table of contents


Jessica Merrill on Russian Futurism

Jessica Merrill holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of California-Berkeley. She is currently Mellon Fellow (2013–2015) in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford. Her book project focuses on the intellectual history of modern literary theory and the emergence of the Russian Formalist and Czech Structuralist movements.  In addition to literary […]

download transcript [vtt]
[ Music ]
This is KZSU, Stanford.
Welcome to entitled opinions.
My name is Robert Harrison.
We're coming to you from the Stanford campus.
[ Music ]
[ Music ]
From Felipe Potomazo Matinecities, the Futurist Manifesto 1909.
We exalt aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap, and the blow of the fist.
By war, the world's only healing agent, militarism, patriotism, the anarchist destructive gesture, the beautiful ideas that kill and contempt for women.
We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism, and all opportunists and utilitarian cowardice.
We are aware that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty, the beauty of speed, a roaring motorcar that seems to run on machine gun fire is more beautiful than the victory of samothries.
We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure, and revolt, the multicolored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals, great rested locomotives puffing on the rails, like enormous steel hoarding.
With long tubes for bridle and the gliding flight of arrow planes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of intoxicated crowds.
Stay tuned, everyone.
We have a show for you on Futurism.
It's coming right up here on entitled opinions.
How about some sound poetry from marinette this song, tomb, tomb, dig what's sad, boy,
poof valley, poof valley, plough, impenor, city covalently flick, flack, zing, zing, shak,
t'iladhi, nítriti, ee, scalipichi, t'im-tin-ni.
Ah, the Futurist rave seems so quaint these days with its single propeller airplanes and faith in a technology that has all but crushed the heart of western culture 100 years later.
But that's all right, I'll take marinette the any day over the New Yorkers, flax-itarousles and sloppy short stories.
I'm quoting marinette for two reasons today.
First, because our show is actually about the Russian Futurists, so I thought that I would take the occasion to plug the Italian Futurists who preceded the Russians by a couple of years and who may or may not have had an important influence on the latter.
I suspect they did the first sentence of the founding manifesto of Russian Futurism, a slap in the face of public taste, 1912, reads, "We alone are the face of our time."
I'm guessing that "We alone" means the Russian Futurists and not their Italian counterparts. On the other hand, the slap in the face of public taste has to have something to do with marinette these scaf-ful.
We exalt the slap and the blow of the fist. The second reason I invoke marinette is because I can recite the Italian original, which is not the case when it comes to the Russian Futurist poems that my guest and I will be discussing today.
Speaking of my guest, I am joined in the studio today by Jessica Merrill. She received her PhD in Slavic languages and literature from Berkeley, and she is currently a postdoc Mellon fellow at Stanford working on a book about modern literary theory and the emergence of the Russian formalists and Czech structuralist movements.
She is keenly interested in the Russian Futurists as well about whom I have everything to learn from her, so I'm glad you could join us today to share some of her expertise on the topic.
Jessica, welcome to the program.
Thank you, Robert.
So, without taking too much for granted, could you tell us a little bit about who these Russian Futurists were, when the movement thrived, and who its main protagonists were, but above all, did they have the same sort of
scandalous effect on the public that the Italian Futurists had on theirs?
And serious questions there, but to begin with, the Russian Futurists are roughly contemporaneous with the Italian Futurists.
Although, their first, you know, Futurist poems were not published until around 1910, which was something of a sore point for them so much so that they actually went back and dated some of their later manifestos to predate the Italian Futurists.
So, the issue of primacy is as clearly very important for Russian Futurism.
So, they're around the same time in the atmosphere of the years leading up to World War I is obviously very important, both for Medi-Nity and the Russian Futurists with the glorification of violence and the celebration of sort of a virulent nationalism can be found in the Russian Futurists as well.
Although not nearly to the same extent that you find in Medi-Nity's writings.
So, they are also responding like the Italians to the sense that the new technologies of the Second Industrial Evolution have arrived that the world is shrinking, that it's now possible to fly over the English channel or to send a telegraph, make a telephone call, get in a car, and space is shrinking.
The old orders, particularly of the aristocratic monarchies of the Austro-Hungarian and Russia are seem to be outdated.
