'Setup' and 'Projection' as Modes of Organisation of Knowledge and Vision in Early Soviet Visual Culture

Amir Saiffullin, M.A.

This research’s aim is two-fold: it is, on one hand, through genealogical archeology to excavate the historical epistemological conditions, in which knowledge in the post-revolutionary Soviet context was produced, visualised and embodied, and under which its two different but coinciding and co-existing modes of organisation of knowledge and vision identified here as ustanovka [Setup, Montage] and projektsia [projection], made it possible. For this, I will first attempt to epistemologically reconstruct the pre-revolutionary project of communist life-building or "proletarian Enlightenment" informing them by examining its empirio-marxist but also vitalist foundation, epitomised by i.e. Alexander Bogdanov’s universal theory of organisation and Anatoly Lunacharsky’s theological marxism, while relating them to their respective Western traditions. This will enable, during the next step, to bring to light visual strategies of knowledge organisation, formalisation and research – so far hidden behind its uncovered layers – in the theoretical and practical work of Alexei Gastev (1882–1939) and Solomon Nikritin (1898–1965), whose philosophy of projectionism, i.e., described the conception of the artist as not 'a producer of consumer goods (a cupboard, a picture), but of (projections) method – the organisation of matter.'
This historical and archival research on Gastev’s and Nikritin’s specific modes of organisation of vision, body and knowledge will be enhanced by the conceptualisation of their work by means of a comparative analysis with related programmes within (Eisenstein’s Methods or Dziga Vertov’s Montage of Life), and outside the Soviet context (Gramsci-led Turin’s Proletkult and left Futurism in Italy, Bauhaus and Neues Sehen in Germany) as well as with intellectually related paradigms of visual cognition such as Aby Warburg’s research of pathos-charged images of Bewegtes Leben and Gebärdensprache of Atlas Mnemosyne, or Walter Benjamin’s Passagen-Werk with his notion of Aura, and Brecht’s Method, both conceptualised in view of Soviet epistemologies.

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