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Writing and the 'Subject'

Greve, C.

Publication date 2004

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Greve, C. (2004). Writing and the 'Subject'. Pegasus.

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POETRY,, 1918-1919

Itt is clear from the previous chapter that the outbreak of the First World War saww a change in the Moscow avant-garde art and literary scene. Il'ja Zdanevic andd Aleksej Krucenych had left for the Caucasus and though the former never returnedd to Moscow, Krucenych returned in 1922. At the same time, Michail Larionovv and NataTja Goncarova had left for Paris to work with the Djagilev ballet,, and Ol'ga Rozanova had died in 1918. Furthermore, new aesthetic sy- stemss and ideas had emerged from the early cubo-futurist avant-garde. A mile- stonee in the transformation of the Russian avant-garde was the "0-10, the Last Futuristt Exhibition of Pictures" (December 1915) where Kazimir Malevic ex- hibitedd his black square for the first time and proclaimed a new art movement, suprematism.. Another important movement had already surfaced in 1913 with Vladimirr Tatlin's counter-reliefs (three-dimensional objects made of diverse materialss such as glass, wood, and metal). These reliefs initiated the works of non-utilitariann constructions.1 A third factor in the development of a second avant-gardee movement was the participation of new young artists such as Alek- sandrr Rodcenko, Varvara Stepanova and Aleksej Gan who were not rooted in anti-symbolistt confrontation. They were strongly influenced by both Malevic andd Tatlin, but at the "lOja gosudarstvennaja vystavka: Bespredmetnoe tvor- cestvoo i Suprematism" ("10th State Exhibition of Non-Objective Art and Supre- matism")) held in Moscow in April 1919, took sides with Tatlin. A couple of yearss later, they were to found the First Working Group of Constructivists, whichh marked the appearance of constructivism as a new major avant-garde movementt in post-revolutionary Russia.

Off the constructivists, Varvara Stepanova remains known primarily as a typo- graphicall and textile designer and as the wife of Aleksandr Rodcenko, famous forr his photomontages and graphic designs. At the age of 18, Stepanova had


movedd to Moscow from Kazan' to continue her art studies and in 1915-17 be- camee acquainted with cubo-futurist art and poetry. At this point in time, cubo- futurismm as a major movement in art and poetry was already a closed book.

However,, the work of Rozanova and Krucenych had a strong impact on Ste- panovaa and inspired her own production of handmade books and %aum' poetry.

Stepanovaa began to write t(aum' poetry in 1917 and produced a couple of hand- madee books and single pages with brighdy colored designs intertwined with handwrittenn letters. In Stepanova's books, all elements of the preceding avant- gardee book-production are found. However, these books also represent the grad- uall development of a new relationship between word and image.

Stepanova'ss books were made in the short and tumultuous period just after the Octoberr Revolution. Next to the development of already initiated individual artisticc projects, the Revolution posed new questions to artists and poets, name- ly,, how they felt about the new socio-political situation and how they should respond.. Varvara Stepanova took an active part in discussions between indi- viduall artists and also in the new state institutions for the arts. In this chapter, I willl show how the production of handmade books and the writing of %aum' po- etryy inscribed itself in the aesthetic development following the October Revolu- tion.. This chapter is not to mark the beginning of the end of the avant-garde movementt and the handmade and handwritten books, but rather to present yet anotherr approach to this phenomenon referred to by David Burljuk, Vasilij Kamenskijj and Vladimir Majakovskij as the Third Revolution of the Spirit.2 Varvaraa Stepanova's books are still fairly inaccessible, a fact which is due to theirr nature as (mostly) unique, single hand-colored pages or as extremely rare, handmadee books of limited number. The books Rfny chomle (1918), Zigra ar (1918),, and Globolkim (1918),3 consist of single pages with color poetry and were neverr published. Yet another book of poems with a similar design has recendy beenn reproduced under the tide J ad' (Poison) (original version dates from 1919).4 Thee poems are written or painted directly onto the page in between or on patchess of bright colors, whereas Toft (1919) appeared as a book very similar to thosee produced by Krucenych during his Caucasian period. In Toft, no color is used;; there are merely simple, grid-like illustrations by Rodcenko. This book



wass published a n d a n u m b e r o f copies still exist. O u t o f all t h e b o o k s o f this period,, Varst (1918/19) is distinctive because it is typewritten.5

Veryy different from these b o o k s a n d single hand-colored m a n u s c r i p t pages are thee illustrations for Aleksej Krucenych's play Gly-Gly (1919) a n d t h e b o o k Gaust fabafaba (1919).6 T h e s e t w o b o o k s contain collage elements, and Gaust caba uses newspaperr as t h e basis for handwritten p o e m s o r collages. Evgenij K o v t u n re- p r o d u c e dd this b o o k in its entirety in t h e b o o k From Surface to Space (1974). A p a r t fromm this reproduction a n d a few single pages, three copies o f Gaust caba are k n o w nn t o exist t o d a y .71 have h a d t h e fortune to study o n e of these, t h e copy heldd at t h e M o s c o w Literary M u s e u m and t o reproduce some pages. I h a v e also b e e nn able, for t h e first time, t o c o m p a r e this copy with t h e t w o h i t h e r t o r e p r o - ducedd copies a n d t o study t h e b o o k i n detail. Evgenij K o v t u n ' s article *Varvara Stepanova'ss Anti-Book', which accompanied t h e reproduction o f Gaust caba in FromFrom Surface to Space, is still t h e only substantial article written a b o u t t h e b o o k . Withh t h e analysis in this chapter, I will cast n e w light o n some aspects o f t h e b o o kk unnoticed by K o v t u n a n d t o challenge his n o t i o n of the " a n t i - b o o k " . Seenn in a post-revolutionary context, t h e handwritten text acquires n e w mean- ing.. I t is n o longer merely a negation o f c o m m u n i c a t i o n a n d a self-reflexive cri- tiquee o f the prosaic w o r d , b u t also a n e w language o f revolution: t h e language off the posters, a n d graffiti o n the walls in t h e streets and in t h e squares o f t h e city.. Aleksej Krucenych (who, though n o t actually present in M o s c o w t o wit- nesss t h e events h e describes) characterizes this shift in t h e following way:

E C A HH AO peBOAiouHH GyAeTAHHe AepHtaAH Kypc Ha nyÖAHKy ayAHTopHH, TOO c nepB&ix >Ke AHCH peBOAiomm OHH IICAHKOM BHIHAH Ha yAHiry, B TOA- rry,, CAHAHO> C paöoHHMH MaccaMH. ByAeTAflHe Ha 3a6opax, pHAOM c rrpa-


CTHXHH H KapTHHH. (1996: 100)

(Iff before the revolution, the Men of the Future headed for the public of audito- riums,riums, then from the very first days of the revolution, they exclusively went out on thee streets, into the crowd; they blended in with the working masses. The Men of thee Future pasted their appeals and poems, verses and pictures onto the fences nextt to the government's newspapers.)


Inn the article 'From Faktura to Factography', Benjamin Buchloh claims that a profoundd paradigmatic change took place in post-1920 Russia: the modernist avant-garde'ss concern for the self-reflexive pictorial and sculptural production wass abandoned and replaced by a concern for productivist practices (1987: 80).