And so, like the Italians, the Russians feel that this modernization is going to need that they need to use this to propel them into the future.
So, the question?
Yeah, I wanted just to get the Italians out of the way, if you don't mind, because here in the Word as such, which is one of these documents from the Russian Futurists,
they're resentment against the Italians, kind of comes forward when they say that I'm quoting the Italians relied on ten densciousness.
They sang praises to Medi-Nity and carried it on their shoulders, but instead of preaching Medi-Nity, they should have jumped on its back and sped off.
They should have delivered it as the sum of their works.
So, therefore, the idea being that the Italian Futurists preached a lot in manifesto form, but that the Russians actually practiced the revolutionary artistic avant-garde poetics or visual arts techniques that were meant.
Well, the preachiness of Medi-Nity was a major bone of contention when he actually came to Moscow and Petersburg in the winter of January of 1914.
He was perceived as being a colonizer in the words of the Russian Futurists that they thought that he had some sort of pre-established program for what Russian Futurists was supposed to be, and they very much brittled under the presuppositions that Medi-Nity seemed to embody that they had modernity or that they had this program.
They described this as needing to throw the yoke of the west off of the body of the east.
So, the Russian Futurists styled themselves as always, within their own nationalism, coheared around a sense of themselves as being against the west, and having this eastern route which they associated with a particular attention to material,
which they then constantly juxtaposed to, "My Enetes work which they criticized as essentially recreating a realistic impression of the sounds of modern life using new devices of having broken up syntax and on a manapoea."
They felt that this was still essentially realistic, whereas the Russian saw themselves as their project was more mystical and involved going beyond the three-dimensional realm that we know it as we know it and penetrating into the fourth dimension they like to call it.
How did they conceive of that fourth dimension as something beyond time space, a realm of spirit, a realm of intuition?
Essentially, Esoterra, obviously this period between 1907-1915 is the period when Albert Einstein is working on his theory of relativity.
I do not mean to say that the Russian Futurists at all were up to date with Einstein's latest theoretical advances, although there was a native Russian interpreter of the concept of a fourth dimension which goes back to late 19th century who was extremely popular in wide red.
I read amongst the Russian Al-Mangarit and so this idea that we understand the world in three dimensions and through abstraction essentially, or through a deep penetration into the material forms of art, you can access a fourth dimension which is, you know, there are other ways of explaining it which I can go into for their examples if you're interested.
I'm definitely interested, especially when it comes to the poetics because we're going to talk about the ZAM theory of that word and how maybe it gets translated in English as what? Trans-rational.
Well, it's both an adjective and a noun, so as an adjective it's trans-rational language, or you can say beyond sense, so essentially it's a neologism made up of the Russian word "um" which means reason and then "zah" which is a prefix for going beyond.
It has, again, like this fourth dimension, it has a geographical sense of going beyond the known and two, a hypothetical world of a revelation. It's not easily accessible.
It's quite interesting when you think of what they did with their words that they use, especially a poet like Kalibnikov, we're going to talk about.
I'm curious what you said about the turn to the east, is it because the east promised a different kind of tradition than Western rationalism? Is it also because the fathers that they wanted to throw overboard from the ship of modernity like Dostoevsky and Fushkin and so forth, that they all look to the west, they got their inspiration from the west, and that this is what has to be overthrown and therefore this turn to the east or was it something else?
It's a point of contention amongst the Russian intelligence that going back to the early 19th century, there's groups that style themselves as Slavophiles as opposed to westernizers.
This is a debate that continues to this day in one form or another, does Russia belong to the east or the west?
Particularly around this time, at the end of the 19th or the 20th century, this Slavophile camp, which would stress Russia's uniqueness and non-Western identity, began to look more to non-ethnic Russian sources of identity, particularly the legacy of the Mongol Horde.
The number of the Russian futurists who were most prominent, Vladimir Lebnikov, was from the south, Kruchonic and the Balook brothers were from what Eastern Ukraine, near Crimea, and myokovsky is from Georgia, so they come from the southern regions and they identified to varying degrees with different ethnic traditions as a source for their what you'd call a Russian identity, but clearly,
more complicated. And it was a way of pushing back against a perceived sense of inferiority vis-a-vis Western culture.
