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"Life-Building. On Metabolic Structures, Energetic Art, and Dynamic Architecture in the Early Soviet Period": Workshop

07.07.2023 | 14:00 - 18:00
El Lissitzky - Freischwebende Raumkompositionen

El Lissitzky - Freischwebende Raumkompositionen
Bildquelle: Galerie Malte Frank

PLAKAT: Life Building

PLAKAT: Life Building

Taking humanity's evolution to the next level and reshaping its relationship to the collective, its environment, and its future can be seen as one of the main themes of the early Soviet period. Various images of the 'new man' emerged and were intensively negotiated and discussed in the arts and sciences. In a peculiar way, between these two fields of knowledge and experience, monistic thinking is combined with elements of historical materialism and further developed in an attempt to transcend the boundaries between life, science and art, knowledge and action. Despite all the differences, the preoccupation with concepts of energy seems to shape these discourses through different fields of knowledge, disciplines, and methods. 

The workshop "Life-Building" presents three encounters with the concept of energy at the intersection of culture and science in the early Soviet period. In order to further reveal the often-hidden significance and latent potential of this concept, it will trace energy as an operating and organizing principle in the developments of new artistic practices, art theory, architecture, and their interactions towards the refiguration of humanity and the transformation of life itself.


Organized by Susanne Strätling and Werner Boschmann as part of the DFG-project "Energy: Key Concept of Soviet Avant-Garde"

Please register in advance: boschmann.w@fu-berlin.de



2 pm Welcome Address Werner Boschmann, Freie Universität Berlin 

2:15 pm ‘Do not waste your energy, project it!’ — On the Energism behind Projectionism

Amir Saifullin, Universität Zürich

In the first cartogram of Projectionism, Solomon Nikritin, the movement's founder, depicts the historical development of the world based on the principles of ‘Energo-Mechanical Materialism,’ as emphasised in bold red letters in the image below. Among the three key notions, it is the concept of energy that enables Projectionism to claim a central role in the world's evolution towards a classless society and serves as a major influence on the artistic output of Projectionists. In my presentation, I will explore the various ways in which the 19th-century German-speaking science of energism is translated into this post-revolutionary art praxis, encompassing aspects ranging from the formal organisation of images and bodies to shaping the collective perception of the world. 

3:15 pm The Encounter of Energy with Matter: Towards a Metabolic Understanding of Structure in Constructivism

Maria Chehonadskih, Queen Mary University of London

The famous pamphlet ‘Constructivism’ (1922) written by Alexei Gan opens with a slogan: ‘Long live to the communist expression of material structures!’ Structures – sooruzheniia – normally refer to any kind of facility systems and building structures. How could an ordinary utilitarian structure, such as a building or a social service, express communism? My intervention will be based on a close reading of this cryptic proposition, which reappears in the pamphlet in various formulations. In order to appreciate the enigmatic idea of expressive structure, I will address the influence of Alexander Bogdanov on Gan, mainly focusing on the understanding of structure as a metabolic process of exchange between energy and matter. I will conclude by reflecting on how Bogdanov's materialism changes our perception of Constructivism.  

4:15 pm – Coffee Break  

4:30 pm Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism and the Human Science

Alla Vronskaya, Universität Kassel 

This presentation will detail the argument of the author’s recently published book Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism and the Human Sciences (University of Minnesota Press, 2022). Situating Soviet interwar architectural theory in its transdisciplinary and transnational context, it will unpack it as a discourse about society and the human. The presentation will identify this discourse as monism, an intellectual framework centering on 'life,' a synthetic notion that had been developed at the intersection of architecture, psychology, and social engineering since the end of the nineteenth century.

5:30 pm Final Discussion

Zeit & Ort

07.07.2023 | 14:00 - 18:00

Garystr. 55