and l i v i n g phenomena'. I t was to be a culture which r e f l e c t e d man's changing and unimpeded v i s i o n of the universe, free e s p e c i a l l y from a l l the burdens of the past, and with none of the hot a i r of 'exalted places'. Its 'temples' would be 'the workshops of human thought'. It would eschew the a r t i s t as a sacred monomaniac, misunderstood and misinterpreted and ensure h i s status as simply a human being, endowed with a special g i f t of a r t i c u l a t i o n and free from somnolence and escapism.""^ What we have then i s an i n t e r e s t i n g i n t e l l e c t u a l 41 pre-figuration of the ideas and tremors that were l a t e r to prove so v o l a t i l e when f i n a l l y they l e f t the textbooks of academicians, and merged with the actual physical p o s s i b i l i t y of material transformation. This i s one part of the a l l too often ignored heritage Malevich and h i s generation were surely steeped i n as well as the more popularly known 'painterly' phenomena of the west. B. RADICAL IDEALISM: HEGELIAN OR MARXIST? "Art advances between two chasms, which are f r i v o l i t y and propoganda. On the ridge where the great a r t i s t moves forward, every step i s an adventure, an extreme r i s k . In that r i s k , however, and only there, l i e s the freedom of a r t . 1 , 1 1 Albert Camus What then are we to understand of Malevich's use of the ' a l o g i c a l ' developed as i t was, out of Cubo-Futurist propositions? C e r t a i n l y i t becomes absurd to simply view i t as another extension of the s t y l i s t i c vocabulary of the past; i n spite of the f a c t that i t undoubtedly owes i t s cues to previously generated precedent, t h i s i n e v i t a b l y conceives of the material- ized form as divorced from i t s o r i g i n a l idea or content and subjects i t instead to our i n e v i t a b l y dislocated i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . Surely there are as many s i g n i f i c a n t clues to the content located elsewhere than i n the s h e l l of the forms which we view. While there i s every reason why one might want to 'appreciate' the art object, painting, sculpture or whatever fo r i t s own sake, the scope of t h i s thesis i s committed to a larger task. In t h i s sense, i t would be absurd to i n s i s t on a focus on the object or the aesthetic idea i n s p i t e of obvious interconnections and 42 relationships with e x i s t i n g conceptions the society holds of i t s e l f o v e r a l l . I t would be l i k e suddenly looking at Mayan or some equally as foreign, sculptural r e l i e f s as s t y l i s t i c a l l y expressive forms, discontinuous with t h e i r organic roots i n b e l i e f s and t h e i r commensurate function. We must, as Panofsky suggested, presuppose meaning and pay attention to the s i g n i f - 12 icance of the 'sign' we are l i t e r a l l y presented with. The necessity of understanding the system of b e l i e f contemporary with the object or aesthetic under consideration i s , i n these terms, an indispensable t o o l f o r exegesis. I t i s i n t h i s sense mandatory to have some cognizance of Hegel's notion of d i a l e c t i c s and h i s philosophy of what art i s . I do not want to claim that Malevich was schooled i n Hegelian metaphysics, but i t i s impossible to ignore the obvious p a r a l l e l s between h i s Suprematist system and such a philosophy. I w i l l employ Marcuse's analysis of Hegel to these ends, but l e t me f i r s t b r i e f l y describe the formation i n Malevich's art of a d i a l e c t i c a l process and h i s l a t e r under- standing of i t . D i a l e c t i c as Hegel i n i t i a l l y propounded i t , was not an a n a l y t i c a l system of thought. "Instead of expressing and r e f l e c t i n g the movement of the content, the d i a l e c t i c produces t h i s movement. It i s not so much a method of analysis as a method of synthetic and systematic construction of the 13 content." Formal l o g i c p r i o r to Hegel l e f t open an e s s e n t i a l problem, that i s , how are the form and content to be united? Formalism i n the art context shares somewhat the same problem; there i s a d i v i s i o n which occurs between the technical means, and that which i s embodied, or what was c a l l e d the s p i r i t u a l 43 content, as opposed to the material. Because of our own f o r m a l i s t i c bias we sometimes avoid seeing i n h i s t o r i c a l a r t objects the largest part of t h e i r meaning. This i s one aspect of the abyss into which Malevich has been shoved, as I mentioned e a r l i e r . Hegel broke h i s notion of D i a l e c t i c down into a t r i a d ; thesis, a n t i - t h e s i s and the synthesis. I t i s possible to see Malevich's extended art production as a macro-structure somewhat i n these terms. His representational but personal .images, the Peasant pictures, ect., could be thought of as the i n i t i a l h i s t o r i c a l given, although adjusted to h i s own s e n s i b i l i t y . This would correspond to Hegel's th e s i s . The an t i - t h e s i s , or the negation i s the next step for Malevich. I t took as i t s p r i n c i p a l task the d i s s o l u t i o n of the connections between empirical causative space with i t s ' r e a l i s t i c ' forms, and the r e a l i t y of the world art revealed. The destruction of the f i g u r a t i v e or representational element i n Malevich's art was not a dehumanizing process as has been pro- jected, but rather a reconstruction according to a transformed consciousness bringing the process and manifest content of art back into the realm of ideas from which i t had been previously divorced. It i s only with a demand f o r 'social realism' that we f i n d an argument for the humanitarian to be disembodied from the i d e a l i n favour of a preoccupation with the immediate. This i s the propogandistic chasm i n the extreme to which Camus re f e r s . With Suprematism, Malevich declared the b i r t h of an art which he considered i n fa c t , to be on an equal footing with 44 philosophy or r e l i g i o n , and as such made a c a l l f or a r t i s t s to r e a l i z e the 'true' content of t h e i r process. For Hegel, "art, r e l i g i o n , and philosophy are ... d i f f e r e n t paths to the same goal: the understanding of the con- 14 crete universal or the true as the whole." In 1922, i n a l e t t e r written to the De S t i j l group i n Holland, Malevich said: What does t h i s l i f e consist of? Of Religion and flesh-pot well being. Both create objects of well-being, and a l l these objects of well-being are t h e i r content, although they themselves do not r e a l i z e that ART has i t s own content i n i t s idea. They imagine that i t can only e x i s t by swallowing l i f e ' s content, which i s simply a crude, animal plan of action. The negation i n h i s work was matured i n an environment h e a v i l y populated with Cubist and F u t u r i s t alternatives, a r t i s t s seeking somewhat i n the same d i r e c t i o n as Malevich himself. Cubism however, he saw as e n t i r e l y too a n a l y t i c a l without the presentation of a uniquely conceived a l t e r n a t i v e . Futurism was beseiged by a romantic preoccupation with the new mechanical culture, e l e c t r i c a l metaphors, fractured objects, and i n spite of t h i s , s t i l l retained a l l u s i o n s to empirical forms. Malevich did not come to any of these conclusions magically or overnight; he did i n fact execute a bi z a r r e hybrid which he termed Cubo-Futurism (See The Knife-Grinder, 1912) as well as h i s ' a l o g i c a l ' pictures. (See Warrior of the F i r s t D i v i s i o n , 1914) Along with the maturing synthesis that he was f i n a l l y to formulate and a r t i c u l a t e as Suprematism, the f i n a l stage of the Hegelian t r i a d , complete with the l a t e r Hegelian a l l u s i o n s 45 to Ontology, and a realm of 'absolute s p i r i t ' . The paintings that I w i l l discuss i n a l a t e r chapter from t h i s period are e s s e n t i a l l y i n a d i a l e c t i c a l conversation within t h e i r own singular non-objective context, and h i s t o r y . Malevich f e l t that Suprematism was a culmination of art h i s t o r y much as Hegel believed he had proposed a conclusive metaphysical system of thought. The largest c o n t r a d i c i t i o n i n t h i s operation as a proposal was i t s manifestation as an idealism without any p r a c t i c a l means of creating i t s e l f within the context of every- day l i f e . Marx, i n h i s Theses on Feurebach,said: "The question whether human thought can arrive at objective truth i s not a t h e o r e t i c a l but a p r a c t i c a l question. I t i s i n praxis that man must prove the truth, that i s the r e a l i t y , the exactness, the power of h i s thinking. The dispute over the r e a l i t y or non-reality of thinking i s o l a t e d from praxis i s a purely schola s t i c question." 1^ My contention here i s not that art operates as a p a r a l l e l science to philosophy or as an i l l u s t r a t i o n of philosophical tenets, but that i n the art of Kasimir Malevich, and i n the s p e c i f i c context of Russia, there i s a linkage d i r e c t l y into the energy that p o l i t i c a l philosophy was enjoying at t h i s time, that would l a t e r , during and immediately a f t e r the revolution, produce substantial challenges to the e x i s t i n g order. Under Marxist-Leninism t h i s was considered a dangerous luxury and the manifestation of a r a d i c a l abstract art was confusedly seen simply as a f l a g of the e a r l i e r bourgeois sophi s t i c a t i o n and as having no relevance to the needs of the immediate s o c i a l reconstruction. The Russian Revolution was one h i s t o r i c a l variant that did not follow Marx's r-Jf' i. ••mi f% I F i g . 41. C o n t r e - r e l i e f , Exhibited i n B e r l i n i n 1922, V. T a t l i n . F i g . 42. Corner r e l i e f , suspended type. C o l l a t i o n of materials, iro n , aluminum, primer, 1915, V. T a t l i n . 46 notions of how the revolution would i n f a c t occur. Ernst Fischer describes t h i s : "The creation of a new s o c i a l i s t consciousness i s a central problem of socialism, as i t comes gradually into being and becomes recognizable i n rough outline despite many d i s t o r t i o n s and setbacks. In the Russian revolution, consciousness had soared ahead of being. I t had come about d i f f e r e n t l y from what Marx had expected (for good reason, i n h i s own time): new productive forces had not smashed the old production r e l a t i o n s i n one of the most developed c a p i t a l i s t countires. Instead, revolution had occurred i n a backward country as the r e s u l t of war, wretchedness, the elemental demand of the people as a whole for peace and the demand of the peasants for land. The undeveloped productive forces had not c a l l e d for socialism. But h i s t o r i c a l decisions do not follow the textbooks; they are the product of unprecedented and unrepeatable situations."17 The revolution then appears more as a r e s u l t of Lenin's genius, the creation of a Vanguard e l i t e , and the deprived conditions than according to h i s t o r i c a l necessity. This description i s i n t e r e s t i n g inasmuch as i t sets the stage f o r some better understanding of why Malevich and the r a d i c a l a r t i s t s of the years preceding the revolution were subsequently rejected. Marcuse, i n h i s preface to Reason and Revolution, has a very good paragraph that e f f e c t i v e l y describes the mechanism of negation i n society and the reasons f o r i t s ultimate a r t i f i c i a l - i t y . Malevich's 'alogism' and h i s connections to the F u t u r i s t poets may be c l a r i f i e d by extension of t h i s argument. "The l i b e r a t i n g function of negation i n philosophical thought depends upon the recognition that the negation i s a p o s i t i v e act: that-which-is repels that which-is-not and, i n doing so, repels i t s own p o s s i b i l i t i e s . Consequently, to express and define that-which-is on i t s own terms i s to d i s t o r t and f a l s i f y r e a l i t y . R e a l i t y i s other than and more than that c o d i f i e d i n the l o g i c and language of f a c t s . Here i s the inner l i n k between d i a l e c t i c a l thought and the e f f o r t of avant- garde l i t e r a t u r e : the e f f o r t to break the power of facts over the word, and to speak a language which i s not the language of those who est a b l i s h , enforce and benefit from the f a c t s . As the power of the given facts tends to become t o t a l i t a r i a n , to absorb a l l opposition, and to define the entire universe of discourse, the e f f o r t to speak the language of contradiction appears increasingly i r r a t i o n a l , obscure, a r t i f i c i a l . " ! 8 The question then i s obviously not to locate the influences Hegel exerted d i r e c t l y or i n d i r e c t l y on Malevich, but rather on the fascinating f a c t that the process of d i a l e c t i c , and poetic language, the 'alogism' or 'Zaumist* antics of Malevich, here converge. As Marcuse continues to say, "The common element i s the search f o r an 'authentic language'... the language of negation as the Great Refusal 19 to accept the rules of a game i n which the dice are loaded." Thus art, while not speaking d i r e c t l y i n the language of p o l i t i c a l discourse operates out of and i n response to, a s i m i l a r need, and understanding embedded i n the vary nature of what i t i s . The form i t takes necessarily can not be i n the guise of the e x i s t i n g order? i n Russia i n the 1930's, such a demand was f o r Social Realism. The central problem for Malevich then, as f o r us now, i s the question and paradox of the r e l a t i o n s between freedom and necessity. Malevich's Suprematism was unquestionably much more deeply committed to 'freedom' than any s o c i a l realism propogating i d e o l o g i c a l tenets, p r e c i s e l y because i t was not dedicated to propoganda. Malevich, l i k e Hegel, wanted an art that transcended p a r t i c u l a r and time-locked i d e o l o g i c a l premises. In Soviet Marxism, Marcuse says: "The Soviet state by administrative decree p r o h i b i t s the transcendence of art; i t thus eliminates even the i d e o l o g i c a l r e f l e x of freedom i n an unfree society. Soviet r e a l i s t i c a r t , complying with the decree, becomes an instrument of s o c i a l control i n the l a s t s t i l l nonconformist dimension of the human existence. Malevich appears as an a r t i s t much more r a d i c a l than the given h i s t o r i c a l context could afford to tolerate, i n t h e i r minds at l e a s t , and so they e f f e c t i v e l y eliminated him and 21 the influence of h i s works from within t h e i r sphere. Another way of understanding the mechanism of t h i s contradiction, the attempted welding of i n d i v i d u a l freedom and c o l l e c t i v e necessity or consciousness, i s i n the language of psychoanalysis. Norman 0. Brown, i n reference to ideas i n i t i a l l y elaborated by Freud, has said that, "Art, i f i t s object i s to undo repressions, and i f c i v i l i z a t i o n i s e s s e n t i a l l y repressive, i s i n t h i s sense subversive of c i v i l i z a t i o n . . . . In contrast with the repressive structure of the authoritarian group, the aim of the partnership between the a r t i s t and the audience i s i n s t i n c t u a l l i b e r a t i o n . . . . Art seduces us into the struggle 22 against repression." During the months afte r the revolution, theatre and art did l i t e r a l l y become animated i n the l i v e s of the people, a d i a l e c t i c emerged which derived from the a r t i s t s m a t e r i a l i z i n g perceptions they had as to what the essence of existence, e s p e c i a l l y i n celebration of the Revolution, was a l l about. Malevich's i n t e r e s t i n synthesizing dissident parts into a comprehensive whole i n an attempt to overcome s p i r i t u a l or philosophical ethnocentricity i s indeed reminiscent of Hegel's philosophy. Hegel saw that the powerful s p i r i t of eve age, i t s ideology or what he c a l l e d the 'Zeitgeist', makes men "prisoners of the p r e v a i l i n g perspectives of t h e i r period, t h e i r 23 p a r t i c u l a r s i t u a t i o n s , and t h e i r national cultures." I t was h i s attempt, through philosophy, as i t was Malevich's through h i s art, to overcome t h i s dilemma by creating a meta- physic that u t i l i z e d t h i s perception of man i n h i s t o r y . Both devised a system that saw truth as a process and not a conclusion, and that hoped to provide a transcendental over- view. That Malevich can be aligned with the fate of Hegel i n t h i s way i s appropriate p a r a l l e l to the f a i l u r e of the revolution i n c l a s s i c a l Marxist terms. While Hegel was seen by Marx to have given the "most advanced and comprehensive statement of bourgeois p r i n c i p l e s , " so Malevich, who c l e a r l y embodies aspects of Hegel's philosophy i n h i s aesthetic, would likewise at least conceivably, have been transcended himself i f the new order had i n fact a c t u a l l y been i n s t i t u t e d . The analogy to Hegel i s not expected to be a d i r e c t one. Generally the idealism was present as much i n Marx as i t was i n Hegel or Malevich's use of both of them. One difference being that Marx had 'turned Hegel on h i s head' i n order to apply i d e a l i s t i c philosophy d i r e c t l y to pressing contemporary human needs and i n so doing created praxis out of theory and supposedly stopped useless acedemicism. Malevich did not operate as either a 'Hegelian' or a 'Marxist', the one necessarily independent of the other, but combined them into a structure as s u b s t a n t i a l l y of h i s own creation as i t depended on previously existing philosophical sources. Another difference however l a y i n the f a c t that Malevich was present during the revolution which was supposed to act as a correction for the one looming contradiction Marx presented to Hegel's system. "The truth, Hegel maintained, i s a whole that must be present i n every single element, so that i f one material element cannot be connected with the process of reason, the truth of the whole i s destroyed. Marx 25 said there was such an element - the p r o l e t a r i a t . " The p r o l e t a r i a t , through the forces of the revolution was to be r e a l i z e d as an aspect of the truth by being given the p o s s i b i l i t y , under the new conditions which the revolution creates, to f u l f i l l t h e i r human p o t e n t i a l i t i e s and freedom. Suprematism, operating out of an understanding of t h i s prospect, f e l t no r e s t r a i n t s on i t s idealism, which, i n retrospect, we can now see that i t shared as much with Marx as with Hegel. The r e a l confusion results only i f we demand that the a r t i s t operate i n absolute conjunction with the major t h e o r e t i c a l forces of h i s time instead of i n and around them; the problem i n t h i s case however i s that Malevich, and indeed the major c u l t u r a l ambience i n Russia at the time, was very much tuned into such a possible conjunction. CHAPTER 4 THE PROJECT OF SUPREMATISM A. SUPREMATISM IN WORLD RECONSTRUCTION "I have transformed myself in the zero of form and dragged myself out of the rubbish-filled pool of acedemic a r t . " A K. Malevich The arguments between Malevich and Tatlin were really f i n a l l y formulated by 1915. Tatlin's 'materialism', his exhaltation of the real i t y of the object-components, was seen as the embodiment of a de-mystified rationalism, in spite of the fact that many of his contre-reliefs for example, only work at a l l i f viewed as abstract sculptural statements. But in spite of this apparent similarity, Malevich's 'non-objectivity' and i t s con- comitant spiritualism, was theoretically untenable to Tatlin*s direction and a ri v a l r y developed between them. The painter, Ivan Puni, organized an exhibition i n 1915 - 'Tramway V , in which Tatlin showed his r e l i e f s and Malevich showed his 'zaumist' or 'alogical' works, but no non-objective works appeared. The question arises as to why, i f i n fact Malevich was working i n his non-objective style at this point, there were no such canvases exhibited. "An argument frequently advanced i s that there were simply none i n existence to exhibit; alternatively i t might have been that he was awaiting an opportunity to show a sizeable body of works. And at the end of the year he did i n fact exhibit an impressive array of new work at another exhibition, again organized by Puni. This was entitled '0.10' (The Last Futurist exhibition), Malevich showed over thirty Suprematist paintings, Tatlin a dozen r e l i e f s . " 2 The '0.10* exhibition had opened in December of 1915, including the famous black square among i t s astonishments. On January 5, 1916, Malevich took part i n a public debate with Puni concerning 'Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism', and his pamphlet, 'From Cubism to Suprematism; The New Realism in Painting', was published, a l l to coincide with the '0.10' exhibit. Tatlin had a brochure printed on his r e l i e f s to counter Malevich's propositions; the atmosphere was highly polemical. In his essay, Malevich maps the path of painting from i t s earliest primitive manifestations to his own work i n Suprematism. His consciousness i s very much attuned to explaining the need for the radical departure from traditional aesthetic modes that he demands. His sense of the primitive i s not an idealized elementarism or return to basic f i r s t principles as the route to freedom and purity. Instead his interest tends towards the diversified and complex origins that he f e l t much of modern art was not dealing with mistakenly thinking that i t s path, analogous to biological, and later to technological evolution, was linear and that the appearance of a new or novel stage necessarily made i t s predecessor obsolete. In order to just i f y the sweep he makes of the hi s t o r i c a l legacy he attempted to demonstrate the error of the h i s t o r i c a l model i f accepted as the precedent for the 'new art'. "For art should not proceed 3 towards reduction, or simplification, but towards complexity.° Since the metaphor of simplification became the watchword of abstraction i n the painting, sculpture and architecture of the west not long after this, i t i s extremely interesting to note the fact that Malevich himself, an often referred to forerunner of this phenomenon as a visual presence, did not conceive his aesthetic as anything l i k e a 'less i s more' puritanism. His intentions were in fact to a more rigorous and complex content although not i n a l i t e r a l or narrative format. He cites the Venus de Milo as a "graphic example of decline", 4 Hichaelangelo's David i s a "monstrosity". His proposition i s clearly that the art of the past has bequeathed a particular set of problems in i t s heritage as well as a vast richness. It hasled us to understand art as a parasite to nature; the distinction i s between the art of copying (allbeit with individuality or style) and the art of genuine creation. He does not f a i l to credit contemporary movements with their unique discoveries, and says that "Futurism opened the'new' in modern l i f e ; the beauty of speed". 5 But at the same time, he proposes Suprematism as an inevitable advance and consequently says: "We have abandoned Futurism; and we, the most daring, have spat on the altar of i t s art." Malevich*s complaint with Futurism was that while they rebelled from the restraints of reason and proclaimed intuition, which they equated with the subconscious, as the organizing principle for composition, in fact, they s t i l l u t i l i z e d the same format, that i s , empirical reality; but i t was now seen through a conscious sense of fractured or distorted design. Malevich wanted an intuitive form which 'should emerge from nothing', rather than from existing u t i l i t a r i a n elements. The fantasy that such a perception creates, especially i f removed from the abstract and put into praxis among real men. F i g . 43. Suprematist Drawing, 1915-16. i s not without h i s t o r i c a l precedent. The razing of the world, the apocolypse of destruction that 'necessarily' precedes the creation of a new order i s as ancient to the mythic human memory as recorded time i t s e l f . Within a single year, the revolution was to enact Malevich's aesthetic considerations i n terms of his perception of i t s h i s t o r i c a l necessity with corresponding socio-political forms. The Bolshevik dream of a classless society and the concommittant initial'dictatorship of the proletariat' as an intermittant stage prior to the realization of their Utopia in fact corresponds to the kinds of absolutist declarations announced by Suprematism. Certainly Suprematist ideology does not indicate clearly u t i l i t a r i a n consequences, a l l I am pointing out i s an obvious parallel at a formal level i n the logic of corresponding arguments. The creative aspect of Malevich's argument i s for a genuine and conscious liberation rather than a partial and unconscious one. He f e l t that the road of materialist reason reduced creation to the lowest possible level and made form simply into reasonable distortions, l i k e variations out of a central and omnipotent theme alienated from i t s proper centre i n man. "The efforts of the a r t i s t i c authorities to direct art along the road of common-sense reduced creation to n i l . And with the strongest people real form i s distortion. Distortion was driven by the strongest to the moment of vanishing, but i t did not overstep the bounds of nothing. But I transformed myself in the zero of form and emerged from nothing to creation, that i s to Suprematism, to the new realism i n painting - to non-objective creation. Suprematism i s l i k e the beginning of a new culture. 