Note on Russian Constructivism – II

Photo by Carmela Gross


Nikolai Tarabukin and the artistic debate in revolutionary Russia


Criticism of alienated work

Constructivism, despite even the manifest hostility of Lenin (1870-1924) and Krupskaya (1869-1939), presented itself as a direct product and vector of the deepening of the October Revolution. At the same time, it was constituted, in contrast to its western counterparts, from the questioning and not only functional, but radical restructuring of artistic practices, regarding the insertion in economic and social relations. And this is also why constructivism became an undesirable factor in the face of the new economic policy (NEP), which led to opposition. Similarly, then, constructivism was eradicated before the deepening of the Taylorist reorganization[I] of work that consolidated, in the name of the imperative of productivity, the capitalist-Fordist model of alienated work based on intellectual division versus bodily.

In summary, the aesthetic act combined with a critical and radical, dialectic and Marxist perspective, implied the reciprocal determination of the moments of production and consumption, moments that in capitalism are offered not only as distinct, but isolated.

A partial exception in this context, outside the USSR, were the artists who also operated and intervened in the reception of their works; for example, certain Dadaists and Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). In constructivism, however, theory-practice integration was a matter of principle.

Ultimately, in order to clarify the contrast between the principles of revolutionary constructivism and those of its western counterparts, it is necessary to establish the distinction in the fundamental critical refusal of the fetishism inherent in contemplation and, of course, in the commodity. Once this has been distinguished and established, then, instead of pretexting geometry as a model, what is decisive, in the revolutionary case, comes to be the consideration of the reciprocal determination between function, form and structure of the work, directly affecting the treatment of materials or the production process. After all, within the framework of constructivism, the configuration of the work, although it included the estrangement effect, [ii] advocated by Viktor Chklovsky (1893-1984), was conditioned and shaped by the requirement of functionality, that is, by the ethical and political task of rebuilding everyday life, combined with the revolutionary process.

Germany then functioned as the main sounding board for Soviet debates, spreading them to the rest of Europe. Some of the constructivist principles and procedures were thus assimilated and disseminated by Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) and Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), Erwin Piscator (1893-1966), John Heartfield (1891-1968) and Hannes Meyer (1889-1954 ), between others.


From process painting to the new realism

In order to seek, in Tarabúkin's formulations, the previous indicative landmarks of constructivism, it is necessary to reopen the examination of Cézanne's work.

Why was Cézanne regarded as one of the decisive sources of constructivism? Because, according to Tarabúkin, “it was from Cézanne that the painter began to focus all his attention on the real material structure of the canvas (…)”.[iii] In this case, such a structure can be understood as the ordering of the specific materials, that is, the texture, the color, the brushwork and their organization.[iv]

Indeed, it is in Cézanne's work that the structure of the painting gained full prominence, standing out in the face of the semantic-representational dimension, to be explicitly placed as an unavoidable motif for the observer.

It is known that in the early 1870s, Cézanne began to paint alongside his friend Pissarro (1830-1903) and, under the influence of the latter, began to adopt outdoor work and a light palette. However, without dwelling on such options, characteristic of impressionism in general, Cézanne elaborated – against the grain of this movement – ​​a mode marked by the explicit use of modular brushstrokes, which were arranged in small blocks or series. It evolved concomitantly towards the organization of the pictorial fabric, marked by intermittence not only in terms of the orientation of the brushstrokes – since the series or blocks were increasingly arranged along vectors with different orientations –, but also by discontinuities and gaps in terms of the models. and color fields. On several occasions, in addition to the frays in the disposition of the elements of the composition, the very occupation of the canvas, that is, the elementary treatment of the support, was shown to be discontinuous: unpainted portions let the canvas emerge.

What was the reason for this? In fact, various observers were astonished at Cézanne's way of painting. Thus, the critic-artists JF Schnerb (1879-1915)[v] and RP Rivière, as well as Émile Bernard (1868-1941) reported that the painter began to paint without any prior scheme or composition and thus continued, making his painting advance by successively occupying the adjacent regions, as if walking step by step, without jumping through new glances, from one part of the canvas to another, as was then usual to do from the composition. And in doing so, his biggest concern – taken by him as a sign of authenticity and sincerity in the work process – was never to correct himself.[vi]

The well-known result was the asymmetries and deformations (which became typical of Cézanne's painting); as well as – and despite the deformations – its representational insistence around recurrent motifs and objects, as if never exhausted or effectively completed.

For those who aspired, like the symbolists Maurice Denis (1870-1943) and Émile Bernard and his formalist substitutes, to the geometrization and updating of the classical order in the face of the subjectivist tone of impressionism, the procedural dialectic and the permanently unfinished way of Cézanne appeared as disconcerting and paradoxical. What did he want anyway?

