Past Event

Collins/Kaufmann Forum: Juliet Koss, Scripps College, "Filming the Future Perfect, Moscow 1938"

September 19, 2012
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
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Judith Lee Stronach Center

Juliet Koss is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art History at Scripps College in Claremont, California, and the author of Modernism after Wagner (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), a finalist for the College Art Association's Charles Rufus Morey Book Award. Her essays on modern European art, architecture, and related fields have appeared in journals and edited volumes in Europe and the United States and she has received fellowships from the Getty Research Institute, the Humboldt Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Mellon Foundation. In 2008 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and, in 2009, a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin; in 2011 she was the Rudolf Arnheim Visiting Professor at the Humboldt University, Berlin, where she taught seminars on the Bauhaus and on the Russian and Soviet Avant-Gardes. Her current book project, "Model Soviets," addresses the visual culture of the Soviet obsession with construction in the 1920s and 1930s and explores how documentary images of architecture—of models, of buildings covered in scaffolding, and of completed edifices—emblematized the role of construction more generally within the Soviet state.

"Filming the Future Perfect, Moscow 1938" explores the utopian grammar of architectural models in the Soviet 1920s and 1930s, focusing especially on Alexander Medvedkin's film The New Moscow, released in 1938 and removed from circulation by the censors. Showing architects looming over models for the Soviet capital, scenes filmed in Moscow's newly built metro and on its newly constructed streets, and Muscovites experiencing the built environment in a state of constant flux, The New Moscow tells the story of the design of a "living model of Moscow," a combination of large-scale architectural model and film projection that is presented to the Soviet public in the film's final scene. Possible reasons for the film's censorship abound; contravening Soviet cultural mandates to celebrate construction achievements through visual documentation, it includes documentary footage of large-scale destruction, reveals characters' confusion and nostalgia for the disappearing urban fabric, and overtly mocks construction propaganda. By poking fun at both Soviet technology and the utopian vision of the "living model," The New Moscow ridicules Soviet construction ideals and, by extension, the model Soviet future.