The introduction surveys the approaches of material culture and objects
starting from the 1920s avant-garde and ending with recent critical
inquiries. It situates the book’s subject in relation to the avant-garde
both as a historical precedent and a theoretical framework, reinvigorated by
the recent material turn. It explains that the concern for things was at the
forefront of Soviet designers’ professional ambitions and attitudes towards
the socialist system, and, therefore, things can say a lot about late Soviet
professional and intellectual culture. The introduction then proceeds to
outline the story of Soviet design activities and institutions between the
state’s repudiation of the avant-garde and the death of Stalin in 1953.
Further, the introduction describes the methodology and sources of the book:
how different materials are approached and brought together. And, finally,
it critically engages with the key terms – ‘avant-garde’, ‘material
culture’, ‘design’, ‘decorative art’ – and outlines the content of the
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In this chapter, the author, through a family history, speaks of how forced exile persists through generations. He narrates the series of events that took place after he left England and moved to United States, including the catastrophic failures of nuclear reactors. The discussion largely focuses on the incidence of cancers caused by exposure to radioactivity in England, and the impact it had on Anglo-American relations. The author also showcases the differences between English and American cultures.
In this chapter, the author discusses the cultural life in Rochester, New York, in the 1920s. The city of the 1920s is often referred to as 'Mr Eastman's town'. Economically, the first three decades of the twentieth century had been described as Rochester's golden age, and the centrality of Eastman-Kodak to the city's prosperity had important cultural consequences. The establishment by George Eastman of the Eastman School of Music and the Eastman Theatre in 1922 was the single most important event marking the 'end of provincialism'. The 'Rochester Renaissance' owed a lot to Eastman's wealth and philanthropy .
In this chapter, the author explains the internment of aliens in Britain during the Second World War. The 'internment of aliens' is a peculiar and rather hysterical measure taken by the British government after Dunkirk. The author describes his father as an alien. He is alien to Britain and to English culture. He came to Britain from Germany in February 1938, was a class C 'enemy alien' (recognised as a genuine refugee, and officially designated a 'friendly' enemy alien). The classifications were made by wartime tribunals set up in Britain in 1939.