Yulia Karpova
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A new production culture and non-commodities
in Comradely objects

This chapter considers the identity crisis of the 1970s–early 1980s, experienced by decorative artists in the state-sponsored infrastructure including factories, workshops and exhibitions. It shows the joint attempt of artists and critics to renegotiate the position of decorative art vis-à-vis industrial design, industrial production, craft and easel art. The proposed solution – the creation of a vigorous interdisciplinary production culture based on mutual respect between artists, engineers, technicians and administrators – proved insufficient to satisfy the decorative artists’ creative and critical urges. Even factory-employed artists tended to dissociate themselves from the state-run campaign to improve consumer products and living standards, instead promoting anti-utilitarianism, and focusing on consumers’ ‘spiritual needs’. I illustrate this tendency using the case of the non-pottery ceramic group One Composition, which was active in Leningrad from 1977 to 1986 and proposed the notion of ‘image-ceramics’ as opposed to pottery.

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Comradely objects

Design and material culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s


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