1 , 9 5 5 . It i s a curious expression of individual w i l l and i t i s to Malevich*s credit that he was strong enough not to have been smothered by the flood of mass oriented metaphors and psychology of his day. Malevich refused to succumb to a particular ideological mode simply because i t was the natural reflex to the existing environment. What he did do however as an absorption of the d r i f t of the time was to transform a given energy or idea into the structure of his own system, and he seems to have done this f a i r l y unconsciously. I w i l l deal with this in more detail i n the f i n a l chapter. But for now i t i s enough to think of i t as, Malevich, willing and f i n a l l y accepting his own imaginative process, a created or aesthetic reality, i n as substantial a way as the one informed by the history of the state. He projected a resolution of his moral sensibility as an abstraction into the system he called Suprematism. So we find that we have moved h i s t o r i c a l l y from man's creation of God, to man's creation of things, and 'idolatry' i s the description of the phenomenon of what such an event represents, that operates in both instances. Art then, i n the second stage of a consciousness that was acting as a victim, blind to such a perception, would simply supplant religion i n the exercise of such human needs. Marx even saw the whole fetish with commodities i n the western world as being an understandable extension of the same unconscious drives. In this sense the commodity culture becomes simply a mechanistic replication of h i s t o r i c a l l y created and unconscious urges. The parallel argument was made in philosophy by Feuerbach 56. i n his analysis of The Essence of Christianity. In reference to what he f e l t was the most general cultural condition of his times, he said: "And without doubt our epoch... prefers the image to the thing, the copy to the original, the representation to the reality, appearance to being... What i s sacred for i t i s only i l l u s i o n , but what i s profane - i s truth. More than that, the sacred grows i n i t s eyes to the extent that truth diminishes and i l l u s i o n increases, to such an extent that the peak of i l l u s i o n i s for i t the peak of the sacred." 1 0 This i s clearly an h i s t o r i c a l perception. That i t i s constructed as an engagement with specific contextual dilemmas i s I think obvious. For Malevich, Suprematism was clearly his attempt to locate the lost unity of his era. The seemingly continuous battle i n h i s t o r i c a l societies between traditional forms, whether they be religious, p o l i t i c a l or aesthetic, and innovation, seems to be a basic concomittant of a f i n a l l y self-conscious society, which can see i t s e l f i n something lik e i t s t o t a l i t y . As I mentioned in the introduction to this thesis, that once a society begins to unravel the fiber of i t s mythic construction, once every rule of conduct i s questiona- ble, this condition necessarily moves that society through a process which appears very much to be, i n effect, a real dissolution. It i s interesting in this respect to note that, l i k e art under Malevich, wishing to proclaim i t s e l f as an autonomous phenomenon, philosophy went through a similar proclamation. Both suffered the effect of being f i n a l l y unable to describe the social t o t a l i t y coherently for any length of time; society seemed to be i n an eternal state of flux whereas the philosophical descriptions, especially materialism, were contingent to concrete social and 57. economic observations. The really curious paradox of Malevich's so-called intuitional system, was that i t required the apparent victory of a rational order, one conceived in his terms however, i n order to survive as a seperate cultural manifestation. Because Malevich's Suprematism could not offer anything even vaguely resembling a social critique, i t was hopelessly dependent again on the revolutionary Russian context. And i n another sense this l e f t i t open to very real accusations of unconsciously defending previously existing class structures, through i t s lack of overt supportive measures. Its support was ultimately abstract, and acted as a celebration of the potential freedom such a state could offer, and this proved unfortunately premature. But i n the loss of the communism a mythic community enjoys Suprematism necessarily emerged as a private language necessitating i n i t i a t i o n . As a seperated activity, art, especially at this moment hi s t o r i c a l l y , entered into the arena of cultural dissolution that had formerly been the situation philosophy had created in i t s critique of religion. From the critique of religion emerged the possible dissolution of a l l mythic constructions. The attempt by the constructivists on the other hand was to rediscover some common language, by moving art directly into praxis. Needless to say, they suffered great d i f f i c u l t i e s as well. In i t s ultimate phase Suprematism transcended art as a possible function i n the 'new society'. Art would be absorbed into architectural design, Utopian projects, and l i f e style. Marx's Theses on Feuerbach contains an argument which 58. can be seen to be a refutation of Malevich's process of setting up an alternative to existing art-historical idolatry as a way of overcoming the problems inherent to such a construction i n the f i r s t place. A l l that ultimately accomplishes i s to personalize the previously acknowledged error. The process of i t s creation i s an alternative, but the conclusion which suggests i t s e l f as some sort of f i n a l destination, that i s , suprematism, suffers from the same malady that spurred him on i n the f i r s t place. Erich Fromm sums up the major sense of this dilemma i n Marx's Concept of Man when he says: "Idolatry i s always the worship of something into which man has put his own creative powers, and to which he now submits, instead of experiencing himself i n his creative a c t . " 1 1 Art however, necessitates the production of some thing, and through that thing, the idea or necessity that informed i t s creation i n the f i r s t place w i l l usually resonate; this i s one of the measures that we usually think of as the 'quality' or 'power' that the object possesses. In this sense, the object necessarily presents f i n a l i t y , inasmuch as i t can be thought of as self-sufficient. But Malevich's system, i n spite of the fact that the individual residues of i t can be seen as autonomous, only gather their f u l l capacity when seen i n terms of the larger aesthetic whole. This i s the paradox of man-made things, that they can retain their own unique identity which we experience at the same time as they have a sub-surface content that i s communicated t a c i t l y without overt declaration of intent or means and which relates them to what are apparently the larger 'ideas' of the a r t i s t and ultimately also his times. Fromm says in this regard: "They are man's creations; they are valuable aids for 59 l i f e , yet each one of them i s also a trap, a temptation to confuse l i f e with things, experience with artifacts, feeling with surrender and submission."I 2 So this i s the double-pronged potential of Suprematism that I think we must keep in mind; that i t was a system of recognizable physical style, at the same time (the two are not really separable as an experience) that i t had a two part message or content known through that s t y l i s t i c means. One was declared, the message of the 'desert', the vast spacial and spiritual sensation which was Malevich's avowed intention, and the other, implicit and not necessarily known to Malevich himself, was the larger story or mythic pattern he enacted, the movement of ideas throughout time. Malevich would probably have been openly dismayed by Fromm's statement; being an a r t i s t and not an intellectual he would never have thought of an experience of his world of sensate s p i r i t as requiring "surrender and submission", inherently pejorative designations but rather an intensely open sensibility seeking alternatives to unsatisfactory aesthetic be l i e f s . He enters the range of this kind of accusation precisely because he has made a decision about his art, that as phenomenon, i t i s not simply idiosyncratic or personal, but has a larger v a l i d i t y as a way of experiencing the world. Inasmuch as this i s the case, the danger Fromm speaks of exists. But I do not think that i t i s necessarily the case that a l l created forms, that i s ideas or art, necessitate a relinquishment of c r i t i c a l capacities i n order to enter their ambience. In this sense, Malevich did go about attempting to create a mythic order, one that had enough self-sufficiency to merit investigation and experience for i t s own sake. 60. Amongst a l l of this theoretical background, i t i s almost possible to forget the objectivity of the form Suprematism took. What was the practical shape by which Suprematism was known? Near the end of the essay I have been quoting, from Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: The New Realism in Painting. he says: "I have untied the knots of wisdom and set free the 13 consciousness of colour." Only the non-objective or abstract world i s unhindered by ties to non-empirical r e a l i t y and hence, only i n such a world i s the conception of an absolute existence going to be possible. In Tatlin's presentation of material objectivity, i n spite of i t s abstract compositional appearance the object i s predetermined by i t s material or formal substance (screws, t i n , e l e c t r i c a l armatures, etc.) that i s , as Ron Hunt has suggested, i t i s the world's f i r s t "junk-sculpture". You do not, as Malevich would have you, experience the ' s p i r i t ' or sensation of the work relevant to a larger system of thought than the 'object-ness' of the various component parts i n dramatic relationship. Hence the work lacks any profound uniqueness or autonomy to i t s basic structure and instead shares a complicity i n the external world and although 'abstract' does not partake or consciously create an alternative order. Malevich's notion was that only through the experience of a work that, related to an idea larger than the physical composition taken for i t s own sake, that i s aesthetic-ideology communicated intuitively, could the art-work's universality be affective. One of the most essential means of communication of this aesthetic i s through the "consciousness" of colour. With the knots of the past (wisdom) untied, the consciousness or inner being of colour 61 i t s e l f i s set free, an inherently liberating conception, essent- i a l l y demanding that one follow by example and achieve freedom, ultimately even from the hi s t o r i c a l bondage Suprematism would represent to the succeeding generations of a r t i s t s . Colour, as i t was programatically for Kandinsky, was a means of evocation. It drew out a series of distinct, although anything but absolute, relationships among the various elements in the picture, and in a sense charged the already tense inter-relation of forms. The use of geometrical forms (straight lines, curves, circles, squares, rectangles, etc.) corresponds to Mondrian's or Van Doesburg's aesthetic of 'universal harmony' where each compositional device, line, colour, etc., i s seen purely and as resonating with a metaphysical meaning, rather than as an expressive or s t y l i s t i c distortion. The 'De S t i j l ' a rtists however, while involved with similar sounding propositions and 'essential' elements, were not l i v i n g contingent with a revolutionary-social consciousness. There was s t r i c t l y no poss i b i l i t y of realizing their art ideas at a public scale except by an unsatisfactory and conventional osmosis, whereas Suprematism, even though conceived prior to the revolution i t s e l f , quickly adjusted the scale of i t s aims to include the mass metaphor. It was i n fact E l Lissitzky who articulated that the dynamics of Suprematism could be understood as symbolic of the dynamics of the revolution. 1 4 Hence, the a l l important and seldom mentioned distinction between Malevich and Mondruan or Van Doesburg for instance; even though both factions shared the attribution of universal or metaphysical meaning above form experienced simply for i t s own sake, the distinction between the F i g . 44. Suprematist Painting, Eight Red Rectangles, 1915. 62. contexts i n which their art appeared was of an immeasurable importance precisely because both groups had the se n s i b i l i t i e s , but i t was only in Russia that i t s potential in praxis was a concrete poss i b i l i t y . There i s however a contradiction i n the process. It i s that as an a r t i s t , seeking alternatives to hi s t o r i c a l wisdom, you reduce the given elements to their lowest possible expressiveness, tentatively removing any adulation for craftsmanship i n favour of an approach to what Malevich has called "the zero degree", or a kind of psycho-biology of form. What remains i s pure"idea", hence complex, and ultimately an experience of 'particular' truth. The proposal has curiously returned upon i t s e l f as a form of 'knot' or wisdom of a similar order, although apparently looking nothing at a l l l i k e i t s progenitor, the same place which inspired the reaction and search i n the f i r s t place. It appears that he has done what arti s t s and certainly "primitive" or "mythic" c i v i l i - zations have always done, to re-create, after i t s own perceptions and subsequent principles, an order to the events and materials discovered about i t s e l f . It w i l l be useful at this point to turn to Malevich*s criticism of an entirely different art form. His argument with the film-makers, Pudovkin and Eisenstein, i s a most graphic example of this concern and was articulated in two art i c l e s . The f i r s t was called "And Images Triumph on the Screens'/ and the second, "The A r t i s t and the Cinema". They are of interest here precisely because Malevich saw that even then his aesthetic was being u t i l i z e d as a compositional device to impart dramatic effect without comprehension of the larger import he had intended. 63. In "And Images Triumph on the Screens", he quotes Arvator, who argues for 'agit-painting', and 'agit-cinema' because the new society has not yet been achieved and i t i s therefore necessary to "provide concrete persuasion i . e . by means of art", to convince otherwise dissident members.15 The assumption follows that as agitational art becomes unnecessary art w i l l pass into production. The vision i s of a single-minded proletarian society, but Malevich feels that 'single-mindedness' i s not the proposition of art, but diversity and the creation of the beautiful i s . It would undoubtedly have been abhorent to Malevich to think that his art could be seen as restraining, on the contrary, I am sure that he thought of i t as quite spontaneous, and he also saw art as passing, with the resolution of the new society, into production of a sort, however, more engaged in relations between people and environmental and architectural design, than mundane •production*. When Malevich says that "Form for form's sake does not 16 exist, nor does form as such", he i s referring to two things. One i s the continuing 'triumph' of images on the screen, essent- i a l l y products of the rejected bourgeois order and hence reactionary. The other contention i s that where the dynamics of newer conceptions are u t i l i z e d , i t i s only as new formulations for the choreography of compositional elements; Suprematism i s thereby made into a formal proposition irrespective of the revolutionary proposal i t made, that of non-objective content. He complains that: "the painter-artist i s invited into the cinema in order to play the part of some wretched yard- keeper... a scenery painter and furniture arranger, instead of directing this powerful tool of expressionJ" The humiliation i s then complete; the a r t i s t i s engaged as a decorator, and his ideas are u t i l i z e d as geometric devices for composition, denuded of a l l their revolutionary aesthetic content. In this sense Malevich had a keen eye for such exploitation and the haughtiness of his personality can be f e l t through every sentence. Vertov's application of Suprematist principles did, in Man with a Movie Camera, far exceed in complexity, Eisenstein's use of i t as a dynamic compositional device. He actually u t i l i z e d i t i n questions involving the inter-twining of space and time. His use of rapid montage to achieve a high degree of abstraction i n spite of the r e a l i s t i c people and places the film was concerned with, was another attribute as a philosophy, that would have been readily available from Suprematism. Vertov had in fact planned to work on a movie with E l Lissitzky, and was needless to say, familiar with Suprematist thought. It was to have been a film on the Story of Two Squares by Lissitzky. It was Malevich's project under Suprematism, to realize a new world out of the resources of i t s own conception. E l Lissitzky puts the idea into as many words i n his essay, Suprematism in World Reconstruction.of 1920, an almost b i b l i c a l or incantatory invitation to join forces with Suprematist ideology. Images of worlds in co l l i s i o n , sattelites, apocolypse and space travel, abound. In closing, he states: "It w i l l liberate a l l those engaged i n creative activity and make the world into a true model of perfection. This i s the model we await from Kasimir Malevich. After the old testament there came the Hew..-.- After the new, the Communist... and after the Communist there follows f i n a l l y the testament of Suprematism."1° One can hardly believe the innocence of such a phrasing. The lack of self-consciousness produces a kind of salvational tone that i s f i n a l l y taken to i t s l i t e r a l i f i l l o g i c a l conclusion. Malevich never put Suprematism into this format but did allude to such an apocolyptic connection. It i s important to remember the context in which such a statement arose, the enthusiasm of a tremendous and successful social upheaval directly behind i t ; not too dissimilar manifestations were occurring a l l over Europe during this time and whether connected directly to p o l i t i c a l analysis or psychoanalytic diagnoses most were equally as aggressive. It was a period of cafe gatherings, manifestoes and demonstrations of one kind or another. E l Lissitzky also announces another important theme of Suprematism at this time, the analogy by metaphor to extra- t e r r e s t r i a l phenomenon. "Seven years ago suprematism raised aloft i t s black square but no one sighted i t for at that time a telescope for this new planet had not yet been invented. The mighty force of i t s movement however caused a succession of artists to focus on i t and many more were influenced by i t yet neither the former nor the latter possessed sufficient inner substance to be held fast by i t s attractive power and to formulate a complete world system from the new movement. They loosed their hold and plunged l i k e meteorites into irrelevancy extinguishing themselves in i t s chaos... But the second much improved phase i s already following and the planet w i l l soon stand f u l l y revealed."19 The metaphor i s a useful one i n that i t locates the fact that people had not yet seen the essential content of Suprematism 66. and had mistakenly opted f o r the appearance i n i t s ease, over the r e a l i t y . A psychoanalyst could also make much of the sublimated sexual contents of the choice of desc r i p t i o n but I w i l l not get i n t o that here. B l L i s s i t z k y was one of the few exponents of Malevich's system to r e a l l y understand the range that h i s ideas proposed. "The empty phrase, 'art f o r a r t ' s sake', had already been wiped out and i n Suprematism we have wiped out the phrase 'painting f o r painting's sake', and have ventured f a r beyond the f r o n t i e r s 20 of painting." The system could be r e a l i z e d j u s t as well i n three dimensions as i n two, since one of i t s c e n t r a l proposals had to do with the "rhythmic arrangement of space and time", a fundamental 21 preoccupation of a r c h i t e c t u r a l phenomenon. I w i l l return to t h i s p o s s i b i l i t y of a three-dimensional application of Suprematism i n a l a t e r chapter on the a r c h i t e c t o n i k i and p l a n i t i , but f o r now I want to move onto a discussion of Suprematist thought, whereby Suprematism appears as a manifold exploration; on the one hand producing a universal calculus of the s p i r i t u a l and on the other, a kind of applied design science, complete with an i d e o l o g i c a l content. 67 B. WHAT WAS SUPREMATISM? "The system i s constructed in time and space, independently of a l l aesthetic beauties, experiences and moods; i t i s more a philosophical colour system for realizing the latest achievements of my ideas, as knowledge."22 K. Malevich Hi s t o r i c a l l y Suprematism may be considered the sum inventory of the projects, architectural models, p l a n i t i , theoretical treatises, and paintings that Malevich and his followers carried out, roughly between 1913 and 1930. That i s , i t does have an objective reality, we can see the projects and rationalize, according to Malevich's principles of dynamism, space-time, colour and the supremacy of 'pure feeling' in art, a program espoused and followed more or less accurately. But beyond the declared origins, the formal emergence out of Malevich's understanding of Cubism and Futurism, etc., and the concrete forms i t took, there i s an interesting geology; beneath the surface that we can experience there i s the greater problem of meaning, the 'why' of Suprematism and the particularity of i t s h i s t o r i c a l setting. Suprematism arose l i k e a phoenix from the ashes i t had i t s e l f created, and out of nothing, the zero degree of form, proposed the supreme manifestation of order. Malevich, i n a l l of his writings, invariably has the tenor of a prophet or priest. The vision he proposes for the future of art in society i s ultimately a highly moral stance. The morality i s not a l i t e r a l one, with concrete maxims for people to follow, but i s a sublimated scripture, inseparable by way of process (i.e. i t i s 68. the latent content) from his Suprematist world. Freud, i n Totem and Taboo, has said: "In only a single f i e l d of our c i v i l i z a t i o n has the omnipotence of thoughts been retained, and that i s in the f i e l d of art. Only in art does i t s t i l l happen that a man who i s consumed by desires performs something resembling the accomplishment of those desires and that what he does i n play produces emotional effects - thanks to a r t i s t i c allusion - just as though i t were something real."23 This i s an interesting proposition because what i t insinuates i s that the a r t i s t i s i n fact operating, within the context of one predominant process of thought, with another, his own. Freud also goes into the narcissism and obsessiveness that he feels determines a man to create systems of thought which pertain to something as vast as a theory of the universe. "Thus, a system i s best characterized by the fact that at least two reasons can be discovered for each of i t s products: a reason based upon the premises of the system (a reason then, which may be delusional) and a concealed reason, which we must judge to be the truly operative one." 2 4 I have tried to show both the premises of the system Malevich proposes, and the contextual and psychological reasons where determinable, i n my analysis throughout this thesis. This alternative process i s very evident i n Malevich i n spite of the fact that he includes the format of two previously extant modes as jumping off points, that i s , a religious scheme, and the newer sc i e n t i f i c or rational mode. His new form makes the distinction between subjective and objective knowledge meaningless. Henri Frankfort, i n his essay Myth and Reality, says of the "mytho-poeic" mind: "Meaningless, also, i s our contrast between 69. r e a l i t y and appearance. Whatever i s capable of affecting mind, feeling or w i l l has thereby established i t s undoubted rea l i t y . There i s , for instance, no reason why dreams should be considered less real than impressions received while one i s awake."25 In fact i f we trust the perceptions psychoanalysis has given us at a l l , dreams really are formative, synthesizing and crucial to any understanding of our behaviour. I am not trying to suggest that Malevich then was primitive i n his process, i.e. pre-logical, as much as by analogy he; presentedus access to our consideration of him as a post-logical intelligence, and this by extension, may bear some relevance to the method of the a r t i s t overall. Malevich wrote: "Hence to the Suprematist, the appropriate means of representation i s always the one which gives the f u l l e s t possible expression to feeling as such and which ignores the familiar appearance of objects. Objectivity i n i t s e l f , i s meaningless to him; the concepts of the conscious mind are worthless. 1 , 2 6 in many ways then we can, at this level, see a resounding similarity between Frankfort's definition of the complex character of myth and Malevich's otherwise apparently bizarre manner of logic; "Myth i s a form of poetry which transcends poetry in that i t proclaims a truth; a form of reasoning which transcends reasoning i n that it ; wants to bring about the truth i t proclaims; a form of action, of r i t u a l behaviour, which does not find i t s fulfillment in the act but must proclaim and elaborate a poetic form of truth. " 2 7 The pattern and process of Suprematism then may be seen as an alternative to contemporary speculative thought i n Russia at the time. Suprematism did not simply produce a peculiar hybrid as a compositional variant, but was moving in the direction of re-investing a moral content in a process that had sacrificed a l l 70. of i t s former power i n these terms to maturing i n s t i t u t i o n s and ideologies throughout h i s t o r y . As the energy that had created the mythic i n t e l l i g e n c e turned from the worship of an anthro- pocentric God to an understanding (or worship) tempered by science, of an idea or conception instead, so art was turning from i t s former servitude (the production of images as demonstration or enactment of a pre-conceived b e l i e f ) to a content uniquely i t s own. The m a t e r i a l i s t and e v o l u t i o n i s t d e s c r i p t i o n of t h i s process as simply a mechanism of s u r v i v a l (that i s , when photography introduced the means of dupli c a t i n g r e a l i t y more accurately than the painter, one e n t i r e range of h i s focus was a f f e c t i v e l y l o s t ) i s simply not good enough. I t pays no attention to the on t o l o g i c a l and epistomological intentions of many a r t i s t s and reduces t h e i r v i s i o n to the i n t e l l e c t u a l constructions that these c r i t i c s have formulated themselves. The project abstraction i n i t i a l l y envisioned was one of mind given material shape, as was Suprematism i n i t s boldest phase. James Jean's des c r i p t i o n of t h i s process i s appropriate i n t h i s regard. He said that "The universe begins to look more l i k e a great thought than a great machine, the o l d dualism of mind and matter seems l i k e l y to disapper... i n our time matter has become s p i r i t u a l i z e d and the s p i r i t u a l m a t e r i a l - oo i z e d . " I t i s true, of our century e s p e c i a l l y , that i t has become i n f i n i t e l y easier to t a l k i n terms of abstractions as q u a l i t i e s than of the concrete a t t r i b u t e s of things i n themselves. Questions as to the meaning of 'being' abound and ult i m a t e l y l i e at the heart of many of the aesthetic ventures around us. Malevich was such an e x i s t e n t i a l or phenomenological a r t i s t , and a c t u a l l y one of the f i r s t who understood himself as such. As the f i r s t 71 question f o r philosophers u s u a l l y has to do with the meaning of existence, so with a r t i s t s , many of t h e i r works that seem obscure or e s o t e r i c i n t h e i r 'meaning' have to do with a man l i t e r a l l y presenting h i s sensations of 'meaning' at any given moment as i t becomes apparent to him. I think Suprematism started as such an adventure, but l a t e r became something quite d i f f e r e n t again. 