Thiss shift was gradually taking place in the period dating approximately from 19199 to 1922 and is clearly reflected in Stepanova's statement 'On Construc- tivism'(1921): :

Experimentall cognition, as "active thought", as the action of the contem- poraryy epoch (rather than contemplation), produces an analytical method inn art that destroys the sacred value of the work as a unique object by lay- ingg bare its material foundations [...] The formal approach is opposed to spiritualityy and ideas, and the work is transformed into an experiment, a formm of laboratory work. (Lavrent'ev 1988a: 173-74)

Thee contrast between the contemplative self-reflexive artistic approach and the productivistt professional approach is evident. However, as Buchloh emphasizes, thesee constructivist objects differ little from the "self-reflexive verification and epistemologicall critique" of the modernist paradigm. Therefore, a crisis was graduallyy recognized within this paradigm. In the 1920s, this art failed to address thee audience of the new society, it was "a crisis of audience relationships, a mo- mentt in which the historical institutionalization of the avant-garde had reached itss peak of credibility, from which legitimation was only to be obtained by a re- definitionn of its relationship with the new urban masses and their cultural de- mands"" (Buchloh 1987: 88). Thus, around 1919, iconic imagery was reintro- ducedd for the first time (Ibid: 90). There is, however, a problem in explaining thiss change, which underlies Buchloh's outline of paradigmatic changes. As Paull Wood points out, it was a time marked by the First World War, civil war, revolutionn and until 1928 or 1929 when the industrialization campaigns were beginningg to give results, an almost total lack of industry in Russia (1992: 358).

Thus,, the "new urban masses" did not exist until much later. There was, how- ever,, a pressing need to involve the artists in the construction of communist Russiaa and a desire among the artists and poets to become involved in influenc- ingg the development of a new culture. This involvement included a (re-)evalua-



tionn of the relationship between art and life, art and state, and art and public re- flectedflected in innate struggles for power and influence in the new cultural institu- tions,, for the right (and only) answer to the suddenly emerged problems in a multitudee of artistic ways. Therefore, the first years after the revolution were distinguishedd by both an unprecedented freedom and variety of responses to thee new situation, and by complex relations between cultural institutions and artistss and among individual artists and artistic groups.

Itt was in the midst of this rapid development that Stepanova produced her handwrittenn books. Clear elements of the early avant-garde critique of represen- tationn as well as an awareness of handwriting and collage as a means of express- ingg a new revolutionary message can be seen in the books, i.e., the reduction of alll formal and material operations to purely indexical signs, and the beginning tendencyy to incorporate or create iconic (representative) imagery. In the follow- ingg pages, I will focus on pages containing color-poetry from Rtny chomle and ZigraZigra ar, the book Toft, the known illustrations for G/y-G/y, and the book Gaust (aba,(aba, which represents a mixture of all the anti- or representative strategies and constitutess a work of art rife with contradictions.

Fromm 'cveto-pis" to poster

Itt is remarkable with what emotional and expressive vocabulary the poetic ex- perimentss of Rozanova and Stepanova have been described. In her major arti- clee on Rozanova, Gur'janova thus writes about Rozanova's "poetic etudes":

" N oo postepenno stanovitsja uznavaem ee sobstvennyj golos, bogatstvo ego tern- bra,, muzykal'nost' zvucanija: ego 'jarkost" i neznost', delikatnost' ee poézii — kakk i zivopisi" ("But gradually her own voice became distinguishable, the rich- nesss of its timbre, the musicality of sounds: its 'brightness' and tenderness, the delicacyy of her poetry as well as her painting"; 1992: 89). Similarly, Aleksandr Lavrent'evv describes Stepanova's poetry as emotionally tainted landscapes:

"Thee sound of a poem may be rough like a rough, natural material ('Shukh taz khkon'),, smooth-flowing like a breath of wind (Tianta chiol7), or impulsive ('Aftaa iur inkay' (1988a: 21). John E. Bowlt gives the following description:

"Thee sounds that she arranged in syncopated patterns - 'Afta yur inka/Nair


prazi/Tavenioo lirka/Taiuz fai' (Rtny khomle) - are jazzy, harsh, lapidary, as if shee wished to recapture the 'original' utterance, the primal poem, like the baby's gibberishh or the witch doctor's mumbo-jumbo" (1988: 10). Corresponding to thee same sphere of imagery, Lavrent'ev writes about the book Poisom "This is thee level of the primitive shaman's magic, wishing to cure the illness as well as too destroy his enemies with the help of the same forces" (Stepanova 1993).

Thesee poems clearly invite an emotional interpretation - one delicate and fine, thee other harsh, dark and jazzy.

Thee relation to sound and color, the relationship between phonemes and music andd between phonemes and color is described in a similar manner. There is a remarkablee congruence in the descriptions of these relations in the work of the twoo artists, of which I will give just a few examples. Stepanova's color poetry is characterizedd as an "optophoic synthesis":

[B]utt none of them [Filonov, Malevic, Rozanova] accompanied their versess with dynamic visual structures which [...] act as colored counter- pointss to these brusque phonemes. The result is an audacious optophonic synthesiss of radical neologism and abstract painting, a formal stenography thatt a number of writers and musicians [...] were also exploring. It is inter- estingg to note the reference to Russia's most avant-garde composer, Niko- laii Roslavets, in one of Stepanova's illustrations to Gly-Gly. (Bowlt 1988:

10) )

Similarly,, Rozanova's vpum' poetry is characterized as musical etudes:

BB ocHOBe ee 3ayMHo5 IIO33HH BcerAa Ae>KaT ABe HAH rpw {^OHCMH, KOTO-

pbiee OHa eapbHpyeT, apaiCKHpyeT, oöurphiBafl "rAacHwe" H "corAacHue"


CKa3an>,, HTO ee CTHXH cymecTByioT "AAH roAoca" - He B npocrpaHCTBe, a BOO BpeMeHH. (Gur'janova 1992: 93)

(Att the basis of her %aum' poetry are always two or three phonemes that she var- ies,, arranges, playing on "vowel" and "consonant" rhymes, like it is done with the soundss in a musical etude. One could say that her poems are made "for die voice"

—— not in space, but in time.)

Stepanovaa makes use of contrasts between colors, just as the sounds in her poetryy emphasize contrast and conflict:


POETRYY OF THE FUTURE, VARVARA STEPANOVA'S VISUAL POETRY Colorr plays a major role in Stepanova's work. One might even speak of thee text's color-facture. Color may be cool and recede deep into the page, orr bright and warm, pulling off the surface of the page. Cool shades are in constantt conflict with warm ones, just as in Stepanova's poetry vowels and consonantss are in conflict. (Lavrent'ev 1988a: 21)

Similarly,, the contrast between colors is emphasized in Rozanova's work:

Teiwaa KaïKAOH ee cynpeMaranecKOH KOMTJO3HII;HH - 3TO "po>KAeHHe"

UBeTaa (icaK B no33nn — po>KAeHne 3Byica) B AHCCOHaHCHbix KoirrpacTHux coneTaHHflxx cseTAoro H Aencoro, TeriAoro H xoAOAHoro, co3ByHHoro H aTOHaAbHoro.. CBeTOHOCHOCTb ee >KHBonncHoro ijBeTa cooTBercTByeT oTKpHTOCTHH H HHcroTe 3ByKa B II033HH. (Gur'janova 1992: 95)

(Thee theme of every one of her suprematist compositions is the "birth" of color (inn her poetry it is the birth of sound) in dissonant contrasting combinations of lightt and dark, heavy and light, warm and cold, harmonious and atonal. The light structuree of her painterly color corresponds to the openness and purity of sound inn her poetry.

Yet,, there is a difference between Rozanova's poetry and use of color and the colorr poetry of Stepanova. While comparing Rozanova's poetic experiments withh those of Stepanova, there can be no doubt regarding its influence, but theree is also a tinge of parody in the latter's poetry.

