Archives for the Month of November, 2013

Victory Over the Sun – El Lissitzky’s Drawings for Suprematist Automatons

Victory Over The Sun [Poster] - El LissitzkyVictory Over The Sun [Poster] – El Lissitzky

‘Every form is the frozen instantaneous picture of a process. Thus a work is a stopping-place on the road of becoming and not the fixed goal’ – El Lissitzky, Texts 1920-1923

El Lissitzky created his series of architectonic figures after seeing a production of Victory Over the Sun, the futuristic Russian opera with music by Mikhail Matyushin and costumes/stage designed by Kasimir Malevich. Premièred in St. Petersberg in 1913, the opera’s libretto was written by radical sound poet Aleksei Kruchenykh in the linguistically experimental and symbolic Zaum language. Paired up with Malevich’s set design and costumes, this pro-technological phonosemantic opera inspired Lissitzky to recreate figures of the opera’s main protagonists as suprematist automatons. A portfolio of ten large colour lithographs showing the main characters was published in Hanover in 1923. Lissitzky’s ultimate vision was to recast the opera as an electromechanical show with mechanical puppets. Much like his Proun (Project for the Affirmation of the New) series affirm the possibility of new utopian architectural forms, without explicit plans for their construction, his ‘Victory’ drawings imply the geometrical choreographies of constructivist automatons for the coming utopian machine age. The movements of figures are suggested by using shifting axes, multiple perspectives and directional signifiers. Lissitzky’s lyrical sense of humour is not withstanding whilst dealing with the tensions between pure abstraction, narration and representation.

New Man - El LissitzkyNew Man – El Lissitzky

The Announcer - El LissitzkyThe Announcer – El Lissitzky

Postman - El LissitzkyPostman – El Lissitzky

Anxious People - El LissitzkyAnxious People – El Lissitzky

Globetrotter (In-Time) - El LissitzkyGlobetrotter (In-Time) – El Lissitzky

Troublemaker - El LissitzkyTroublemaker – El Lissitzky

Old Man - El LissitzkyOld Man – El Lissitzky

Gravediggers - El LissitzkyGravediggers – El Lissitzky


The Architectural Fantasies of Iakov Chernikhov
Yuri Avvakumov – Agitarch Structures: Reconfiguring Utopia

Further Links:

Zaum and Sun: The ‘first Futurist opera’ revisited
The Historical Context of El Lissitzky – Dr. John Milner
El Lissitzky on Pinterest

Paul Sharits: Declarative Mode [Against the Tyranny of Preconception]

Declarative Mode – Paul SharitsScore for Declarative Mode 6C – Paul Sharits

Paul Shartis’s scores for his film Declarative Mode, made in 1976-77, consist of coloured ink marks on graph paper, notating shifts between pure colour tones during frame transitions. Sequences of frame flicker, containing saturated hues, are reduced to tessellations of symmetry breaking motifs resembling fluid flow diagrams and lattice structures.

The film, itself, consists of two identical prints projected simultaneously, with one overlayed inside the other, and slightly out of sync, creating a non predictable and dynamic interplay between patterns. In this sense Sharits creates a bandwidth of partially deterministic possibility – there is some degree of randomness between predefined limits.

Declarative Mode – Paul SharitsScore for Declarative Mode 6B – Paul Sharits

Although known for his work as a structural film maker Sharits maintained that Declarative Mode was a ‘non-structural film and is narrative like, even while it contains much flicker. One cannot predict the scene by scene fabric, nor is there an overall unifying principle. The film attempts to be like-life full of unexpected twists and turns. It is an homage to Jefferson’s anti-slavery section of the Declaration of Independence and it is my declaration of independence from the tyranny of preconception, of working from an overall structure of structural logic’

Declarative Mode – Paul SharitsScore for Declarative Mode 3A – Paul Sharits

In Declarative Mode we see only a visual structure that gradually moves ‘from a measured poise towards an ecstatic level of colour-light pulsation (ending in micro-oscillations around 5 cycles per second, which is at the primary fade-wave cycle possible in sound speed 16mm film and is also a rhythm associated with certain neuron pulses during expansive, inspirational states of consciousness)’ – Paul Shartis in Stuart Leibman’s monograph [PDF]

Declarative Mode – Paul SharitsScore for Declarative Mode 3C – Paul Sharits

According to Anthony Bannon, ‘Sharits creates new hues not actually present upon the film through their co-temporal blending and through after-image retention. It’s a a complex phenomenon that yields sublime transitions across a spectral range, while the inner frame pulses with illusionistic movement as the hues change from warm to cool’

Declarative Mode – Paul SharitsUntitled, Undated – Paul Sharits [Colored drawing 60 x 60 x 40cm]