Yulia Karpova
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Technical aesthetics against the disorder of things

Starting from the late 1950s, Soviet applied artists, architects, critics and philosophers engaged in an ardent debate about the borders and relations between easel, decorative and applied art, techniques, and everyday material culture. The chapter demonstrates how this debate paved the way for theorising industrial design under state socialism, while some of its complexities became rapidly outdated with the institutionalisation of the design profession by the government. The concrete form of this institutionalisation was the All-Union Research Institute of Technical Aesthetics, or VNIITE, staffed by different specialists, through whom the state intended to control the totality of things and their influences on consumers. The ‘TE’ of this institution’s acronym, ‘technical aesthetics’, was promoted as an interdisciplinary science defining the ‘laws of artistic activity in the sphere of technology’ (in the words of the VNIITE director Iurii Soloviev) and optimising the production of consumer goods. Through analysing the methodology of VNIITE at the initial stage of its operation, the chapter addresses the contradictions of the Khrushchev-era vision of the perfect order of things.

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Comradely objects

Design and material culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s


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