Cézanne was doing something that can be clearly distinguished today – but which at the time astonished even his closest and pseudo-adherents, such as the symbolists. Somehow, Cézanne avoided superimposing the hegemony of the values ​​of composition, its logic and combinations, on the practice and physical treatment of the pictorial material.


Procedural art, new realism

Thus, what the constructivists called procedural art was instituted; artistic practice was exposed in the open instead of the fetishism of the precious result. In summary, procedural art revealed the superior awareness of making explicit – as in an algebraic demonstration – the truth of its fabrication, the inputs and the nexuses, prioritizing them over the referential function of representing forms and aspects that are foreign to it (whether they were the forms of the nature, were those related to subjectivity).

Thus, it was the radicalization of Cezanne's discovery or turn that paved the way for revolutionary constructivism; shift that, above all, included a materialist and political awareness on the part of Cézanne who, after the massacre of the Commune in May 1871, and in the face of the social war of the said belle époque, began to confer sovereignty to work in the face of the resulting form or good.[vii]

It is in this sense that it can be said that it was the radicalization of the procedural dimension of art that nurtured the analytical cycle or non-utilitarian objects, which ran from 1919 to 1921; a cycle that the constructivists called the “laboratory phase”, conceived “with a view to future production”.[viii]

It was then that the notions of object were consolidated and gained ground – operative in Russian debates since 1915, in opposition to that of a work of art – and even that of non-objective art – which was employed by Malievich and the constructivists in response to Kandinsky –, and which should not be confused with the latter's notion of abstract art, because suprematist and constructivist conceptions wanted to be anti-metaphysical, materialist and concrete. In short, to borrow from Chklovsky the formulation of such a distinction: “works of art are no longer windows opening onto another world, but are objects”.[ix]

In short, at this threshold, the representational dimension of art was overcome and the postulation of an object with value in itself, whose links were placed in itself and not in some external instance. This is what Malevich called the new pictorial realism. A new notion of realism was forged there, entirely different from the naive one derived from naturalism.

In the words of Tarabúkin, “the artist constitutes his own reality in the forms of his art and conceives realism as awareness of the authentic object, autonomous in terms of its form and content”.[X]


In front of the “last frame”

Such was the ground from which the debate launched by Tarabukin arose. The constructivist discussion advanced from there towards two decisive issues for the productivist transition: the radicalization of the intrinsic opposition between the ideas of composition and construction; and that of the utilitarian character of the objects or of the constructivist construction – since here, too, an opposition soon set in.

It dates from this period, precisely 20 August 1921, a few days before the opening of the exhibition. 5 5 x = 25 – in which Rodchenko presented three paintings, Pure Red Color, Pure Blue Color e Pure Yellow Color –, Tarabúkin’s conference at INKhUK, already mentioned, entitled “The Last Picture Was Painted [Le dernier tableau à été peint]", which marked the climax of analytical constructivism and also its imminent overcoming, according to Tarabúkin.

One must go to the very terms of the conference, about one of the canvases, because of the irreplaceable, expressive and clear heat with which they called for a new course for constructivism. Tarabukin said about what he then called the “last painting”: “(…) a small canvas almost square and entirely covered with a single red. This work is extremely significant of the evolution undergone by artistic forms over the last ten years. This is not a step that can be followed by others, more recent ones, but the last step, the final step taken at the conclusion of a long road, the last word after which the painting must be silent, the last 'picture' executed by a painter. This canvas eloquently demonstrates that painting, as an art of representation – what it has always been up to the present – ​​has reached the end of the road. If the Black Square on White Background, by Malievich, contained, despite the poverty of its aesthetic sense, a certain pictorial idea that the author had called 'economy', 'fifth dimension',[xi] Rodchenko's canvas is, conversely, stripped of all content: it is a blind, stupid, voiceless wall.[xii] But as a link in a historical development process, it 'makes an epoch', if we consider it not as a value in itself (which it is not), but as a step in an evolutionary chain”. [xiii]

In November of the same year, 1921 – the year of many cleavages in the revolutionary process –, Rodchenko, his companion Varvára Stepánova (1894-1958) and other constructivists declared to renounce “easel art”."; proclaimed the demise of such a language, to dedicate themselves to the production of objects with a utilitarian character and thus deepen the revolutionary engagement.

As a result, a split opened up in the constructivist group, since the INKhUK strongly adhered to the productivist theses, while the discontented ones followed in the footsteps of Kandinsky – who had already left the Institute at the beginning of the year – and went into exile in abroad, like the brothers Gabo and Pevsner, who had already maintained many contacts with the West for some time.[xiv] Both, despite recurrently referring to mechanical and geometric forms as elements of a new art, never abandoned the conceptions of composition and art as contemplation.

