In 1923 – 1924 photomontage became the main medium of Russian constructivism. It was hailed as a new revolutionary method destined to replace painting, which had come to be seen as antiquated. In reality, however artists such as Alexander Rodchenko, Gustav Klutsis, and Sergei Senkin employed archaic compositional structures in assembling elements of photographic images. Not only did photomontage become the main device used by constructivist innovators in the creation of new political icons, but it also played the role of a Trojan horse: artists, like Rodchenko, who were proud that they had killed painting as such not only returned its imagery into circulation but also created numerous iconographic versions of depictions of Lenin that were later adopted by socialist realism. Thus a medium which initially focused on the fragmentation of the image gradually developed into an assembly line for the production of virtual reality. Artists who started their careers as innovators and aesthetic rebels transformed into obedient servants of the Soviet propaganda machine.
Curated by Konstantin Akinsha
The program Filming the Revolution is dedicated to Ukrainian cinema of the late 1920s-early 1930s. During this period, the All-Ukrainian Photo Cinema Administration (VUFKU) was a cinematographic state monopoly that encompassed the entire film industry in Ukraine. It was not only Ukrainian film directors who cooperated with VUFKU, however. In the late 1920s, during the official assault on so-called “formalism” in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Ukraine was still free of ruthless censorship, thanks to the efforts of Mykola Skrypnyk, the commissar of education. Thus, in the late 1920s, the film studios of Odessa and Kyiv became the last bulwarks of the Soviet cinematic avant-garde. New cinematic masterpieces were created there by directors like Oleksandr Dovzhenko, destined to become the most important representative of Ukrainian cinematic culture, and by Dziga Vertov, whose most radical creations were produced by VUFUK.
The program will include films by Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Dziga Vertov, Mikhail Kaufman and Mykola Shpykovskyi. While the works of Dovzhenko and Vertov may be familiar to the Viennese public, this is the first time films by Kaufman and Shpykovskyi will be screened in Vienna. Shpykovskyi’s Breadwas banned in the Soviet Union for more than 50 years and was recently restored by the Dovzhenko Center. Kaufman’s An Unprecedented Campaign was for many years believed to be lost, until the footage was discovered in 2015 and restored by the Dovzhenko Center. The world premiere of the restored version took place this year in London.