72. C. SUPREMATISM AND THE ENGLISH VORTICISTS: WHAT RELATIONSHIP? While i t seems that we cannot find any direct icono- graphical antecedent for the Suprematist aesthetic, there i s one non-objective movement that besides sharing a somewhat similar ideology, also produced pictures that the Russians of the period were verif i a b l y aware of. This group called themselves Vorticists, a designation attributed to them by poet and apostle for tiie movement, Ezra Pound. Pound wrote a Memoir of one of the group's exponents, Henri-Gaudier-Brzeska. In i t , he says: "Every statue, every picture i s a series of ordered relations, controlled, as the body i s controlled i n the dance, by the w i l l to express a single idea.... Art i s not an adjunct to existence, a reproduction of the actual. For indeed i t i s not essential that the subject-matter should represent or be l i k e anything i n nature; only i t must be alive with a rhythmic v i t a l i t y of i t s own."29 Within such a statement we can find many of the general descriptions of the intents of Suprematism as an organized aesthetic. Even more particularly, Malevich saw 'rhythm' as "The groundless stimulus of the universe,... the f i r s t and 30 most important law of a l l that i s manifested i n l i f e . " Malevich goes on in this same essay to describe the d i f f i c u l t y man has in comprehending reality, precisely because "Its sum i s unstable and i t s fluctuations endlessly quivering i n the waves of 31 rhythm." His sense of r e a l i t y i s permeated by a mystical envelope, a conception concerned with the eternal flux of things, as opposed to their static, reasoned understanding. But the option of both groups i s the same, that i s the overt removal of 'literary values' from their immediate concern. Both tendencies, 73. whether aware of i t at the time or not, seemed simply to exchange - absolutes. That i s , they began with an interest in rhythm, essential- l y a specific metaphor for process, and then focused on the unstable or ephemeral nature of things rather than their static quality as the condition of their perceptions, and made that into an absolute,similar however different, from the earlier static description. Transformation was strangely made into an absolute and then r e i f i e d as dogma in the form of particular pictures. This curious paradox (the absolute of transformation) was something that the Vorticists could have inherited from their relations and polemical exchanges with the Italian Futurists. The Italian Futurists when viewed from this perspective, became a fantastic catalyst, Marinetti especially, his influence ranging a l l the way from Moscow through Paris to England. The Vorticists went on to reject Marinetti in their own way, as did the Russian Futurists. But the connections between the three movements were there, both in conceptual and iconographical terms. The Vorticists, under Pound's tutelage at least, did have a more intellectually enlightened notion of the significance of history and did not seem to become victims to the kinds of hysteria 32 that enveloped Marinetti. In dealing with the labelling the Vorticists received from contemporary English c r i t i c s , as Futurists (thenunderstood as a synonym for modernism). Pound writes: "The V o r t i c i s t has not this curious t i c for destroying past glories. I have no doubt that Italy needed Mr. Marinetti but he did not set on the egg that hatched me, and as I am wholly opposed to his aesthetic principles I see no reason why I, and various men who agree with me, should be expected to c a l l ourselves Futurists. We 74. do not desire to evade comparison with the past. We prefer that the comparison be made by some intelligent person whose idea of "the tradition" i s not limited by the conventional taste of four or five centuries and one continent." 3 3 What I want to stress here, i s the flow of information and ideas that undoubtedly occurred a l l across the continent during this period. The interests were not as dissimilar as they have sometimes been thought to be. There was an instance of a particular iconographical communication which may have been of use to Malevich, certainly i t would have been of interest. It i s a painting by Wyndham Lewis, reproduced i n the a r t i c l e , English Futurists, by Zinaida Vengerova, i n the Russian magazine Strelets ("Archer") of 1915. 3 4 Of interest i s the.fact that the reproduction was i n black and white and of a poor quality so that i t tended to efface any hint of the illusionism, the three-dimensionality that Lewis was then working with. Instead, the sensitive Russian eye of this time would have seen a remarkably suggestive configuaration of mass and plane in space, floating in a dynamic tension, similar to his own growing considerations of such phenomena. This may have exerted some influence on an otherwise unique iconography, but i t w i l l have to remain a reasonable conjecture i n li e u of 35 more specific evidence. There i s a more conclusive p o s s i b i l i t y suggested for the iconographical source of the f i r s t Suprematist manifestation, the Black Square. Troels Andersen, i n the introduction to Malevich's Essays on Art cites that Leger i n 1913-14, gave two lectures, where he distinguished between the imitative and the r e a l i s t P i g . 45. Wyndham Lewis, 1915(?) 75. qualities in a work of art. In talking about contrasts he said that "the a r t i s t must be guided by a new, completely subjective sensibility. That he has broken an object or placed a red or yellow square i n the centre of his canvas w i l l not make his work new; what w i l l make his work new i s his grasp of the creative 36 s p i r i t infusing this outward appearance." Troels feels that there i s l i t t l e doubt that Malevich's works were painted after Leger's speech in the Acedemie Russe, but he does not feel that i t indicates a direct source but demonstrates instead "the striking parallels in the development and modes of the two artists after 1910. " 3 7 The dynamics of Suprematism as an aesthetic were certainly h i s t o r i c a l l y singular even i f iconographically ascribable to a continuum of succeeding p i c t o r i a l traditions. The only account Malevich gives that makes a great deal of sense as an attribution i s one that he later rejected as a fallacy. For the exhibition of 1927 in Berlin, various theoretical charts were prepared (these are looked at i n detail l a t e r ) . Chart number sixteen, entitled 'Painterly Sensations and Their Environment', ascribes the appearance of Suprematism to aerial photography and the new spacial considerations i t provided. Even though Malevich later rejected this source as an "erroneous development", which i s entirely understandable since this suggested a purely formal pre- occupation, i t s t i l l indicates a strong source for the configuarations that we are f i n a l l y presented with. This probably t e l l s us more about his procedure as an a r t i s t than i t gives information directly useful to our understanding of Suprematist pictures. The advent of the 'non-objectivity* he created was more spontaneous than any of the later writings ever have i t appear. P i g . 46. Study f o r an ai r p o r t on the o u t s k i r t s of Moscow, 1927. F i g . 47. Study f o r an ai r p o r t on the o u t s k i r t s of Moscow, 1927. 76. The theoretical position was l i t e r a l l y a much later and mature development but I do not think that this discredits his claims for the intentions of the system but indicates how l i t e r a l l y he meant the "rejection of reason" and the actuality of his reliance on intuitive and spontaneous resources as a f i r s t start. D. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SUPREMATIST PICTURES While the f i r s t overtly Suprematist manifestation, as mentioned earlier, was i n the production of Kruchenykh's Futurist opera. Victory Over the Sun, in 1913, the formative elements were already u t i l i z e d within the framework of Malevich's previous painting. Reduction of form became for his understanding of the intents of Impressionism, Cezanne and then Cubism, the next logical step towards the most essential elements that comprised what he considered to be the focus of art's process. It wasn't a simplification that he was after but a purposeful reduction to the binding elements of p i c t o r i a l composition. The concept i s very Platonic inasmuch as there i s an 'ordering' principle, much like a paradigm, which in i t s enactment produces a l l of these manifestations which are Suprematist. The idea i s ultimately what possesses the real symmetry of the system, where the individual pictures in themselves may be almost any combination of consistent geometries. At i t s most intellectual level, Suprematism became a calculus or metaphor for spiritual content, a search for the consistent essence as opposed to the 7 7 . constructivist's mechanistic existentialism. Malevich's existentialism was a more profound confrontation with metaphysical questions. The origins of abstraction, i n Kandinsky and Mondrian especially, have clear linkages to studies centred in esoteric 38 or occult understandings of the process of the mind. Anton Ehrenzweig, in The Hidden Order of Art, has drawn what he believes i s a direct map of abstract art i t s e l f that indicates the crucial equation of i t s success. He attributes the 'liveliness' of abstraction to i t s rich substructure i n unconscious fantasy. The value of Malevich's poemagogic theorizing as a process, i s described obliquely by Ehrenzweig i n the following: "The close cooperation between precisely focused reasoning and almost t o t a l l y undifferentiated intuition has, to my mind, made our times so abundantly creative, both in art and science. In our abstract art there i s a dramatic short-circuit between i t s high sophistication and love of geometry on the one hand and an almost oceanic lack of differentiation obtaining i n i t s matrix in the unconscious mind."39 I am not sure that I really understand or believe in the concept he uses here of the unconscious. But he does go on to describe how abstraction becomes truly 'empty' when i t i s d i s - associated from these deep structures. It i s rapidly turned into a vacuous generalization which w i l l subsequently degenerate into empty ornament. "Empty generalizations can be handled with such f a c i l i t y because they have cut themselves loose from their 40 anchorage i n the deep." The narcissism I spoke of i n a preceding chapter i s nowhere more i n evidence than i n precisely this withdrawal from a focus 78. on the object into a contemplation of the individual artist's mind. This would explain the almost intuitive repulsion for this kind of art f e l t by a self-consciously immunizing society. Worringer, was the f i r s t to link abstraction in any art form with deep anxieties permeating the society overall. While I appreciate the formulation that he made i t did not go far enough in i t s own direction. Art i s never simply symptomatic; the inter relationship of individual psyche and the social matrix i s further complicated by the r e a l i t y of the art-form produced and the committments i t creates i n the artist's own mind, and the community that 'appreciates' or confronts his. ideas. .It ,is with Ehrenzweig's synthesis that an actual psychology of abstraction, coraplicit to the process of the human mind, and located in the particular social context, begins to emerge. It i s necessary to introduce a Freudian terminology i n order to describe a specific condition in Malevich's work which w i l l otherwise be impossible to understand effectively. Only through a combination of the psychoanalytical and art hi s t o r i c a l vocabulary can we enter the Suprematist world consciously. Neither method w i l l be successful without the other; they w i l l remain impenetrable 'formalist' compositions, which i t i s precisely my argument that they are not. "Freud spoke of an 'oceanic' feeling characteristic of religious experience; the mystic feels at one with the universe, 41 his individual existence lost l i k e a drop i n the ocean." In this regard, I do not believe that we can understand Malevich induced to such a state (I.e. 'oceanic' consciousness) 79. either by the immediacy and growth of a revolutionary collective society or by his interest i n formal abstraction, independently of the other. They are i n this way compositions^relating to-both their.'formal and their physical context» This i s a particular instance whose phenomenon w i l l not necessarily carry cross-cultural v a l i d i t y . 'Oceanic' imagery abounds in Malevich's writings and i s the dominant enveloping spacial sensation i n both the applied art (architectoniki and planiti) and the Suprematist pictures. In his essay, From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism; The New Realism i n Painting, written 1915 to 1916, he says: "I have destroyed the ring of the horizon and escaped from the c i r c l e of things, from the horizon ring which confines the a r t i s t and the forms of nature. This accursed ring, which opens up newer and newer prospects, leads the a r t i s t away from the target of destruction."42 There i s a manic quality to this kind of statement that i s both a poetry of sorts, but also that resembles the kind of undiffer- entiated p o l i t i c a l fantasy containing world-wide significance, a spectre that haunts the earth and includes, as well as i t s humanistic motives, the metaphor of destruction as a means to realizing i t s end. It bears a provocative resemblance to the 'Diggers' or "Ranters' who flourished i n the seventeenth century in England, both millenaristic movements. The prophetic insistence in the tone of the above quote i s too obvious to go into d e t a i l . The insistence for an omnipotent vision of the macro-structure, over and above a discriminating sense of the details i s another indicative feature of Malevich's approach throughout the really very few years that Suprematism flourished as a movement. 80. He goes on to complain that "their bodies f l y i n aero- planes, but art and l i f e are covered with the old robes of Neros 43 and Titians." As with the Futurists overall, he had a deep fascination for f l i g h t . For example with birds or aeroplanes and later space travel i t s e l f ; or by a sensually associated metaphor, the l i t e r a l ocean of water. He compares the plight of captured birds i n a zoo to art i s t s in the acedemies: "Setting the soul in marble and then mocking the l i v i n g . But your pride i s an a r t i s t who knows how to torture. You put birds in a cage also for pleasure. And for the sake of knowledge you keep animals in zoological gardens. May they tear to pieces the remains of your art and may the freed bear bathe his body i n the ice of the frozen north and not languish in the aquarium of boiled water i n the acedemic garden." 4 4 The fantasy i s really quite remarkable. Everything has f i r s t to escape the knots of c i v i l i z a t i o n in order to enter the neutrality of paradise. The r e a l i t y principle i s in this sense viewed as innately repressive. The bear enters the frozen, white vastness of the north, the birds move from the cage man erects into the i n f i n i t e oceanic freedom of the sky. While the metaphor i s nothing short of fantastic, the assumption i s simply that there are variously different kinds of freedom to be lived and i t i s a mistake to impose one's own order on the world a l l because of what might be an ethnocentric myopia. Creative entities, whether li v i n g or inert, have a contextual sp e c i f i c i t y without respect for which one becomes li k e a b u l l i n the china shop of history. It i s curious i n this respect that Malevich went on to project his own eschatological 81 thesis in spite of this kind of sensitivity to the needs of independent units within the t o t a l i t y . We can understand this more i f we think of i t in terms of what each succeeding generation of people alive to the world find they must do for themselves; that i s to create a kind of regeneration, to recreate the morality of their world-view i n terms of the context and i t s fresh measure. I could quote innumerable passages that would demonstrate various aspects of Malevich's psychology but w i l l instead give a quote from Malevich's description of Non-Objective Creation and Suprematism i n the essay of that name, printed in the catalogue of the Tenth State Exhibition, in Moscow, 1919: "At the present time man's path l i e s through space, and Suprematism i s a colour semaphore in i t s i n f i n i t e abyss. The blue colour of the sky has been defeated by the Suprematist system, has been broken through, and entered white, as the true real conception of i n f i n i t y , and therefore liberated from the colour background of the sky... I am only free when my w i l l , on a c r i t i c a l and philosophical basis, can bring from what already exists the basis for new phenomena. I have torn through the blue lampshade of colour limitations, and come out into the white; after me, comrade aviators s a i l into the chasm... I have set up semaphores of Suprematism. I have conquered the lining of the heavenly, have torn i t down and, making a bag, put in colours and tied i t with a knot. S a i l forth.' The white, free chasm, i n f i n i t e l y i s before us."45 To attempt a psychoanalysis of such a passage would be almost redundant, the a r t i s t i s both patient and analyst to his own process. This quality i s not unique to Malevich certainly, but i t i s unique to the birth of abstraction to find i t as central to the art-form i t s e l f as he makes i t . That i s , i t comprises no small part of the content as a sensation, of the suprematist pictures themselves. There are womb fantasies, sexual metaphors, delusions of grandeur and persecution, narcissism, auto-erotics and the whole comes dangerously close to mania i n a pathological sense. The vision of the existing reality, the status-quo of the acedemic art world from which he was rebelling, i s a personal one to the degree that his description of i t i s transformed by a perception that originates i n deep-structures as opposed to conscious rational analysis i n whose service i t supposedly operates. Malevich's analysis and theoretical propositions mature along the same lines as do conventional art forms during conception. I am not saying that his 'theory* was or i s art, but in i t s concretion i t followed a parallel process and the theoretical emergence was entirely too integral to the objects themselves to be discounted as mere prostelatizing for something that already existed i n form. This does not mean to say that the pictures cannot stand without the theoretical superstructure he created ( i t was par t i a l l y expounded in retrospect anyway, at least there were suprematist pictures before there was writing). What i t does demonstrate i s our own preponderance to r e i f y the existing state of affairs in the images of the past rather than search out the more complex sources of i t s success and possibly alternative vision to our own understandings. Malevich, directioned into the mainstream of the concrete tradition by our apriori historicism presented instead a visual language that contained, rather than disavowed, ideas as a possible content i n the face of increasing specialization. He was caught at the crossroads of an intellectual and material dilemma. Malevich in his humanism unavoidably involved a degree of metaphor i n the content of his abstraction. This does not mean that his art had a narrative or allegorical content, nor that i t operated as a mere vehicle for the presentation of ideas, the metaphor was integrated into the process i t s e l f . The paradox of an art that operated i n the shadow of the analogy to science, when such a vast prestige was attached to a tradition that has been conventionally seen as the enemy (or the alternative), subjugated art by reaction to i t s essential-most definition, that which i t alone could accomplish. Many arti s t s gave their content in ideas up to pragmatic science or philosophy i n favour of concrete formal propositions. Malevich had seen the dialectic i n these terms, and found the path of least resistance untenable. He engaged the battle head on, i n a demand for the reinstatement of the a r t i s t as an integrated participant i n the content of l i f e instead of the humble servant he had become. 84. CHAPTER 5 MALEVICH'S THEORETICAL PROPOSITIONS A. Suprematism: Medieval or Modern? Malevich did not appear in the role of theoretician u n t i l he was 37 years old and well advanced i n his career as an a r t i s t . Although in the later writings i t i s possible to speak of a more sober analytical approach, he never completely sacrifices the poetic quality that has characterized his work from the earliest beginnings. I have somewhat paralleled Malevich*e eclecticism in the methodology of this thesis by using various but related and similarly focused tools from several disciplines. There i s an obvious danger to such a method as well as the very apparent advan- tages i n i t s success. It has been necessitated here by this fact in Malevich * s own career and i s valid precisely to the measurable extent of the failure of other more singular h i s t o r i c a l methods that have not dealt adequately with the larger question of context and intention, and hence with the genuine his t o r i c a l meaning of Malevich and Suprematism. The general shape of his essays and theoretical propositions has been integrated into the thesis overall but I w i l l here deal particularly with the theoretical charts that were prepared by the Institute of A r t i s t i c Culture i n Leningrad. 1 The members of the 'Formal Theoretical Department' (FTO), headed by Malevich developed 22 charts dealing with the theories of the group between 1924 and 1927. The copies which we have survive from the show Malevich had in Berlin in 1927 and for which the charts were intended. I have not attempted to deal with each of the charts in detail but instead 85. have given a summary of their importance overall and focused on specific issues where the chart i s demonstrably pertinent. (For translations of the text of the charts and references to parallels in Malevich's writings, see the Malevich catalogue from the Stedelijk museum by Troels Andersen). The notion of the a r t i s t as a theoretician of his art as well as the producer of specific objects or images i s certainly far from a novelty of our own era. The Middle Ages had an ontological basis for belief in the value of the arts that more closely matches the aesthetic ambitions of Malevich than do those of most of his contemporaries, or the currently fashionable psycho- 2 logical descriptions. In this respect, Panofsky has said: "(Then we turn to treatises on the represent- ational arts the difference between the medieval and the modern point of view becomes s t i l l more evident. In the Middle Ages paintings and sculptures were not thought of in relation to a natural object which they seek to imitate but rather i n relation to the formative process by which they come into being, namely, the projection of an 'idea' existing i n - though by no means 'created by* - the artists mind into a v i s i b l e and tangible substance. Master Eckhart's painter paints a rose, as Dante draws the figure of an angel, not 'from L i f e ' but from the 'image in his soul'; and in the exceptional cases in which the procedure of the imitative arts was considered with regard to their relation to a v i s i b l e model, this model was conceived, not as a natural object but as an 'exemplar' or * 'simile' - that i s , as another work of art which served as a pattern. "An a r t i s t conceives the form, after which he wishes to work, from some other work of art which he has seen', says Thomas Aquinas, and thereby relieves the individual a r t i s t of the necessity of facing nature i t s e l f . " 3 There are certain obvious differences between the two modes but I am interested rather i n the similar focus on 4 process. Although the 'idea' certainly was not expected to 86. originate with the a r t i s t , that i s i t was a Divine dictation, i t seems obvious enough that when the Christian ideology becomes bankrupt the 'image in the soul' may become either personally visionary with much the same rationale, or progromatically ideological, with a p o l i t i c a l as opposed to a religious message. It i s Panofsky's contention that Durer had to create a German language adequate to the task of describing technical details along with poetic and philosophical thought. Panof sky further states''that "It-is in ..his (Burer's) development as a theorist of art that we can study in v i t r o , as i t were, the transition from a convenient code of instructions to a systematic and 5 formulated body of knowledge." Malevich was not a scholar. He had not been trained in the tradition of western philosophical thought and therefore had no way of knowing that in the creation of his theoretical program he was essentially returning to an earlier understanding, one which was f i r s t articulated in the religious thinking of the Middle Ages. This i s not meant as an irony for i n spite of Malevich's espoused iconoclasm, he had an ultimately mystical sense of knowledge that was anything but an extension of the materialism surrounding him. The theoretical charts then, are in one sense, the embodiment of the paradox inherent throughout Malevich's entire career. His program of Suprematism, while rejecting the romanticism of the nineteenth century naturalist or symbolist art chooses to be known under the banner of "the supremacy of pure feeling i n creative a r t " . 