Lef, 'Declaration: Comrades, Organisers of Life' (1923)



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Allikas: Art and its Histories: A Reader. Ed by Steve Edwards, Yale University Press,

New Haven and London, 1999, pp.207-210



LEF, 'Declaration: Comrades, Organisers of Life' (1923)
The LEF (Left Front of the Arts) group was formed by revolutionary artists and writers in the Soviet Union in 1923. Leading figures included the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), the artist and photographer Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956), the critic Osip Brik (1888-1945), and the theatre director Sergei Tretyakov (1892-1939). A journal was published in two phases: initially as LEF between 1923 and 1925, and then again as Novyi Lef (New LEF) between 1927 and 1928. LEF's basic platform entailed the rejection of 'bourgeois' art forms and the active involvement of artists and writers in building the new, post-revolutionary socialist society. For these revolutionary artists and intellectuals the construction of a new society demanded new forms of representation in order to represent the new reality. These concerns are presented, in the text printed here, in the declamatory style of political agitation; [PW/SE]
Source: LEF, 'Declaration: Comrades, Organisers of Life' (1923), reprinted in Russ­ian Art oftheAvant Garde. Theory and Criticism 1902—1954, John E. Bowlt, ed. and trans., Thames and Hudson, 1988, pp. 199-202

Today, the First of May, the workers of the world will demonstrate in their mil­lions with song and festivity.

Five years of attainments, ever increasing.

Five years of slogans renewed and realized daily.

Five years of victory.

And-


Five years of monotonous designs for celebrations.

Five years of languishing art.


So-called Stage Managers!

How much longer will you and other rats continue to gnaw at this theatrical

sham?

Organize according to real life!



Plan the victorious procession of the Revolution!
So called Poets!

When will you throw away your sickly lyrics?

Will you ever understand that to sing praises of a tempest according to newspaper information is not to sing praises about a tempest?

Give us a new Marseillaise and let the Internationale thunder the march of the vic­torious Revolution!



So called Artists!

Stop making patches of color on moth-eaten canvases.

Stop decorating the easy life of the bourgeoisie.

Exercise your artistic strength to engirdle cities until you are able to take part in

the whole of global construction!

Give the world new colors and outlines!

We know that the 'priests of art' have neither strength nor desire to meet these

tasks: they keep to the aesthetic confines of their studios.


On this day of demonstration, the First of May, when proletarians are gathered on a united front, we summon you, organizers of the world:

Break down the barriers of 'beauty for beauty's sake'; break down the barriers of those nice little artistic schools!




xxi) Alexender Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova,

Cover of LEF, no. 2,1923. V&A Picture Library. © DACS 1998.

Add your strength to the united energy of the collective!

We know that the aesthetics of the old artists, whom we have branded 'rightists,' revive monasticism and await the holy spirit of inspiration, but they will not respond to out call.
We summon the 'leftists', the revolutionary futurists, who have given the streets and squares their art; the productivists, who have squared accounts with inspiration by relying on the inspiration of factory dynamos; the constructivists, who have sub­stituted the processing of material for the mysticism of creation. Leftists of the world!

We know few of your names, or the names of your schools, but this we do know - wherever revolution is beginning, there you are advancing. We summon you to establish a single front of leftist art - the 'Red Art International.'


Comrades!

Split leftist art from rightist everywhere!

With leftist art prepare the European Revolution; in the U.S.S.R. strengthen it.

[...]


Not by accident did we choose the First of May as the day of our call
Only in conjunction with the Workers' Revolution can we see the dawn of future art.

We, who have worked for five years in a land of revolution, know:

That only October has given us new, tremendous ideas that demand new artistic

organization.


That the October Revolution, which liberated art from bourgeois enslavement,

has given real freedom to art.


Down with the boundaries of countries and of studios!

Down with the monks of rightist art!



Long live the single front of the leftists!

Long live the art of the Proletarian Revolution!


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