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Art and revolution March 11, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Useful BBC Free Thinking podcast/radio show on Russian Art and Revolution available online on foot of the recent exhibition at the Royal Academy. It’s clear that there was a remarkable flux initially but soon enough this was altered as the state began to shift towards much more traditional and conservative forms. And this wasn’t something that happened late in the day, it’s intriguing to me how relatively middle of the road Lenin’s view of art. Indeed the point is made that in some respects there was a bourgeois 19th century attitude that in some ways art had already arrived at a perfection that experimentalism was near enough akin to an insult against.

Constructivism, of course, was slightly different. But much of the energy and output of this went into photography and installations. Other modernist forms fared much less well. Another point made was that social realism at its best could be actually rather good. But then the problem was never the fact of social realism in itself, but rather the increasing lack of pluralism. And at root was a relationship between party and people that refused to accept the ability of the people to understand and appreciate experimentalism.

On a slight tangent experimentalism did continue in parts – for example science fiction illustration often tended to the abstract, and in a way that underlines just how elitist attitudes were towards art, that its functions were so disparate depending upon context. Of course not dissimilar dynamics were seen elsewhere.


1. Gearóid - March 11, 2017

Living in London currently and went to attend the exhibition with a visiting friend last month.

It was my first time going to the Royal Academy, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been as surprised and disgusted as I was – £18 entrance fee, per person.

The price was too prohibitive so we didn’t enter…

Last night, having a drink with an Irish friend and Finnish couple, we were talking about our national commonalities. In Ireland, I would regularly see what were clearly “people of wealth” drinking stout in a normal pub, or generally rubbing shoulders with us plebs at various events.

Having been here in London a year now, I am still regularly surprised about how acceptingly and unapologetically classist it is. No attempt is made with fascinating exhibitions like this to engage the vast vast majority of the population for whom £18 is far beyond what they can (/should) pay for 1-2 hours entertainment/learning.

– excuse derailing rant –


WorldbyStorm - March 11, 2017

18 quid, Jesus Christ! + 1 to your comment very much agree


sonofstan - March 12, 2017

@gearoid – agree with that. Though perhaps, to be fair to the RA etc. the admission charges to such exhibitions are there to subsidise the free admission to general collections, since the public funding alone won’t cover it anymore. But your general point about culture and class is spot on. The plebs are kept well away from anything that might give them ideas, and the middle classes are grimly middlebrow and just as scared of excitement. Whereas the Irish will show off their culture but be discreet about their material circumstances, here it often seems quite normal to discuss, in crushing detail, your economic life, but ‘pretentious’ to talk about anything more culturally challenging than that baking programme – and not knowing about it is unforgiveable deviation from the common culture. * i am generalising hugely here*


2. GW - March 12, 2017

Lenin’s views are hardly surprising, and Leninism/Stalinism just about stifled modernism in music as well. Most modernist composers left.

There were good things made despite all of this – I like the school of smaller-scale humanist realist sculpture that was sponsored in the DDR by the state – allowing artists to follow they’re profession full time – and still graces a lot of public places.

Some of it was stolen in the chaos after the fall of the wall and found it’s way onto the black market, some ended up in people’s gardens and has since been recovered, some was melted down for bronze I suspect.


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