6 Suprematism, with the ecstacy of a revelation or vision, i s communicated through the agency of an 87. 'apparently' rational program of analysis. This dilemma i s analogous to the apparent contradicition inherent in the nature of Marxism. That i s , how do you create a seemingly objective analysis where traditionally subjective, or moral issues, are the centre of the problem? Michel Polanyi, i n his book Personal Knowledge. wonders why such a contradictory doctrine carries such convincing power. He postulates "The answer i s , I believe, that i t enables the modern mind, tortured by moral self-doubt, to indulge i t s moral passions in terms which also satisfy i t s passion for ruthless objectivity." As a description of Marxism, Polanyi's analysis seems too generalized to be very useful except as a perspective i n a complex and contemporaneous condition governing i t s mythic quality. But I think this does explain Malevich *s passion to give his otherwise mystical and eschatological Suprematist ideology the prestige of a c r i t i c a l and objective science. The charts are not successful as a proof for the histor- i c a l necessity of Suprematism per se, but are more usefully considered as a pathway into both Malevich*s own creative process and as a pre-cursor to later more sophisticated attempts to locate the dynamics of visual response as a physiological and psycholanalytic phenomena so that such an understanding can be l i t e r a l l y taught and does not remain an esoteric information i n the hands of a few genuine specialists. 88. B. THE CHARTS: A 'DYNAMICS' OF VISUAL RESPONSE The Charts are introduced with this statement by Malevich: "The f i e l d of painting i s investigaged as a form of the artist's behaviour. For us painting has come to mean the body in which the painter expresses his reasons and states of mind, the structure of his entire understanding of nature, as well as the relationship between himself and nature as i t acts upon him."8 The arrangement of these charts were broken down into three categories as follows: 1. Analysis of a work of art (Charts 1 to 8), 2. Analysis of Sensations (Charts 9 to 16) and 3. Teaching methods (Charts 17 to 21). Most of the charts are analytical and classificatory, that i s , they attempt to design a description of the dynamics of painterly phenomenon according to a structural breakdown of i t s most basic component parts. Malevich calls this basic definitional unit "the 9 additional, formative element," the t i t l e of chart number 3. In chart number 4, he defines the additional element as "a formula or sign which refers to the principles by which a painterly structure, with i t s colouring and stage of development within a 10 given trend i s organized." This corresponds to the classification 11 of signs which i s basic to the Sausserian li n g u i s t i c terminology. Roland Barthes book Elements of Semiology, states that there are h i s t o r i c a l l y , a series of designations which are rivals to a 'sign'; these are, signal, index, icon, symbol and allegory. A l l of these are things that a sign i s not. In Chart number 5, Malevich goes onto demonstrate that "a painterly system can be classified into stages by defining the degree of development of the 12 additional element." 89. If we turn now to Roland Barthe's conclusions in his Elements of Semiology, we find a strikingly similar consideration, by analogy, to Malevich's method in the charts. He states: "Reality, however, most commonly presents mixed substances; for instance, garmets and written language in fashion; images, music and speech in films, etc; i t w i l l therefore be necessary to accept heterogeneous corpuses, but to see to i t , in that case, that one makes a careful study of the systematic articulation of the substances concerned (and chiefly, that one pays due attention to separating the real from the language which takes i t over), that i s , that one gives to their very homogeneity a structural interpretation. Barthes goes on to speak of the preference for synchronic rather than diachronic analysis. The analysis must "eliminate diachronic elements to the utmost; i t must coincide with a state of the system, a cross-section of h i s t o r y . " i 4 This i s , i n a sense, exactly what the latent insistence of the charts i s . Malevich has chosen a 'cross-section' of a particular history, 'art' i n this case, i n an attempt to determine the dynamic, or as in linguistics "to discover the systems' 15 own particular time, the history of forms." From here on in the analogy i s less useful but does help as a general cognition, of the insistence for an obviously 'structural' analytical process. It i s as well, very unlike the previous Malevich. Its order i s a borrowed discipline. Beginning with chart number 9, we are introduced to the f i r s t e x p l i c i t l y ideological designation. Its t i t l e i s "New,Art as an Independent Movement of Thought". I here include an i l l u s t r a t i o n of the chart and Troels Andersen's translation of i t s text. ' J"-"-VJi.'.H-l'W|RfP i 2 Maw HtMM Indepandant mowmtn »f thoufht NH« art macka • MW tfa In which art deve lops Indapandantty of ofhar idacJogiw i Tto aaaanca of nawastdMaft from that ot othar epochs. Formeriy an was unty • means of c lothing for the rriatarial, objective, industrial society. Now art h naw. because rt hastixnad Intoen independant Ideology.the content of which It diflweni If on* that of othar Ideologies. Formerfy art only played a rota in aa much as it dealgnad rattokwa and civic «)«olo«ie«. Naw art haa became independent. It tanks with the civic and religious ideologies. lolON K • L l M tenc B S T J S A R T ' ' ^rBvjfm^^ "'•̂ •Jvk«w* 35:*:, Ruaeianteutt Novoye iskusstvo d o novaya era samoetoyatar'nogo dvirhentye tsk usstva vna dfugikh ideologiy. Sushchnost' v novykh tskusatvakh dr ugaya naxhaii tan'aha. tekusstvo byte tol'ko sradsrvom tualetnym v pfadmetnom, pfomyihlannom 1 mater ial'nom gosudarstve. Novoye rskusstvo tem novo,chtoono samostayatel'noy ideologtyey (sic) vna drugikhsoderzhaniyiideotogiy. iskusstvo v prezhney ago roll oformlyaot soboy u rotrgioznuyu f grazhdanskuyu Meotogtyu. Novoya iskusstvo xanyalo samoaUyalaT noya maato narsvna t tdeologiyami gr azhdanskoy I < el igioznoy. I N o t * T No word Lubeniart' coven the Russian byt': everyday life, daily existence, existence. F i g . 48. Chart #9, 'New Art as An Independent Movement of Thought', 1927. 90. Art i s presented here as un autonomous epistemology with a unique, essential content and a self-conscious sense of its existential purpose. Naturalism, Classicism, Expressionism, etc., Malevich ca l l s 'painterly systems' and he sees each such system operating i n the service of ideas. Religion i s one such dominating idea, psychological motives present another, p o l i t i c a l , and so on. But his third category, his own 'new art' has become something else and he says "New art i s new, because i t has turned into an independent ideology, the content of which i s different from 16 other ideologies." By chart 13, i t i s apparent that Malevich i s not suggesting anything l i k e a totalitarian aesthetic or system, but a means of distinguishing complex and disordered appearing painterly systems into their particular t a c i t ideological and formalist suppositions. The potential for a totalitarian application inherent in the kinds of absolute definitions he presents i s gone into i n the f i n a l chapter. He describes most mimetic art-forms as "Painterly Systems as Means of Design". Nearer to the centre of the 'art- systems' square (#3), we find systems that use references to objective forms in one way or another, Cubism, and early Malevich, etc. The central most column contains systems of non-objective art, or what he would have considered the ultimate mode of invention at that time. Van Doesburg and Kandinsky appear, as would Mondrian. Charts 15 and 16 are important as they refer to "Painterly Sensations and their Environment", that i s , the physical F i g . 49. K. Malevich Teaching at the I n s t i t u t e of A r t i s t i c Culture, Leningrad, 1925. 91 iconographical origins of 'painterly systems' where mimetic functions can properly be traced to their appropriate physical stimuli. Malevich, in Chart 16, attempts to correct what he has called "a wrong development, caused by the fact that the stimulating force was attached to the painterly culture, and that the stimuli did not reach the centre governing the arts." Troels Andersen has called this the "fallacy of aerial Suprematism".17 By this he means, as Malevich himself realized, that he had, l i k e the Futurists before him, inadvertently suggested that he had in effect created a new imitative art in his enthusiasm over the novelty of the newly discovered analogy and i t s literalness. The early Suprematist pictures, while bearing t i t l e s referring to objects or situations, never referred to such material i n their content. It was more of a poetic insinuation. But these later pictures which Malevich rejected contained l i t e r a l references to aerial views, planets, space travel, etc. He saw this infusion of l i t e r a r y content as nostalgic and a definite mistake, and there i s no way of overlooking his refutation of i t . Malevich also warned against artists taking his attempts at this kind of systematization as a recommendation for the a r t i s t to become a pseudo-scientist; he says "The a r t i s t may, and indeed, should take an interest in the achievements of science i n the f i e l d of colour and form, but he must be careful... I say this 18 to stress that no s c i e n t i f i c proofs are a law for the a r t i s t . " For Malevich, the a r t i s t operates on another 'level' from that of the scientist and while his data, especially on optics, etc., may prove invaluable i t would be a mistake to assume they shared a similar task simply because of the overlapping of information F i g . 50. Suprematist Drawing, 1914-15. -F i g . 51. Sketches f o r Painting #63, i n t h i s t h e s i s . Pencil on paper. 92 or shared perceptions. Regarding the difference between the inventor and the creator, Malevich says "By creative activity I tinder stand a free expression, an activity which raises no question. Questionsbelong to the province of the inventor, not to that of the creator. Freedom can exist only where there are no questions and 19 no answers." This curious seeming paradox of the nature of freedom, whereby the a r t i s t himself, as he understands i t , cannot be free, i s typical of the kind of thinking Malevich carried on. The statement i s supposed to be considered as an axiom. From there on the argument w i l l supposedly make sense, but you must accept the self-evident truth of the i n i t i a l proposition. In this sense the White on White paintings, and the Black Square, can be understood quite clearly. They postulate an axiom which declares and sets up the ground for the following manifestations. In this way they are curiously l i k e the Cow and V i o l i n picture of 1912-13, where the painting was conceived to act, l i t e r a l l y , as a manifesto. Malevich even went so far as to articulate on the back a complex absurd sounding description of the significance of the iconography. The quote was mentioned earlier. The analogy to the scientist and the dangers therein were very apparent to Malevich, but i t was also an appropriate metaphor commensurate to the advent of particular specialization in the arts. Malevich in an essay t i t l e d Aesthetics said "Stressing social and class motives we have completely disregarded the artist's 20 painterly nature." Monet, for instance, was a painter who, with his Rouen Cathedral series, created a phenomenon of "immense significance in the history of art, and, by i t s activity, makes whole generations change their attitude to p i c t o r i a l works." 2 1 In the succeeding essay in this book he makes an ex p l i c i t statement warning of the dangers i n misrepresenting his analysis as simply formalistic. His insistence i s on the presence of a world of sensations beyond articulation. In this regard Malevich wrote: "To examine a creation of Cubism formally i s to f a i l to understand i t s essence. The world which i s understood by sensation i s a constant world. The world which consciousness understands as a form i s not constant. Forms disappear and alter, whereas sensations neither disappear or alter. A b a l l , motor, aeroplane or arrow are different forms, but the sensation of dynamism i s the same. For this reason comprehension of the phenomena of the universe cannot be attained through their formal t r a i t s alone, but only through the sensation of their essence." "...Sensations can be i n a condition which i s both non-objective and figurative, i.e., i f the feeling of non-objectivity passes into psychological imagination. At this moment the form of a world image appears, and man f a l l s into the power of his Weltanschauung and striving to possess the universe."2* This oceanic sensation or overwhelming quality of s p i r i t that Malevich felt permeated his entire ambience cohered at a certain point into, as he puts i t , 'an image of the world*. Its 'appearance' as opposed to 'construction' suggests that Malevich believed such an image was somehow given, rather than created entirely from the individual artist's resources. This i s descriptive of both his mystical inclination and his intuition of 'sensation' as energy which can neither be created or destroyed, and which does i n fact have a real nature. Malevich was not a physicist and could not give such 'sensation' credible material explanations but there i s a curious parallel between his a b i l i t y to sense such a relationship and recent information affecting 23 contemporary philosophy that has been discovered in physics. The mysticism of i t was more involved i n the image i t s e l f ; that 53. V i o l i n i s 1913-14 94. i s , that somehow, the image, dependent on a forceful insistence and realization of the in t u i t i v e l y understood energy through the individual, when realized, would determine a universal va l i d i t y . It corresponds closely to the earlier explanation Panofsky made for the medieval understanding of the sources of i t s art as arising from an 'image in the soul*. Another origination for such a belief in the substance of the process of his art was to be found, as I have outlined above, precisely i n the analogy and vocabulary provided by the methodology of the Russian formalist school of structural l i n g u i s t i c s . E l Lissitzky, in his prostelatizing for Suprematism (New Russian Art: A Lecture) seems to favour the reference to systems and the vocabulary of the ling u i s t i c sciences, an especially attractive and 'modern' attribute of Suprematism. His insistence i s on the lack of symbolism in favour of a concrete reading of the image "Every f l a t surface designed i s a sign - not a mystical symbol, but a concrete sketch of reality. A sign i s a form through 24 which we express phenomena." It i s easy to understand the formalist attribution Malevich has received recently when someone who was as close to him as El Lissitzky managed to translate his aesthetic so peculiarly attuned to the needs of the new Russian state, the new ideology, rather than the content i t really exposed. That content would have been an embarrassment to Lissitzky at this point i n the polemic; a l l other artists with ideas as d i s t i n c t l y 'aesthetic' as Malevich, had by this time fled Russia. Lissitzky himself becomes muddled in his argument over what this sign then significates, i f that i s what i t does. He says "A sign i s designed, much later i t i s given i t s name, and F i g . 54. What Insolence, 1913-14. 95. later s t i l l i t s meaning becomes clear. So we do not understand the signs, the shapes, which the a r t i s t created because man's 25 brain has not yet reached the corresponding stage of development. ** What a l l of this indicates i s the intention of artists to maintain themselves and their growing aesthetic rea l i t i e s in the midst of vast social transformation. They had a dualistic dialogue occurring, the need to relate a form of order in an environment very much de-stabilized and tending towards chaos so they were, towards these ends, extroverted and communicative, and yet the point of reference for the aesthetic i t s e l f was highly internalized and abstract. Complicit with this rapid change i n social and institutional values, art had i t s e l f moved for an analysis of the very system of symbolization by which i t was recognized. The discipline of linguistic: was calling for something l i k e the same close focus, but i t has not been u n t i l the work of the French anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss, that we find such a 'structuralist' vocabulary becoming a part of our possible vocabulary. Structuralism, involving i t s e l f with the most innate patterns to man's behaviour and mind, seems almost to do away with a l o t of h i s t o r i c a l analysis. It becomes superfluous as an explanation in this respect and i s valuable only as an archive of information. Levi-Strauss' analysis of the phenomenon of abstraction in his chapter, The Science of the Concrete, in The Savage Mind, w i l l be useful here. He said: "... one might define non-representational painting by two features. One, which i t has in common with 'easel' painting, consists in a total rejection of the contingency of purpose; the picture i s not made for a particular use. The other feature characteristic of non-representational painting i s i t s methodological exploitation of the contingency of execution, which i s claimed to F i g . 55. F i s h . 1913-14 96. afford the external pretext or occasion of the picture. Non-representational painting adopts 'styles' as 'subjects'. It claims to give a concrete representation df the formal conditions of a l l painting. Paradoxically the result i s that non-representational painting does not, as i t thinks, create works which are as real as, i f not more real than, the objects of the physical world, but rather r e a l i s t i c imitations of non-existant models."26 While the character of the last part of the statement happens to t e l l us as much about Levi-Strauss' limitations in terms of his investigations of modern art, i t s t i l l reveals the most basic constituent of the problem of 'concretization', a pre-occupation which has haunted the twentieth century from i t s f i r s t i n i t i a l and profound manifestation a l l the way into the absolute banality of a highly decorative minimalism and i t s con- comitant complex rationalizations through phenomenonology. Levi-Strauss obviously founds his perceptions as much on the model linguistic science and his own structuralism provides as he does on the art i t s e l f so that i t becomes d i f f i c u l t to extricate the analogical argument from the directed aesthetic one. It i s precisely because of the overlap of art and science in their methodological focus and art's increasingly analytical pre- occupation that such a description enjoys the accuracy i t does. Levi-Strauss' bias i s ultimately a l i n g u i s t i c one. "I think a l l problems are l i n g u i s t i c ones, as we were saying i n connection with 27 art." With Levi-strauss, articulate speech and not tool-making establishes the heretofore hazy demarcation between culture and nature and informs the necessary basis for any further understanding of the nature of art i n the twentieth century. It i s my point that we have the f i r s t overt manifestations of this perception, although certainly i n an entirely different Pig. 56. Tailor. 1913-14 97. language i n the utterings and program of the Russian F u t u r i s t s , and more complexly with Malevich, at f i r s t as an imagistic as opposed to conceptual d i a l e c t i c . The charts developed i n the I n s t i t u t e of A r t i s t i c Culture, develop the argument latent i n Malevich's pictures, and matured what he f e l t was a teachable system. Malevich was working with an idea about the most basic i n t e l l i g i b l e element i n p a i n t e r l y systems through the medium of the charts and i t does seem to correspond as a basic framework to the s t r u c t u r a l o r i e n t a t i o n of the semantic sciences. I t i s my sense that he did so complicit to the increasing pressure of the State, i n order to give h i s own non-objective Suprematism an 'objective' and ' r a t i o n a l ' v e r i f i c a t i o n , as well as i t seems to mark a general change i n h i s optimism and a resignation to the increasingly apparent future of the Russian p o l i t i c a l climate. The charts, besides t h e i r attempt to explain the dynamics of v i s u a l response, (Malevich had t h i s strangely sophisticated behaviouristic interest) sought to make the h i s t o r i c a l i n e v i t a b i l i t y of Suprematism evident. In f a c t they did not accomplish t h i s task, the l a r g e l y i n t u i t i v e leap from h i s t o r i c a l precedent to 'the desert' of Suprematism was something that defied r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n i n the charts. The use of such an i n t e l l e c t u a l - ized apparatus may explain why h i s work lacks the more flowing s t y l i s t i c stages of other abstract a r t i s t s of the period, Mondrian fo r example. The theories and charts were a l l developed i n h i s years as a teacher. His intent was to discover the submerged talents that existed i n the students he dealt with. As an analyst, with F i g . 57. Row Boat, 1913-14. 98. the method of his charts and their theory, he was able to lead them through his own understanding of his t o r i c a l developments in painting and then, hopefully, on to a further creative approach of their own. Some of the charts (17 to 22) were conceived as a teaching methodology and integrated the individual student's res- ponse into a scheme that was directed towards discovering his perceptual mode at that moment, or the actual dynamics of his visual response, and out of that observation i t was hoped that the best possible directions for his development could be deter- mined. The charts make the system look somewhat mechanical, but i t i s clear from the writings that his intention was not to produce students who merely replicated and expanded his own ideas, but independently creative a r t i s t s . This i s a problem inherent i n the creation of any system and with the kind of in t e l l e c t that invents i t , i t inevitably involves a kind of pedantry, which i s the exact opposite of the vision he hoped for the future state of affa i r s , i n this regard he said: "We are moving towards a world where everyone w i l l create, rather than repeating and mechanising a form that an inventor has rejected. We must set creativity's path i n such a way that a l l the masses w i l l take part in the development of every creative thought that appears, without turning i t into a mechanised production or cliche. Solving this question could lead the entire people from being machines fabricating the ideas of a single inventor." This leads into a consideration of his applied projects, the use of the Suprematist metaphysic in creating some material sense of the shape a world conceived i n such terms might take. We w i l l turn to this applied Suprematism after a brief discussion of 'ethical idealism* and i t s bearing on Malevich's aesthetic conscience. 99 CHAPTER 6 ETHICAL IDEALISM A. BERDYAEV AND MALEVICH: THE JOURNEY FROM NIHILISM TO CHRISTIAN AND AESTHETIC MYSTICISM "I am an existentialist because I believe in the p r i o r i t y of the subject oyer the object, i n the identity of the knowing subject and the existing subjects; I am, furthermore, an existentialist because I see the l i f e of man and of the world torn by contraries, which must be faced and maintained in their tension, and which no intellectual system of a closed and complete totality, no immanentism or optimism can resolve." 1 A fellow Russian, and equally involved i n the dialectic of oppositions of his day, Nicolas Berdyaev, was however more interested in the particular conditions pre-requisite to man's liberation, "the destiny of a concrete l i v i n g human being", 2 than i n a "universally binding law of morality". His philosophy, like Malevich's aesthetic had never been " ' s c i e n t i f i c ' : rather i t was prophetic and eschatological 3 i n manner and orientation." In his autobiography, Berdyaev asks "Is knowledge intent on eliminating mystery? I do not think so. Mystery abides even on the summits of knowledge: indeed i t i s made more real and more significant i n knowledge. But knowledge destroys the false mysteries proceeding from, and maintained by, ignorance." 4 Berdyaev was born in 1874 in Kiev, not astonishingly the same c i t y where Malevich was born some four years later. The dualism that Carnegie Calian attributes to Berdyaev's l i f e , the unfailing drive to resolve the apparent contradictions of a mystical, philosophical coherence with the physical exigencies of the objective world i s one which Malevich 100 most deliberately tried to deal with i n the projects of his architectural models, and other applied manifestations of Suprematism.5 Berdyaev's mysticism found i t s emphasis i n the inward rather than the outward. In this way i t "avoids the sin of objectification". This represents one deliberate aspect of Berdyaev's l i f e that he shares overtly with Malevich; that i s , an acknowledgment of the existence, and indeed, necessity of contraries i n the world of thought. Berdyaev said: "Mysticism frees us from the natural and his t o r i c a l world which l i e s outside us, and brings the whole evolution of material nature and history within the sphere of the s p i r i t . To l i v e through anything mystically i s to l i v e through i t s p i r i t u a l l y and from within. In the practice of mysticism the whole world i s blotted out i n the night of sensibility, and i t i s only within the spiri t u a l and devine world that anything i s revealed."7 The resemblance between such a description of the 'practice of mysticism' and Malevich*s Suprematist iconography and intention i s startling. As i f the empirical world were blotted out by a non-objective understanding and one were to be "transformed in the zero of form", and arise, quite l i t e r a l l y from the ashes, with such a new consciousness. Berdyaev went through a period of strong identification and belief i n the genius of Marx's perceptions at the same time as he recognized the European homogeneity i t introduced. In his autobiography he said: "What attracted me most of a l l was i t s characteristic appreciation of the moving forces below the surface of history, i t s consciousness of the historic hour, i t s broad h i s t o r i c a l perspectives and i t s universalism. The old Russian socialism seemed provincial and narrow minded in comparison. The fact that Marxism took root among the Russian intelligentsia was evidence of a further g. 58. Cross, C i r c l e Square and Grave (After 1930). 