Itt is interesting to compare the two poems 'lefanta ciol...' by Rozanova and 'Aftaa jur inka...' by Stepanova:

Aeó^airraa HHOA MHaAA airra HMMHOA A HeyAOMae e caMaa cMHerT ae e

HHTTHOAA 0(\> yHT aa BapeHecT HHMHOAA aT Ta p e e r

(Lefantaa ciol miall anta immiol l neulomae e samaa smiett ae e

ciggioll of unt aa varenest iccioll at ta rest)

AtbTaa KJp HHKa HaHpp npa3H TaBeHboo AHpKa Taio33 oJ)aH OO MaAH TOTTH OAee Ma«4>T H3Baa AeflTTH Ho^>Taa AHflpT

(Aftaa jur inka nairr prazi taven'oo lirka Tajuzz fai OO mali totti Olee majaft izvaa lejatti Iftaa lijart) (Rozanovaa 1992: 100) (Rodcenkoo and Stepanova 1991: 73) Thesee poems are very similar in their sound structure in which the vowels 'a' andd 'i' stand out and in both poems a more or less complex net of repetition,


syllabicc metathesis, and inner rhyme can be distinguished. Both poems have a simplee metric structure (Rozanova's poem is consistendy trochaic, while Ste- panova'ss poem is iambic in its metric structure); they even have a simple rhyme structure.. Thus, both poems are conventional in their formal structure. More- over,, the words do not break the phonetic laws and can be pronounced without strainn (Stepanova's poem is provided with stressed syllables). This suggests that thesee poems were meant for recitation.

Att first sight, the poems are in every respect so similar that the direct influence off Rozanova's poetry on that of Stepanova is indubitable. Nevertheless, the soundd structure of Stepanova's poem is easily distinguishable from that of Ro- zanova.. In the fifth line of Stepanova's poem, the sound structure changes fromm a consistent 'a-i' structure to a completely different tone: " O mali totti / olee majaft", and then again to "Izva lefatti". While the first half of the poem hass some words that bear resemblance to English ("ink", "lirka" [similar to

"lyrics"],, "afta jur" [similar to "after you"] and "(ta)ven'o" [similar to "when you"]),, the middle part is more similar in sound to Spanish or Italian, and the thirdd part to yet another, unknown language. The poetic emotional strain, equallyy present in Rozanova's poetry, appears to shift towards parody: are these liness a parody of a foreign language, romantic love poetry, or oi^aum^ Is Ste- panovaa mocking the early avant-garde %aum'? It is difficult to say. But the for- eignn sounding words in her %aum'poetry ("post kard" [similar to "post-card"]

andd "mont ognitta" [a name of a mountain?] in Gaust caba and "komsita"

[soundss like the French "comme ei comme ca" or a non-existing word with a Spanishh or Italian sounding ending] in Toft) are a recurrent element. In a poem inn Gaust caba, the initial line ("O te ta") lends an expressive quality to the poem:

OO Te Ta (O te ta Moo HaHHO do najco H m p aa xAeflHna Citra chlejacca

HeppaiOHiXHH Cerrajunci Hnp6oo Cirbo App Ar) Thiss poem almost echoes a poem by Rozanova: " O Klementina / otvet' na lju



bov'// tvoj mracnyj vid / gorit prekrasno / [tvoja] devic'ja gibel' / [tebja] zovet // nebrezno / k otravnym caram" ("Oh Klementina / answer my love / your gloomyy look / burns beautifully / [your] maidenly downfall / calls you / care- lesslyy / to poisonous charms"; Rozanova 1992: 100). This proto-poem was de- constructedd and transformed into a ^a«w'poem: "A. Klementina! / Uvaz' at mesta!! / Tvoj carnyj [a]kvar[i]um / Gorit jakmisto! / Divan'e more / Uvaet maremm / Igraé zvaet / O / K / Marém / Carèm!...".9 In this de-constructed

^w/ww'poem,, Rozanova parodies romantic love poetry, whereas Stepanova's poemm poses as a mz/poem without transforming the high-flown pathos into a degraded,, absurd text. Instead, in this poem Stepanova preserves the pathos thoughh the words are unintelligible. Therefore, it has a touch of parody which is significandyy different from Krucenych's 'Dyr bul scyl' or from Rozanova's 'A.

Klementina!'. .

Thee sound structure of Stepanova's poems is also somewhat different from that off her predecessor's and on the verge of becoming a parodyy of %aum'. While Rozanovaa invents ingenious and humoristic semantic meanings with her meta- theticc transformations of the sounds ("Vul'gark' ach bulVarov / varvary gusary // val's Ara bik / Araby bar arapy / Turk gubjat tara" ("Vulgarian ah! Boulevards // barbars hussars / waltz Ara bik / Arabs bar tricks / Turk destroy tara"; Roza- novaa 1992: 100), Stepanova does not play with the sound structure, it seems, in orderr to open up new semantic meaning. In a poem from Toft, she creates meta- theticc transformations ("nygoglob / gly o . . . " and "engary raibary"), but the wordss remain empty signifiers. In this poem, the words "o idice zdrait" are possi- blyy derived from the Russian "idti" [to go] and the English word "straight".

Theyy are contrasted to the otherwise completely unintelligible words in the rest off the poems and become a parody not of traditional high art poetry, but of

%aum'%aum'itself.itself. This effect is perhaps unintentional, but the difference between this poetryy and that of Rozanova is obvious.

Theree are also significant similarities, however, with the poetry of Krucenych.

Stepanovaa uses paradigmatic chains similar to the spurn' poems of Krucenych's Caucasiann period: "zist / ligs / mast / kzems / usdr..." (Zigra at) or "zanistra / stargll / mimn / oneb / glips / kilele / ogle / mesin / rabs / dsm / tesm / osma


// meos . . . " (Zigra ar). This last poem is drawn in black capital letters along the insidee rim of a bright yellow circle. It is in this kind of composition that Stepa- nova'ss work becomes interesting. As Bowlt and Lavrent'ev remark, in these com- positions,, a strong interaction between color planes and %aum'words is evident.

Inn Russian modernism, there was considerable interest not only in the close re- lationshipp between color and sound in music, but also between color and pho- nemess in poetry.10 Referring to Rimbaud's "Voyelles', Kul'bin gave every con- sonantt a specific color:

Ka>KAaHH corAacHaa HMeeT CBOH uBer: p - KpacHaa (KpoBb, Apana, Bpa>KAa, pon);; m - jKeATaa (iKeAaHHe, BOJKAeAemie, >Ka>KAa); c - CHHHH; 3 - 3eAeHa*;

xx - nepHo->KeATafl; K — nepHaa. UBCT cymecTByeT B HCHBonncn, 3ByK - B MV3HKCC [...] CAOBO KaK TaKOBoe He MaTepHaAbHO H He SHepreTiiHHO. C H H -

Te33 ero c \ry3bncoH Aaer dDOHeraKy cAOBa (3BVK). CHHTC3 c >KHBoroicbio AaeTT HanepTaHHe CAOBa. (2000: 45-46)

(Everyy consonant has its own color: 'r' is red (blood, fight, enemy, destiny) [all Russiann words are spelled with a 'r']; 'z' is yellow (desire, lust, craving) [all Russian wordss are spelled with a Y]; 's'' is blue; Y is green; 'ch' is black-yellow; 'k' is black.

Colorr belongs to painting, sound to music. [...] The word as such is not material andd not energetic. The synthesis with painting provides the graphics of words.) Similarly,, in the new variant of T h e Declaration of the Word as Such' (1917), Krucenychh writes <rV muzyke - zvuk, v zivopisi - kraski, v poézii - bukva (mysl'' = prozrenie + zvuk + nacertanie + kraski)" ("In music there is sound, in paintingg paint, in poetry letters (thought = insight + sound + graphics + paint)";

1999:: 204). As I have mentioned in chapter three, at this time, there was an in- timatee artistic interchange of ideas between Krucenych and Malevic, and Ma- levic'' ideas on this subject very likely influenced Krucenych's sudden interest in color.. In the letter from Malevic to Matjusin mentioned above, Malevic ex- pressedd his ideas about the close connection between poetry and painting. In fact,, as Gur'janova points out, Malevic writes about the visual letter, and not aboutt the phoneme:11 "raspredelenie bukvennych zvukovych mass v prostran- stvee podobno zivopisnomu suprematizmu" ("The distribution of letter-sound massess in space like painterly suprematism"; Kovtun 1976: 191). The letter shouldd be freed from the line and drawn on the page according to painterly



ratherr t h a n linguistic lines. It should b e presented as letter masses in the same wayy that planes o f color should b e placed o n a white canvas: "Povesennaja ze ploskost'' zivopisnogo cveta na prostyne belogo cholsta daet n e p o s r e d s t v e n n o n a s e m uu soznanija sil'noe oscuscenie p r o s t r a n s t v a " ("The plane of painterly colorr h u n g o n the sheet of canvas direcdy brings forth in our consciousness a strongg feeling of space"; K o v t u n 1976: 191-192).