How about the nationalist component, Jessica, because from what I know of Kruchnikov's practice and theory of what this Zalem poetry should access, a lot of it has to do with etymology, no?
That seems to suggest to me that the Russian language was a central foundation for a poetics of etymology and that's the same.
You point out a very important contradiction in his thinking, which is that he saw himself as creating a universal language, which you can even call the language of the stars, the language of the universe, but it was based on an etymological project, which had Slavic roots, which was pan-Slavic, and yet was an asperant,
asperanto, type project based in, in this case, not romantic languages, but Slavic languages.
So was the drive to use this
poetics of etymology, which we'll discuss by example, to break down certain rigid structures that belong to the three dimensions and get to that fourth dimension, and that fourth dimension would, that there would be a power of incantation through the poetry to
break through to that dimension.
Certainly the idea of accessing a type of magical power within language is something that's around and that they draw on.
There are two different sort of main lines of Zalem poetry. One is associated, particularly with the work of Alexei Khrushone and the other with the Belamir Khlimnik of.
They both shared this desire to go into another realm or access beyond reason.
Yet, a Khlimnik of work is beloved by linguists because it's seen as essentially in many ways a rational project, which is trying to flesh out the external bounds of structures of language, and so he's working very intensely with the roots, prefixes, suffixes, to create neiligism,
which are nonetheless comprehensible. So he wants to make language more intensely meaningful, and this is going to be a type of universal language that will eventually create world peace and has various lofty ambitions.
Khrushone, in the other hand, saw Zalem as something that was sort of a personal language, an emotional reaction to the world,
and which has been compared to abstract painting in that it's intentionally non-referential.
So it invites you to contemplate the various parts of the poem without there being an obvious reference to some meaning.
So the two poets worked very closely together, but they seemed to have gone different directions.
But I could provide a comparison of examples of the two types of Zalem poetry, if you'd like.
I would.
So I guess we can start with Khrushone's most famous poem, which is the first announcement of what is Zalem, which was made in 1913, and the poem he provocatively states has more Russian spirit in it than all of Pushkin put together.
And so the sounds of it are supposed to evoke, I think, for him a sense of the essence of a Russian or Ukrainian language.
So the poem reads, "Dear bull shill, Ubish chur, schum, vy sa, boo, rah, l'a, s."
So this poem is probably as incomprehensible to readers as it was to many Russians at the time, and of course cause something of a scandal because it breaks with any accepted tradition of Russian poet.
Does it have any semantic content or is it merely phonetic?
In the fourth word, "vy" could be either prefix or a pronoun, but really they're letters or they're potentially parts of words.
So the best way to understand the poem for someone, whether they do or do not speak Russian, is maybe you get a more intuitive sense of this if a Russian is a native language.
But this is if maybe you're looking at a cubist painting where you see parts of a vase here or some flower here, and there's no semantic background, or I'm sorry, syntactic background that would then create a picture, but you see is a floating parts of something that you know.
Was that why this particular group of Russian futurists called themselves a cubo futurists?
They were very much influenced by the cubists, and put a number of them had their first training in the visual arts, Mirokowski and the Belux and the Kritroni concluded.
And so it's something of a slap, right? It's a violent gesture to go to the sort of the bottom line of any type of abstraction.
And focus on this material itself involves a violent departure from the past and from what the audience expects as well.
And would these words out of which the poem is composed be roots, Islamic roots, or some kind of proto-Slavic language?
Well, Dia could be most of the word for a whole, which is Dia.
But there are largely Russian sounds which, well, Kritroni stressed that shh, shh, and our sounds which he thinks is only in Russian.
So in that sense he felt that it was a celebration of Russian sounds.
At some point in another manifesto he mentions that the Russian futurists were simply allowing themselves to get intoxicated in public with the noises of their native language.
So something that sort of sounds familiar to me in there. Getting up in public and just pronouncing these sounds and it being somewhat unseemly because it didn't refer to what anyone was expecting.
Did the audience react to them the way they reacted to the Italians, let me throw eggs at them in tomatoes and derision and breaking out in --
Initially, initially this was the response that they got and they did everything that they could to provoke this response.
So the Russian futurists loved to stage various evenings where someone would get up and they would read the poetry.