In this historical context, Tarabukin's text From Easel to Machine [Du Chevalet à la Machine], which appeared in 1923 among publications originating from Proletkult,[xv] constituted a central weapon in the debate process, marking the movement's new inflection. In this second phase, those who claimed the constructivist trajectory for themselves and proclaimed themselves as leftist artists declared that the time had come for utilitarianism and the dissolution of the object. A new reflective and practical level for constructivism was proclaimed: the productivist program.

Meanwhile, the conservative reaction that would later gain full strength and power with Stalinism was already being armed. In 1921, a new association of painters, the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (AKhRR), was formed with the aim of defending so-called “realistic and representative [realist et representative], in line with the so-called values ​​of “heroic realism” (sic). In its 1922 annual show, the AKhRR called for the struggle against “the speculative art of the productivists”. [xvi]


construction versus composition

What are the criteria and assumptions, after all, of the discussion proposed by Tarabukin within the constructivist group? With regard to the core of the opposition between composition and construction, it can be said that the notion of composition, in terms of the subjective sphere, referred to passive contemplation, while construction was translated into a mode of action carried out through the material. It was to such dynamism, opposed to contemplative passivity, therefore, that referred to the well-known definition of form, formulated by Tátlin in materialist terms, as “the product of the dynamic force resulting from its relations”.[xvii]

By opposing construction to composition, Tarabukin stated that the latter concerned the moment of representation and therefore encompassed illusory elements in painting, such as the volumetric effects of depth, luminosity or chromatic, temporal or rhythmic, etc.

On the other hand, construction elaborated exclusively on the organization of material elements, namely texture, color, mass and the brushstroke or technique for treating the material. Therefore, when promoting the passage from the flat surface of painting to the real space, in which artists, such as Tátlin and the members of OBMOKhU, began to deal with real materials such as iron, glass and wood, there was a feeling of a gain in authenticity. .

In this way, even more than in the Angular Counter Relief, by Tátlin – which required, however, a unique point of view, as Tarabúkin pointed out –, it was in fact in his central counter-reliefs and mainly in the constructivist spatial works, of the third OBMOKhU exhibition, among which were some suspended constructions by Rodchenko, which proved to be fully evident the notion of construction, enhanced in the effective interaction with the real space.

In summary, while, on the one hand, composition comprised illusionistic operations, on the other hand, construction dealt only with the real and concrete materials and elements of painting. That said, concluded the constructivists, it was necessary to establish the overcoming of composition as a pure aesthetic principle, linked to two-dimensionality and the historical tradition of representation. On the other hand, in constructivism, the truth of construction was affirmed, articulated to the organization of material and real elements, that is, emancipated from the illusionism of representation.


After the death of art

Considering the advent of this superior stage of authenticity and truth, one can understand the enthusiasm of Tarabukin's comment regarding a report presented by Óssip Brik at a session of the Institute of Artistic Culture, on 24.11.1921, and which was endorsed by twenty-five constructivist-productivist artists. The document called for the transfer of the Institute, the INKhUK, which belonged to the Commissariat for Education (Narkompros), to the Higher Council for the National Economy.

On that occasion, Tarabukin pointed out about the new conception of art as a productive activity to be reallocated in an economic portfolio: “But the death of painting, the death of easel art does not, therefore, mean the death of art in general. Art continues to live, not as a determined form, but as a creative substance. Better yet: at the same time that its typical forms were buried and we have just accompanied their funeral in the preceding explanation, art sees opening up before it horizons of an exceptional breadth (…)”.[xviii]

The first issue of the magazine The F, in 1923, echoed a similar demand, proposing new functions for art, through the proclamation of Mayakovsky: “Constructivism must become the superior form of 'engineering' of the forms of entire life”.[xx]

As a result, for artists, henceforth engaged in previously closed fields, the greater task of revolutionizing the perception and consciousness of the majority was set. To this end, the artist-productivists sought to leave the ateliers in order to act and intervene in the factories.

At this point, Tarabúkin's intervention sought a reflexive radicalization of the debate. The focus of his criticism then turned to his constructivist peers, nevertheless dedicated to “analytical art”: “Atelier painting or sculpture – whether its representativeness is naturalistic (...), allegorical and symbolist (...), whether it takes on a non-existent character. objective as in most young contemporary Russian artists – it is always a museum art, and the museum remains a form-creating element (which dictates the form), at the same time as the cause and purpose of creation. I also include within museum objects, whose destination is not vital practical activity, spatial painting and counter-reliefs. Everything created by the 'left' wing of contemporary art will only find its justification in the walls of the museum, and every revolutionary storm will find its appeasement in the silence of that cemetery”.[xx]

Questioning the position of art “non-objective [non-objective]”, nourished by researches of the first constructivism, and before that, by formalists, and suprematists Tarabukin proclaimed, in favor of the productivist development of constructivism: “The current world presents the artist with entirely new demands: he expects from him not 'pictures' or ' sculptures' from museums, but objects socially justified by their form and destination”.[xxx]

It is important to note that Tarabukin's criticism did not stop there and also attacked only apparently productivist attitudes, such as those of Malievich and Tátlin. The painter had chosen to apply suprematist forms to porcelain, designing teapots and tea equipment; while the sculptor, after disowning his “useless counter-reliefs” (in his own words), opted for the design of objects such as “useful casseroles”.