101. Europeanization of Russia and of her readiness to share to the end the destiny of Europe.nB He soon however became c r i t i c a l of Marx, f i r s t out of his idealism and then from a religious standpoint. He considered the "marxist Social-Democratic eschatological forecast of a class- 9 less society", as a false religion. Berdyaev was more aware than most intellectuals i n Russia of the long tradition i n Russian history of nihilism and radicalism. In his book on The Russian Revolution. he describes the militant anarchism of Bakunin as an archetype of this tradition. Bakunin believed that the: "Russian and Slavonic world had the great mission of lighting a vast f i r e which i s to burn up the old sinful world. This passion for destruction i s a creative passion. Out of the ash-heap, out of the ruins of the old world, a new world w i l l arise, free and beautiful. This revolutionary messianic idea of Bakunin has found i t s way into Russian Communism, which believes that the Russian people are to send forth a l i g h t that w i l l illuminate the bourgeois darkness of Western Europe."10 Berdyaev found Lenin to be the truly dynamic leader of the revolution, incorporating a l l of the characteristics of the Russian sectarian intelligentsia, at once. Berdyaev thought that the Bolsheviks, under Lenin, remained: "faithful to certain primordial Russian traditions, to the Russian search for universal social justice, understood i n a maximalizing sense, and to the Russian method of government and control by coercion. This was predetermined by the whole course of Russian history, but also by the feebleness of creative spiritual power among us. Communism was the inevitable faith of Russia, the inward moment in the destiny of the Russian people."11 Needless to say, Berdyaev went into exile in 1922. The parallel between the frustration Berdyaev f e l t 102. in the impossibility for any resolution to his eschatological longing, and the repression that Malevich suffered throughout his last few years i s obvious. As i s their similar sympathy for the analyses of Marxism in the f i r s t place and their subsequent disappointment at their application empirically. Reality was limited to "a temporal-materialistic plane, thus denying the existence of another world", and this was insufferable to both 12 men. Berdyaev i s particularly interesting i n terms of Malevich, beyond these contextual p o l i t i c a l and philosophical issues, because a large part of his concern was given directly over to The Meaning of the Creative Art, a book of the same name which he published in Moscow in 1916. It i s here that i t becomes obvious that for Berdyaev creativity i s inseparable from the notion of freedom, and that freedom was f i n a l l y aligned with an eschatological dimension i n that "Freedom breaks into this world. Freedom comes from another world: i t contradicts and 13 overthrows the law of this world." Freedom i s ultimately subjective and when made into an objective proposition loses i t s creative aspect. "Freedom i s a part of eternity, whereas being 14 i s a part of this world". Berdyaev comes closest to clearing up Malevich's idea of where suprematism originated in the following statement on the quality of 'nothing'. "When we speak in our imperfect human language about creativity out of nothing, 15 we are really speaking of creativity out of freedom". A quote from Calian's book on Berdyaev, concerned with the 'divine-human' nature of creativity i s illuminating here, cast as i t i s i n almost exactly the same terms as Malevich. "The divine human relationship which i s necessary 103. to his idea of creativity cannot be expressed in terms of a rational philosophy of being but rather must go beyond a rational ontology to a superrational realm. Any rationalization i n the divine-human relationship can only be spoken of in symbolic and: mythological terms which leave the door open to Mystery. This open door then allows the eschatological dimension of creativity to be seen. Creativity, in his view, i s not an 'insertion' into the f i n i t e , not a mastery over the medium, or the creative product i t s e l f : instead i t i s a f l i g h t into the i n f i n i t e , 'not an activity which objectifies in the f i n i t e but one which transcends the f i n i t e towards the i n f i n i t e . The creative act signifies an ek-stasis, a breaking through to eternity'. This breaking into eternity i s the true, though unattainable goal of c r e a t i v i t y . " 1 6 Berdyaev and Malevich, in these terms sound so close in their view of the immanence of an aesthetic sensibility that would do away or l i t e r a l l y transform the old orders to the extent that our existing categories or notions about the role of the a r t i s t for example would be quite antiquated. Berdyaev also shared, with Feuerbach, a rejection of the sensibility which takes symbols for re a l i t y . In his autobiography. Dream and Reality, he said "To take symbols for r e a l i t y i s one of the chief temptations in human l i f e , and i t has proved, on more than one occasion, the undoing of man and the betrayal of 17 creativity." This i s the plight of man fallen from the garden, constantly transforming the subjective into the object, when the promise of the creative w i l l i s ultimately subjective, in spite of the fact that i t appears as a concretized form. The distortion of this process appears objectively as the fetish of the commodity culture, mentioned earlier. So for Berdyaev as with Malevich, creativity i s only possible when conceived within the substance of "a prophetic-eschatological F i g . 59. Malevich Retrospective, Moscow, 1919- 1920. 104. 18 viewpoint of the end." The major difference being that Malevich propounded no self-consciousness about the eschatological process whereas for Berdyaev i t was of fundamental and overt importance to his philosophy. It i s also interesting, i n a more abstract way, that Malevich's Suprematist pictures are most effectively viewed as i f outside of time or causation. They appear li k e arbitrary but organically ordered manifestations of an alien world or consciousness, as i f glimpsed suddenly through the portal of a ship hurtling through i n f i n i t e space. Of course they are i n our time but i t i s as i f , thinking of them in their own dimension, we are able to return them to the moment, of the creative act which produced them i n the f i r s t place. In this regard, Berdyaev has said: "Creative works are within time, with i t s objectifications, discords and divisions, but the creative act i s beyond time: i t i s wholly within, subjective, prior to objectification. •* Such i s the background and substantiality of the ethical idealism that understandably led Malevich to create the material manifestation of his Utopia. 105. CHAPTER 7 THE MATERIALIZATION OF UTOPIA Malevich f i r s t became interested in three dimensional objects in the autumn of 1919. It was in the summer of this same year that he had written the text of On New Systems In Art while l i v i n g at Nemchinovka, and i t was also this year that Chagall invited him to Vitebsk to teach. This soon proved problematic for Chagall who retired from the school only a few months after Malevich's arrival because of 'disagreements' between Malevich and his students and other teachers and their supporters. Malevich had been busy. By early 1920 he had organized the students into a group under the t i t l e of UNOVIS ('affirmation of New Art") The group thought of themselves as a party, complicit in enthusiasm i f not in direct affect, to i t s p o l i t i c a l counterpart. The members wore black squares sewn to their sleeves (see photo) and certainly must have presented a formidable image of their programme in the school by i t s overflow into the streets and through their cohesive enthusiasm. On the anniversary of the Revolution the town was decorated by way of celebration with suprematist configurations, ci r c l e s , triangles and squares abounded; the walls, kiosks and even the moving trams were covered with images announcing the continuing expressive delight of the revolution and i t s s t i l l vibrant, youthful imagery. Indeed several of the students from the school were no more than fourteen to sixteen years of age. Eisenstein visited the town at this time and reports on his impressions: "Like many towns on the west side. Sooty and dismal. A l l the main streets are covered with white paint splashed over the red brick walls, F i g . 60. Suprematist Studio, Vitebsk Academy, 1920. 106. and against this white background are green circles, reddish-orange squares, blue rectangles, This i s Vitebsk 1920. Kazimir Malevich's brush has passed over i t s walls. 'The squares of the town are our pallettes,' i s the message these walls convey."2 There was s t i l l , at this point, a po s s i b i l i t y for the * theatrical- ization of everyday l i f e ' that had been one of the most communicable aspects of Malevich's desire to make 'art the content of l i f e ' . In spite of the fact that Unovis was able to stage another production of 'Victory Over the Sun', this time with decor by Yermolayeva, and have several exhibitions of Malevich's architectural models, by 1921, relations between the local auth- or i t i e s and Malevich's group had become strained. Somehow Unovis was able to stay off the decision regarding their removal but only u n t i l the end of that same year. By December, Malevich had made application to join the forces of the newly created Institute of A r t i s t i c Culture i n Moscow. By 1922, he was able to leave for Petrograd where a branch of the Institute had been set up largely under the i n i t i a t i v e of Tatlin. Five of his students came with him as well as a large f i l e on Unovis' activities and the manuscript for a major work that he had been writing in Vitebsk. The architectural models, drawings and theory of this period, which I shall return to shortly, were immediately preceded by Malevich's most controversial and certainly his most famous paintings, the white on white. They have been variously interpreted subsequent to the particular ideological binoculars of the observer since they f i r s t appeared. The problem overtly i s that they do not present a subject-matter, or content which is to be read, and since the entire previous bias in the visual F i g . 61. Nathan Altmann, Decoration of the Alexander Column i n 107. arts was to consider painting as a text, a l l b e i t a visual one, exegesis of particular iconographic elements and configurations coupled with an explanation of their internal dynamics was a natural enough path to follow. The erasure of any l i t e r a l deviciveness or identification through an anthropomorphic content has been proposed as an example of the 'loss of s e l f and a dehumanization of art, and hence i t ; i s f e l t that there i s a concomitant loss of the poss i b i l i t y for a realization of a basic human need, communication. It i s accused in short of being esoteric, i f not 'occult'. This i s where the revolution in aesthetic philosophy occurs, i f i t occurs at a l l ; that i s , the move to process and sensation (not removed from the consideration of intellect) i t s e l f , as the content to replace the previous ideological subservience, which in one sense i s a liberation, but on the other hand, as I have mentioned before, necessitated that the a r t i s t become involved with the communication of ideas whose profundity was related to an aspect in himself that f u l f i l l e d the ideological mode, essentially created outside the artist's arena. The ar t i s t therefore, lost his perception of one of the very qualities that was responsible for his distinctness. His vocation was not analogous to the church or the state. An individual did not have to swallow whole parcels of information and make decisions about i t s nature in order to get the message. The phenomena was experiential and involved the use of sensual i n t e l l e c t . It has been the work of the twentieth century that brought art into the p o l i t i c a l sphere as a l i t e r a l combattant, with i t s own polarized opinion and in some cases, even i t s own dogma, as an alternative. 108. This i s by way of description of the extreme danger included i n this new method of art, one that considers the major intellectual committments of i t s period as consistently as i t does the poetic values; i t i s of course equally as responsible for much of the genuinely profound energy as well. For Malevich, i t took the path of a c a l l for the absolute autonomy of forms, instead of the earlier pattern of history to dominate form, in the guise of style, as an i l l u s t r a t i o n for ruling ideas. "Every form must be free, alive, every form i s a world." 3 In this sense, Malevich wanted to institute an histor i c a l state of affairs commencing with the apocolyptic appear ance that the revolution seemed to intimate. The nature of most of the preoccupations within Malevich's vision were not unique to art. They were issues that German philosophers for instance had been quarreling over for years; freedom and necessity, social cohesion versus individual expression, etc. The White on White, then embody this ideal potential, not as an open or declared program of intent but implicitly by virtue of what they are as objective experiences. In terms of the White on White (I am here using this as a generic for the earliest and most abstract pictures with a radically 'reduced' content that Malevich painted), we have the most distinct demonstration of the difference between his heritage from the moral idealism of Hegel and his later attempts, spec- i f i c a l l y in the charts, to realize a more practical aesthetic, somewhat tuned or adjusted to the demands of a Marxist-Leninist context. The chronology in the appearance of the Suprematist pictures, the Architectoniki and p l a n i t i , and the charts i s F i g . 62. White Square on White, 1918. 109. extremely important to establish at this point. In spite of the apparently contradictory path they suggest, that i s , a radical change of direction mid-stream, the linkages to the necessities of the con- text in which Malevich found himself are profound, and i s the only agent that can effectively de-mystify his process which has been thought of as, at the least, erratic. When Marcuse outlines Hegel's Philosophy of Mind, especially as i t i s stated in the draft entitled The System of Morality, he moves into a discussion of Hegel's conception of culture as a realm of mind. In this conception: "A social or p o l i t i c a l institution, a work of art, a religion and a philosophical system exist and operate as part and parcel of man's own being, products of a rational subject that continues to l i v e in them. As products they constitute an objective realm; at the same time, they are subjective, created by human beings. They represent . the possible unity of subject and object." (This was discussed in detail earlier in the thesis.) But the interesting parallel to Malevich's a r t i s t i c development i s between the understanding he shares with Hegel of the process of 'culture' i t s e l f . It "is conceived as ontological as well as h i s t o r i c a l ; i t i s an actual h i s t o r i c a l development as well as 5 a progression to higher and truer modes of being." In Malevich's demonstration of his Suprematist system taken to i t s 'logical' extremes (i.e. given the nature of the system), i t becomes dogmatically singular, absolutist, and ultimately Utopian. For Malevich, as with Hegel "the ontological process gains greater predominance over the h i s t o r i c a l , and to a large extent 7 i s eventually detached from i t s original his t o r i c a l roots."' F i g . 63. Ceramic cups designed by Malevich, (c. 1922) 110 The White on White can be seen as the characterization of this proposition, the predominance of the ontological over the h i s t o r i c a l . The question then i s to discover how an ontological proposition i s communicated, and i t i s my notion that here we find the strongest correspondance between Malevich and the eschatological tradition of Russian mysticism. The experience of his paintings i s to be thought of as revelational through the transmission of oceanic or undifferentiated sensations, largely relying on the manipulation of space and the dynamic juxtaposition of various diagonal or contrary elements. This stage of Malevich's aesthetic communicates the sensation of Utopia, that i s , an option i s taken for the values of the 'pleasure principle' exercised over the u t i l i t a r i a n demands of Q the r e a l i t y principle. Marcuse tentatively describes the 9 change which occurs in the governing value systems as follows: Pleasure Principle Reality Principle from: to: immediate satisfaction delayed satisfaction pleasure restraint of pleasure joy (play) t o i l (work) receptiveness productiveness absence of repression security I think i f we keep this in mind as we look at the paintings themselves, many of the enthusiasms relevant to the highly charged potential of the context in Russia at the time become apparent and meaningful in the works. The Libidinal sensations of oceanic space, the suggestion of an i n f i n i t e expansiveness without hierarchies, the entire appreciation of the painting becomes kinaesthetic rather than rational or expressly intellectual. It i s exactly because of the absence of repression, even abstractly in the manner of ideas impregnated into the forms, and F i g . 64. Suprematist Painting, 1917-18. 111. instead an i n v i t a t i o n to l i t e r a l l y receive the v i t a l i t y of another world, that we sense a d r i f t , as Malevich suggested, into the i n f i n i t e reaches of the human s k u l l . "I myself have entered a remote and f o r me new realm of thought; as best I can, I s h a l l give an account of what I see i n the i n f i n i t e space of the human s k u l l . " 1 0 The response i s i n s t i n c t u a l , and suggests Malevich*s intention, to move into a c l o s e r understanding of the q u a l i t y of the mind as i t perceives, and so e s t a b l i s h an order of r e a l i t y t o t a l l y without a mirror image i n everyday l i f e , one which could l i b e r a t e rather than repress or mould one's perceptions. These are then, i n one sense, as Levi-Strauss has suggested, not r e a l l y "more r e a l than, the objects of the physical world, but rather r e a l i s t i c imitations of non-existent models. 1 , 1 1 This i s to an extent obvious, and needs no further comment, but i t i s in the d i s t i n c t i o n between the a r t i s t w i l l i n g to take imagination as a tangible r e a l i t y i n the 'substantial' formation of h i s l i f e and a r t , and the anthropologist's hard-nosed demands for ultimately causative r e l a t i o n s h i p s , that the profound nature of what Levi-Strauss has not seen as opposed to what he obviously has, becomes apparent. An idea of such abstraction, was only r e a l l y considerable i n a s e r i o u s l y human fashion contingent to the ensuing revolutionary momentum, and as Hegel had suggested, once r e a l i t y embodied the i d e a l (which was the assumed intention of the revolution i n the f i r s t place), art i n i t s h i s t o r i c a l guise, would necessarily become superfluous, obsolete and i n as much, a genuine "token of progress."I 2 Malevich shared t h i s analysis and had stated that painting may, indeed, have outworn i t s usefulness. He made a 112. tangible step in such a direction with the project of the p l a n i t i and architectoniki. It i s significant that such a number of Utopian present- ations and ideas were active in Europe during and immediately following the f i r s t World War. Social despair, i n the face of immanent calamity, combined with an upsurging belief in the powers of technology to set man free from the chains of history and charged the aesthetic context with a new and seemingly virgin idealism. The Bauhaus certainly, was one of the major applications of this idealism that saw, as the ultimate products of i t s energies a l i f e transformed by an educational process, that created an ideology for the artist-artisan-architect, as more than a simple s t y l i s t i c re-evaluation, revival, or invention serving the w i l l of the existing status quo. Indeed, Gropius spoke directly to this problem. Unfortunately the German context was not moving towards anything l i k e the kind of p o l i t i c a l environ- ment where his ideas could be put into practice at any scale larger than the experiment. Malevich was certainly not unique i n his need to create an apocolyptic scheme at this h i s t o r i c a l moment. His system consists of signs that operate consistently at the same level in a l l of their, however diverse, appearances. This replicates, as previously explained, a basically ontological need unconsciously modelled after what we can now see was in fact a combination of the mystical christian and western European idea l i s t philosophical traditions, and initiated by a kind of 'spasm' of Nihilism. The notion of 'individual genius' i s clearly not an adequate explanation for an a r t i s t with as complex a manifestation as Malevich. I ,spoke earlier of the eschatological bearings of the era through which Malevich matured and I think i t i s possible to relate his aesthetic through an imagery of that order, in the Christian form at least, to specific works he accomplished at this time. He seems to have had a fatalism and painful personal sense of the curious anonymity of the crucified deity. Indeed Malevich speaks metaphorically of having to •bear his cross', aligning himself with the prophetic and persecuted h i s t o r i c a l Christian counterpart. The cross forms of Suprematism have an inherent and unavoidable allusion to the archetype mythic symbolism immanently present in the Christian apocolypse. Some of Malevich's later figurative drawings have figures that stand, arms outstretched bearing witness by the stigmata on their hands and in the Russian Orthodox cross that creates their fa c i a l features, (see the drawing of the Standing Figure), to the trans- figuration that Christ signifies as a symbol, a sacrificing and transformative God of paramount importance to the nature of the human condition and the significance of renewal, in mythic terms. The analogy by association of arising from the razed ground of history that Malevich affects intellectually as a pre-condition to an eternal, ideal, realm i s imprinted into the very method by which Suprematism declares i t s birth; i n a sense, a re-birth, a renasence of renewal of faith in an idea. Suprematism was divined as an universal art form en- gendering an universal society. Malevich was very much aware of this as a 'real' factor, without which his aesthetic would have made l i t t l e , i f any (other than as passive decoration) sense. He saw himself as eradicating the pre-disposed and repressive F i g . 65. Standing Figure. This drawing i s c l o s e l y r e l a t e d to a number of works made af t e r Malevich'£ return from Germany. 114. ideological program of previous art forms in favour of a universal vision conscious of i t s h i s t o r i c a l t o t a l i t y . In fact, Malevich's Suprematist system ceased being simply another ideology and became a Utopian gesture only when the conditions for i t s possible realization became apparent. I am thinking here of Mannheim's notion of the distinction between Ideology and Utopia which he makes, in his book of the same name. What Malevich i s instigating i s the w i l l to dominate hi s t o r i c a l r e a l i t y commensurate to the actual circumstances presented by the transformed and highly potential context. Nature ceased to be of v i t a l interest both in the activity of the painter, whether through the invention of photography, or by other pressures, and in the eyes of philosophers. The interest switched from a preoccupation with real formations, to the abstraction of those formations in time. The w i l l was to 'dominate historic a l r e a l i t y * . The similarities between Malevich and the De S t i j l or Bauhaus movement correspond only i n their shared faith in the potential technology presented to solve the world's most apparent and distressing material contradicitions. The difference, again, lay in Malevich's direct experience of an actual revolution, which, in his mind, had promised much more than a mere gratification of immediate material needs, indeed i t pointed the way to an entirely new world. Por the more c r i t i c a l and ultimately negative sense of technology as simply the projected and trans- formed symbols of the ruling class, the nightmare of an alien and dehumanized world, we have to turn to the art of the Dadaists or the Surrealists. Art, at this time, was without a purposefully created 115. socially cognizant role. The a r t i s t could enact unconscious social fantasies and appear as a bohemian, but this was only a transitional responsibility of diminishing spiritual interest or fulfillment. Suddenly in Russia, the conditions were ripe for the a r t i s t to become as 'practical' a social importance as the figures whose charismatic appeal he shares, and possibly envied, the revolutionary and the saint. It was at this point that Malevich turned to the materialization of his vision of the imminent Utopia. It i s important to remember that his paintings of this period were almost ecstatic in their sensual spiritualism. This mystical sense of his production has to be maintained even throughout the more u t i l i t a r i a n projects (see i l l u s t r a t i o n of ceramic cup he designed), otherwise his particular path out of the h i s t o r i c a l labyrinth into synchronic time and space, with i t s commensurate forms, w i l l not make sense. Part of the mistaken interpretive direction of western art historians would probably have been avoided i f a particular drawing of a p l a n i t i , a hovering residence of 'Earth's dwellers' and i t s associated text of 1924, were known. The normal a f f i l i a t i o n of these forms to the architectural and sculptural experiments of Vantongerloo and the constructivist forms of Rodchenko, etc., would have been apparent for the nonsense i t i s . The text reads: "I am now thinking of material(;) white opaque glass, concrete, tarred f e l t , heating by electricity(,) a planit without pipes. The colouring of the residential planit i s predominantly black and white. Red, black and white i s exceptional circumstances, i t depends on the tension of the state's powers and i t s weakness i n dynamicism. The planit must be universally tangible for man, inside as well as outside, the planit i s as simple as a tiny speck,  F i g . 