Paintings, as well, in the background and there would be some theoretical pronouncements.
But these things would almost intentionally evolve into some sort of debacle where in the midst of the evening some person says that they don't belong to this group anymore.
They now are announcing a formation of a new group which people responded to as if this was the most outrageous thing.
It seems now potentially not so outrageous but they would also just in public my koski for example like to go around in this large top hat and flowing cape and bright yellow orange blouses instead of a --
In the air he would wear a wooden spoon in his buttonhole and he would just create a scene wherever he went and he seemed to be oblivious to the norms of polite behavior around him which at the time you know the 1910s was very outrageous.
Well it certainly seems to be driven in the case of the Russian futurists who splintered into so many groups into a breakup of syntactical unity and to split off from one movement or to create your other movement it's almost like you're creating a cubism of Russian futurism where these parts are related to the hole but you don't have the syntax that does it but they do have some kind of loose.
Which I understand was not a property which was not the case in Italian futurism at least for the Russians perspective they saw that everything was very nightly nicely wrapped up by the leading figure of Muddy Netty and I think when he came even said you need to get it together why are you constantly fighting with each other.
This is your lazy Slavic nature.
But Muddy Netty also did call for the dismantling of syntax in the new poetry, the futurist poetry but he did a much better job of binding together which is actually the root of the word fascia.
You know the fascia is the binding.
So there's a strain tension between the forces of synthesis and the forces of the cubistic forces of analysis of separating out from the hole.
It's an interesting contrast with William or Holibnicov who's seen as the genius of Russian futurism who essentially wanders off into Persia in the early 1920s as something of a mystic who was taken as a dervish or...
What was he searching for in Persia?
Well he was drafted into the army so he was actually conscripted and he was there as part of the Middle Eastern front in World War I.
So he was obviously not suited to be a soldier and thought that any kind of restriction of his movements or his behavior was obviously very much against his nature.
He was very retiring and quiet person but he eventually drifted back to St. Petersburg and died shortly thereafter.
I'm largely because he had been sort of wasting away.
So he was impossible to keep him on stage even people would say so.
He's hardly an organ, you know the same figure.
Sure, so earlier we were talking about breaking through to the force dimension the role that an incantation might have.
And there of course I was alluding to the title of one of his most famous poems which is called...
It's called an incantation of laughter. Is that how it's translated?
Or by laughter.
Incantation by laughter.
Perhaps we could talk a little bit about that poem as an example of his approach to a new modernist Russian poetry yet.
But as this poem is interesting, it's in Russian called zaclatius smyachum.
And as you hear in the title there's this one root smyach which means laughter and Russian.
And then from there you get smyatsa, as smyatsa is too laugh in Russian.
So I'll read the Russian first and then the English.
So the poem is filled with neologism and essentially a hypnoch of his using suffixes and prefixes and various other devices to create an incantation through the root smyach.
So it begins...
[speaking Russian]
[speaking Russian]
[speaking Russian]
[speaking Russian]
That is incantatory, I feel transported.
So I think it's supposed to make you laugh.
Here's the English, "Oh you laughnix, laugh it out. Oh you laughnix, laugh it for.
You who laugh it up and down laugh along so laughily. Laugh along so laughily.
Laugh it all be laughingly. Laughter of the laughing, laughnix overlap the laughthons.
Laughiness of the laughish laughers.
Counter laugh the laughthons laugh.
Laugh your laugh, your dislike, relaf. Laughlets laughlets laugh you let's laugh you let's.
Oh you laughnix laugh it out. Oh you laughnix laugh it for.
Is that an addict?
It's obviously there's no adequate English translation for a poem like that in the original, but is that do it a little bit of justice?
I think with the repetition of laugh certainly.
The thing about Russian is it's a very flexible language with its morphology and so that it's easier to create neologisms in Russian both verbal and nominal.
And so, Kleppnik obviously takes great advantage of this.
And it's comprehensible.
So just to take the first neologism, smhach is by analogy to a word like "bagach" which means a rich man in Russian.
So you just this suffix "ach" from added to smhach, it's fairly transparent that you're talking about a "laffer".
So these are all considered to be essentially grammatical neologism.
You know you're breaking the rules by adding these two things together in the language, but otherwise he's adhering to the laws of Russian grammar.
