OBJECTS OF AFFECT: TOWARD A MATERIOLOGY OF THE EMOTIONS — 2
In "Barbed wire of memory: pain and silence in the history of the WWII occupation of Soviet territories," Aleksei Golubev discusses barbed wire as a material object which organizes practices of memorization and historical representation of the WWII-era occupation of Soviet Karelia, a region in northwestern Russia. Imagery of barbed wire conflated with children's bodies into an "affective assemblage" dominates the production of knowledge about the occupation of Karelia, and represses the wartime collaboration between the local population and the Finnish occupation regime as a shameful and disgraceful experience. Being a socially recognizable symbol of pain, barbed wire also organizes former prisoners of Finnish concentration camps into a community of pain, which claims an exclusive right for the production of historical truth about the occupation of Karelia.
"Toys as 'objects in quotes': translation vs. transposition," an article by Viktor Vakhshtayn, offers an example of micro-sociological analysis of a social phenomenon which we encounter all the time in everyday life, but which remains outside the purview of global sociological theories on account of its not being considered fully legitimate. Those scholars of Culture and Psyche who do discuss toys in their work tend to replace the toys' materiality and concreteness with their "values," "significance," "long-term psychological effects," "behavioral patterns" and "socializing functions." Meanwhile, they leave out the function of toys as concrete material objects in concrete situations of social interaction. How does a toy "work"? How does it direct the actions of children and adults? Which forms of interaction does it support and which does it block? What happens when toys break? How do toys command our attention and imagination? Or, to employ another discourse: how are material objects incorporated into interactions of play? How do they participate in the constitution of social worlds? How is the social world assembled, fabricated, framed and transformed by our emotional relationships with material objects? This article presents toys as concrete material objects built into the architecture of interaction here and now.
Using elements of the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce (his concept of qualisigns), Krisztina Fehervery in "From Socialist Modern to Supernatural Organicism: Political affect and Materialities of the Home in Hungary," suggests a descriptive model for a socialist society (here — Hungarian) through the prism of its material environment: the architectural style of buildings that house its members, the interior design of their homes, everyday household objects, etc. This material environment, which initially depends on the existing political and ideological regime, in turn affects individuals' ideas about the world, and through this process again affects ideology — ultimately this is reflected in the socio-political structure of the society. Feherevary highlights four ideological-material transformations in Hungary from the 1950s—2000s: Socialist Modern, Socialist Generic, Organicist Modern, Supernatural Organicism. In the mid-20th century, the Socialist Modern style devalued heavy and richly-decorated furniture like armchairs and offered an alternative in the form of light and multi-functional pieces. These modernist objects were connected with Western design, but simultaneously expressed socialist cosmologies of an egalitarian society. However, the material world of Socialist Modern turned out to be emotionally interlocked with the faceless bureaucratic state. Everyday experience transformed Socialist Modern into Socialist Generic. Since the majority of the population was not in a position to choose anything beyond this generic socialism, the new aesthetic that emerged from below (Organicist Modern) sought to adapt and "humanize" "generic" projects. In the 1990s, with the disappearance of the socialist state, this highly-valued Organicist aesthetic of domestic space was transformed — thanks to new products — into Supernatural Organicism, accessible to any and all who could afford it.
ARCHITECTURE AND UTOPIA
"Architecture and Utopia: a missed encounter," from Luisa Lorenza Corna, addresses the dialectical relationship between architecture and politics, through a comparison of Russian Constructivists with Italian architects — Aldo Rossi and members of the Archizoom group. Having placed their work in a political and economic context, she examines the possibility for architecture to embody a political ideal or, on the contrary, opposition to the surrounding reality. Corna examines three options for the cooperation between architecture and utopia. In the first, Soviet, option, the attempt to work against the preceding "imperfection" led to the imposition of a specific idea of the future onto the present, and the predominance of monolithic over incipient experimental forms. Rossi's ideas about the production of architecture as a single product opposed to the capitalist paradigm turned out to be an attempt to oppose (at least metaphorically) the grand-scale capitalist city planning of 1970s Italy. "Archizoom," on the other hand, responded to the very same political impulses with the idea of a future in which architecture disappears and is replaced by a modular network, to be appropriated and organized by city residents themselves. Archizoom's rejection of any and all city planning in favor of a self-regulated structure essentially supported the entropic urbanism of the post-capitalist city. At the same time, Rossi was unable to create an extra-historical or anti-historical space that would be excluded from a system of practical coordinates.
Alan Smart presents "Sex and the Social city: How the Party ends up in the Kitchen": in the mid 1930s leftist architects from Germany came to the Soviet Union to work as technical experts in the massive campaign of rapid industrialization, urbanization and social transformation taking place under the auspices of the first five-year plan. They would bring with them concepts and ideals from both modernist architectural discourse and from Marxist and nascent Marxist-feminist thinking about how the relations of production and the structure of society are manifest in and choreographed by architecture. In the Soviet Union, these architects would struggle to map their conceptions of architectural and urban form onto a culture that was attempting to simultaneously construct vast factory complexes for material production and to become an equally vast social factory for the reproduction of new relational structures and the radical subjectivity of the emancipated worker.
A study by Viktor Vakhshtayn, "The sociology of the architectural object between formal and practical rationality," presents micro-sociological analysis in the framing theory, wherein the primary interest is directed toward the routine everyday interactions between people and a given object, rather than focusing on the formal structure of the object in and of itself. In other words, this approach takes as its object of analysis the specific methods for incorporating the subjects of investigation into the world of social interactions. As we know, the urban environment is studied by psychologists, cultural theorists and economists, as well as by specialists in urban planning and geography. For the sociologist, however, the city is most interesting in its social organization and the social construction of various (public and private) spaces. In this article, Vakhshtayn takes the central Moscow shopping center "Okhotnyi Riad" as an obvious example of this kind of social organization of public space.