Itt was probably u n d e r the influence o f Malevic' ideas a b o u t letter masses that R o z a n o v aa w r o t e her curious p o e m entitled ' K u b o k sozvucif:

36p)KecTT A,3e6aH (Zbrzest dzeban Hc63Meuu AeiccaraTaH zbzmec deksagatan

JKMarayrii sonra zmagauc étta

>KMVIII Aexxa zmuc dechcha

HTTepaa ittera) (Gur'janovaa 1992: 105)

Thiss p o e m is seething with a metathetic s o u n d structure, alliteration, repetition andd rhyme, so m u c h so that the cube almost cracks in the middle. T h e p o e m is fromm 1916, and is probably an a t t e m p t to apply Malevic' ideas very literally t o herr o w n poetry. More successfully, R o z a n o v a made a few examples of applying colorr t o Krucenych's poetry. T o Krucenych R o z a n o v a writes:

T B O HH GecnpeAMeTHHe H3 BepTflmHMCfl 6yKBaMH c r p a u m o HirrepecHO, a B nenaTHH ByAyT H3yMHTeAbHH, 6uTb MO>Ker Aa)Ke x o p o m o HX Hane^aTaTb pa3HHMHH KpacKaMH HAH öyKBH OAHHM uBeTOM, a (|)HrypM HanpaBAemwi HXX ABHMceHHH ApyrHM. KaK n o TBoeMy? IlepepHcyio BO BAaAHMHpe. (1999:

73) )

(Yourr non-objective [poems] of letters in movement are awfully interesting, and in printt they will become amazing. Perhaps it would even be good to print them in differentt colors, or the letters with one color, and with another one for the figures directingg their movements. What do you think? I will draw them again in Vladi- mir.) )

O t h e rr interesting examples of Rozanova's use of color from these years are her colorr collages. I n these, Rozanova assembled pieces of colored paper o r cloth inn abstract compositions that (similar t o the relief) "convey a special sense o f space".1 22 Influenced by Rozanova, Krucenych made the b o o k Universal WarTi>,


whichh included 9 poems and 12 color collages. Unlike Rozanova's color col- lages,, however, the theme of war is evident in Krucenych's collages. They show moree or less absurd allegories of war, with Germany, the number one enemy.13 Itt is evident that these experiments were influenced both by Malevic' ideas of thee "letters that fly" and the close relationship between "letter masses" and

"colorr planes".

However,, as Gur'janova points out, the disparity between Malevich and Roza- novaa can be detected in Malevich' use of the word "paint" and Rozanova's use off the word "color": "[W]hen he [Malevich] uses the word 'color' in his writ- ingss [...] he still means 'paint', the materiality of color contingent on texture"

(Gur'janovaa 2000: 113). Whereas Malevic is primarily concerned with texture (i.e.,, the inter-relationship or contrast between pigment, form and line), Roza- novaa is primarily concerned with a non-material expression of "pure" color.

Therefore,, texture contaminates the nature of color (Gur'janova 2000: 113). In herr review of Rozanova's posthumous exhibition in 1919, Stepanova character- izess Rozanova and Malevic' experiments with color as distinctly different:

Olgaa Rozanova's art is the play and movement of colour. Colour is alive in herr pictures, hence there is no texture \faktura C.G.] to interfere with the perfectt expression of colour. [.. .J Characteristic of Olga Rozanova's crea- tivee work is the Great Colourfulness which drives painting from rooms andd museums into streets and squares. [...] Analysing Rozanova's Supre- matistt period we may see that her Suprematism is the reverse of that of Malevich's.. His works are based on the composition of squares, Rozano- va'ss - on colour. Malevich employs colour to contrast different planes whilee on Rozanova's canvases composition serves to reveal all the poten- tialitiess of colour on a planar surface. In Suprematism she produced the Suprematismm of the painting rather than that of a square. [In the pieces of thee last period] we witness a transition from the planes of Suprematism to ann extensive reduction of colour intensity, which makes colour independent off form and plane. (Rozanova 1992: 106)

Inn light of the ongoing power struggle between Rodcenko and Malevic in con- nectionn with the "The 10th State Exhibition: Non-Objective Creation and Su- prematism",, it is understandable that it was Stepanova's clear intention to char- acterizee Rozanova's work as different to that of Malevic'.14 However, it is also a



d o c u m e n tt in w h i c h Stepanova expresses her o w n priorities and artistic values.

I nn this review, it is interesting to see that (as markedly different from the cubist o rr futurist manifestos preceding it) there is a distinction b e t w e e n the clearly positivelyy valued " c o l o r " and the negatively valued "faktura". " C o l o r " means m o v e m e n t ,, expression, spirituality paired with technique, integrity and inde- p e n d e n c e ,, a n d it is connected with streets and squares, while "faktura" signifies squaree forms, contrast between different planes, form and plane, suprematism, futurismm and cubism, a n d r o o m s and m u s e u m s . T h e use o f the term faktura, however,, is n o t simple. Reviewing Rodcenko's contributions for the " 1 0 t h State Exhibition",, Stepanova appears to take the opposite stance:

MeMM e m e BbmrpbiBaiOT e r o nepHwe Beiuw, - HTO TaM HeT Kpacon, a noTO-


Boroo cynpeMaTH3Ma - yHHHTOHceroie KBaApaTa H HOBaa 4>opMa, yrAyÖAe- HHee >KHBonHCH B caMoe ce6n, KaK npoó^eccHOHaAbHbiH MOMCHT, HOBaa HHTepecHafff (J>aKTypa H TOABKO >KHBonHCb He rAaAKoe 3aicpaiHHBaHHe B OAHOHH KpacKe, caMO HeÖAaroAapHOH, - B nepHOH. [...] B «nepHbix» >Ke HHHeroo Kporne >KHBonHCH HeT, a noTOMy HX <|)aKTypa BbiHrpMBaeT He- o6biMaHHO,, OHa rrpoH3BOAHT BnenaTAeHHe, HTO Beiins HanncaHa coBep- ineHHOO pa3HOo6pa3HMMH MaTepHaAaMH. 3 T H ÖAecTfliiiHe, MaTOBbie, McyxAHe,, uiepoxoBaTMe, rAaAKHe n a c r a noBepxHocra AaiOT HeoöbiK-

HOBeHHyiOO n o CHAe K O M n 0 3 H m H O , H a i l H C a H H OHH TaK CHAbHO, H T O H e

ycrynaioTT KpacKaM. (1994: 88)

(Hiss black pieces also gain from not having any color; therefore they are as strong ass paintings alone, not being overshadowed by outside elements of any kind, not evenn color. [...] The destruction of the square and a new form, absorption of paintingg in painting itself as a professional element, a new interesting fakiura and onlyy painting (not the smooth smearing) in one color, the most ungrateful of them,, in black, appear as a way of escape from color suprematism. [...] In the

"blacks"" there is nothing except painting, and therefore their faktura gains ex- traordinarily,, it creates the impression that the object is painted with completely diversee materials. These shining, matte, tarnished, uneven, smooth parts of the surfacee create an exceptionally forceful composition. They are painted so strongly, matt they do not give in to colors.)

