El Lissitzky (1890-1941)




Children's book [Suprematicheskii Skaz pro dva kvadrata v shesti postroikakh], 1920-22, 0'55"
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recorded By, Engineer [Postproduction] – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Dpt. of Sculpture (Valencia, Spain)
Production Date – 2007

El Lissitzky, whose real name was Lazar Markovich Lissitzky (b. Smolensko 1890 - d. Moscow 1941) was an interdisciplinary artist working with painting, architecture, typography and photography, designing Proun spaces - a forerunner of present- day art installations. His language is midway between constru ctivism and suprematism , and he formed part of the group UNOVIS ("the Affirmers of the New Art") created by Malevich which combined education and workshop investigations with practical commissions. This suprematist story About Two Squares was constructed in Vitebsk in 1920 and published in Berlin in 1922 and follows the UNOVIS line of "creating a new contemporary book" which, in this case, is a children's book that experiments with typography, image and the narrative itself. It is a story about two squares, one black, the other red, which travel to Earth (a red circle) from very far away and collide with one another, managing to fuse - the red establishing itself on the black. Between them, they build tri-dimensional shapes on the Earth. The story ends with the phrase "Thus it ends - further". This is a metaphorical union, which a UNOVIS pamphlet had already formulated in 1919: "See the black square as a sign of the world economy. Draw the red square in your workshops to represent the universal revolution of the arts". This book has the peculiarity of conferring a narrative on the images along with the plastic, visual and sound quality of the text, integrating space and time, image and sound. As El Lissitzky said about it: "Today we have two dimensions for the word: as a sound it is a function of time and as a representation it is a function of space. The coming book must be both". Sound is treated typographically and visually in the narrative text, enlarging the letters that are repeated in the succession of words, increasing the rhythmic cadence of the Russian words (e.g. "BA BA" of "two squares"). On other occasions it puts it dynamically as if it were a radio announcement ("To all, to all children") or in a zig-zag, as on the page of instructions for the book, where it recommends "Don't read this book. Take-paper, fold-rods ... colour-blocks of Word ... build". Disobeying EI Lissitzky's instructions, this book has been read to check the possible spatial and gestural consequences of this way of dealing with the sonority of language: "From the passive, non-articulated letter-pattern one goes over to the active, articulated pattern. The gesture of the living language is taken into account" (El Lissitzky. Typographical Facts, 1925)


RELATED RESOURCES:
Russian Futurists from the GLM Collection (1920-1959)
Sound Experiments in The Russian Avant-Garde (1908-1942)