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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Kazimir Malevic and architectons as monument : on looking at early modernism Karaush, Iryna


Kazimir Malevich and the Architectons as Monuments: Looking at Early Modernism examines Malevich' s 1919-1932 artistic exploration, architectons. Conventionally understood as early modern avant-garde art objects or as blueprints for a new urbanism, this thesis explores their function as monuments and as profound influences on how we now look at modernity. As monuments, I argue, they opened up a new way of expressing collective memory that has had a significant influence on avant-garde production and attitudes towards monuments.I develop this argument through an assessment of existing literature on the architectons and Malevich, the theoretical discourse on monuments contemporaneous with Malevich's artistic and intellectual development, including Alois Riegl and Soviet Commissariats, and late 20th century discussions on memory. There are three chapters to my thesis. In the first chapter I will introduce Malevich's theory of Suprematism and the philosophy of architectons. I will elaborate on the meaning, differing interpretations, and possible significance of Malevich's architectons. The second chapter is historical and biographical, retracing Malevich's movements in time and space. I will show how the social, philosophical, academic and artistic milieux of post-revolutionary Vitebsk affected his artistic thoughts about the monument. In addition to being current topics in art and philosophy at the time, both of these factors are related to Malevich in the way he lived, practiced art and conceived philosophy. The last part of the second chapter examines the position of monuments contemporary to Malevich's time in 1920s Russia. In the third chapter I will discuss the notion of "monument" and "memory." Here I will start with Alois Riegl (1903) and his systematic study of modern monuments. In this part, I will argue that the socio-political and cultural context of 1900 Vienna enabled the emergence of Riegl's theory of monuments, a study that was widely disseminated at the time and to which Malevich probably had access at the same time. I consider the cultural attitude towards the meaning of monuments just prior to Malevich's work in Vitebsk. I will use Riegl's theory of monuments to explore several monuments and highlight the importance of this theory to frame Malevich's architectons within the historical and present discourse on monuments. In this chapter I will articulate how Malevich's architectons can be translated as monuments of the twentieth century. Finally, in my conclusion, I argue that Malevich and his architectons in particular, had, and continue to have, a profound influence in the ways we look at modernity. I also provide a case study for my proposal that the architectons functioned as monument. The case studies examine the links that twentieth century art and architecture had with Malevich's ideas.

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