H e r e ,, the distinction between "kraska" and " c v e t " is s o m e w h a t m u d d l e d . It


seemss that Stepanova applies both the words "kraska" and "cvet" to Malevic' works,, while the real quality of Rodcenko's works, to Stepanova, is the absence off both. Avoiding color altogether, the painting stands out as a material object, i.e.,, as a painted surface. The texture of the paint itself affects the spectator as a realreal object; there is no color to distract him or her from the object quality of paintings.155 The difference between Malevic' materiality and Rodcenko's object-art iss that, in the paintings of the former, both color and painting are used to en- hancee the plane and square, which are placed on a canvas in a contrasting rela- tionshipp in order to give a transcendental spatial experience. In the paintings of Rodcenko,, however, the paint covers the canvas and points towards the indexi- calityy of the pictorial surface. It is clear that the concept oifaktura has devel- opedd a step further towards the pure objectiveness of the material and the pro- fessionall handicraft of production:

Thee physicality of the painting as an object, and the physicality of the exe- cution,, became the new criteria in the appreciation of the work of art. Ma- teriall itself- in this case paint - and the method of its application influ- encee the perception of the object. This unprecedented approach to the paintingg as an object in itself marks a major development in Rodchenko's art,, and indeed a crucial innovation in the history of the avant-garde. It alsoo represented their Utopian conception of the aesthetic needs of the neww mass viewer. (Dabrowski 1998: 30)

Turningg to Stepanova's own use of color in her hand-colored pages with "non- objective"" poetry, I will suggest that her use of color is marked by an expres- sivenesss that can be used on posters, which are hung on the walls of street cor- ners.. Stepanova directly addresses visual poetry as a contrast to the "dead mo- notony"" of printed letters:

HoBoee ABiCKeHne 6ecnpeAMeTHoro cmxa KaK 3Byica H 6yKBH CBH3MBaio c

JKHBOIIHCHMMM BOCnpHflTHeM, KOTOpoe BAHBaeT HOBOe >KHBOe 3pHTeAI>HOe BnenaTAeHHee B 3ByK craxa. Pa3pMBafl nepe3 >KHBoriHCHyio rpac^HKy MepT- ByiOO MOHOTOHHOCTb CAHTHX nenaTHHX 6yKB, HAy K HOBOMy BHAy TBOp- HeCTBa.. C Apyrofi cropoHH, BocnpOH3BOAfl >KHBOIIIICHOH rpac|)HKOH 6ec- npeAMeTHyioo no33Hio AByx KHHr «3Hrpa ap» H « P T H H XOMAC», H BBO)Ky B

>KHBonncbb rpa<|>HKH 3ByK KaK HOBoe KanecTBO, yBeAHHHBaa STHM ee (rpa- (|)HKH)) KOAHHeCTBeHHHe B03MO)KHOCTH. (1994: 41)


POETRYY OF THE FUTURE, VARVARA STEPANOVA'S VISUAL POETRY (II connect the new movement of non-objective poetry as sound and letter with painterlyy perception, and this imbues the sound of poetry with a new and vital visuall impression. By blowing up the deadly monotony of fused printed letters by meanss of painterly graphics, I am approaching a new type of creativity. On the otherr hand, by using painterly graphics to reproduce the non-objective poetry of thee two books Zigra ar and Riny chomle, I am introducing the graphics of sound as aa new quality into painting, thereby augmenting its quantitative possibilities.) Stepanovaa intends to create a "living visual impression of sound" and extend its quantitativequantitative possibilities of the graphic expression.

Herr visual poetry was exhibited as individual pages attached to display boards.

Thee pages are therefore presented as a series with a title.16 It was not unusual for singlee pages from books to be exhibited or to figure as leaflets, but with the ex- ceptionn of Toft and Gaust caba, none of Stepanova's books were ever to be real- izedd as a book in which the leaves were assembled in the binding and in which thee pages could be turned, and they were never printed. Besides, the brightness off the colors could never have been reproduced using the hectography of Roza- novaa and Krucenych's book Te li k, and color lithography was both an expen- sivee and very complex printing technique. Therefore, the books Zigra ar, G/o- bolkim,bolkim, and Rfny chomle, exist only as unique copies and as single pages.

Thee pages are painted with tempera in an array of very bright colors: bright yel- low,, red, green, blue, and orange. The colors are often composed to contrast withh each other as in the page from Rtny chomle on which three triangular shapedd fat lines are painted in the middle of the page (the green inside the red insidee the yellow), while the block letters are painted in blue (see Lavrent'ev 1988:: 22). The line "Teasfor naju" is painted in the top left corner on a hori- zontall line that is somewhat detached from the rest of the lines, which are paintedd inside the yellow, red and green triangles. In a page from Zigra ar, bright redd lines are drawn in a grid on top of a similar black grid and further down the page,, the poem is drawn in black or a brownish red (see Rodcenko and Ste- panovaa 1991: 73). There is movement in the page developing from the contrast betweenn the red and black, but also from the visual impression of the written text.. The somewhat lighter lines "Afta jur inka / nair prazir Taven'o lirka" re- cedee into the depth of the page-space as the letters in the next lines become lar-


gerr and more pronounced (some syllables are underlined: "Tajuz fai / O mali totrii / O k majaft / Izvajejatti"). After these lines, the last line "ifta lijart" again recedess into the background because of the si2e of the letters. In the handwrit- tenn text, the words "Fai", " O mali", "ole", and "izva" stand out, but, perhaps moree importandy, the illustration's grid-like structure corresponds to the cross- ingg lines in the script reminiscent of Larionov's illustration of Krucenych's poemm 'Dyr bul scyl" five years previously. Regarding such illustrations, Sergej Bobrovv wrote that the goal of the new illustration was to create an analogy be- tweenn poetry and drawing using painterly means (1913: 156). This is very similar too Stepanova's characterization of her visual poetry. However, in Stepanova's visuall poetry, color stands out while letters are at times almost invisible.

Inn another page from the series Rtny chomle, a red circle is drawn in the middle off the page on top of a bright yellow cross (figure 19). Furthermore, on top of thee bottom left part of the red circle, two fat blue lines cross in a triangular shapee with a yellow circle between the legs. At the very top of the page, a fat green-blackk stripe is painted in which some purplish or light yellow-green let- terss are drawn. Similarly, in the yellow cross, words are drawn in green, red, and blue.. One might argue, that the words drawn inside the rectangular shaped colorr stripes enact Malevic' request for letter-masses, but the letters here seem too be secondary to the contrast of bright colors, or most significandy, to the largee calligraphic-like shape which dominates the page.

Inn her visual poetry, Stepanova usually uses simple block letters painted in vari- ouss colors in between or inside colored patches. However, in an illustration for ZigraZigra ar, which reminds one of the contrasting black and red grid structure mentionedd before, the red and black colors explode on the page (see Bowk and Drattt 2000: 255). A black strip is painted as if it has been rolled onto the bot- tomm right corner of the page, while on the top of the page the borders dissolve intoo vibrant traces. O n top of this, red patches are painted as impressions from aa sponge. To the right side of the page, words are painted in black and red:

"Nukss / zims / tesfor / Brazdf / biziaks / sizeniun / opl'". Under the word

"biziaks"" a red line has been drawn and the rest of the letters are painted in red.

Here,, not only the thickness of the letter-lines and the size of the letters vary,



butt also the script. Thus, the word "sizeniun" is written in a beautiful handwrit- ing,, whereas the last word "opP" is drawn with block letters similar to type set letters.. Similarly on another page from Zigra ar, one word, "Osma", is written withh fat block letters similar to printed lettering (see Bowlt and Dratt 2000:

254).. The varying size of the words as they proceed from the top to the bottom togetherr with the intersecting lines give an impression of space and movement.

Fig.. 19


Thee referred to pages have very distinct color shapes and the contrast between thee letters and colored patches, and the contrast between the different colors, aree very pronounced. However, on some pages the compositions are more complex,, and the contrast less distinct. This can be seen on a page from Zigra ar,ar, where the lines between the blue, black and red in the circular form domi- natingg the composition are blurred. A sponge has been used to apply some of thee color giving the shapes a vibrant outline. The letters are drawn inside the circularr shape or fall out of it to the bottom right corner of the page. But still, thee colors and the color-shape dominate the page, and the letters (perhaps due too the lighter yellow, blue or red colors) recede into the background.

