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Designs of Spring: On the Natural Form of Communism

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From the early 1930s the desire to re-make both human nature and the natural world united artists, scientists and other intellectuals in a broad cultural consensus, predicated on dialectical materialism and the primacy of practice. One notable aspect of the Stalin consensus (as I call it) was the way in which artists from across the Soviet media system drew inspiration from controversial innovations in botany and genetics, most directly linked to the name of Ivan Michurin. With a shifting focus on poetry, film and graphic art (children’s books, caricatures and posters) I will trace how notions of biological form overlapped with aesthetic debates in the Stalinist period. I shall also examine what happened to this consensus in the Thaw period of the early 1960s, when artists re-discovered the archive of the avant-garde only to find that the alliance between science and art had become unsustainable. Artists to be discussed include: Aleksandr Dovzhenko, Fridrikh Ermler, Elizaveta Polonskaia, Nikolai Zabolotsky, Andrei Voznesensky, Petr Miturich, Vasilii Fomichev.

This talk is part of the Slavonic Studies series.

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