"Laughter as labor, laughter as a commodity" by Ilya Kalinin is devoted to social and political aspects of laughter specific to the Soviet culture of the 1930s—1950s. The main thesis is that Soviet laughter possesses far more than merely a critical, satirical function, with relation to negative elements of the historical past. The success of the first Five-Year Plan and the shift to new cultural politics posed the problem of articulating a new type of joyous and buoyant laughter that could figure as the emotional and psycho-physiological basis for Soviet shock labor and as its structural analogue in the sphere of relaxation and spare time. Crucial discussions concerning the new Soviet comedy and critical reflection about American capitalist laughter, which one may find in Soviet literature of the period, will serve as the main sources for investigation in the article. Based on these materials, the article will reconstruct the political economy of Soviet laughter in the analytical frame mapped out between the terms laughter and labor, laughter and goods, laughter and capital.
"Stalin's gnomes, or, The epistemology of the Soviet wit" by Natalia Skradol explores proverbs and sayings that were popularized in Stalin's Russia as a "minor genre" of the official ideology. The key assumption is that fixed expressions, proverbs and sayings can be seen as minimal models of meaning production in Stalinism, and are thus important constituents of the general semiotic organization of the epoch. The article claims that through these ideologically acceptable formulas of wit and comedy the masters of discourse implanted a particular vision of social and political relations that were at the core of the new society.
"Fighting horror with laughter: On refined weapons of the proletariat's jesters" by Serguei Oushakine traces, using materials of public debates about the nature and content of "red laughter" of the 1920s— 1930s, the ways through which early Soviet culture was negotiating "the problem" of political and aesthetic acceptability of the comic under socialism in such areas as Soviet agit-hall or Soviet satire. In particular, the article demonstrates how the militant laughter of the 1920s— 1930s evolved into a "positive satire" and "lyrical grin" by the 1950s.
"Gogols and Shchedrins: Lessons of positive satire" by Evgeny Dobrenko reminds us that in 1952, "Pravda" declared new beginning for the Soviet satire proclaiming that "we do need Gogols and Shchedrins". The Party call was immediately picked up by the Soviet playwrights, and in a few years' time satirical drama went through the period of a real boom. This satire was a simulation of satire as it was a part of a campaign aimed at preparing the country for a new wave of terror. The article focuses on the plot patterns and characters of Stalin's comedy of manners, on the ways to neutralize criticism of various dramatic genres from the Soviet satirical vaudeville and nomenclature-production plays to the farce and the Soviet morality play.
UNDER THE BADGE OF UTOPIA: PROSPECTS FOR SURREALISM
NLO's publication of the "Ode to Charles Fourier" fills an important gap on the poetic map of the 20th century — among the best works of Andre Breton, this work is central to an understanding of surrealism and its post-war transformations (including Breton's strained relationship with the Lettristes and the Situationists), as well as of world poetry as a whole.
Breton wrote the "Ode" in the 1940s, after the lyrical prose collection Mad Love (1937), which itself already demonstrates a promising fusion — the free form allowed Breton to shift easily from visionary experiments to an investigation of romantic passion, from the "convulsive beauty" of random rendezvous and illuminations to a philosophy of art, from excursions into world mythology to a "psychogeography" of his own works and those of his friends.
The "Ode" presents the next logical step, but uses completely different material. The borders of poetic language are dramatically pushed apart: the panoramic concept, grandiose in its scope, includes free verse that frequently violates norms of grammar, prose sections, quotations from Fourier with Breton's commentary, as well as visual elements. Soon after, William Carlos Williams would undertake a similar synthesis of lyric and epic in the poem "Patterson," as would Charles Olson (somewhat differently) in the cycle "The Maximus Poems" (both poets proceeded from Pound's Cantos). Nevertheless, even in this company, Breton's "Ode" is distinct in its utopian scope and architecture. He reads Fourier first and foremost as a great psychic and critic of industrial civilization, a poet of "permanent social revelation." This dimension is unpacked in the afterword to the poem, written by translator Kirill Adibekov (Moscow), who also indicates there the corresponding texts by Fourier.
ARKADII TROFIMOVICH DRAGOMOSHCHENKO (03.02.1946, Potsdam (Germany) — 12.09.2012, St. Petersburg)
This section is devoted to the memory of Arkady Dragomoshchenko — poet, prose writer, essayist, one of the central figures of the Leningrad unofficial culture, the first (with Viktor Krivulin and Boris Groys) laureate of the Andrey Bely Prize for prose (1978). The following individuals here offer their thoughts on Dragomoshchenko's poetry and its place in global context (of philosophy as well as poetry): Lyn Hejinian (University of California, Berkley), Shamshad Abdullaev (Ferghana), Alexander Skidan (New Literary Observer, Saint-Petersburg), Vladimir Aristov (Moscow), Mikhail Yampolsky (NYU), Anna Glazova (Hamburg), Elena Petrovskaya (RAS Institute of Philosophy, Moscow) and Sergei Fokin (SPSU Department of Liberal Arts & Sciences). The section closes with the piece "Answers" — the poet's unique version of an intellectual autobiography — and with the recently written poems "Neutral utterances" (a publication of Zinaida Dragomoschenko).