Open Access (free)
Design and material culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s

The major part of this book project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 700913.

This book is about two distinct but related professional cultures in late Soviet Russia that were concerned with material objects: industrial design and decorative art. The Russian avant-garde of the 1920s is broadly recognised to have been Russia’s first truly original contribution to world culture. In contrast, Soviet design of the post-war period is often dismissed as hackwork and plagiarism that resulted in a shabby world of commodities. This book identifies the second historical attempt at creating a powerful alternative to capitalist commodities in the Cold War era. It offers a new perspective on the history of Soviet material culture by focusing on the notion of the ‘comradely object’ as an agent of progressive social relations that state-sponsored Soviet design inherited from the avant-garde. It introduces a shared history of domestic objects, handmade as well as machine-made, mass-produced as well as unique, utilitarian as well as challenging the conventional notion of utility. Situated at the intersection of intellectual history, social history and material culture studies, this book elucidates the complexities and contradictions of Soviet design that echoed international tendencies of the late twentieth century. The book is addressed to design historians, art historians, scholars of material culture, historians of Russia and the USSR, as well as museum and gallery curators, artists and designers, and the broader public interested in modern aesthetics, art and design, and/or the legacy of socialist regimes.

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Condoms, adolescence and time

During the mid-1980s, the object of the condom became associated with the prevention of HIV/AIDS. This book investigates the consequences of this shift in the object's meaning. Focusing on the US, British and Australian contexts, it addresses the impact of the discourse of safer sex on our lives and, in particular, the lives of adolescents. Addressing AIDS public health campaigns, sex education policies, sex research on adolescence and debates on the eroticisation of safer sex, the book looks at how the condom has affected our awareness of ourselves, of one another and of our futures. In its examination of the condom in the late twentieth century, it critically engages with a range of literatures, including those concerned with sexuality, adolescence, methods, gender and the body.

4 From objects to design programmes Just as neodecorativism was generating the idea of a spiritually useful object, its leading proponent, Boris Smirnov, published his succinct Artist on the Nature of Things.1 Its title alludes to the first-century BCE poem De rerum natura by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius. In the book Smirnov discussed the traditions, techniques and symbolic meanings of the design of consumer objects. In essence, it was a work of professional self-reflection. Smirnov paid special attention to the emergence of a new object, which he

in Comradely objects

3 Objects of neodecorativism ‘Art into Life’ was not only the name of an important 1961 exhibition in Moscow, it was also a key phrase of Khrushchev-era art theory that contributed to the emergence of technical aesthetics. It informed the creative choices of those who defined themselves as ‘decorative-applied artists’: those who worked with such traditional materials as ceramics, glass, textiles, metal and wood, shaping them into modern socialist objects. Warning against turning technical forms into commodity fetishes and imitating the austerity of Western

in Comradely objects
Spolia in Old English verse

Borrowed objects and the art of poetry examines seven Exeter riddles, three Anglo-Saxon biblical poems (Exodus, Andreas, Judith), and Beowulf to uncover the poetics of spolia, an imaginative use of fictional recycled artefacts to create sites of metatextual reflection. Old English poetry famously – and for a corpus rather interested in the enigmatic and the oblique, appropriately – lacks an explicit ars poetica. This book argues that attention to particularly charged moments within texts – especially within texts concerned with translation, transformation, and the layering of various pasts – gives us a previously unrecognised means for theorising Anglo-Saxon poetic creativity. Borrowed objects and the art of poetry works at the intersections of recent interest in materiality and poetics, balancing insights of thing theory, and related approaches with close readings of specific passages from Old English texts.

Open Access (free)
Soviet things that talk

Introduction: Soviet things that talk ‘A silent speech that things address to us every day in an artistic language is infinitely more convincing than dozens of lectures about aesthetic education, good taste, etc. To make this language of things contemporary and expressive is the exciting but difficult task of an artist.’1 This was how the Soviet art critic Nina Iaglova opened her article in the journal Decorative Art of the USSR in June 1961. Here, ‘things’ (veshchi, material objects) appear as active participants in people’s lives, as agents by virtue of being

in Comradely objects

1 The aesthetic turn after Stalin In October 1967 readers of the journal Dekorativnoe Iskusstvo SSSR were probably surprised to find that the latest issue lacked its usual table of contents and was mostly devoid of text. Instead, they were confronted with forty-five pages of high-quality colour and black-and-white images of objects produced in the Soviet Union over the past five decades since its founding. This is how the journal’s editors – made up of decorative artists, designers, critics and philosophers – chose to celebrate the jubilee of the October

in Comradely objects

the chapter seeks to highlight how the regulation of adolescent sexuality in the era of AIDS concerns the object of the condom. The overall argument is that sex education concerns the regulation of the adolescent’s sexual future. A history of sex education Adolescence is generally understood as a transitional social category. In the early writings of Hall (1904), the experience of schooling is identified as a key process which produces the modern adolescent subject. Since schooling physically separates children from adults, whilst simultaneously prolonging the

in Object matters
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12 change and the politics of certainty 1 1 Objects among objects I came into the world imbued with the will to find a meaning in things, my spirit filled with the desire to attain to the source of the world, and then I found that I was an object in the midst of other objects. – Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks2 When she died in 1989 at the age of 101, my grandmother left few possessions. She had lived since she was in her sixties in a room in my parent’s various houses, so there wasn’t much space for personal property. Her most treasured objects were

in Change and the politics of certainty
Ekphrasis and historical materiality in Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece

1 ‘Lamentable objects’: ekphrasis and historical materiality in Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece Rachel Eisendrath Behold the angel Gabriel in Pietro Aretino’s 1537 ekphrasis of Titian’s (now lost) painting of the annunciation: He, filling everything with light and shining in the inn with a marvelous new radiance, bows so sweetly with a gesture of reverence that we are forced to believe that he presented himself before Mary in this way. He has heavenly majesty in his face and his cheeks tremble in the tenderness composed of milk and blood, which the blending

in Ekphrastic encounters