68. Future P l a n i t s f o r Leningrad. The P i l o t ' s P l a n i t , 1924. F i g . 69. Future Pl a n i t s f o r Earth's Dwellers, 1924. 116. everywhere accessible to the man l i v i n g i n i t , who, i n f i n e weather, may s i t on i t s surface. The p l a n i t thanks to i t s construction and system w i l l afford the opportunity to keep i t clean; i t can be washed every day without the le a s t d i f f i c u l t y , and thanks to i t s small stature i s harmless."13 Suddenly the problem of the form's previously obscure meaning disappears, the p r a c t i c a b i l i t y of i t s e a s i l y maintained surfaces, i t s hovering purity, takes on an almost personable sensation, the scale i s h i g h l y humanized and any esoteric q u a l i t y i t may have had evaporates i n an appreciation of the marvel of i t s unique and revolutionary a r c h i t e c t u r a l function. Architecture was the natural and most l o g i c a l place f o r the u n i f i c a t i o n of painting and sculpture to occur. T a t l i n had created the f i r s t such project of deomonstrable success, the monument f o r the Third International. (See I l l u s t r a t i o n ) A monument which l i k e Malevich*s projects, was fated not to be b u i l t beyond the scale of the model, a f i t t i n g t r i b u t e to the Third International commem- orating a world communism, which, l i k e the monument, was destined 14 never to be b u i l t . As early as 1919 at Vitebsk, L i s s i t z k y had been given the leadership of the Department of Architecture, and encouraged by 15 Malevich he i n i t i a t e d h i s f i r s t 'Proun" experiments. In March of 1921, an exhi b i t i o n took place i n Vitebsk that had models of 'floating e l e c t r i c towns, power stations, railway 16 stations, etc., formed as cardboard r e l i e f s * . Malevich's production from t h i s period i s unfortunately missing. I t i s n ' t u n t i l 1922-23 i n Leningrad, that the f i r s t of the plaster of p a r i s models were constructed. Besides the p l a n i t i which were discussed above, there F i g . 71. Monument to The Third International, V. T a t l i n , 1920. 117. were the architectoniki. Most of these models are known only through photographs. They f a l l into two categories: those that stand vertically and those that are low-lying horizontal constructions. They were b u i l t out of component parts which seems to have suggested the pos s i b i l i t y for their use as ornaments as can be seen in the picture of Malevich's funeral where one of the architectoniki has had a mantle placed on top of i t and was used as a monument at the foot of his coffin. He named the projects, Alpha, Beta, Gota and Zeta. Some of the building systems suggested by the component parts resemble the current use of modular elements, as well as the adaptation of skyscrapers to new zoning regulations that occurred in New York in the twenties. The architectoniki hover somewhere between a modernist's conception of an earthly and a heavenly city, an ideal kingdom reflected in the perfection of i t s architecture but only par t i a l l y realizable as a concrete livin g phenomenon. It shares this distinction with various other manifestations of an 'ideal architectural' intention. Bruno Taut, a visionary German architect, accomplished projects and designs for futuristic conceptions as early as 1914 when the Glass House at the Werkbund exposition in Cologne was b u i l t . His writings are revealing in terms of Malevich*s theories and serve to i l l u s t r a t e that the same needs were present in the rest of Europe and Malevich's poetic sensibility was in fact not simply idiosyncratic. "A c a l l goes out to a l l those who have faith i n the future. A l l strong concern for the future i s incipient architecture. One day F i g . 72. Zeta. Architecton- i k i . 118. a philosophy of l i f e w i l l exist and then i t s symbol, i t s crystallization-architecture- w i l l also exist. Then there w i l l be no struggles and no fretting about art in a l i f e of banality; then there w i l l be one art alone, and this art w i l l shine into a l l corners and crevices. Until that time the functional can only be endured i f the architect carries in him a premonition of that sun. Architecture alone gives measure to a l l things, differentiates sharply between the sacred and the profane, between the great and the insignificant, yet at the same time gives a glimmer of i t s radiance to everyday objects, too."17 In Taut's Circular letter of February 3, 1920, he said: "What ju s t i f i e s our activity i s the creation of an intellectual framework. Visible architecture i s the simple, direct consequence of an inner spiritual architecture. Our Form can therefore never arise as a derivation from another a r t i s t i c medium such as sculpture or painting. The concern i s to create in us a general atmosphere of faith. Out of our amoebic condition develops an inner tension, an electric current, a source of power, which today appears to spinter apart, yet i s more coherent within i t s e l f than the brotherhood of the so-called architects. In inexplicable fashion the spiritual framework w i l l generate from i t . This i s my conviction. And this intellectual framework w i l l then create spontaneously the binding form which ^„ can accommodate passion and dance simultaneously.?. There i s a tension implicit to the proposal because Malevich insinuates a realm dominated by man's instincts (the definition of his Utopia being committed to the presence of a rion-repressive reality) rather than a Rousseauian primitivism, or a romantic escape. But at the same time, he attempts to envision this system within the necessary and apparently inevitable technological sophistication that i s an intimate concomitant to i t s i n i t i a l appearance as well as an extremely important attribute of i t s potential future success.1** The pragmatic quality of this discrimination, mixed with his mystical sensibility, made F i g . 75. Dynamic Suprematist A r c h i t e c t e d . 119. for a very peculiar archetypal design solution. The architectoniki presume technology as pre-requisite to their construction at the same time as they transcend a s t r i c t l y u t i l i t a r i a n answer in that the demands the proposal presented were for an entirely transformed social and spiritual intelligence; this i s , needless to say, their t a c i t idealism. Suprematism proposed a further and continuing revolution that was inconceivable to the strategies of the Soviet and con- sequently i t was soon to become an outlawed conception. Malevich, at one level, seems to have had an extraordinary grasp on the problems of individual points of view as they pertained to ideological conflict, and the p o l i t i c a l necessity, that was indeed one of the major concerns of Marx, to remove such necessarily 'personal' value judgments i n favour of a system of understanding that did not exclude the new industrial environ- ment and i t s mass constituency. This leaning of so many artists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries towards more intellectual-oriented preoccupations as a means of solving painful and obvious contradictions i s entirely understandable. Malevich hoped, i n the process of his art, to break through the socially and p o l i t i c a l l y maintained presence of myths that were no longer authoritative or convincingly useful. While the problem for philosophy was to avoid replacing one mythical structure with another, simply more sophisticated variety, the fascination of the a r t i s t was precisely in the centre of the energy and need for these stories that people incessantly seem to t e l l each other about the nature of the world in which they l i v e . Indeed, much of Malevich's vocation centered in precisely the creation of F i g . 76. Suprematist Architecton. (1929?) F i g . 77. Suprematist Ornaments (1927) 120. l i t e r a l l y unthought of orders, that while bearing no clear parallel to 'every-day l i f e * , served to resubstantiate the spiritual in the midst of the great materialist epoch. In 1927, he secured permission through Narkompros to travel in Europe with a one-man exhibition. It was p a r t i a l l y displayed in Warsaw and then again, more f u l l y , in Berlin. Troels Andersen, states that Malevich was i n Warsaw from March 8 to 28 and in Berlin from March 29 to June 5. He visited the Dessau Bauhaus and met Gropius and Le Corbusier, and agreed to have selections from his writings published in the Bauhaus series as number 11. Andersen also records that Malevich met with various members of the German avant-garde, among them, Gabo, Arp, Schwitters and Hans Richter. It was because of his sudden departure for Leningrad that his manuscripts and the entire contents of the Berlin exhibition, which now comprise the major part of the Stedelijk collection, remained i n Western Europe. The Institute of A r t i s t i c Culture was dissolved in 1927 but Malevich continued to li v e on the premises with his mother and third wife. In 1930, he was able to conduct a course in the theory and practice of painting in Domiskusstv in Leningrad. He was s t i l l a p r o l i f i c writer producing numerous articles and a •comprehensive account' of the history of Modern Art. Probably because of the connections he had made in Germany and a subsequent invitation to exhibit there again, suspicions were aroused and he was arrested in the F a l l of the same year. His manuscripts were destroyed by friends for fear that they might incriminate him, but he was released in a relatively short time. A l l through this period of his l i f e , Malevich had F i g . 78. Malevich E x h i b i t i o n , B e r l i n , 1927. F i g . 79. Malevich E x h i b i t i o n , B e r l i n , 1927. continued to work on his painting. He probably only actually quit^ ; i f at a l l , for a very short period during the peak of his enthusiasm for the potential society arising out of the after- math of the revolution, the time of the p l a n i t i , the architectoniki and the 'applied art* projects. While some c r i t i c s have seen his return to figurative painting as a kind of despairing comment on the conditions around him, a regression into a less complex i f not nostalgic world. I tend to see i t instead as a part of his continuing search for the possibility of re-establishing the figurative in art that he had talked of previously, and also as an autobiographical content, like maintaining a diary that included l i t e r a l references to the present and one's society, friends, etc., a document of his l i f e . This stoicism at this point in his l i f e , especially in terms of the public rejection he received by the p o l i t i c a l administration, seems in fact a very rich state of mind in the l i f e of an art i s t who had committed himself so continuously to such a genuinely high level of creation. It i s analogous perhaps to the silence of Ezra Pound, as i f taking account of one's l i f e in preparation for the inevitable profound experience of death. It i s certainly one aspect of our lives that western society in general pays l i t t l e serious attention to; the deification of progress and novelty at the expense of a l l else, here demonstrates i t s f i n a l defeat. Malettich's later portraits are a curiosity in some respects, but they do in fact maintain obvious references both to Suprematism, the cut of the clothing and the reduction into patterns of balanced asymetrical dark and light bands, and to F i g . 80. Malevich working. Photograph by N.M. Suyetin, A p r i l 3, 1933. F i g . 81. S e l f - P o r t r a i t , 1933.  the respective high traditions that Malevich, in spite of his earlier iconoclasm, s t i l l held a devout respect for. In fact, they very much resemble Piero della Francesca's portrait-diptych of the Dukes of Montefeltro in their studied severity and dis- passionate realism. It i s in this sense that his comment on his architectural experiments reveals the ambiguity and complexity with which he intuitively synthesized his vision and that continues to make the mistake of categorizing Malevich succinctly into one particular camp or another, apparent. "In my Suprematist architecture I visualize the beginning of a new art of building, an art which, as in the past, only creates that which i s 'beautiful'. Art always reveals the present as a synthesis of the entire past and the future."20 123. CHAPTER 8 SUPREMATISM: IDEOLOGY, DREAM OR MILLENARIAN MOVEMENT "What surprises me i s that you are touched in such a concrete way by a metaphysical situation." "But the situation i s concrete" said Francoise, "the whole meaning of my l i f e i s at stake." "I'm not saying i t isn't" Pierre said. "Just the same this a b i l i t y of yours to put body and soul into l i v i n g an idea i s exceptional." S. de Beauvoir, L?Invitee.^* There are many complex questions surrounding the emergence of Suprematism and the development of i t s metaphysic and iconography. While I cannot presume to answer them a l l , I do feel that the illuminating construction from which further insights w i l l be gained i s in fact located exactly in the nexus of hi s t o r i c a l relationships Malevich u t i l i z e d as intuitive perceptions and i n a sense, as a role or posture for himself as an a r t i s t . In retrospect, Suprematism appears as a rather curious hybrid. Following the developments of western European aesthetic concerns, i t develops i n i t i a l l y as a rather conventional 'avant garde' art form, another extension of the seemingly i n f i n i t e front of styles, each with their particular and more often than not, absolute ideology. But then, contingent to the intellectual and p o l i t i c a l turmoil in which he lived, there appeared a co- herence and a pattern to the events and art surrounding him which allows, even demands (in his eyes) an apocolyptic response. Art as a phenomenon overall has always presented problems to classical Marxism, which i f we follow the argument of Kenelm Burridge in his New Heaven, New Earth, was i n i t s e l f a 124. millenarian movement sharing similar processes at the macro-physical level to the rejected ontological tradition of Christianity. He says that "Being i t s e l f millenarian, Marxism can, like the early Christian, explain a millenarian i n terms of i t s own postulates and experience. On the other hand, denying thedeity or divine interventions, the 'Marxist* cannot explain the prophet 2 and his inspiration". The figure of the prophet closely resembles the role Malevich achieved as an ar t i s t within his context. The attempt to create a system with universal v a l i d i t y was something which i t shared with Marxist thought, but rather than being c r i t i c a l or consistently analytical, Malevich f i n a l l y came to a point where he simply accepted the limits of i t s i n i t i a l proposals and then proceeded to create objects and conditions that i t thought would prevail under the administration of such an order. He has said that "Suprematism in i t s f i r s t stage was a purely philosophical, colour conscious movement; in i t s second, i t i s 3 a form which may be applied." The artist's power in this process was on the verge, in Russia, of becoming considerable enough that he could create a substance to his vision that exceeded the experiential limits of the object and entered the actual dynamics of social interaction. But the access to 'material powers' quickly dwindled and the nature of the 'dream' the ar t i s t held for a possible return to the conditions of the garden diminished correspondingly. Malevich did attempt to create a means of applying his system, by analogy, to the social process he saw occurring a l l around him. In 1930, he wrote an essay called "An Attempt to Determine the Relation Between Colour and Form 125. in Painting". What he tried to develop was in a sense an analysis that i s the predecessor of our contemporary considerations of the relationship between people's behaviour and the physical conditions of their environment. He says: "Thus we have looked at two situations, where one and the same thing can be coloured differently depending on circumstances or social conditions. These conditions, in turn, have their own law on the basis of which corresponding changes in colour and form arise, without taking form into account. This law i s the reason for the changes in man's perception of colour and his mental attitude." 4 Significantly enough, Malevich does not state a law at a l l but a perception. By this time, that i s 1930, he was obviously tempered by the conditions he was l i v i n g through, as his own perception ir o n i c a l l y states, and had absorbed a certain amount of programmatic materialism. In Burridge's book, he goes into the manner by which a prophet can become a hero or p o l i t i c a l leader. He says that: "Charismatic qualities attach to the message rather than to the prophet. Nevertheless, i f the prophet i s able the message and the prophet may become closely identified. Charisma attaches 5 to the prophet with an acceptable message." Seen from the point of view of a vanguard sensibility, Malevich's message, I am arguing, was particularly suited to the needs of the context of his time. They were not, however, conceivable to the r e a l i t y of the regime which was growing up around him at the time and whose directions he must have f e l t were intolerable. Either the society can be seen as a mirror to the message implicit, although submerged in the ideology Suprematism created, 126. or exactly the opposite. That i s , Suprematism "intuitively" picked up on the current of the times, and gave i t an aesthetic formulae. However, I do not want to suggest in any way that this was i n i t i a l l y a conscious move on Malevich's part. While he may have realized the kind and extent of coercion necessary to implement a society with such a singular moral order (certainly he did by 1933 when he had himself experienced imprisonment by the communist status quo), his lack of effective p o l i t i c a l presence, except in a limited fashion, demonstrates a naivete- from which the overt lack of careful premeditation i s clear. But the really significant thing about Malevich's production that differentiates him from most European artists of the time, seems to be that he did in fact eventually make this intellectual and metaphysical perception a conscious and major expression of his aesthetic. Not content with the somewhat mechanical extension or re-formulation of styles as his essential task, he transformed the very nature of his art into an organic correspondence with the external environment. He wanted a correspondence between conceptions and their material forms, one that would produce a harmony commensurate to the then potential society the revolution enthusiastically offered. Unfortunately this correspondance took place at such a theoretically sophisticated level that i t s significance remained lost to a l l but an initiated few and even they remained unaware of the potential authoritarian dangers. Suprematism i s somewhat analogous to a pure science. One for instance interested in the phenomenon of mind in relation to matter. 6 Its quest was for an absolute, universally applicable 127. description of such phenomenon. Towards this end he created a system. One which would supposedly transcend self-interestedness or the confines of individual ego, and instead substitute a state of de-differentiation, oceanic and expansive. A condition where the intrusion of class-interested or socially created beliefs (Ideology in Marx's sense of the word) would not operate as forceful determinants, was his ambition. This has been referred to as a 'classical' sensibility, and dismissed as such. In that i t tends towards an archetypal and singular state where the ideal image i s a l i v i n g phenomena, in this sense i t was 'classical'. But without an understanding of the conditions of Malevich's idealism and the conditions of i t s birth, Suprematism looks either like our own most immediate progenitor, which in one sense i t i s , but also, then becomes, in i t s own right, an undecipherable system of signs and symbols whose significance for i t s own context i s lost. Malevich's own struggle, which he presumed could offer the "practice and recognition of truth against the domination of ideology", was effective in as much as art, by i t s nature i s a 'revolt of r e a l i t y against false consciousness'. The question then i s to determine whether or not Malevich was attempting to ri d art of i t s ideological or propogandistic significance or simply to change i t s point of view. We tend to see systems of belief by way of their most outstanding differences rather than in their common aspects. Similarities are sometimes impossible to see because of the radical and often dramatic juxtaposition of the differences in various systems. For example, Christianity and Communism, as Ernst Fischer has pointed out, share a common basis, no matter how different their ultimate ideology and program. 128. "The Christian and the Marxist conception of man and society are 7 based on common ethical values. A Classless society." While this kind of perception suffers an almost intolerable degree of oversimplification, i t was this capacity to envision the most common or shared elements of aesthetic systems that Malevich activated from the earliest days of his career. By 1910, 1911, he had absorbed and was u t i l i z i n g elements from both Pauvist and Cubist alternatives. His early eclecticism holds the key to both disentangling the 'knot' of his iconography as well as i t t e l l s us a great deal about the reasons for his leap into the intuitive desert of Suprematism. Early primitivist overtones abound i n many of these early pictures. He develops a kind of peasant vernacular, the common language of the immediate and most pervasive Russian rural landscape and consciousness which appears endlessly throughout these formative years. The vocabulary, while particular, and irrefutably his own, shared a communicable content with both the 'art-world* and his context. The next combinative s t y l i s t i c stage was to paint in what he called Cubo-Futurism, and again, the content was, besides the overt act of painting i t s e l f , localized; Carpenter's Scene, The Knife-Grinder, Peasant Scene, etc. Both poles were present in the pictures and rather than warring with each other could apparently co-exist in relative harmony. By late 1912, early 1913, however, the formal persuasion had seemingly won out. There was an abundance of Cubist-collage with Zaumist poetic overtones and assemblagist inclusions. By 1913, with the appearance of The Black Square, we also have Malevich's move into a state of s t y l i s t i c a l l y 129. internalized ideological coexistence and rather than each element propogandizing by i t s forceful presence, i t s own belief, we l i t e r a l l y leave the ground of recognizable reality and enter a somewhat neutralized idealism. The analytical use of Claude Levi-Strauss that I made earlier i s interesting by way of a more personal parallel inasmuch as he has made a statement about his philosophical ideas in the last chapter of his book Tristes Tropicrues. that by analogy re- fle c t s one way of seeing Malevich's Suprematism. Using the metaphor of geology (i.e. there i s an invisible structure which determine and give meaning to the strata.that l i e above i t ) , he refers to Marxism as a geology of society, and psychoanalysis as the geology of the psyche. Flowing between and enjoining the two analytical modes i s the synthesizing or creative r e l i g i o s i t y of Buddhism. Suprematism as a kind of mythical language was founded within a Marxist context, employing sensate phenomenon supposedly to arrive at a similar kind of destination. In this sense i t also becomes obvious how important the engagement with the overall mythic structure i s to the meaning of the various elements. Their meaning i s unavoidably involved in i t s position as a part of the larger construction. Its meaning arises directly from i t s context as in the logic of mythic constructions, or i n the structural arrangements of language. The language that Suprematism presents was fighting arduously for a system strong enough to gain socially congruous approval as a means of trans- lating deep structured phenomena into common experience. The a r t i s t in this sense had unconsciously cast himself both in the role of what we understand from anthropological studies 130. as the shaman, the practitioner of discrete and complexly ordered perceptions of social experience, and in more contemporary terms our reference at this level would be to the role of therapist, attempting to redefine individual pathology back into group consensus or tradition. Malevich can be seen as an individual participating in his capacity to experience •abnormal' thought where normally insignificant details from the every day world take on a whole range of meanings, in his Zaumist collage, for example, relevant to the ongoing creation of a self-created and projective aesthetic system. The experience of, Malevich's system from without i s then, lo g i c a l l y , distorted and other than i t s intended effect. The method of Suprematism attempted (and the occasion of the Russian revolution presented the necessary catharsis) to redefine collective experience of objective phenomena through i t s highly charged system of significations, almost an exact inversion of the task that the conventional therapist assumes. This i s really the importance of Malevich's production for the history of art; i t presented a violent rupture in the social process of assumed responsibilities and roles. Even though Malevich received no public recognition of the fact, ( i t i s our task in retrospect to discover these meanings), he had really created an art form that made him the 'guardian of the spiritual coherence' of the group when no other focus or function was creatively concerned with such issues within the social fabric of the time. Levi-Strauss uses the psychoanalytic designation of 'abreactive* to describe the demonstration or creative process which the a r t i s t undertakes in 8 such a circumstance. In spite of the fact (possibly because of i t ) that he i s referring to the Sorcerer in aboriginal societies, I think i t s significance to the appearance of the ar t i s t 131. | i i n our own culture i s c l e a r . Abreaction i s defined as "the release of psychic tension through v e r b a l i z i n g or acting out an adequat resolution of a repressed traumatic experience, with the appropriate Q emotion or a f f e c t . " The a r t i s t enacts deep-seated i n d i v i d u a l , and hence with any s o p h i s t i c a t i o n , c o l l e c t i v e psychological traumas. This c e r t a i n l y i s not a l l the a r t i s t does e f f e c t , but t h i s i s an aspect of h i s process that without our cognizance w i l l cause endlessly f a l l a s c i o u s and s u p e r f i c i a l i n s i g h t s into the larger ontological v a l i d i t i e s when they do i n f a c t e x i s t . 