But he also would combine things so, you know, he would had "mugach" as well, which was from "mosh" which means "powerful".
You would have a powerful man which involves a slightly larger departure.
But so this I think is a good example of Kleppnik's project which was interested in essentially expanding the possibilities of the Russian language and making it more densely meaningful so that you would combine words and essentially build up language through these type of word combinations.
He also had different theories about the meaning of vowels and introsanism.
Sure, in fact a colleague of ours and a frequent guest on entitled opinion is Marjorie Perloff who has worked on the Russian future especially in her book "21st Century Modernism".
Maybe I could read you what she has to say about the Kleppnik coffin in this regard where she says that his poetic etymology is, I'm quoting Marjorie, "Perloff".
His poetic etymology is called Plato's Cradleists where, despite Socrates' arguments against the representability of the sign, he is the one to come up with ingenious meanings for letters and syllables.
The noun for truth, Alethea, is shown to be, she quotes, "a glomeration, an agglomeration of thea, an ale, divine wandering, implying the divine motion of existence".
Or again, Seodos is, "the opposite of motion here is another ill-named given by the legislator to stagnation and forced inaction which he compares to sleep, udane, but the original meaning of the word is disguised by the addition of sea".
And then she goes on to say that Kleppnik often tried to quote, "find the unity of the world's languages in general built from units of the alphabet, a path to the universal beyondness of language".
That's the zone.
So it's a very, he's trying to create an iconic language, and you could say in some senses.
So the zone project belongs to the larger modernist distrust of languages and means of representation which we see across the board.
And I think one of the, for me, more telling examples of this is the fact that the Bochlebnik of Encroachonic would publish their poetry in lithograph editions, which were handwritten by the author themselves, which they understood is.
They also had all of these theories which are less grammatical than what I've cited with the Smirch poem.
Also, orthography was hugely important.
No, the way that's right.
So they were interested in the color and the smell of sounds.
And also, you can find in the manifesto as a reference to the idea that through the handwriting of the author, you can transmit the real meaning of the words more directly to the word.
So that these projects are all about trying to, in some sense, the go beyond sense, but to also try to more directly convey some essential idea or feeling to.
I'm curious whether Hambou was a crucial inspiration for someone like Calabricov for the other futures because clearly when you go back to Hambou's famous letter,
La Létr de Vuevio, of the letter of the visionary where he says that he wants to practice a de Reg Le Mans de Tule sauce, a deregulation of all the senses, a prolonged deregulation of all the senses in order to arrive at the unknown and the infinite.
And then he's the one who went on to write poems about what he called the alchemy of the verb, where he gives vowels, various colors.
And I don't think he gets necessarily into the smells and so forth, but it sounds very much like there's a little bit of an influence.
I know that the Benjamin Lifshitz, who was a member of the Hylia group or the Cuba Futures group, they had the second name.
He was an avid reader of Hambou and so he was obviously fluent in French, which not all of the others were being sort of auto-didax many of them.
We're not as fluent in French poetry or in Western traditions, but through him it's very possible that some of these ideas could have penetrated the group.
So did they believe, or at least some of them, that the alphabet could be animated through the right poetic use of it, and that letters can take on certain associations of their own, or photography, the way you actually write out the letters of a word and dispose them on a page, could communicate something that
Ordinarily doesn't get communicated in there. Certainly you find that quite a bit in their writings. I mean these various lines of thinking that
the Clevnica of Hethere's based on the shape of letters, as well as the sound.
Either or Tiber printed or so that I think that the letter in Russian, which is sort of cup-shaped, could be understood as sort of vessel-like or holding, that being a meaning of that sound.
There are other examples. But, at least speak about the living word and the idea was amongst the visual artists as well. There was a sense that by moving entirely away from representation and focusing only on the material you were as if giving life to the material itself, which was then supposed to transport you into another realm of understanding.
Now, an author that you work on, a Russian formalist, Roman Jakobson, was a big fan of Clevnica.
And what did he see in Clevnica's poetry that you might have mentioned it earlier, that they saw a serious engagement and that there was something, and did you use the word rational about his...
You know, that's the tricky thing because some people will look at Clevnica and see him as essentially wanting to create a bigger and better system that has rules and it has meaning and that is therefore on some level, involves a type of logic, if not reason.