However, Tarabukin considered such attitudes naive because they conveyed to the factory the perspective of the atelier, that is, the specific concern with the production of particular objects.[xxiii]


The question of work

What then would be the new forms of art, those which, in Tarabukin's words, were bearers of “horizons of exceptional breadth”, glimpsed after the “death of easel art”?[xxiii]

Tarabukin designated them precisely by the Russian term masterstvó, coupled with the qualification of productivist. The English translator opted for “production skill”, something like “ability to produce”; the French translator converted this notion into “maîtrise productiviste”, something like “mastery, sovereignty, domain or productivist power” …

What precisely did Tarabukin suppose when he attributed to the notion the preservation of the essential tenor of art, which would not disappear even with the death of craft or easel modes? In one way or another, the fact is that he demonstrated in these terms, the purpose of conceptualizing art as a practice independent of any given situation in the past or in the present: “The problem of productivist mastery cannot be solved by a superficial connection between art and production, but only because of their organic relationship, because of the link between the work process itself and creation. Art is an activity that presupposes mastery and skill in the first place. Mastery is by nature immanent to art. Neither the ideology, which can take on very different aspects, nor the form itself or the material, which vary infinitely, allow us to concretely designate art as a category of creation. sui generis. It is only in the work process itself, a process that tends towards greater perfection of execution, that the revealing mark of the essence of art resides. Art is the most perfect activity applied to the conformation of material”.[xxv]

That is, in these terms, art appears as a superior mode of work, capable of being translated into non-alienated or emancipated work. The meaning of redefining art as a way of working, as proposed by Tarabúkin, is explained below: “By cultivating the idea of ​​mastery in each type of activity, we contribute to bringing art closer to work. The notion of artist becomes synonymous with that of master. Passing through the crucible of creation, which communicates a tendency towards perfection, the painful and subordinate work of the worker becomes mastery, art. Which means that every man who works, whatever his form of activity - material or purely intellectual - ceases, from the moment he is animated by the desire to do his work to perfection, from being a worker-craftsman to becoming a master. -creator. For the master, an artist in his field, trivial, mechanical work does not exist: his activity is an artistic, creative activity. Such work is devoid of the humiliating and destructive aspects that characterize subordinate work. The organic connection between work and freedom, the creation and mastery inherent in art, can be realized by integrating art into work. Uniting art to work, work to production and production to life, to everyday existence, an extremely difficult social problem is solved at the same stroke”.[xxiv]

Since, however, Tarabukin refused to apply mere artistic knowledge to the production, as Malêvitch and Tátlin sought when aiming at the manufacture of particular products, the question arose: how to accomplish, whether factually or symbolically, such a revolutionary purpose?

In fact, for Tarabúkin, it was not a question of modifying particular products, perfecting their excellence, as the Bauhaus would exemplarily seek, within capitalism, but rather of exerting a transforming action on the work process and implying, therefore, directly changes in work relations and in the worker. Tarabukin stated in this sense: “Art thus understood is really capable of changing life, because it transforms work, the basis of our life, making it mastery, creation, joy. The art of the future will not be a special good, but transformed work”.[xxv]


elephants and butterflies

However, it is necessary to insist on the question, because, from the point of view of artistic strategies, how to carry out such a program? With regard to the conception of artistic work, it was immediately necessary to note, Tarabukin emphasized, the disappearance of the value of the object in general as a direct consequence of mass production. Thus, the artist attentive to industrial production processes should note that “the participation of many industries is necessary for the manufacture of any product. The object loses all individuality in the production process.

As a result, Tarabukin stated: “Numerous current products no longer present themselves as objects, but as complexes of objects indissolubly linked in the consumption process and forming a system – or they no longer even represent a materialized work. Thus, for example, the use of electrical energy, a complex system of installations that supplies goods in the form of light, heat, motive power, etc. We came across a new concept, that of “installation”,[xxviii] unknown in the conditions of a less developed material culture.[xxviii] Finally, serial production erases the boundaries of the notion of object by leading to an extreme reduction in the time of exploration of the object, sometimes going as far as a single use of it./ The object loses its raison d'être, ceasing to be conceived for a important use time and becoming something that is consumed at once: it is no longer an elephant, but an ephemeral butterfly”.[xxix]

In order not to conclude with this note of fulminant perspicacity, capable of even being confusing, given its apparent relevance – which could induce the unwary to believe that the productivist program would have been implanted in the arts, regardless of any political, economic and ethical base consistent with it –, it is decisive, to place it precisely, to combine it with an explanation of the nature of revolutionary constructivism, given by Aleksei Gan, in Constructivism (1922) – an explanation that is, it should be noted, strictly contemporary with the comments in question, by Tarabukin, and which therefore corresponds to an ongoing discussion at that time.