132. CHAPTER 9 EPILOGUE Suprematism, whether i n the i n i t i a l barrenness of i t s monochrome proposals (White on White, etc.) or the splendid v a r i e t y of i t s applied manifestations (theatre, costumes, ceramics, p l a n i t i , a rchitectoniki) invoked a l l the prerequisites of an Utopian v i s i o n . I t proposed a rehumanization of art by the a r t i s t whereby that s o c i a l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y which he had f o r f e i t e d was taken back upon himself i n the form of an e n t i r e l y unique and e t h i c a l aesthetics. Malevich found that h i s t o r y had presented him with a l a r g e l y decorative and imitative instrument, a language of forms inherited from an almost altogether foreign h i s t o r y i n spite of the f a c t that i t was h i s closest antecedent. He was not responsible for i t s creation and yet was expected to make use of i t . Innovation was allowed, even demanded by the avant-garde, but complete transgression was as yet a rare exception rather than the r u l e . Therefore, the options were either to r e j e c t art as a way of l i f e e n t i r e l y , or to completely revise and reintegrate the previous d i v i s i o n between form and content that had so plagued art p e r i o d i c a l l y throughout the past? t h i s engendered a moving i n and out of the r e p l i c a t i o n of ex i s t i n g r e a l i t y , the Apollonian and Dionysian again, d i s t o r t i o n and self-consciousness of the process u n t i l an inevitable mannerism seemed to take over. I t was only when the construction of society o v e r a l l was capable of r a d i c a l change that art was not, i t seems i n retrospect at l e a s t , stuck i n a recycling of h i s t o r i c a l modes and the F i g . 84. Malevich at h i s l a s t major ex h i b i t i o n , RSFSR-XV Years, 1932. 133. in e v i t a b l e s p i r i t u a l 'wasteland* i t led to. Malevich announced with Suprematism an a l l pervasive and homogeneous condition:.in the arts which u n i f i e d form with content and o b j e c t i v e l y created a Utopia i n the material of i t s v i s i o n . In some ways the thought of a scheme of such cosmic proportions suggests an apathy or giving up of oneself to the unity of the impossibly larger whole or t o t a l i t y , the i n f i n i t e . I t must be remembered that I have studied Malevich more as a p a r t i c u l a r phenomenon than as a generalized example of the a c t i v i t y of the a r t i s t . Such a homogeneous system, i f somehow possible to imagine as an i n s t i t u t e d world view, would create i n c r e d i b l e boredom. But that never came about i n the context and the t o t a l i t a r i a n implications which informed some part of the i n i t i a l energy that undoubtedly created such an a h i s t o r i c a l system, recurred and was exercised i n the praxis d i r e c t l y . In the world Malevich conceived, such ideas are i n no way intended as p o l i t i c a l l y instrumented hi e r a r c h i e s . He was both the v i c t i m of h i s t o r i c a l circumstances i n that h i s i d e a l i s t i c state d i d not become a p o l i t i c a l r e a l i t y , and a self-conscious r e c i p i e n t of enormous r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . Suprematism may have f a i l e d i n the extent of i t s ambitions corresponding to the fate of the Revolution i t supported, but i t s commitment remains a source of energy for the future towards the r e a l i z a t i o n of such an e t h i c a l a r t . FOOTNOTES ABSTRACT 1 Jack Burnham, Art and Technology. Art Forum, p. 42. 2 Mimesis, as a terminology originates with Plato. Plato's h o s t i l i t y to the poetic experience i s an interesting fact that our 'aesthetics' have taken as a central condition for some 2000 years now. The best discussion I have read to date by way of exegesis to Plato's arguments and conception of mimesis i s to be found in Eric Havelock's Preface to Plato. I cannot too highly recommend the reader to his exposition and I w i l l not attempt to recreate his complex explanation here. The essential interest i t proposes for the work of this thesis i s the cultural and historical context that placed Plato i n the position of having to l i t e r a l l y do combat with 'poetry', the epic, as an epistemological mode directly integrated into the process by which the'moral-character' of citizens was proposed and learned. It occupied this position not for the values we conventionally ascribe to poetry, that i s , inspirational or imaginative effects, but on the grounds that " i t provided a massive repository of useful knowledge, a sort of encyclopedia of ethics, p o l i t i c s , history and technology which the effective citizen was required to learn as the core of his educational equipment."(p.27) Havelock insists on the fact that Plato "writes as though he had never heard of aesthetics or art", (p.29) This i s exactly the case that I am trying to articulate; i t has taken two thousand years of ' c i v i l i z i n g ' , the increasing sophistication of the technological domination of nature, etc. to produce such a highly specialized system of linguistic distinctions as we commonly possess today. I am not proposing a nostalgia for the pre-sophistic or pre-philosophical mode of thought, but that an understanding of such a dialectic in history removes one aspect of the mystery as to why Malevich specifically so desired to reincorporate a rigorous intellectual-moral content into his art. Otherwise he would have been specializing himself out of any collective content which could communicate at a l l . Of course he could not undo history, nor recreate i n a single lifetime an entirely lost understanding or vocabulary, but I think that he did manage to set the problem up in a uniquely modern vocabulary, and one that has a l l but been lost to us. 3 Jacob L. Talmon, P o l i t i c a l Messianism, pp. 505-506. 4 Jack Burnham, Ibid. p. 43. 5 J. L. Talmon, Ibid, p. 506. 6 Troels Andersen, Vladimir Tatlin, p. 51. 7 Peter Collins, Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture, p. 281. 8 Peter Collins, Ibid, p. 296. 9 Erwin Panofsky, Meaning In The Visual Arts, p. 56. 10 E. Panofsky, Ibid, p. 17. 11 I am thinking here specifically of Tatlin, as well as Malevich, who, while not returning to easel painting, did revert from his artist-engineer principles to the creation of a glider, a beautifully metaphorical, poetic and individual expression; a fanciful f l i g h t from the repressive hand of Stalinism. 12 Kasimir Malevich, Essays On Art, Vol. I, p. 95. 13 The skeleton of an argument that has permeated much c r i t i c a l thinking in our century and which has served artists themselves in one way or another i s given a credible formula by Nietzsche in his essay The Birth of Tragedy From the Sp i r i t of Music, f i r s t published in 1872. He cites the opposition of an instinctual polarity and gives his observation an archetypal mythic characterization through the figures of Apollo and Dionysus. Essentially the extremes could be thought of as the opposition between freedom and necessity, essence and existence or any number of embodiments of these sets of traditionally warring dualisms. Apollo i s the paradign of the instinctual urge to order. Dionysus i s seen as the w i l l to liberation. This dualism was very much in evidence h i s t o r i c a l l y as an affective understanding, and i t i s useful to see how much i t has characterized preconceptions about Malevich, and to what extent i t has been ut i l i z e d as an understanding of his essential dynamic. 14 Percy B. Shelley, The Four Ages of Poetry: A Defence of Poetry, p. 59. 15 K. Malevich, Ibid. Vol. 1, p. 94. 16 Renato Poggioli The Theory of the Avant-Garde, p. 96. 17 R. Poggioli, Ibid, p. 99. 18 K. Malevich, Ibid, Vol. II, p. 18. 19 Anthony Hartley, Mallarme, p. x x i i . 20 Ronald Hunt. Transform The World! Poetry Must be Made by All.' p. III. 21 A. Hartley, Ibid. p. x x i i i . BIOGRAPHY AND EARLY WORKS 1 There i s an almost tragic parallel i n the ending of a r t i s t i c careers between Malevich with his elaborate funeral production launched as a protest, and Tatlin's manufacture of the Leatatlin glider. The former so aggressively consistent with his l i f e ' s aesthetic, while the ornithopter appears as a 136. metaphor of escape from the 'dead hand* of Stalinism. 2 Kamimir Malevich, Essays on Art, Vol. II, p. 149. 3 Ibid, 149. 4 Ibid, P. 150. 5 Ibid, P- 153. 6 Ibid, P. 153 7 Ibid, P- 154 8 Ibid, P. 152 9 E l l a Winter, The Lost Leadership of Malevich, Art News, She claims that Malevich went to Paris i n 1912, but there i s no further evidence of such a t r i p than the art i c l e i t s e l f . 10 Kasimir Malevich, Ibid, Volume I, p. 100. 11 Wasoily Kandinsky, Concerning The Spiritual in Art, p. 40. Note; Malevich's use of colour was never as intellectually struct ured on an understanding of visual correspondences to emotional constructs as Kandinsky's was. Where both Kandinsky and Mondrian had documented experience of occult and theosophical systems of philosophy particularly for Kandinsky of Madame Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner, Malevich was v i r t u a l l y innocent of those instructions. I am relying for my understanding in this regard on the excellent ar t i c l e in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes by Sixten Ringdom entitled Art in the Epoch of the Great Spiritual. It further relies, or at least i t s investigations were iniated by the bizarre and extremely biased account of the occult origins of early abstraction made by Robsjohn-Gibbings in his book The Mona Lisa's Moustache. 12 Matila Ghyka, The Geometry of Art and Life, p. 173. 13 Troels Andersen, Malevich. p. 24. 14 Miroslav Lamac, Malevich the Unknown. 1968. FUTURIST INFLUENCES 1 Vladimir Markov, Russian Futurism, p. 384 2 Ibid, p. 384. 3 Ibid, p. 385. 4 K. Malevich, Essays on Art, Vol. I, p. 241. However, Peter Luft, whose art i c l e , Kaaimir Malevich Designs Victory Over the Sun, appears in the book, Art and The Stage, claims that i t i n f a c t was a "meeting of F u t u r i s t s . . . attended by Mayakovsky, Burlyuk, Kruchonykh, Matyashin, Sseveryanin, Malevich, and others." p. 137. 5 Peter Luft, "Kasimir Malevich Designs V i c t o r y Over The Sun" i n Art and The Stage i n the 20th Century, ed. by H. Rischbieter, p. 137. 6 Peter Luft, Ibid, p. 137. The a r t i c l e quoted from goes on to say that "This F u t u r i s t opera designed by Malevich was thus the world's f i r s t Cubist t h e a t r i c a l spectacle. With the establishment of t h i s f a c t , the view current h i t h e r to that Picasso f i r s t introduced Cubism onto stage with h i s designs f o r the b a l l e t Parade by Cocteau, Satie and Massine on May 18, 1917, must f i n a l l y be corrected." 7 Ibid, p. 137. 8 C a r r i e r i , Futurism, p. 129 9 Ibid, p. 130. 10 A good example of t h i s f a c t i s to be found i n Nicolas Berdyaev's autobiography Dream and Reality, i n which the f i r s t chapter deals with the Russian gentry and the c u l t u r a l milieu i n the ea r l y years of the 20th Century. Berdyaev, i n Dream and Re a l i t y (p. x i i i - x i v ) also says "I am a Russian, and I regard my universalism, my very h o s t i l i t y to nationalism, as Russian." Malevich was a man of a very s i m i l a r f i b e r and i n a l a t e r chapter I s h a l l go into a more det a i l e d account of t h e i r common ground. 11 C a r r i e r i , Ibid, p. 136. 12 Ibid, p. 137. 13 Markov, Russian Futurism, p. 173. He here maintains that the F i r s t Journal of Russian F u t u r i s t s , whose issue #1-2, appeared i n Moscow i n March 1914 ... "Among the a r t i s t s who took part or agreed to take part, one finds the f a m i l i a r names of the Russian avant-garde of thevperiod, such as the two Burliuks, Malevich, Matyushin, Yakulov and Exter, and also Fernand Leger." 14 Malevich, Essays on Art . V o l . I I , p. 85. 15 Rosa Clough, Futurism, p. 29. 16 Ibid, p. 34. 17 Malevich, Ibid. V o l . I, p. 241 18 This eschatological seizure of the current-most technical panacea i s si m i l a r i n mode to the messianic claims of Buckminster F u l l e r , as demonstrated i n The World Game. A type of p o l i t i c a l l y naieve adoption of i m p l i c i t l y F u t u r i s t metaphors. 19 Martin, F u t u r i s t A r t and Theory, p. 41. 138. 20 Vladimir Markov, Russian Futurism, p. 341. 21 Troels Andersen, Malevich. p. 25. 22 Ronald Hunt. Russian Radical Art, p. 31. 23 I am here thinking of artists like Joseph Kosuth and the Art & Language group in Britain. 24 Markov, Ibid, p. 334. (He i s quoting Igor Terentyev). 25 Kenneth Coutts-Smith, Dada. p. 90. 26 Jacob Talmon. P o l i t i c a l Messianism. p. 124. 27.Richard Hulsenbeck, "En Avant Dada: A History of Dada", in Dada Painters and Poets, ed. by Robert Motherwell, p. 28. 28 Ibid, p. 31. 29 Ibid, p. 47. THE RUSSIAN INTELLECTUAL HERITAGE AND CONTEXT 1 E. Lampert, Studies in Russian Radicalism, p. 3. 2 Ibid. p. 3. 3 Ibid, p. 5. 4 Ibid, p. 6. 5 Ibid, p. 95. 6 Ibid, p. 132. 7 Ibid, p. 137 8 Ibid, p. 330. 9 Ibid, pp. 330-331. 10 Ibid, p. 332. 11 Albert Camus, Resistance, Rebellion and Death, p. 205. 12 Erwin Panofsky, Meaning in The Visual Arts. (One History of art as a Humanistic Discipline). Freud also demonstrated the power of any action or object to abntain meaning by devious routes - his was the specific task to develop the means of extricating such 'unobvious' meaning; see his essay Delusion and Dream. This point w i l l be discussed further i n another chapter. 13 Henri Lefebvre, Dialectical Materialism, p. 53. 14 George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, On Art Religion. Philosophy, p. 21. 15 K. Malevich, Essays on Art. Vol. I, p. 185. 16 Karl Marx, The German Ideology, p. 197. 17 Ernst Fischer. Art Against Ideology, pp. 91-92. 18 H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution, p. x. 19 Ibid, p. x. 20 H. Marcuse, Soviet Marxism, p. 118. 21 Malevich, in this perspective at least appears more radical than the constructivists; but then this gets into the problem of determining as to how positive and how negative this i s in fact. They were practical, and r e a l i s t i c , working with what was there in fact, while Malevich thought Suprematism was apolitical inasmuch as i t s scheme was Utopian, visionary and ultimately in transcendence of the mundane. But even in spite of these distinctions they, by and large, suffered the same fate. 22 N. 0. Brown, Life Against Death, p. 63-66. 23 Hegel, Ibid, (page 9 of Introduction by J. Gray). 24 H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution, p. 259. 25 Ibid, pp. 260-261. THE PROJECT OF SUPREMATISM 1 Kasimir Malevich, Essays on Art. Vol. I, p. 19. 2 Ron Hunt, History of Radical Russian Art - 1910 to 1930. p. 36. 3 K. Malevich, Ibid, p. 22. 4 K. Malevich, Ibid, pp. 22-23. 5 Ibid, p. 26. 6 Ibid, p. 27. As Troels Andersen notes in the essays, (p. 241, footnote #8), "Only the year before Malevich had actually considered himself a Futurist. He also defended Marinetti in an open letter printed in the newspaper Nov' no. 12, January 28, 1914, on the occasion of his v i s i t and in his defense against an attack by Larionov published just before his a r r i v a l . " The phrase -'to spit on the altar of i t s art' had been used previously by Marinetti, so Malevich's use of i t i s doubly apt on this occasion. 140. 7 Malevich, Ibid, p. 30. 8 Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of The Millenium. 9 Malevich, Ibid, Vol. I, p. 37. 10 Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity (Preface to the second edition). 11 Eric Fromm, Marx's concept of Man, p. 45. 12 Ibid, p. 46. 13 Malevich, Ibid, p. 40. 14 Sophie Lissitzky-Kuppers, E l Lissitzky. pp. 327-330. 15 Malevich, Ibid, p. 227. 16 Malevich, Ibid, p. 227. 17 Malevich, Ibid, The A r t i s t and The Cinema, p. 235. 18 S. Lissitzky-Kuppers, Ibid, p. 330. 19 Ibid, p. 329. 20 Ibid, p. 328. 21 Ibid, p. 328. 22 Kasimir Malevich, Essays on Art. Vol. I, p. 120. 23 Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo, p. 90 24 Ibid, pp. 95-96. 25 H. Frankfort, Before Philosophy, p. 20. 26 K. Malevich, "Suprematism" in Theories of Movements. A Source Book, ed. by H. Chipp, p. 341. 27 Frankfort, Ibid, p. 16. 28 James Jeans, Quoted by Kenneth Coutts-Smith in The Dream of Icarus. 29 Ezra Pound. Gaudier-Grzeska, p. 134. 30 Malevich, Essays on Art, Vol. I, pp. 188-189. 31 Ibid, p. 194. 32 This i s complicated for two reasons* One i s that Marinetti was in Italy where there was an entirely different and f i n a l l y more conservative cultural context, one that presumably necessitated 141. the use of more r a d i c a l methods to induce the kind of p o l i t i c a l and c u l t u r a l change the I t a l i a n intentions o v e r t l y included. The other i s that Pound l a t e r also turned to I t a l i a n Fascism, a l - though with a d i f f e r e n t r a t i o n a l , but needless to say t h i s complex interrelatedness of movements and ideas i s a d i f f i c u l t question which I want to acknowledge here but that i s beyond the scope of t h i s t h e s i s . 33 Ezra Pound, Ibid, p. 90. 34 Wyndham has referred on several occasions to abstract painting as "visual music". Morse Peckham, i n h i s book Man's Rage f o r Chaos.speaks of the s i m i l a r i t y between Kandinsky's sense of the q u a l i t y of 'improvisation' and t h i s phrase of Lewis'. He includes Malevich i n t h i s attempt to discover what i n f a c t was meant by these v a r i o u s l y d i f f e r e n t painters with t h e i r s i m i l a r sounding use of the musical metaphor i n reference to the q u a l i t y they f e l t e f f e c t i v e l y described abstraction. 35 This information was given to me i n i t i a l l y by Ronald Hunt and has since been corroborated by Markov, i n h i s book Russian Futurism, p. 280. 36 Kasimir Malevich, Essays on A r t . Introduction by Troels Andersen, p. 11. 37 Ibid, p. 11. 38 Sixten Ringbom, Art i n the Epoch of the Great S p i r i t u a l : Occult Elements i n the S a r l y Theory of Abstract Paintings. 39 Anton Ehrenzweig, The Hidden Order of Art, p. 129. 40 Ibid, p. 129. 41 Ibid, p. 294. 42 Malevich, Ibid, p. 19. 43 Ibid, p. 21. 44 Ibid, p. 39-40. 45 Ibid, pp. 121-122. MALEVICH'S THEORETICAL PROPOSITIONS 1 See Appendix f o r the o f f i c i a l report of the I n s t i t u t e of A r t i s t i c Culture's a c t i v i t i e s i n t r a n s l a t i o n . 2 I use the psychological, Freud and Ehrenzweig p a r t i c u l a r l y , as one way of a r t i c u l a t i n g the 'deep-matrix' of abstraction. C e r t a i n l y the best a r t i c u l a t i o n , needless to say, i s the work i t s e l f . In t h i s sense the psychoanalytical has a s p e c i f i c 142. v a l i d i t y . The only reservation I want to indicate i s i n terms of mistaking the a r t i s t as merely a symptom of larger s o c i a l functions or disorders. 3 Erwin Panofsky, The L i f e and A r t of Albrecht Purer, p. 243. 4 In order to corroborate Panofsky's quote about the process and p o s i t i o n of art i n medieval society, I want to quote various passages from J . Huizinga's book The Waning of the Middle Acres; s p e c i f i c a l l y from chapter 19, A r t and L i f e . "Now, r e a l l y to understand a r t , i t i s of great importance to form a notion of the function of art i n l i f e ; and for that i t does not s u f f i c e to admire surviving masterpieces, a l l that has been l o s t asks our attention too. A r t i n those times was s t i l l wrapped up i n l i f e . I t s function was to f i l l with beauty the forms assumed by l i f e " , (p. 253) "Art was not yet a means, as i t i s now, to step out of the routine of everyday l i f e to pass some moments i n contemplation; i t had to be enjoyed as an element of l i f e i t s e l f , as the expression of l i f e ' s s i g n i f i c a n c e " , (p. 233-34) There i s also the curious congruence between public events i n celebration of r e l i g i o u s ideology and the mass fetes and street theatre agrandizing the triumph of the revolution i n Russia. Huizinga says: "In the Middle Ages the r e l i g i o u s f e s t i v a l , because of i t s high q u a l i t i e s of s t y l e founded on the l i t u r g y i t s e l f , f o r a long time dominated a l l the forms of c o l l e c t i v e cheerfulness." (p. 240) 5 Erwin Panofsky, Ibid, p. 244. 6 K. Malevich "Suprematism" i n Theories of Modern Art, ed. by H. Chipp, p. 341. 7 Michel Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, p. 228. 8 Troels Andersen, Malevich, p. 116. 9 The resemblance by way of method and vocabulary to semiological or l i n g u i s t i c s t r u c t u r a l analysis i s no accident. The discoveries of Ferdinand de Saussre were added to the work of revolutionary c r i t i c s , aestheticians and l i n g u i s t s of the Russian and Prague schools. Malevich would undoubtedly have had, i f not d i r e c t access to such an i n t e l l e c t u a l ferment, c e r t a i n l y some coherent descriptive understanding. 10 Troels Andersen, Ibid, p. 118. 11 Roland Barthes, Elements of Semiology, p. 35. 12 Troels Andersen, Ibid, p. 119. 13 Roland Barthes, Ibid, pp. 97-98. 14 Ibid, p. 98. 15 Ibid, p. 98 16 Ibid, p. 121. 17 Troels Andersen, Malevich, p. 30. 143 18 Ibid, p. 134. 19 Kasimir Malevich, "Suprematismus - Die gegenstandclose Walt" quoted i n Karsten Harris' The Meaning of Modern Art, p. 67. 20 Kasimir Malevich, Essays on Art, Vol. i i , p. 122. 21 Ibid, p. 123 22 Ibid, p. 138. , 23 In this regard, see M i l i c Capek, The Philosophical Impact of Contemporary Physics. 24 El Lissitzky "New Russian Art: A Lecture", p. 149. 25 Ibid, p. 150. 26 Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, pp. 29-30 27 G. Cherbonnier, Conversations with Claude Levi-Strauss. p. 150. 28 Malevich, Ibid, p. 176. ETHICAL IDEALISM 1 Nicholas Berdyaev. Dream and Reality, p. 93. 2 Ibid, p. 95. 3 Ibid, p. 91. 4 Ibid, p. 90 5 C. S. Calian. The Significance of Eschatology in the Thoughts of Nicolas Berdyaev, p. 124. 6 Ibid, p. 14. 7 Ibid, p. 14 (quoting Berdyaev) 8 N. Berdyaev, Ibid, p. 118. 9 Calian, Ibid, p. 44. 10 Nicolas Berdyaev, The Russian Revolution, pp. 23-24. 11 Nicolas Berdyaev, The Origin of Russian Communism, p. 133. 12 Calian, Ibid, p. 53. 13 Nicolas Berdyaev. The Realm of Sp i r i t and the Realm of Caesar, p. 105. 14 Calian, Ibid, p. 69. 15 Nicolas Berdyaev, The Meaning of The Creative Act, p. 144. 16 Calian, Ibid, p. 57-58. 17 Berdyaev, Dream and Reality, p. 215. 18 Calian, Ibid, p. 59. 19 Berdyaev, Ibid, pp. 210-211. THE MATERIALIZATION OF UTOPIA 1 Troels Andersen, Malevich. p. 11. 2 Tbid, p. 11. 3 Ibid, p. 27, quoting Malevich. 4 H. Marcuse. Reason and Revolution, p. 56. 5 Ibid, p. 56. 6 Like Hegel, who thought he had created the end of a need for philosophy, Malevich, for somewhat similar reasons, found himself predicting the obsoleaence of painging as a 'useful' mode, maintaining that i t could now be seen to be a prejudice of the past. Unlike Hegel however, he did have to modify his system i n order to p a r t i a l l y adapt to increasing social and material demands. 7 H. Marcuse. Ibid, p. 57. 8 The sensation of Utopia that we are presented with at this stage p i c t o r i a l phenomenon i s later seen by Malevich as 'logically' tending towards a genuine manifestation in concrete space. The resulting forms this took were the architectoniki and the p l a n i t i . The charts, created at a slightly later state, 1927, attempted to explain the rational necessity of Suprematism as an outgrowth of previous aesthetic solutions. Cubism, being a largely intellectually conceived and extremely academic art form that answered largely intellectual problems, was naturally enough taken as the prime progenitor of Suprematism. But the charts do not succeed i n this venture and instead only serve to confirm the 'ideological* network that Malevich undoubtedly thought that he was transcending. 9 H. Marcuse. Eros and C i v i l i z a t i o n , p. 12. 145. 10 K. Malevich, Essays on Art. Vol. I, p. 128. 11 C. Levi-Strauss. The Savage Mind, pp. 29-30. 12 H. Marcuse. Soviet Marxism, p. 116. 13 Troels Andersen. Malevich. p. 104. (quote translated from Malevich*s drawing). 14 Ronald Hunt i n conversation with the author. 15 El Lissitzky referred to his Proun experiments as 'changing trains between painting and architecture', by which he meant that they were to be considered as phenomena that were neither painting nor architecture, but something in between, combining attributes of both. 16 Troels Andersen, Ibid, p. 32. 17 U. Conrads, The Architecture of Fantasy, p. 138. 18 Ibid, p. 143. 19 The most contemporary correspondence here i s to Buck- minster Fuller's messianic conception of "The World Game". In i t he projects a solution to man's ideological problems through a naieve reliance on the ultimate embodiment of an absolute objectivity, a computer; the computer w i l l be programmed with a system created to equitably administrate the world's good according to existing and real needs. 20 Troels Andersen, Ibid, p. 36. SUPREMATISM; IDEOLOGY. DREAM OR MILLENARIAN MOVEMENT 1 Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Sense and Non-sense, p. 26. 2 Kenelm Burridge. New Heaven. New Earth, p. 131. 3 Camilla Gray, Kasimir Malevich; 1879-1935, p. 12. 