Ass a result of the bright colors and simple expressive shapes (which are at times similarr to large calligraphic signs), the compositions on most pages can be per- ceivedd at some distance, whereas the letters become blurred or blend into the shapes.. The shapes break up the poems into lines (drawn in rectangular stripes) orr individual words (falling out of the color patches, or isolated in the contrast betweenn the background color and the color of the letters), and sometimes the grid-likee look of the letters is repeated in the grid of crossing lines. But still, it is thee colors and the shapes that dominate the reception of the words; reading be- comess unnecessary, because the design speaks for itself. Similar to the paintings off Rozanova, the use of tempera in Stepanova' color-poetry does not give an impressionn of "paint" but of "color" alone. Furthermore, the contrast between thee colors, the letters, the colors and lettering and so on (i.e. the composition's fakturd)fakturd) do not transcend the page on which they are written or painted unlike

Malevic'' squares, circles and rectangles. In her comments at the posthumous exhibitionn of Rozanova's painting, Stepanova emphasized expression, move- ment,, and color above all. These are the very same elements that stand out in herr visual poetic compositions.

Thiss expressiveness in color, shape and composition, is also to be found in Ste- panova'ss posters during these years. In fact, these are strikingly similar to some off her visual poetic compositions. The pages were exhibited at the "10th State Exhibition"" and designated as "Non- Objective Creativity and Suprematism".

Onn the same occasion, Stepanova also exhibited a number of slogans from the



newspaperr hkusstvo kommuny (Art of the Commune): "Buduscee - edinstvennaja nasaa eel"' ("The future is our only goal"), "Strojte avangard revoljucionnogo proletarskogoo iskusstva" ("Build the avant-garde of revolutionary proletarian art"),, and "Tovarisci, nesite vasi moloty, ctoby vykovat' novoe slovo" ("Com- rades,, take up your hammers to forge the new word!") (Rodcenko and Ste- panovaa 1991: 20). Stepanova's posters followed the same principles as those of herr visual poetry in Zigra ar, Rtny cbomk, and Globolkim. Thus, in one poster fromm 1919 the text ("Comrades, take up your hammers to forge the new word!")) is drawn in a grayish color inside a bright red square (figure 20). At the topp left corner, bright blue lines are drawn making a grid at the very top and proceedingg in just a single blue line along the left side of the paper. At the bot- tom,, there is a black patch of color applied with a sponge. Although the words

"novoee slovo" [new word] on this poster are very pronounced, it is still the colorr shapes that stand out and dominate. Similarly, the poster with the text

"proletarijj tvorec buduscego a ne naslednik proslogo" ("The proletarian is the creatorr of the future, and not an inheritor of the past") has very bright contrast- ingg red, blue and black colors. Here words are written in white on a black back- ground,, while red and black color shapes are glued onto the blue paper in a col- lagee composition.

Onn these posters, bright patches of color, fat lines or squares accompanied the handwrittenn inscriptions. Lavrent'ev says: "Breaks in intonation and stress were reproducedd graphically through variations in scale, color and form. The overall invocatoryy nature of the text was expressed through its abstract geometric con- struction"" (1988a: 25). Exacdy the same words can be used to characterize Ste- panova'ss color poetry. Thus, Stepanova's posters with communist slogans are similarr to her compositions with ^aum'poetry. In both cases, the colors speak louderr than the words. "[Hjer posters and book illustrations convey their mes- sagee loud and clear", as Bowk puts it (Bowlt 1988: 8).


f« f«

Fig.. 20



Kniëenychh and Rodèenko

Krucenychh returned from the Caucasus on August 17,1921 and shortly after- wardss (August 23), met Stepanova. They had never met until this time, and at thiss meeting Krucenych made a somewhat disappointing impression on her.

Accordingg to Stepanova, Krucenych was already a leftover from the futurist pastt with a touch of "God's fool" about him characteristic of this generation of thee avant-garde: Tatlin, Malevic, Matjusin, Mitotic, Chlebnikov, Gnedov and so forth.. He did not appear to understand the new art and saw "only color" (Ste- panovaa 1994: 150). Krucenych must have known Rodcenko's black paintings though.. In the catalogue for the "10th State Exhibition", a statement ("Sistema Rodcenko"" [Rodcenko's system]) is included explaining Rodcenko's views with amongg others a quotation from Krucenych: "colors disappear - everything mergess into black" (Dabrowski 1998: 31). However, Krucenych could very likelyy not have known of the latest productivist art of 1920, whereas Stepanova mustt have known of his Caucasian books. Examples of these books were sent too various friends in St. Petersburg and Moscow including Rozanova, who, un- till her early death in 1918, was apparendy close to Stepanova. Therefore, it is likelyy that Stepanova knew these books and was possibly also in possession of somee of them. The fact that in 1919 Stepanova made illustrations for Kruce- nych'ss play Gly-Gly also suggests that Stepanova and Rodcenko had corre- spondedd with Krucenych during his Caucasian years. These illustrations were exhibitedd at the "10th State Exhibition" in 1919.17 Furthermore, upon his return, Krucenychh re-issued a number of his Caucasian books. Some of these books hadd a larger carbon cover with illustrations by Rodcenko. Inside, they contained pagess or whole books from his Caucasian period (Nestroc'e, Tunsap and so forth). .

Inn 1919, Stepanova's book Toft appeared. It was handmade and very similar to Krucenych'ss books from the Caucasus. According to the MOMA catalogue The RussianRussian Avant-Garde Book 1910-1934, the book is copied with simple carbon pa- per.. However, judging from the appearance of the book and the amount of

copiess made, one could imagine it was made with hectography. Krucenych's carbonn copied books from the Caucasus were made in only 6 copies each,


w h e r e a ss Stepanova's b o o k was m a d e in 30 copies. Stepanova's b o o k is very similarr t o K r u c e n y c h ' s Caucasian books, and the inner cover especially is testi- m o n yy t o Stepanova's familiarity w i t h these b o o k s . A t the t o p o f the page, she hass written: " O n the right o f a manuscript". C o m p a r i n g t h e appearance o f Ste- p a n o v a ' ss line with that o f Krucenych's handwriting, o n e almost suspects that Stepanovaa has imitated Krucenych's handwriting. H o w e v e r , Toft is also very dif- ferentt from K r u c e n y c h ' s books.

ToftToft is a b o o k o f p o e m s b y Stepanova and drawings by R o d c e n k o . N o t featur- ingg o n the same page as t h e poems, but o n every other page, these drawings are illustrationss in a m o r e traditional sense than is typical o f h a n d m a d e avant-garde b o o k s .. T h e y are n o t d r a w n on t h e same pages as the p o e m s ; therefore, they d o n o tt interact with these in a direct way. I n Krucenych's b o o k s , the drawn lines breakk u p the space o f t h e page and, therefore, lines and w o r d s in the p o e m . Thiss is clearly n o t the case in Toft. Rodcenko's drawings consist of lines, which aree d r a w n in a grid, geometrically, or as rays. Unlike Krucenych's drawings o n thee pages o f his Caucasian books, these lines are drawn with a ruler. Ekaterina D e g o t '' calls R o d c e n k o ' s proclamation o f the line as the only element of his paintings,, the first step towards constructivism (2000: 64). I n Rodcenko's aes- thetics,, the line was isolated as a beginning, as a skeleton of all painting, and as aa final step away from color, faktura, and the plane (undoubtedly as a polemic attackk o n suprematism):