Thus, in a debate about the nature of constructivism with Iliá Erenburg (1891-1967) and El Lissitzky (1890-1941) – who, in this case, also complained about the movement –, Gan refused parallels and approximations (accepted by his companions) between certain aspects of western avant-garde art, announced by the French magazine L'Esprit Nouveau (“building spirit”, “collective style”, etc.) and Soviet constructivism. The fundamental difference, underlines Gan, cannot be observed from a comparison limited to strictly artistic traits. Quite the contrary, he insists, the crucial distinction, for the comparison between artistic currents, resides in the concrete and real relationships established by artistic forms with the “productive forms”, as well as with the “social forms” of their context. Similarities, which may exist at first glance, must therefore pass through the sieve of extra-aesthetic parameters and criteria before being accepted.

In this sense, Gan affirms: “The essential error of comrade Erenburg and comrade Lissitzky is the inability to detach oneself from art. They baptize with the name of constructivism what is merely a new art. They can thus lump together the theater of Tairov, Charlie Chaplin, Meyerhold, Mardjanov, comic improvisation, circuses, Fernand Léger and many others. But this does not mean that constructivism is a phenomenon that belongs only to us.[xxx]

It develops from a concrete life situation, which is based on the state of the productive forces. And it acquires different orientations according to the state of the productive forms, that is to say according to the different social forms.

The social and political regime of the USSR and the regime of capitalist Europe and America are two different regimes. It is natural that their constructivism is not the same.

Our constructivism has declared an uncompromising war on art, because the means and qualities of art are no longer able to reflect the feelings of the revolutionary milieu. This milieu is brought together only by the real successes of the revolution and the sentiments expressed by its intellectual and material production.

In the West, constructivism is made to fraternize with art (the chronic disease of the West is the policy of conciliation).

Our constructivism set itself clear objectives. Finding the communist expression of material constructions.


In the West, constructivism flirts with politics by declaring that new art is outside politics, but that it is not apolitical either. Our constructivism is a combative and intransigent constructivism: it conducts a stern struggle against the gouty and the paralyzed, against the painters of the right and the painters of the left, in a word, against all those who defend, even a little, the speculative activity of art.

Our constructivism fights for the intellectual and material production of communist culture” (Tver, 1922).[xxxii]

*Luiz Renato Martins he is professor-advisor of PPG in Economic History (FFLCH-USP) and Visual Arts (ECA-USP). He is the author, among other books, of The Conspiracy of Modern Art (Haymarket/ HMBS).


Extract from the second half of the original version (in Portuguese) of chap. 10, «La transition du constructivisme au productivisme, selon Taraboukine», from the book La Conspiration de l'Art Moderne et Other Essais, edition and introduction by François Albera, translation by Baptiste Grasset, Lausanne, Infolio (2023, prim. semester, proc. FAPESP 18/26469-9). I would like to thank Danilo Hora for revising and transliterating the Russian terms in this text.

To read the first part of the article click on


[I] On the reorganization of work in Taylorist molds, promoted by Lenin, from April 1918, see “Lenin et Taylor”, second part of the work by Robert LINHART, Lenin, Les Paysans, Taylor, Paris, Seuil, [1976], 2010, pp. 101-219.

[ii] With regard to the estrangement effect (ostranienie), see Philippe IVERNEL, Passages de frontières: Circulation de l'image épique et dialectique chez Brecht et Benjamin, in revue Hors Cadre/ 6 – Counterband, printemps 1988, Paris, PUV Saint-Denis, pp. 135-7.

[iii] [ "C'est de Cézanne que le peintre commence à faire porter toute son attention sur la structure matérielle de la toile »]. Cf. N. TARABOUKINE, «2. La peinture se libère de la littéralité et de l´illusionisme [2. Painting frees itself from literality and illusionism]. In: ditto, Du Chevalet…, op. cit., p. 34.

[iv] See ditto, “8. Le sens pictorial de la notion de construction [8. The pictorial sense of the notion of construction]”, in idem, Du Chevalet…, op. cit., p. 44.

[v] For Schnerb and Rivière's article on their visit to Cézanne in January 1905, see RP Rivière et JF Schnerb, “L'atelier de Cézanne” (The Great Review, 25.12.1907, pp. 811-7). in PM Doran (ed. critique et présentation), Conversations with Cézanne, Paris, Macula, 1978, pp. 85-91. Unlike Schnerb's case, other information about Rivière is unknown.

[vi] See Richard SHIFF, Cézanne and the End of Impressionism/ A Study of the Theory, Technique, and Critical Evaluation of Modern Art, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1986, p. 116.

