At Schloss Solitude, Regina and I were discussing how important footnotes have become; no longer used only for their relevance but also for their ability to expropriate the credibility inherent in the book referred to. In the future, critical writing might evolve to the elimination of the text, leaving only footnotes; thus the critic would risk nothing while reaping an intellectual mantle. Since we live in the future, I felt the need to be a pioneer, though perhaps someone else has already reached that honor without my knowledge. Both in form and content, any parallels between the material quoted below and contemporary praxis is (of course) purely coincidental.
THE TOTAL ART OF STALINISM
AVANT-GARDE, AESTHETIC DICTATORSHIP AND BEYOND
translated by Charles Rougle
Princeton University Press, 1992
1.The artists, poets, writers and journalists of the avant-garde merged aesthetic and political accusations, openly calling for the state to repress their opponents. p 23, para 2.
2.Emerging now were such associations as AKhRR (the association of Artists for a Revolutionary Russia)... which combined traditional aesthetic devices ...with avant-garde rethoric and the tactic of labelling their opponents political conterrevolutionaries, a practice that found increasing official support. p23, p24.
3.Significantly, however, it was precisely during this period that the most radical wing of the avant-garde, the LEF group, radicalized the program even more... The LEF theoreticians declared all autonomous artistic activity to be reactionary and even counter-revolutionary. p 24.
4...a glance at LEF's agitational art reveals that the material with which the group was working was...the product of manipulation and simulation by mass media under the complete control of the party propaganda apparatus. p29.
5.The fears Malevitch expressed to the constructivists in many of his later writing generally came to pass; the quest for "perfection" through technology and agitation made them pioneers of the times and led them into a blind alley, since such a search is equivalent to the founding of a church, and since all churches are ephemeral and doomed to extinction when faith in them disappears. p31.
6...This high point, however, was soon passed, and 'restructuring of the old life' began to be forced upon those who were prevented by 'the remnants of the past' in their thoughts from absorbing the truth of the new revelations. p32.
7.Stalin, therefore, really did to some extent justify the hopes of those who thought that direct party control would be more tolerant than the power exercised by individual groups of artists. p35.
8...a series of conferences whose participants included not only Stalin, but also high ranking party and government leaders close to him... and a number of writers, most of whom were later shot...p35.
9.As stated by an instructive article in Voprosy Filosofii published in the final period of Stalinist aesthetics, "great classical art has always been imbued with the spirit of struggle against everything old and obsolete, against the social vices of it's times. Herein resides the vital force of truly great art, the reason it lives on even when the age that gave birth to it has long since disappeared. p47.
10.Under these circumstances, to be a realist means to avoid being shot for the political crime of allowing one's dream to differ from Stalin's. p53.
11.The three-dimensional illusion of the socialist realist painting can be broken down into discrete signs... it is read by spectators familiar with the appropriate codes... To the viewer of the Stalinist period, moreover, it offered the additional and truly aesthetic experience of terror, since an incorrect coding or decoding could mean death. p 56.
12.As Tret'iakov observed elsewhere in the article cited above "Futurism was never a school. It was a social aesthetic tendency, the striving of a group of people whose common point of tengency was not even positive tasks...but rather a hatred for their 'yesterdays and today', a relentless and mercilessd hatred". p 61.
13.The 'materialistic art' of the avant-garde... failed to understand that what decides everything is not "the means of production" themselves, but their mode of employment, that is their "relationship to them". p62.
14.Although the design of the avant-garde artistic project was rationalistic, utilitarian, constructive and in that sense 'enlightenist', the source of both the project and the will to destroy the world as we know it to pave the way for the new was in the mystical, transcendental, 'sacred' sphere, and in that sense completely 'irrational'. p64
© Miklos Legrady Sept. 19, 1997