Context Tasks level 5

The Artist as Producer – Maria Gough ( 2005) Extract Introduction

Upon his return from the Soviet Union in early 1927, Walter Benjamin draws a portrait of Moscow for Martin Buber’s Berlin Journal Die Kreature. In this portrayal, the dominant feature of the city’s physiognomy is not a particular building or place but rather a passion – a ruling passion – for experimentation: Each though, each day, each life lies here as on a laboratory table. And as if it were a metal form which an unknown substance is by every means to be extracted, it must endure experimentation to the point of exhaustion. No organism, no organization, can escape this process. An immediate consequence of this unrelenting desire to extract the unknown. Benjamin explains, is a vastly accelerated pace of topographical and administrative metamorphosis. ‘Employees in their factories, offices in buildings, pieces of furniture are rearranged, transferred and shoved about…Regulations are changed from day to day, but streetcar stops migrate too. Shops turn into restaurants and a few weeks later into offices. Experimentation is not process sequestered in a laboratory, but rather pervaded every aspect of daily life in Soviet Moscow.

Woven into – and by – this laboratory of a city is a Constructivism, the most ground-breaking development in the visual arts in the Soviet Union in the decade or so following the October Revolution of 1917. Like the ever-shifting terrain in which it develops, Constructivism is similarly driven by a ruling passion for experimentation. Over the course of the early 1920s, it puts on the laboratory table one problem after another – composition, construction, excess, faktuma, tectonics, economy, modularity, purpose, structure, function, production, process, the object,  and most fundamentally of all, the artists right to exist…    

Discuss this in relation to ‘The nature of Interdiscplinarity in Art & Design’. Consider:

a. its traditions as an ongoing approach to creativity

b.  as a discipline in its own right and perhaps discuss current concerns within  interdisciplinary in terms of subject matter and

c.issues with being intersciplinary in the contexts of other disciplines.


1 Response to Context Tasks level 5

  1. Despite being around for many centuries, Interdisciplinary arts as they stand today were ruthlessly kick started by Constructivist movements in the Soviet Union. As Benjamin describes the nature of Soviet Moscow as an ever-changing experiment of cultural reform, incorporating all walks of life. This pattern of experimentation across different organizations is almost reflected in the nature of Interdisciplinary Art. An artist-designer working in this area will criticise his or her environment with different fields of thinking, producing an internal debate and exposing links across disciplines: serving to turn the spotlight on matters that would otherwise remain hidden if not for a different perspective. An Interdisciplinary artist’s work could manifest itself in any discipline, with previous artist’s such as John Cage utilising skills as a composer, Da Vinci developing paintings using experience in anatomy and vice versa, and Theo Jansen whose work is as much about being an inventor as being an artist.

    As a form of practice Interdisciplinary lends itself to the post-modernist world, and has been popularised throughout the 20th century. In the UK however it could be facing a decline: as the majority of artists emerge from universities, and tuition fees are being raised, this will mean there will be a greater percentage of artists from wealthier backgrounds who are more likely to have prior education in fine arts. This is by no means is the end of Interdisciplinary, it may just be another shift in focus.

    It’s all about shoes though at the end of the day. Fine artists have their shoes, and they express them. Photographers keep their shoes in a frame. Performance artists dance in their shoes. Musicians subconsciously tap their shoes. Engineers shoes are tied tight, they walk the line. Inventors are busy working on improving their shoes. Scientists shoes are exerting energy. Interdisciplinarists? They can wear all of these shoes, when and where they need to, based solely upon the needs of their work.

    Adam Cluley

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