[vii] On the symbolist mythology created around Cézanne, see, for example, M. Denis, “Cézanne” (1907), in Idem, Théories, 1890-1910: du Symbolisme et de Gauguin vers un Nouvel Ordre Classique (1912), pp. 251, 246, apoud R. SHIFF, on. cit., P. 132; extracts from Denis's text have been republished in PM DORAN, on. cit., pp. 166-80. See also Is. Bernard, “Réfutation de l'impressionisme [Refutation of Impressionism]”, in L'Esthétique Fondamentale et Traditionelle, p. 138-9, apoud R. SHIFF, on. cit., P. 132. For a more detailed outline of such statements summarized by Shiff, some from letters and some from articles, see notes 37-41 on p. 271. For a recent, sharp and vivid investigative dive into an exemplary episode of the social war of the period, see Serge BIANCHI, Une Tragédie Sociale in 1908/ Les Grèves de Draveil-Vigneux et Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, preface by Michelle Perrot, Nérac, Comité de recherches historiques sur les révolutions en Essone/ Éditions d´Albret, 2014.

[viii] [in view of future production]. apud Andrei Boris Nakov, “Introduction”, in N. TARABOUKINE, on. cit., P. 29.

[ix] [les oeuvres d'art ne sont plus des fenêtres ouvrant sur un autre monde, ce sont des objets] See Victor CHKLOVSKI, Littérature et cinematographe [1923] in Resurrection of the mot and littérature and cinématographe, trans. Andrée Robel, Paris, Gerard Lebovici, 1985.

[X] [“L'artiste constitue dans les forms de son art sa propre réalité et conçoit le réalisme comme conscience de l'objet authentique, autonome quant à sa forme et quant à son contenu »].Cf. N. TARABOUKINE, “3. La voie du realisme [3. The path of realism]”, in idem, Du Chevalet…, on. cit., P. 36.

[xi] “Cf. Malievich's brochures: 'The new systems in art', 'From Cézanne to Suprematism', etc”. (Note by Tarab.) [ed. French: K. Malevich, Écrits Tome 1. By Cezanne au supremematisme, Lausanne, L'Âge d'Homme, 1993).

[xii] “I consider this canvas to be an easel work, and I refuse to see it as a 'model' of decorative mural painting [Je considère cette toile comme une œuvre de chevalet, et refuse de voir en elle un 'modèle' de peinture décorative du mur]”. (Note by Tarabukin).

[xiii] [ "C'était une petite toile presque carrée entièrement couverte d'une unique coleur rouge. Cette oeuvre est extrêmement significative de l'évolution subie par les formes artistiques au cours des dix dernières années. Ce n'est plus une étape qui pourrait être suivie de nouvelles autres, mais le dernier pas, le pas final effectué au terme d'un long chemin, le dernier mot après fanl la peinture devra se taire, le dernier 'tableau' exécuté par a peintre. Cette toile démontre avec éloquence que la peinture en tant qu'art de la représentativité – ce qu'elle a toujours été jusqu'à présent – ​​est arrivée au bout du chemin. Yes Carré Noir sur Fond Blanc de Malévitch contenait, en dépit de la pauvreté de son sens esthétique, une certaine idée picturale que l'auteur avait appelé 'économie', 'cinquième dimension[xiii]', la toile de Rodchenko est en rematch dépourvue de tout contenu : c'est un mur aveugle, stupide et sans voix' [xiii]. Mais, en tant que maillon d'un processus de développement historique, elle 'fait époque', si on la considère non comme une valeur en soi (ce qu'elle n'est pas) mais comme une étape dans une châine d'évolution »]. Cf. N. TARABOUKINE, “7. Le dernier tableau [7. The last painting]”, in idem, Du Chevalet…, op. cit., pp. 41-2.

[xiv] See B. BUCHLOCH, on. cit..

[xv] Founded on October 16-19, 1917, in Petrograd, by Bogdanov (1873-1928), Lunacharsky (1875-1933) and Gorky (1868-1936), as a cultural organization of workers, but which claimed full autonomy from the government and the Bolshevik Party, the Proletkult (proletarian culture movement) was seen by the government and the Bolshevik Party as the embryo of a rival party, according to an article in Pravda, no. 270, 1.12.1920. It was then attached to the People's Commissariat for Education (Narkompros), which was headed by Lunacharsky. See C. LODDER, on. cit., P. 75 and no. 9, on p. 278. On INKhUK's further relations with Proletkult, and its reorganization according to the productivist program, see Idem, P. 93.

[xvi] [l´art spéculatif des productivists]. apud ABNAKOV, on. cit., P. 16; see also C. LODDER, on. cit., pp. 184-5.