And then others will say, "Well, this seems to fly in the face of the whole idea of accessing a world beyond reason." And I think the Clevnica was doing both. He set aside a special type of zone which he called the language of the gods, which was less transparent than something like incantation by laughter.
So he was... I think it would be a mistake to call him entirely a rational thinker. Although he had a very strong organizational scientific bent to his thoughts. So for example, he was throughout his life concerned with the sort of ongoing mathematical project where he would collect the important dates in history and perform various... very involved mathematical operations on the other side.
So there were some calculations on them in order to try to predict the future, for example. So this involves both sort of a scientific mind and then clearly also a very creative thinker.
And in Yakuza, I think came down on the side of finding Clevnica useful or a genius. Certainly he would say he was the greatest genius of the 20th century when it came to Russian poets.
He saw that he was exposing the way that phonemes work in Russian language so that he was really stretching language to its ultimate limits where sound and meaning relate to each other, such as Smhachi, right? That through this Clevnica was essentially doing a form of linguistic work for him.
We're talking about 20th century Russian poets. There are some names that come to mind, Mandelsht, Makmethova, later, you know, Brodsky. How many of these big names were beholden to Clevnica if at all?
Well, one of the famous lines that I recall after I think my Kofsky claims that Clevnica was a poet for poets.
But the broader public wouldn't necessarily appreciate his work, but that he was doing this incredibly rich investigations into Russian poetic language, which were then, you know, whether you would pick up, you know, any elitism from him or some understanding of, you know, the rhythmic properties of Russian that he had a wide ranging influence, which might be not even necessarily always obvious in the way that, you know, a dialect.
It might seep out into the larger poetic consciousness. So he was definitely celebrated.
As a phenomenon, futureism, Russian futurism lasts more or less how long?
Well, so you can look at Russian futurism as it's too phenomenon, really, because after the visit of Marianetti, Clevnica actually gets great.
In 1914-14, you have, thank you. Clevnica gets very angry and splits with the group.
He thinks that everyone is being too subservient to Marianetti. And then you have the outbreak of war. And somehow with somehow it's clear with World War I, the future is start publishing these conciliatory manifestos saying, oh, well, let's all just be futurists together. You know, what with war, you know, people tend to find their commonalities as opposed to differences.
And so this very important antagonistic sharp edge to the discourse of futurism was lost with the outbreak of the war.
And then of course you have this period of chaos and the Russian revolutions of 1917, which saw largely the dispersal of this original core group of Russian futurists.
Khun-Chonik-Kens up in Tifiliisi and Debiliisi and others emigrate and the clinic of Dias in 1922.
My koski persereveres threw into the post-revolutionary period and continues to advocate for Russian futurism, particularly in the early years, you know, say, aftering towards the end of the civil war when Russia's Soviet Union now is trying to reestablish a cultural policy.
My koski and another allies make a very concerted effort to make Russian futurism the new cultural policy of the revolutionary state, which to some degree it never obviously came to pass.
They would lose publishing opportunities and funding and regain it again.
And then essentially these were sort of this anarchist rebellious group who made their name by being anti-status coal for the most part.
And then it was somewhat hard to reconcile this with the pragmatism and the goals of a new proletariat.
Hard nose realism, yeah. Right. Which came to...
So you've mentioned my koski a number of times.
He's a kind of special case futurist. What do we know about his biography and then what happens to him after the futurist movement dissolves?
Well, he joins the futurist movement relatively early on because he's an artist, along with Berluk in 1910 they meet.
And he doesn't do his album though. He's much more of the theatrical provocateur of the group, not the only one.
But he writes what's considered futurist poetry in the pre-war period.
And his poems from that period are perhaps the closest thing amongst the Russian futurists to the type of celebration of modernization that you find in Italian futurism.
So he focuses on the city. But the city is for my koski, this sort of hellscape where things are coming to life and rebelling against people.
He sort of returns throughout his... throughout his oath to this image of the poet as a Christ figure who is suffering in this cityscape.
But as I mentioned, he was a very theatrical. He wrote plays and performed in his own futurist.
My Vladimir my koski, a tragedy which was staged in 1913 where he stars in the play.
