Devin Fore

  • SOCIAL ENGINEERING: SOVIET ORGANIZATIONAL SCIENCE

    THE REVOLUTION IS STILL WITH US: A century ago, the Russian uprising of October 1917 defined the world order we know now, in which the struggle between individual and collective, capital and welfare, identity and authority continues to rage in new and unexpected ways. And though the Soviet state ultimately failed, it nevertheless left smoldering the embers of unrealized utopias and potentialities—visions of life and experience that challenged Western realities of oligarchy, democracy, colonialism, and war.
     
    Art was at the center of these transformations. More so than Thermidor or Tahrir Square, the October Revolution posed the perceptual as political. Changing the way we see and sense could change the way we acted and thought. Forms, materials, making, organizing—these were, and could still be, the elements of a new society. In the essay that follows, scholar Devin Fore unearths radical models of Soviet social organization.

    WITHIN THE CULTURAL HISTORY of selfhood, the Soviet “chronocard” constitutes a very curious artifact. Distributed to the thousands of members of the League of Time, a division within the legendary movement for the Scientific Organization of Labor (not), this tool for autosurveillance enjoined its user to register in its columns such everyday activities as sleeping, working, eating, commuting, attending lectures, relaxing, hygiene, and reading. (The chart also featured a write-in category at the bottom.) Part of a pervasive mania for efficiency and social management in the early Soviet period,

  • Liz Deschenes

    Writing in 1896 about the relationship between photography and perception, Henri Bergson urged, “Call up the Leibnizian monads: Each is the mirror of the universe.” No artist has taken up this directive like Liz Deschenes. Rejecting the camera as a technology for imagemaking, the artist refuses photography’s traditional vocation as a machine of the visible. And yet the loss of optical reference in her abstract works means anything but a loss of connection to the world. Deschenes’s installations sensitize the spectator to the complex and often elliptical vectors of mediation

  • “Vladimir Tatlin: New Art for a New World”

    Lenin once made the striking observation that there were at least five distinct modes of production operating simultaneously but nonsynchronously in Russia when the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917.

    Lenin once made the striking observation that there were at least five distinct modes of production operating simultaneously but nonsynchronously in Russia when the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917. The same astonishing degree of overdetermination can be found in the production of avant-garde painter and sculptor Vladimir Tatlin, whose work, oscillating from materialogical servility to rationalist transparency, is deeply archaic and Futurist all at once. Organized around his anti-Suprematist counter-reliefs, the iconic 1920 Monument to the Third International, and the

  • “The Worker-Photography Movement”

    AT FIRST GLANCE, it is not entirely obvious what the term worker-photography means. The phrase pivots on an enigmatic vinculum that, while insisting on a connection between the two words, fails to clarify the nature of this bond. Yet the question that is skirted by this slapdash conjuncture is essential to understanding both the technical parameters and the political ambitions of an interwar documentary impulse that came into being “for the purpose of giving visibility to the emerging popular classes in the era of mass democracy,” as curator Jorge Ribalta observes. Was worker-photography an

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF 2010

    Thirteen scholars, critics, writers, and artists choose the year’s outstanding titles.

    T. J. CLARK

    No great surprise about my book of the year. I had been waiting for Michael Fried’s The Moment of Caravaggio (Princeton University Press) ever since hearing him present an early version of its opening ideas in Berkeley years ago, and when the volume arrived it took me by storm. I have never understood the churlishness of so much mainstream art history when confronted with the latest episode in Fried’s lifelong research project, but no doubt there will be the usual rolling of eyes in certain quarters