[xvii] [produit de la force dynamique resulting from ses relations]. apud Camilla GRAY, L'Avant-Garde Russe dans l'Art Moderne (1863-1922), Lausanne, La Cité/ L'Âge d'Homme, 1968, pp. 239-41, apoud  F. ALBERA, Eisenstein and…, op. cit. (São Paulo), p. 239; Eisenstein et…, op. cit. (Lausanne), p. 174.

[xviii] [" Mais la mort de la peinture, la mort de l'art de chevalet ne signifie pas pour autant la mort de l'art en général. L'art continue à vivre, non comme forme déterminée, mais comme substance creatrice. Mieux : alors que ses formes typiques sont enterrées et que nous venons d'en suivre les funérailles dans l'exposé qui précède, l'art voit s'ouvrir devant lui des horizons d'une ampleur exceptionelle (…)»]. Cf. N. TARABOUKINE, « 12. Le refus de l´art de chevalet et l´orientation sur la production [12. The refusal of easel art and the orientation towards production] », in idem, Du chevalet…, op. cit., p. 49; see also idem, « 23. La réfraction de l´idée de maîtrise productiviste dans les autres arts [23. The refraction of the idea of ​​productivist mastery in the other arts] », in idem, Du chevalet…, op. cit., p. 72.

[xx] [“le constructivisme doit devenir la forme supérieure de 'l'ingénieurie' des formes de la vie tout entière”] Cf. V. MAIAKOVSKI, The F, no. 1, 1923, apoud A. KOPP, Changer la Vie, Changer la Ville, Paris, coll. 10/18 / UGE, 1975, p. 190 apoud F. ALBERA, Eisenstein and…, op. cit. (São Paulo), p. 169; Eisenstein et…, op. cit. (Lausanne), p. 123.

[xx] [ "La peinture ou la sculpture d'atelier – que sa représentativité soit naturaliste (…), allegorique et symboliste (…), ou qu'elle prenne un caract'ere non-objectif comme chez la majorité des jeunes artistes russes contemporains – est toujours un art de musée, et le musée demeure un élément formo-créateur (qui dicte la forme), en même temps que la cause et le but de la creation. Je fais aussi entrer dans les objets de musée, dont la destination n'est pas l'activité vitale, la peinture spatiale et les contre-reliefs. Tout ce qui est cree par l'aile 'gauche' de l'art contemporain ne trouvera sa justification que dans les murs du musée, et toute la tempête révolutionnaire trouvera son apaisement dans le silence de ce cimetière »]. Cf. N. TARABOUKINE, «10. L´art de chevalet est inévitablement un art muséal [10. Easel art is inevitably a museological art] », in idem, Du Chevalet …, op. cit., p. 47.

[xxx] [" Le monde actuel présente à l'artiste des exigences entièrement nouvelles: il attend de lui non pas des 'tableaux' ou des 'sculptures' de musée, plus des objets socialement justifiées par leur form et leur destination »] Cf. ditto, « 11. La traite présentee à notre époque [11. The obligation and discharge that are imposed in our time] », in idem, Du Chevalet…, op. cit., p. 48.

[xxiii] See idem, «19. L´idée artisanale de l´objet [19. The craft idea of ​​the object]. In: ditto, Du Chevalet…, op. cit., p. 63.

[xxiii] [horizons d'une ampleur exceptionelle]; [la mort de l'art de chevalet] Cf. ditto, «12. Le refus de l´art de chevalet et l´orientation sur la production [12. The refusal of easel art …], op. cit., pp. 49-50.

[xxv] [ "Le problème de maîtrise productiviste ne peut être résolu par une liaison superficielle entre l'art et la production, mais uniquement par leur rapport organique, par la liaison du processus même du travail et de la creation. L'art est une activité qui suppose en premier lieu maîtrise et habileté. La maîtrise est par nature immanente à l'art. Ni l'ideologie, qui peut prendre des aspects très diverse, ni la forme elle même- ou le materiau, qui varient à l'infini, ne permettent de désigner concrètement l'art comme une catégorie de création sui generis. C'est uniquement dans le processus de travail lui-même, processus tendu vers la plus grande perfection d'execution, que réside la marque qui découvre l'essence de l'art. L'art est l'activité la plus perfectionnée appliquée à la mise en forme du materia »]Cf. ditto, « 15. Le problème de la maîtrise [15. The problem of mastery] », in idem, Du Chevalet…, op. cit., p. 53.

