Elena Belova, Alisa Savitskaya
Social utopia in the architecture of the end 1920s and 1930s
The exhibition project "Communal Avant-garde" appeals to the two largest Russian social-architectural utopias: that of the vanguard with its 'architecture of the future', the construction of the new town, and its functionalism; and that of Stalin's totalitarianism, which focused on classic styles, engendered "to turn a fairytale into reality". The authors reject both 'pure' constructivist neoclassical architectural objects, orienting their attention towards the Soviet social town phenomenon, which they see as an illustration of how one town replaces another one (as in the 1930s). The artist Vladislav Efimov explores the social towns of Ekaterinburg/Sverdlovsk and Nizhny Novgorod/Gorky, taking in Uralmash and Autostroy where impressive post-constructivist buildings by both domestic (The Vesnin brothers, I. Golosov, P. Oransky, M. Reischer) and foreign (B. Scheffler) architects are located. These towns are a living example of transformation of architectural style and social ideas.
Using formal photographic techniques, Efimov makes every building look important and monumental, irrespective of whether it's a clubhouse, a bathhouse or a private home. Through a camera lens, the architecture looks different; it turns from a real object into an idealized picture. Photos of real, extant objects packed into light-boxes and gathered in one place according to the principles of urban precinct planning, make up the entirety of the installation, a model of an ideal, non-existent social town. The utopian factory district is provided with the necessary social infrastructure; its streets and quarters are full of people (photos by Sergey Leontjev) and authentic sounds (music by Georgy Stefanov). This new town, built by artists, comes alive, affording observers every opportunity to trace the border between avant-garde and totalitarianism, reality and phantom, constructive innovation and utopia.