From Frahaus to Sivill House
Further to the remarks below, here's a fine example of how not to be archival and revolutionary at the same time. There's an exhibition on at the moment at the Agency Gallery, at Cremer St in East London. It's called Frauhaus, and if you give your exhibition a name like that I'm obviously going to go along. The premise is an engagement with German and Soviet Constructivism on the part of contemporary female artists. Although this comes with the assumption that there was an essential maleness about this movement - something that Varvara Stepanova, or Marianne Brandt might have had things to say about - its all mildly interesting.
This is in a sense sort of reassertion of the lines connecting the Berlin-centric art of he 2000s and the Berlin-centric art of the 20s: Gal Kinan's rather grimy, cheap looking Bauhaus womenmachine dolls, jerkily waving their arms, or Heidi Kilpelainen's paintings nicking images from SF and horror and collaging them with Suprematism, which appropriately pulpifies the 'new world' imagery. It's all hopelessly dry and gallery bound though: one of the promises of the Berlin fashionista underground was always about a certain sort of practice: Chicks on Speed with their homemade clothes, or the proliferation of flyers and records, all suggested something that would be part of life, not for mere contemplation. Tellingly, one of the exhibits, by Sadie Murdoch, reimagines a photo of Charlotte Perriand's rather glam reclining pose in her chaise longue: a leaflet has some (intelligent enough) rhetoric about it referencing the ignored pro-leisure bent of the Constructivist moment This is true enough - and it's appropriately elegant, but like everything else here so underambitious, so lacking in urgency compared with the revolutionary intent of the work being referenced. They seem daunted by it, content instead to play with its imagery rather than re-activate it - and its this that is so desperately needed.
For a better understanding of Constructivism's lingering presences, go to the gallery, wander round for a bit, then walk round the corner for 2 minutes to the huge Lubetkin co-designed (with Francis Skinner and Douglas Bailey) Dorset Estate, just by Ravenscroft Park, built in the 50s and 60s. Lubetkin's VkHUTEMAS training results in patterned, interlinking Constructions, their non-objective detailing evoking Malevich or their pinwheel shapes and angles, stunning in the central tower, Sivill House, which takes off from Melnikov - but for better or worse, its lived in, lived with, becomes a part of the everyday, and provides surprises and shocks within that: the residents, from seemingly every corner of the globe, provide their own interventions. This is what Constructivism was always for, rather than to be cross-referenced, played with and reinserted into the space of fine art, an area where nothing really happens.