KucTbb [...] craAa HeAocraTOHHHM H HCTOHHHM HHcrpyMeHTOM B HOBOH 6ecrrpeAMeTHOHH JKHBOIIHCH, H ee BMTCCHHA n p e c c , BaAHK, peHCcJ)eAep, UHpKyAbb H T.A. [...] AHHHH ecTb nepBoe H nocAeAHee [...]. A H H H H e c n . n y r bb npoxo>KAeHHJi, ABiDKemie, croAKHOBeHHe, rpam>, coeAHHemie, pa3- pe3.. TaKHM o6pa30M, AHHHH no6eAHAa Bee H yroiHTOHCHAa nocAeAHHe UHTaAeAHH >KHBonncH - HBex, cJ)aKTypy H nAOCKocn.. H a >KHBonncb n o - craBHAaa KpacHufi Kpecn. (Rodcenko and Stepanova 1 9 9 1 : 134-135) (Thee brush [...] has become an insufficient and inaccurate instrument for the new non-objectivee painting, and it has been forced out by the press, the roller, draw- ing-pen,, compasses and so forth [...]. The line is the first and last [...]. The line is thee passageway, the movement, collision, edge, conjunction, section. Thus, the linee defeated everything and destroyed the last citadel of painting: color, faktura andd the plane. It drew a red cross over painting.)18



R o d c e n k o ' ss "professional a p p r o a c h " t o painting can b e seen clearly in the ruler d r a w nn illustrations of Toft. T h e r e is a significant difference between the gesture- writingg in Krucenych's b o o k s a n d the technical line in R o d c e n k o ' s drawings.

Stepanova'ss p o e m s , however, differ little from Krucenych's p h o n e t i c spurn'.

T h ee basic structure of Stepanova's p o e m s is the three-syllable line with t w o beatss a n d a trochaic metric system. This provides the p o e m s with a steady al- t h o u g hh slighdy stiff rhythm. T h e third p o e m in the b o o k is perhaps the m o s t ingeniouslyy constructed. With an accent o n every third syllable, this p o e m has a veryy distinct rhythmic structure and even a rhyme structure. Various p e r m u - tationss o f the w o r d s " r a j " [paradise] and " a r g o " [argot] constitute the p o e m ' s anagrammaticc structure:

H M TT orAoG (Nyt oglob TAMM O HaHMe 3ApanT Gly o najce zdrait P a nn Aarap Raj dagar

C a pp KaTa HpaKHA Sar kata irakid AAee p a n Ale rap EHrapHH p a ü 6 a p H Engary rajbary U,aa a p r o Ca argo A pp 6aAe TapaHTH Ar bale tarajty)

W h e r e a ss R o d c e n k o ' s drawings seem t o have n o connection with the p o e m s , t h e handwrittenn script appears to transgress the borders between illustration and text.. T h e script varies considerably: block letters, shorthand, and a mixture o f b o t h .. I n the p o e m mentioned above, every line has its o w n individualized handwriting.. T h e lines stand o u t independently, n o t only because of t h e differ- entt handwriting, b u t also because each line slants differendy from the others, s o m ee of t h e letters even turn in different directions within o n e line. I n this p o e m ,, individual letters or w o r d s are written with u p p e r case letters, while o t h - erss are written in lower case. T h i s makes s o m e letters stand out, while others recedee into the background. In the p o e m 'Urdaks latan', the first half is written inn very distinct u p p e r case letters, whereas the second half has either only lower casee or mixture o f lower and u p p e r case lettering. This creates a contrast b e - tweenn the upper and lower part o f t h e p o e m . Like in her color p o e m s (using colorr t o create contrasts), Stepanova uses lettering to create contrast between


thee lines, the upper and lower parts of the poem, or between single words and thee rest of the poem. Thus,, she uses purely pictorial means to enhance poetic expressiveness. .

Collage e

Duringg the years 1918 to 1919, Stepanova worked with collage illustrations for Krucenych'ss play Gly-Gly (which first appeared in 1918 in the book Obesity of

Roses),Roses), and on the book Gausttaba (1919) with her own %aum' poetry. Although Stepanovaa seems to be the first artist and poet to write her poems directly onto newspaper,, she drew on an already established tradition (in early avant-garde paintingss and books) of using collage. In Russia, the collage technique was in- troducedd in Malevic' pre-suprematist paintings Casticnoe ^atmenie. Kompo^icija c Mono/Mono/ Usoj {Partial Eclipse. Composition with Mona Lisa) (1914) and Dama u afisnogo stolbastolba {Woman at a Poster Column) (1914); in the painting Ratnikpervogo ra^rjada {Reservist{Reservist of the First Division) (1914), a thermometer was included. More radically, Tatlinn included all kinds of material in his three-dimensional objects. During

thee same period of time, Ivan Puni included a variety of objects in his composi- tions,tions, and Kamenskij exhibited a mousetrap at the Moscow "Exhibition of Painting"" held in the spring of 1915.19 But even before, the book A Slap in the FaceFace of Public Taste had appeared with its subversive sackcloth cover. Sadok sudej wass printed on the backside of wallpaper, and Kamenskij used brightly colored wallpaperr in his book Tango with Cows. Thus, low art products had already been introducedd as a basis for books. Goncarova introduced the collage element in bookk form in her cover-illustration for Worldbackwards. It had a rose (cut out of variouss kinds of paper) glued onto the cover and in Zaumnaja Gniga, Rozanova illustratedd the cover with a heart cut out of glossy red paper with a glued on button.. Malevic had incorporated newspaper into his paintings such as Woman atat a Poster Column and Rozanova had included it in her painting Pivnaja {Pub) (1914). .

Accordingg to Peter Burger's theory of the avant-garde, the cubists' insertion of reality-fragmentss into painting invalidated the artistic system of representation andd destroyed the unity of the painting as a whole:


POETRYY OF THE FUTURE, VARVARA STEPANOVA'S VISUAL POETRY Thee insertion of reality fragments into the work of art fundamentally transformss that work. The artist not only renounces shaping a whole, but givess the painting a different status, since parts of it no longer have the re- lationshipp to reality characteristic of the organic work of art. They are no longerr signs pointing to reality, they are reality. (1999:78)

Thee collage marked the destruction of the organic work of art, and the creation off a new non-organic work of art. Burger uses the cubist collage to epitomize thee avant-garde, or non-organic, work of art defining it as a scene of conflict:

"Itt is no longer the harmony of the individual parts that constitutes the whole;

itt is the contradictory relationship of heterogeneous elements" (1999: 82). In thiss way, he excludes a number of collage techniques and phenomena (such as photomontage)) that cannot be used to support his theory of the avant-garde.20 Burgerr characterizes the photomontages as "an entirely different type. They are nott primarily aesthetic objects, but rather images for reading (Lesebilder)" (1999:

75).. There are two different types of collage lined up: the cubist collage (which constitutess a contradictory relationship of heterogeneous elements) and the photomontagee (which constitutes images for reading). Thus, despite Burger's descriptionn of the main characteristic of the avant-garde as the destruction of thee "institution of art", he bases his theory on the cubist collage seen as self- enclosedd aesthetic works of art that ostensibly disrupt the division between art andd life, but never really challenge the "institution of art".

Inn relation to the Russian avant-garde, Dubravka Oraic-Tolic has developed Burger'ss theory into a theory of the avant-garde collage. In the essay 'Collage' (1989),, two types of collage are singled out and characterized as the "Avant- Gardee Collage I" and "Avant-Garde Collage II" (ACI and ACII). Dominant in collagess of the first type is the "great quotation polemic"; while in the second typee the "great quotation dialogue" is dominant. The first type is dominated by aa polemic attack on the traditional aesthetic strongholds: "die grofte Destruk- tionn der vier Grundprinzipien der traditionellen und modernen europaischen Kunst:: des Mimetismus, der Autonomie, der organischen Komposition und der individuellenn schöpferischen Potenz". The second type is dominated by a dialoguee with contemporary society: "die groBe Konstruktion eines Text-typus,


beii dem die Kunst frei ins Leben übergehen und umgekehrt das Leben selbst zurr Kunst werden könnte" (1989: 176-177). The function of the first type is to destroyy the institution of traditional European art, while the function of the secondd type is to create a new type of art. In the first type the relationship with thee public is broken; in the second type an attempt is made to re-establish the brokenn relationship with the public (1989: 176).