4 Kasimir Malevich. Essays on Art. Vol. II, p. 142. 5 Burridge, Ibid, p. 138. 6 In occult terminology, the designation, Supreme or Superior World, refers to the world of Idea or mind. Gaynor, Dictionary of Mysticism, p. 176. 7 Ernst Fischer. 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New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963. Poggioli, Renato. The Theory of the Avant-Garde. Translated by Gerald F i t z g e r a l d . Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1968. Polanyi, Michael. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post C r i t i c a l Philosophy. New York: Harper and Row, 1962. Pound, Ezra. Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir. London: The Marvell Press, 1960. Rank, Otto. Art and the A r t i s t : Creative Urge and Personality Development. Translated by Charles Francis Atkinson. New York: Agathon Press, 1968. Read, Herbert. The Philosophy of Modern A r t . New York: Horizon Press, 1953. Rickey, George. Constructivism: Origins and Evolution. New York: George B r a z i l l e r , 1967. Ricoeur, Paul. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970. Robsjohn-Gibbings, T.H. Mona Lisa's Moustache: A Dissection of Modern Ar t . New York: A l f r e d A. Knopf, 1947. Roheim, Geza. The Gates of the Dream. New York: International Press, Inc. 1952. Rosenberg, Harold. The T r a d i t i o n of the New. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1960. Rosenblum, Robert. Cubism and Twentieth Century A r t . New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1960. Sartre, Jean-Paul. What i s Literature? Translated by Bernard Frechtman. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1950. Sedlmayr, Hans. Art In C r i s i s ; The Lost Centre. London: H o l l i s & Carter, 1957. Seuphor, Michel. L'Art Abstract; See Origines, Ses Premiers Maitres. P a r i s : Maeght, 1949. Seuphor, Michel. Abstract Painting: F i f t y Years of Accomplishment from Kandinsky to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1961. Seuphor, Michel. Le Style et Le C r i . P a r i s : Editions du S e i u l , 1965. S n e l l , Bruno. The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought. Translated by T.G. Rosenmeyer. New York: Harper and Row, 1960. Steneberg, E. Russiche Kunst B e r l i n : 1919-32. B e r l i n : Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1969. 153. Sypher, Wylie. Loss of the S e l f i n Modern Lit e r a t u r e and A r t . New York: Random House, 1962. Talmon, J.T. The Origins of T o t a l i t a r i a n Democracy. London: Seeker and Warburg, 1952. Talmon, Jacob. Utopianism and P o l i t i c s . London: Conservative P o l i t i c a l Centre, 1957. Talmon, J.L. P o l i t i c a l Messianism: The Romantic Phase. New York: Fredrick A. Praeger, 1960. Trotsky, Leon. Li t e r a t u r e and Revolution. Translated by Rose Strunsky. The Univ e r s i t y of Michigan Press, 1960. Weyl, Harraann. The Open World: Three Lectures on the Metaphysical Implications of Science. Yale University Press, 1932. Weyl, Hermann. Symmetry. Princeton University Press, 1952. Whitehead, A l f r e d North. Process and R e a l i t y : An Essay i n Cosmology. New York: The Humanities Press, 1929. Whitehead, A l f r e d North. Science: And the Modern World. New York: Mentor Books, 1948. Whitehead, A l f r e d North. Symbolism: Its meaning and E f f e c t . New York: Capricorn Books, 1959. Wind, Edgar. Art and Anarchy. New York: Vintage Books, 1969. Zavalishin, Viacheslav. E a r l y Soviet Writers. New York: Praeger, 1958. I I . PERIODICALS and ARTICLES Andersen, Troels. "Malevich on 'New Art ' " . Studio International, September, 1967, pp. 100-105. Aschenbrenner, M. "Colour and Form i n the Work of K. Malevich". Quadrum. 1957, p. 99. Ashton, Dore. "An Interview with Marcel Duchamp". Studio International, June, 1966, pp. 244-247. Ash ton, Dore. "Commentary From Huston and New York". Studio.. International. January, 1966, pp. 40-42. Baljeu, Joost. "The Hegelian Romantic Negation i n Modern P l a s t i c A r t " . Art International. February, 1966, pp. 24-28. Baljeu, Joost. "The Problem of R e a l i t y With Suprematism, Constructivism, Proun, Neoplasticism and Elementarism." The Lugano Review. 1965, pp. 105r!24. Bowlt, John. "Russian Exhibitions, 1904 to 1922". Form, September, 1968, pp. 4-15. Brown, Norman 0. "Apocalypse: The Place of Mystery i n the L i f e of the Mind." Harpers Magazine. May, 1961, pp. 46-49. Burnham, Jack. "Art and Technology". A r t Forum, January, 1971, pp. 42-46. Chadwick, Whitney. "Mason's Gradiva: The Metamorphosis of a S u r r e a l i s t Myth." The A r t B u l l e t i n . December, 1970, pp. 415-422. Clay, Jean. 'Malevich: The F i r s t Russian In Space." R e a l i t i e s . May, 1966, pp. 64-69. Egbert, Donald D. "The Idea of 'Avant-garde' i n Art and P o l i t i c s " . The American H i s t o r i c a l Review. December, 1967, pp. 339-366. E l d e r f i e l d , John. "Dissenting Ideologies and the German Revolution". Studio International. November, 1970, pp. 180-187 Gray, Camilla. "The Russian Contribution to Modern Painting." Burlington Magazine, May, 1960, pp. 205-210. Haskell, Francis. "From Courbet to Che." Review of Social Radicalism and the A r t s : Western Europe, by Donald Drew Egbert. New York Review of Books. January, 1971, pp. 23-24. Higgens, Andrew. "Art and P o l i t i c s i n the Russian Revolution - I." Studio International, November, 1970, pp. 164-167. Higgens, Andrew. "Art and P o l i t i c s i n the Russian Revolution- 2". Studio International. December, 1970, pp. 224-226. Kuspit, Donald B. "Tuopian Protest i n E a r l y Abstract A r t . " Ar t Journal. Summer, 1970, pp. 430-436. Lamac, Miroslav. "Malevich Le Meconnu". Cimaise, February to May, 1968, pp. 39-45. Lamac, Miroslav. "Malevich a jeho okruh." Vvtvarne Umeni. Prague, Czechoslovakia: 1967, pp. 373-407. Lawrence, Stuart. "Russian U n o f f i c i a l A r t : 'A F a i r y Tale about a Firm Road'." Form, December, 1967, pp. 5-10. Lippard, Lucy, "The S i l e n t A r t " . A r t i n America, January and February, 1967, pp. 58-63. L i s s i t z k y , E l . "The Electrical-Mechanical Spectacle". Form. December, 1966, pp. 12-14. L i s s i t z k y , E l . "New Russian A r t - A Lecture given i n 1922". Studio International. October, 1968, pp. 146-151. 155. Malevich, Kasimir. "An Autobiographical Fragment." Studio International. October, 1968, pp. 130-132. Neumeyer, A l f r e d . "Art History Without Value Judgments." Art Journal, Summer, 1970, pp. 414-421. Sherwood, Richard. "Great L i t t l e Magazines, No. 9: LEF Introduction to 'LEF', Journal of the L e f t Front of the Arts, 1923-25." Form. October, 1969, pp. 27-36. Winter, E r i c . "The Lost Leadership of Malevich". A r t News, December, 1958, pp. 34-37. I I I . MUSEUM AND EXHIBITION CATALOGUES Amsterdam. St e d e l i j k Museum. Malevich. 1970. London. Annely-Juda Fine A r t . The Non-Objective World. 1914-24. 1970. London. D'Offay Cooper Gallery. Abstract A rt i n England: 1913 - 1915. 1969. London. Whitechapel Gallery. Kasimir Malevich: 1878-1935. 1959. Stockholm, Moderna Museet, The Inner and Outer Space. 1962. Stockholm. Moderna Museet. Transform the World: Poetry Must be Made by A l l ! 1969. Stockholm. Moderna Museet. Vladimir T a t l i n . 1968. 156. APPENDIX A THE INSTITUTE OF ARTISTIC CULTURE (INCHUK) Report of the I n s t i t u t e ' s a c t i v i t i e s . The I n s t i t u t e of a r t i s t i c culture was founded i n May, 1920 at the Figurative Arts Section of the People's Commisariat for Education (IZO). Kandinsky took an active part i n i t s organization, but very soon r a d i c a l differences grew up between him and some of the members of the I n s t i t u t e . Kandinsky's psychological ideas came into sharp c o n f l i c t with the point of view of those who defended the autonomous material "object" as the basis of creation. Kandinsky l e f t and Rodcenke, Stepanova, Babicev and Brjusev came into the new administration. The work was developed c o l l e c t i v e l y and included an objective analysis on the basis of the plan and programme elaborated by Babicev, along two l i n e s : 1. Theoretical: analysis of the work of a r t , taking into consideration the e s s e n t i a l problems of art (colour, workmanship, material, construction, e t c . ) . The enquiry was carried out on the works of art themselves, often i n g a l l e r i e s . 2. P r a c t i c a l : group work, free or according to prearranged tasks: for example, works on the theme Composition and Construction were presented by a l l the members. In the spring of 1921 the ideology of the I n s t i t u t e , i n the f i r s t phase of i t s a c t i v i t y , was completely c r y s t a l l i z e d and defined, and can be summed up i n the following word: "Object". A l a t e r r e f l e c t i o n of t h i s stage i n the development of the ideology was the review Vesc, organized by L i s i s k i j , a member of the I n s t i t u t e at B e r l i n , at the beginning of 1922. But at the moment of the c r y s t a l l i z a t i o n of t h i s ideology a reaction was developing within the I n s t i t u t e , directed "against the object", "against pure-art". From t h i s the ' c o n s t r u c t i v i s t ' group was born. In t h i s same period the group devoted to objective analysis also produced a group of a r c h i t e c t s , designers, a musical group (which then developed autonomously) and a s o c i o l o g i c a l group. The process of r e v i s i o n announced by Inchuk at the beginning of the summer of 1921 led to a pause i n the work f o r the whole of the summer, and when the members of the I n s t i t u t e met again i n the autumn a decisive change was c l e a r l y indicated, which not only necessitated a new i d e o l o g i c a l p o l i c y but also new methods, new channels into which the work would be directed. Constructivism represented a t r a n s i t i o n a l step towards the idea of a 'productivist' a r t . The winter of 1921-22, a memorable period i n the l i f e of Inchuk, was f i l l e d with r e a l l y intense and fervently s e l f - c r i t i c a l i n t e r n a l a c t i v i t y , and devoted to the elaboration of the ideology of p r o d u c t i v i s t art and of a Marxist aesthetic. Thus, when the I n s t i t u t e was amalgamated with the Academy of Fine Arts on the 1st January 1922, i t was a compact group of 157. exponents of the art of the L e f t , a l l completely committed to the p r o d u c t i v i s t programme. Before work started i n the autumn of 1921 a r a d i c a l reorganization had taken place (organization, administration, methods of work, composition of personnel). Instead of d i v i s i o n into work groups i n which the material (easel-painting) was developed c o l l e c t i v e l y , the system of o r a l statements, communally prepared, was introduced. The method was changed because the material had changed. The a r t i s t s had l e f t the narrow o r b i t of "pure a r t " , renouncing easel-painting as an end i n i t s e l f . A true account of t h i s was given i n a large c o l l e c t i o n of a r t i c l e s expressing the credos of a l l the members of the I n s t i t u t e , which ought to have been published but was not, f o r lack of funds. Its t i t l e was to have been From Figurative art to the Construction. The organization of the groups among the members takes on a d i f f e r e n t s i g n i f i c a n c e . They form two sections: (1) pedagogical; (2) s o c i o l o g i c a l . Once the administration was reorganized Brik came i n as President, Babicev and Ladovskij as members of the d i r e c t i n g committee, and Tarabukin as Secretary. A r t i s t s who had remained members but were s t i l l attached to easel-painting and i n d i s - agreement with the p r o d u c t i v i s t programme, l e f t the I n s t i t u t e . In t h i s way the new ideology led to a sort of natural s e l e c t i o n ; Korolev, Kljun, Drevin, Udaltsova, withdrew f i n a l l y . New members, on the other hand, were t y p i c a l productivists and Marxists (Arvatov, Kusner and others). The work completed within the I n s t i t u t e from the time of i t s amalgamation with the Academy can be broken down as follows: 1. P r a c t i c a l work: (the spreading of the I n s t i t u t e ' s ideas and measures taken to put them into e f f e c t ) . 2. S c i e n t i f i c - t h e o r e t i c a l work: which i n t h i s second phase of the Institute's a c t i v i t y was concentrated on the elaboration of Marxist method i n the f i e l d of the study of a r t . The p r a c t i c a l work was d i s t r i b u t e d outside the confines of the I n s t i t u t e , entering increasingly i n t o the a c t i v i t i e s of other i n s t i t u t i o n s , organizations or associations, (whereas the t h e o r e t i c a l work was concentrated within the I n s t i t u t e and was di r e c t e d towards aims of an e s s e n t i a l l y s c i e n t i f i c and t h e o r e t i c a l n ature). 1. F i r s t of a l l i t i s necessary to emphasize the very close fundamental t i e s that e x i s t between Inchuk and Vchutemas. The great majority of the members of Inchuk are teachers from Vchutemas. Their p r a c t i c a l work i n the 'studies' i s always, and naturally, developed i n close connection with the i d e o l o g i c a l views of Inchuk. The decisive d i r e c t i o n , the friendship and s p i r i t of collaboration which d i s t i n g u i s h the Vchutemas teachers, undoubtedly spring from t h i s . In addition, on a formal l e v e l , i n preparing the programmes for the 'studies', the I n s t i t u t e necessarily takes part i n the work of the Vchutemas. Even the standard© used i n the choice of materials, followed i n the 'studies* 158. was developed by the I n s t i t u t e at the time when i t was s t i l l concentrating i t s own attention on the fundamental problems of easel-painting. In short, the organization and a c t i v i t y of the pedagogic Section of the I n s t i t u t e i s the f r u i t of t h i s l i n k : i t originated i n a natural necessity. 2. Besides t h i s i t i s necessary to indicate i n general a l l the p r a c t i c a l work of the members of Inchuk, who worked as scene- painters (Popova, Vesnin, Altman, Stepanova, and others), le c t u r e r s or l i t e r a r y collaborators (Arvatov, Brik, Kusner, Tata- bukin, and others) etc. Among these p r a c t i c a l undertakings must be mentioned a series of exhibitions of the "Obmochu" i n the ex-hotel Drezden, the second "Obmuchu" exhibition; an exhib- i t i o n of 'constructions*: K. Medunetskij, V. Stenberg, G. Stenberg; the "5x5=25" exhibition (Vesnin, Popova, Rodcenko, Stepanova, Ekster). 3. Once the p r o d u c t i v i s t programme was agreed on, the I n s t i t u t e n a t u r a l l y decided to make contact with a whole l o t of other organizations which set themselves the task of developing the problems of production and i t s s c i e n t i f i c f a c t ors: ( a) thus Arvatov, as the o f f i c i a l representative of the I n s t i t u t e , worked on the production committee at the c u l t u r a l sections of the national syndicated organizations and on that of Moscow province. (b) Brik worked with the central t e c n i c o - s c i e n t i f i c Group of the national syndicated organization. (c) Kusner worked on the Committee fo r a c t i v i t i e s concerning the s c i e n t i f i c organization of production within the VSNCH (Higher Council of the National Economy). 4. The I n s t i t u t e took an active part i n the reorganization of the Proletkult on new bases of production, through i t s members Arvatov, Brik and Kusner. Several members of the I n s t i t u t e went to take part i n the renovated Pr o l e t k u l t (Tarabukin, Kusner, as a l e c t u r e r ; and, i n Petrograd, T a t l i n ) . 5. Outside Moscow, the I n s t i t u t e extended i t s influence and made new contacts i n the following l o c a l i t i e s : (a) i n Petrograd the reorganization of the Academy was accomplished under the d i r e c t influence of, and with the p a r t i - c i p a t i o n of, Arvatov and T a t l i n , who were acting as representatives of the I n s t i t u t e . Within the Academy, a t e c h n i c a l - c o n s t r u c t i v i s t f a c u l t y was organized, and T a t l i n , a corresponding member of the I n s t i t u t e was put at i t s head. (b) Arvatov and T a t l i n organized a p r o d u c t i v i s t laboratory in the "Novyj Lesner" factory. (c) T a t l i n did a great deal f o r the union of a l l the painters of the L e f t i n Petrograd. With the painter Mansurev, he talked about t h i s a c t i v i t y at the I n s t i t u t e on December 1st, 1921. Following t h i s talk the Petrograd group of Inchuk was organized, under the d i r e c t i o n of T a t l i n . The question of organizing an o f f i c i a l branch of the I n s t i t u t e i n Petrograd was adjourned because the I n s t i t u t e did not have the necessary funds at i t s d i s p o s a l . (d) The Inchuk group at Vitebsk, directed by Malevich who, 159. i n December, 1921, together with the members of "Unovis" had also given a s i m i l a r t a l k at the I n s t i t u t e , found i t s e l f i n the same s i t u a t i o n . 6. Inchuk i s also gradually establishing contacts abroad: (a) thus the a r t i s t i c section of German Communist Youth has entered into o f f i c a l contact with Inchuk through i t s member the German a r t - c r i t i c Kemeny, who arrived on a v i s i t to Moscow, where he gave a series of lectures at thel I n s t i t u t e . (b) contacts with Holland have been established through the painters Petrus and Alma. (c) connections with B e r l i n e x i s t through the member of the I n s t i t u t e L i s i t s k i j , who i s publishing the review Vesc which r e f l e c t s the ideology - now considered out of date by the I n s t i t u t e as i t i s now organized - of so-called vescism. (d) also through L i s i t i s k i j , Inchuk i s i n touch with the Pari s i a n review L ' E s p i r i t nouveau. (e) i n Tokyo (Japan), Bubnova i s a corresponding member of the I n s t i t u t e . (f) through Brik, who went to B e r l i n , a whole series of contacts has been established with a r t i s t i c organizations of the L e f t (the p r o d u c t i v i s t associations) of German students and technical associations with reviews and publishing houses. (g) Contacts have been made with Hungary through a Hungarian painter who publishes the review Egyseg. (h) The ' c o n s t r u c t i v i s t ' group i s establishing r e l a t i o n s with Sweden. Theoretical work Inchuk's t h e o r e t i c a l work i s car r i e d out i n a series of reports, with related discussions and a r t i c l e s . The reports can be divided into three groups: (a) t h e o r e t i c a l ; (b) organizational; (c) informative. To the f i r s t category - of a general t h e o r e t i c a l nature - belong the reports of 1) L i s i t s k i j : Prouny (23rd September 1921). 2) I l i n : The P o l i c y of RSFSR i n the a r t i s t i c f i e l d (17th November, 1921). 3) Kemeny (in 'German): Most Recent tendencies i n modern German and Russian A r t (8th December, 1921); 4) Malevich: The P r i n c i p a l Task. 5) Stepanova: constructivism (22nd December, 1921); 6) Toporkov: The d i a l e c t i c a l and a n a l y t i c a l method i n art (22nd February, 1922); 7) Borisov: Analysis of the concept of the object i n art (23rd March) and The Ryhthm of Space. 8) K r i n s k i j : The course of architecture. Among the reports of a p r o d u c t i v i s t and s o c i o l o g i c a l nature can be enumerated the following: 1) Tarabukin: The l a s t picture has now been painted (20th August, 1921). 2) Brik: A r t i s t i c and p o l i t i c a l tasks of Inchuk (12th October, 1921). 3) Brik: The programme and t a c t i c s of Inchuk (22nd December, 1921. 4) Brik: What should the painter do i n the meantime? (13th A p r i l ) . 160. 5) Arvatov: A r t from the organizational point of view. (October). 6) Kusner: The production of culture (9th March). 7) Kusner: The production of culture (continuation, 16th March) 8) Kusner: The function of the c i v i l engineer i n production (30th March). 9) Kusner: The painter i n production (6th A p r i l ) . F i n a l l y the reports of the t h i r d category - reports and accounts of the p r a c t i c a l work completed: 1) a report by Popova on her scenery f o r the Cocu magnifigue (27th A p r i l ) . 2) Vesin: on the scenery for the Phaedro (4th March). 3) Altman: on h i s scenery for U r i e l Acosta (11th May). 4) L a v i n s k i j : Neo-?engineerism. On the orders of the administration the following a r t i c l e s were written by a) Arvatov: The aesthetics of easel-painting b) Arvatov: A Utopia Come True c) Rodcenko: Line, The problems of a r t (d) Popova: On the new method of our school of a r t and a series of a r t i s t i c credos from Vesnin, K r i n s k i j , "Obmochu", Bubnova, Ioganson, Popova and others. From the reports and a c t i v i t i e s mentioned above i t can be seen that both the t h e o r e t i c a l and the p r a c t i c a l work of the Ins t i t u t e have developed i n two basic d i r e c t i o n s . One can be defined as c r i t i c a l , and i s e s s e n t i a l l y demonstrated i n the idea by which easel-painting, as an end i n i t s e l f , was made the target of the most varied c r i t i c i s m , with the consequent abandonment of working i n the sphere of pure forms at the easel and with the introduction of easel-painting into the f i e l d of laboratory work. The other strove f o r the elaboration of the ideology of productive a r t . A convergence of these two tendencies took place on the 24th November, undoubtedly a day of great h i s t o r i c a l importance i n the creative a c t i v i t y of the I n s t i t u t e . On that day Brik gave a report i n which he proposed to the painters who had given up ease-painting that they should devote themselves to a r e a l , p r a c t i c a l work i n the f i e l d of production. This new programme was accepted as an i d e a l by Inchuk. Twenty-five exponents of the avant garde a r t of the L e f t , under the impetus of the revolutionary a r t of our time, have renounced the "pure" forms of art and have recognized that easel-painting has been superseded and that t h e i r own a c t i v i t y as painters, and only painters, was a senseless a c t i v i t y . The new type of a r t i s t has thus raised a new banner of h i s own: productivism. Now that Inchuk's idelogy has not only permeated every member of the I n s t i t u t e but i s bearing f r u i t i n the p e r i f e r a l areas of the a r t i s t i c consciousness of our society, the time has come to define i n precise concepts, to systematize, to give form to a l l the material developed by the Institute i n the memorable winter of 1921-22. The I n s t i t u t e i s now entering i t s t h i r d phase, that of a s c i e n t i f i c - t e c h n i c a l elaboration of a l l the questions connected with the idea of productivist a r t . I t i s symptomatic that the I n s t i t u t e should now count among i t s members a number of theoreticians, whereas previously i t was composed exclus i v e l y of p r a c t i c a l a r t i s t s . From a l l that has been said i t must be i n f e r r e d that the I n s t i t u t e i s not an a r t i f i c i a l l y created organization, but something absolutely r e a l and unique and i n a state of evolution. The Information Department of Inchuk (Russkoe iskusstvo, no. 1, 1923) 162. APPENDIX B A SPECIFIC ANALYSIS I w i l l here attempt to describe the sensation and possible dynamics of a s p e c i f i c Suprematist work. I t i s important to remember that t h i s i s only one description and i t i s l a r g e l y a formal one bearing on the information I have presented throughout the thesis but I do believe that there are as many possible interpretations of i t s 'sensation' as there are minds to receive i t . This i s the sense i n which i t transcends ideology. I t i s necessary to grasp the difference between an image and a symbol because Suprematism does not operate as a symbol but as an image. Sumbols are denotative, they stand for only one thing (this i s purposefully o v e r s i m p l i f i e d ) . But Suprematist images are seldom symbolic, they tend to be connotative. That i s , they are sensi t i v e to the emotional and i n t e l l e c t u a l p o t e n t i a l of t h e i r immediate context and t h i s of course includes the observer as an indispensible element i n t h e i r process (see i l l u s t r a t i o n , Suprematist Painting, a f t e r 1920). The sensation as 'pure f e e l i n g ' of t h i s picture i s dynamic i n physical character? the diagonals oppose the v e r t i c a l forces of the centre-post of the cross, the upper crossing bar suspends the upper area of the canvas. The dynamics i n Suprematism seem in v a r i a b l y cinematic when they are e f f e c t i v e . It i s as i f , i n the void of the white background images were to suddenly present themselves, the eye becomes a camera scanning vast uninterrupted tr a c t s of space with sudden and momentary interruptions of iso l a t e d and combined geometric elements. They disperse again F i g . 85. Suprematist Paint- ing (After 1920). 1 6 3 . and reform i n other unique and apparently a r b i t r a r y combinations elsewhere i n the inner space of the mind. The a c t i v i t y of painting has become a kind of spec i a l i z e d i n t e l l e c t i o n ? colour, surface, texture and form, a l l syntehsize to create an experience of space outside of any consideration of time other than t h e i r own duration i n the observer's eye. The moment of utmost importance, i s c a t h a r t i c and t r a n s i t o r y . I t i s as i f they were only meant to be viewed momentarily? possibly t h i s i s the reason that they were i n i t i a l l y hung high, up near the vast blankness of the c e i l i n g . They were, by t h e i r adjacency, to have connoted a vastness c o l l e c t e d from the expansive and blank c e i l i n g , the oceanic and l i m i t l e s s world of p o t e n t i a l energy, the garden i n i t s i d y l l i c and profound absence of repression. The experience i s what i s essential to any understanding of t h i s composition. The r e a l i t y of t h i s experience of specialized cognition as a process not as a fixed state was the intended perceptual g e s t a l t . Outside of such an experience, related to i t s further landscape, i t would have appeared as i t was taken to be, a conventional extension of the vocabulary of 'art-styles', and hence an ideology, contrary to i t s own o r i g i n a l and i n t u i t i v e i n t e n t i o n s .

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