[xxiv] [ "En cultivating l'idée de maîtrise dans chaque genre d'activité, nous contribuons à rapprocher l'art du travail. La notion d'artiste devient synonyme de celle de maître. En passant par le creuset de la creation, qui lui communique une tendance à la perfection, le travail pénible et contraignant de l'ouvrier devient maîtrise, art. Ce qui significae que tout homme qui travaille, quelle que soit sa forme d'activité – matérielle ou purement intellectuelle – cease, du moment où il est animé par la volonté de faire son travail à la perfection, d'être un ouvrier-artisan pour become a maître-creator. Il ne peut y avoir pour le maître, artiste en sa partie del, de travaux triviaux, machinaux: son activité del est une activité artistique, créatrice. Un tel travail est dépourvu des aspects humiliants et destructeurs qui characterisent le travail contraint. La liaison organique entre le travail et la liberté, la création et la maîtrise inherente à l'art, peut être réalisée en intégrant l'art au travail. En reliant l'art au travail, le travail à la production et la production à la vie, à l'existence quotidienne, on résout du même coup un problème social extrêmement ardu »]. Cf. ditto, «16. Art – labor – production – vie [16. Art – work – production – life] », in idem, Du Chevalet…, op. cit., p. 54.

[xxv] [" L'art ainsi compris est réellement capable de changer la vie, car il transforme le travail, base de notre vie, en le Rendant maîtrisé, créateur, joyeux. L'art du futur ne sera pas une gourmandise, mais du travail transformé »]. Cf. Idem, P. 56.

[xxviii] Andrei Nakov adopts, in the French translation, the term “appareillage, close to the Portuguese “aparelhagem”. Gough, in turn, adopts in English “installation”, as corresponding to the original Russian term “ustanovka”. I will opt for the second one to translate Tarabukin's words, in the following note (LRM). See M. GOUGH, op.cit., P. 105.

[xxviii] “The notion of 'installation' and the idea of ​​the dematerialization of contemporary culture were disseminated by Kuchner [1888-1937] in a series of lectures given at the Instituto da Cultura Artística, as well as in public lectures to which I refer [“La notion d' 'appareillage' et l'idée de la dématerialisation de la culture contemporaine ont été répandues par B. Kouchner dans une serie de conférences faites à ' l'Institut de la culture artistique' , ainsi que dans des conférences publiques auxquelles je refer me »”. (Note by N. Tarab.).

[xxix] [“De nombreux produits actuels ne se présentent plus comme des objets, mais comme des complexes d'objets indissolublement liés dans le processus de consommation et formant un système, ou bien ne représentent même plus du travail materialisé. Ainsi par exemple l'utilisation de l'énergie életrique, système complexe d'installations qui dispense des 'commodités' sous forme de lumière, de chaleur, de force motrice, etc. Nous arrivons par là un concept nouveau, celui d' 'appareillage', inconnu dans les conditions d'une culture matérielle moins développée. Finally, la production en Série efface les frontières de la notion d'objet en ceci qu'elle conduit à une réduction extrême du temps d'exploitation de l'objet, allant parfois jusqu'à l'utilisation unique de celui-ci./ L'objet perd sa raison d'être en cessant d'être conçu pour un temps d'utilisation important et en devenant une chose qui se consomme en une fois : ce n'est plus un 'élephant' plus un 'papillon éphémère' »]. Cf. ditto, “20. L' 'objet' disparait de la grande industrie” in idem, Du Chevalet…, op. cit., p. 65.

[xxx] Below, italics, capital letters and spacing, as shown in the original text.

[xxxii] [“(…) Mais cella ne significa pas que le constructivisme soit un phénomène qui nous soit propre à nous seuls.

 Il se développe à comme d'une situation concrète de la vie, qui s'appuie sur l'état des forces productives. Et il prend different orientations selon l'état des forms productives, c'est-à-dire selon les different forms sociales.

Le régime social et politique de la RSFSR et le régime de l'Europe et de l'Amérique capitalistes sont deux régimes différents. Il est naturel que leur constructivisme lui non plus ne soit pas le même.

Notre constructivisme a déclaré une guerre intransigeante à l'art, because les moyens et les proprietés de l'art ne sont plus capables de refléter les sentiments du milieu révolutionnaire. Ce milieu est cementé seulement par les succès de la révolution et ses sentiments exprimés par la production intellectuelle et matérielle.

En Occident on fait fraterniser le constructivisme avec l'art (la maladie chronique de l'Occident est la politique de la conciliation).

Notre constructivisme s'est donné des objectifs clairs:

Trouver l'expression communiste des constructions materielles.

En Occident le constructivisme flirte avec la politique en déclarant que l'art nouveau est hors de la politique, mais qu'il n'est pas non plus apolitique. Notre constructivisme est un constructivisme combatif et intransifeant: il mène une lutte sévère contre les goutteux et les paralytiques, contre les peintres de droite et les peintres de gauche, en un seul mot contre tous ceux qui défendent, ne fût-ce qu'un peu , l'activité speculative de l'art.


Cf. Alexis Gan, Le Constructivisme/ Tver – 1922, translated by Larissa Yakoupova, apoud Gérard CONIO, Le Constructivism Russe, take premier Le constructivisme dans les arts plastiques/ Textes théorique – manifestes – documents, reunis et présentés par Gérard Conio, Lausanne, Cahiers des avant-gardes/ Editions l'Age d'Homme, 1987, p. 444.


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