Gly-Gly Gly-Gly

Krucenych'ss play Gly-Gly was printed in Obesity of Roses under the heading: "Iz p'esnyy A. Krucenych ... 'Gly-Gly'" ("From A. Krucenych's play ... 'Gly- Gly'").211 This indicates that only part of the play was printed here. However, thee play never came out in another edition, and the only signs of the existence off additional lines is Krucenych's remark (in Obesity of Roses) that the artist per- sonifiedd by OPga Rozanova ought to be a character in the play pronouncing the liness of her own poem: "Lefanta ciol / Mial anta"22 and Stepanova's illustra- tionss for the play that contain fragments of texts. In recent years, a number of thesee illustrations have been reproduced. Except from one page, all known pagess have the inscription: "from Gly-Gly A. Krucenych" beneath a text writ- tenn in Stepanova's handwriting. It is therefore likely that these illustrations were intendedd for publication in a new version of Krucenych's play. However, there iss some uncertainty as to the relation of these illustrations to Krucenych's play.

Somee of them are dated from 1918 (before the publication of Obesity of Roses) andd with the exception of two, all of the illustrated pages bear texts that are not partt of the version of the play printed in Obesity of Roses. Nevertheless, these il- lustrationss add new, interesting aspects to the relationship between text and il- lustration,, and between Krucenych and Stepanova.

Thee setting in Krucenych's play (as printed in Obesity of Roses) is a train station, wheree a crowd is waiting for the train. The main protagonists are Malevic, Chlebnikov,, Chrjasc, and the Crowd consisting of a number of differendy namedd characters: (Vzvi,23 "devuska" [a Girl], "bezpalyj" [Fingerless], Chudoj [Thin],, "Vino" [Wine], "Voin 1-j, 2-j, 3-j" [First, Second, and Third Warrior]).

Inn addition, a number of other voices are heard from the crowd. The world is



inn a state of confusion and uproar, and everything is turned up side down:

horsess fall from the sky, the sun is a black revolving button, and a house bends likee a staircase and pursues pedestrians, and so on.

Malevicc pronounces the opening lines: "Gamlet éP tetku tek" ("Hamlet el his womann (or aunt) flowed"). Like the general mode of speech in the play, this sentencee is a mixture of ^aum' and absurd realism. In his third line, Malevic playss the part of the leader or organizer: "skazite im, ct poezd budet v svoe vremjaa - pust' kuricy ne volnujutsja - doedut vo vremja .. Posadi chromogo na ploscad'' i on ee zagonit..." ("Tell them that the train will be here in its own timetime - don't let the hens worry - they will arrive on time ... Put the lame out onn the square, and he will tire it out")24. At the end, Chlebnikov stands on his headd and says: "Net, vy mne skazite, cto ze nam delat'? ni odin Pariz esce ne vidall takogo skandala" ("No, you tell me, what are we to do? Even Paris has yet too see such a scandal..."; Krucenych 1919c: 30 Qanecek 1996: 259]).25 Other centrall characters are A Girl, who speaks in a mixture of spurn' and absurd prose:: "U menja segodnja prazdnik - mne prinesli cvety, a oni vykraseny cernoj kraskojj i promokli naskvoz' (...) jubja jubkoj, jukna juknoj" ("I am celebrating todayy - people brought me flowers, but they were dyed black and got soaking wett (...) jubja, skirt, jukna, juknoj"), Wine who speaks in the language of pho- neticc %aum\ "ko-vo-bo ...", and Chrjasc who speaks in the manner of morpho- logicall %aum\ "nulevo pulevo kulevo ... dyz",26 or in absurd prose style: "solnce -- cernaja vrascajuscaja sja pugovica - ja prisü ee k stanam" ("The sun is a black revolvingg button - I have sewn it onto my trousers").

Sergejj Sigej (Sigov) interprets the play as an amalgam of three themes, the revolt off things, zero, and "documental poetry", represented by Wine, the Futurists, andd the crowd respectively. The conflict centers on the latter two groups. Wine, inn Sigov's conception, suggests the Resurrection through its association with Christt the Saviour and also Zeus, the god of wine Qanecek 1996: 259). How- ever,, the part of the play, which is printed in Obesity of Roses, does not give many cluess to an actual action, or conflict (except for the lines by Malevic that desig- natee a role of leader and protector to him). It does seem, as Janecek has pointed out,, that this piece is very similar in content and style to Krucenych's opera Po-


bedabeda nad solncem {Victory overthe Sun) (1913). The darkness, zero and violent con- flictt are the dominant features.

ll#^Zsé'/&#^Zsé'/&rr*Jt!-€* *Jt!-€*

Fig.. 21

Inn Varvara Stepanova's illustrations for the play, some elements from the con- cretee part of the play printed in Obesity of Roses feature, but only two lines writ- tenn in the margin of the illustrations are derived direcdy from it. The first is writtenn beneath a suprematist cross (fig. 21). The text in the illustration says:



"K.. Malevic. 'Éto ja namaleval / Chudog mira / Kazimir / Kaznic / Gamlet emm tetku tek(n)' iz Gly-Gly A. Krucenych" ("K. Malevic 'I painted this / Arter off the world / Kazimir / the executioner / Hamlet I eat his woman flowed' fromm Gly-Gly by A. Krucenych"). The other line is similar to Wine's phonetic

%aum\%aum\ "cho bo ro co ro ...". In addition to Malevic's character, other characters fromm the play can be found in the inscriptions on Stepanova's illustrations: First Warriorr and Third Warrior. It is not known how the collaboration between Ste- panovaa and Krucenych came about, or if there was any direct contact at all. At thee time, when Stepanova ventured on this task, Krucenych was still in the Caucasus.. But no matter how the connection came about, Stepanova seemed to bee in possession of some unknown parts of the play (unless she made the extra liness up herself).

Thee illustrations fall into five kinds: drawings with ink in a grid structure with abstractt motifs or figures (characteristic of Stepanova's early period, 1918- 1920),, collage compositions with cut-outs from everyday utilitarian products or magazines,, collage compositions with cut-outs from magazines or musical scoress with a formal equivalence or correspondence to glued on appliques, a suprematistt composition, and finally calligraphic signs.27 Except from two illus- trations,, all the texts refer directly to Gly-Gly. There can therefore be no doubt thatt these have been made specifically for the play.

Onee illustration seems to be the cover for the book. It is drawn with black ink liness crossing over the text (Rodcenko and Stepanova 1991: 164). It is similar to ann abstract composition of ink lines and a circular form with the text ("Gory, momenty,, nuli, kuvaldy, steny picuat" ["Mountains, zeros, sledge-hammers, wallss of picuats" 28]) (Beeren et al. 1992: 284), and an abstract illustration with thee text "Ptica-skelet / trescit" ("Bird-skeleton / clatter") (Rodcenko and Ste- panovaa 1991:162). Similarly, the illustrations with figures are drawn in a system off crossing black ink lines (See figure 22). This technique reminds one of Larionov'ss rayonist drawings. However, there is nothing degrading about Ste- panova'ss drawings of women. They also do not deconstruct the canonical de- pictionn of the female body, which is often the case in Larionov's drawings and paintings.. Stepanova simply draws the forms of the female figure in various


posess giving them an anonymous robot-like appearance. They have no face and theirr forms are reduced to square lines, nulja" ["An aquarium full of letters of feeble-mindedness.. Sape-roi'-Nop-t'e-mnor Life is shorter than a zero"]), while thee illustrations show (female) figures. One of these is clearly a drawing of a womann with curvy lines in a classical pose with one hand raised towards her headd (or hat) (see Lavrent'ev 1988b: 28). The other drawing shows an androgy- nouss figure, but the text indicates a female figure (figure 22). There is, there- fore,, a clear analogy between text and image, and none of these interact with eachh other in a direct way.

Fig.. 22




  1. Link to publication
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