And again, it's sort of about the poet as this parodic Christ figure.
And this is sort of what launched him to some degree.
And then he embraces the revolution very enthusiastically.
He writes a lot of propagandistic poems in the 1920s. He continues to write lyric poetry of a very high quality.
And he eventually tries to keep recuperating the futurist movement, trying to somehow argue that futurism is creating new language and therefore new psychology, therefore new man, and trying to bring these things together.
But as the state becomes increasingly more repressive after 1925 and 1928, the reincarnation of futurism which was known as LEF at that point is disbanded in my koski.
I eventually commit suicide in 1930s. It's a sad story in the 20s and early, for my koski.
Well Jessica, can I read you another quote from our colleague, Marjorie Purlaw for Jesus.
What needs to be stressed is that neither klebnikov or his fellow futurist poets, my koski, were making the case for art for art's sake, for a poetry divorce from a larger cultural import on the contrary, just as Duchamp's objection was not to art as such but to the retinal painting of the 19th century.
So the futurist stress on the materiality of the signifier, the graphic and phonic characteristics of language, was a form of resistance to an establishment poetry often indistinguishable from journalistic prose on the one hand and stilted, mannered, high-style writing on the other.
In this sense, klebnikov's and my koski's cause is the cause of T.S. Eliot or of Stein, thus when Roman Yacobson declares that quote form exists for us only as long as it is difficult to perceive, as long as we sense the resistance of the material, he is making the case for a poetry that defies the accepted
and the pieaities and cliches of its dominant culture that refuses to be part of what the Frankfurt School was to call the consciousness industries.
So thank you, that's a great quote, and it brings a lot together. Obviously, you can find in the Russian futures actually statements where it seems that they are, you know, what with their focus on the material and their interest in this ethereal fourth realm that it would seem that they are, you know, rather anti-social or anti-political focused very much in this hermetic creative process.
The rejection of the past obviously has very important social meaning for the Russian futures as it had for the Italians as well and the rest of the avant-garde. It's interesting to consider that it is in these countries where modernization is potentially more problematic, that futurism takes root as a way of, for the Russians at least, a way of overcoming a conception of linear time, which or progress.
Which is something that you then find within the Bolshevik movement, this idea that you can sort of leapfrog over history and be more modern than the Western European countries because you have this different trajectory.
Yeah, that's why I found it interesting. What you said about myakovsky's belief that this new futurist poetry could engender a new psychology, a new way of thinking perhaps a new social, if not political order as such.
Oh, certainly. This is not art for art's sake, in other words, as March 4th.
It is a common line in many of the manifestos that new form creates new content, right?
So the idea being that you can transform the world through artistic experimentation.
So to the legacy of the futurist, Russian futurists, we talked a little bit about it, but is it something that we just look back on as something that happened
in the early decades of the 20th century, and that it was interesting to revisit, or does it have a vigorous, if hidden afterlife, either in Russia or in the avant-garde movements of the latter half of the 20th century?
Well, I think that the futurists are important for the inception of any kind of non-representational, fully abstract art.
This is obviously an important legacy of the movement.
Also, they're staging of these types of what you call performance art is something that you could trace back to the futurists.
In terms of Russian genealogy, you did have the recuperation of the Russian avant-garde in a movement called "Oberio" in the late 1920s, which was relatively short-lived, but had then it continued to live underground throughout much of the 20th century, and has been cited, for example,
the provocative, pussy-right group who is very much in the media these days as a predecessor or a point of inspiration.
So, you can think of this type of provocation as something that still lives on, and in its various forms both in Russia and of course, and in the West,
has different valencies of course in different societies.
Well, that's great.
Remind our listeners we've been speaking with Jessica Merrill, who is a Mellon Fellow here at Stanford, who got her PhD in Slavic Languages and Litetchers, and it's also a special of the Russian formalism, by the way, in addition to the Russian futurists.
And you have another year here with us at Stanford, is that right?
Yes, I do.
Oh, that's great.
So, we might have occasion to have you on again, Jessica, so I want to thank you for joining in title opinions.
I'm Robert Harrison, for entitled opinions.
Thank you for listening.
This is the fourth dimension for those of you who recognize, and the gods made love.
(air whooshing)