Ernő Kállai’s “Constructivism” (1923)

Translated from the German by John Bátki.

From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes,

1910-1930.  (The MIT Press.  Cambridge, MA: 2002).

• • •

Constructivism is art of the purest immanence.  Its creative center does not lie outside the spatial formations meant to be sensed and objectivized but, as in the case of nonobjective Expressionism, is identical with them.  Thus the space of both Constructivism and of non-objective Expressionism is not geocentrically but, rather, egocentrically defined.  But whereas Expressionistic space is a passive riverbed of past psychic outpourings, constructive space, within its own laws, is a conscious and active structure of tensions and patterns of stress.  The inner animation of the Expressionist experience is eruptive and staccato, it wanders off in every direction toward boundless and inarticulate regions.  The oscillations of Constructivist vitality manifest as a system of balanced and articulated continuity.

This constraint creates a conceptual space that is perfectly even, in its center and peripheries alike, and is maximally, clearly, sharply demarcated from every metaphysical and physiological area of the unconscious.

It follows from this continuity and uniformity of illumination that the Constructivist consciousness experiences itself in space-time in terms of the absolute here and now.  However, it does not lack dimensionality.  It simply does not recognize the vanishing of the visual field that leads to zones that are perspectivally or prophetically placed in the distance: The constructive consciousness is ahistoricaL It possesses no forms suitable for an anthologizing or teleological viewpoint.  There is no dualism of cause and effect confronting each other; they are both rooted in the fullest quintessential identity.

The constructive consciousness and work of art are therefore entities identical and sufficient unto themselves in the strictest sense of the word.  For a Suprematist, it is not merely a matter of mastery to undertake the artistic task of a perfectly smooth, dense, and even painting of a single square.  We see here the realization of the will to achieve ultimate unity and identity with oneself, one that, far from seeking some humble livelihood by accomplishing this outwardly modest task, strives for a focusing of extraordinary intensity.  For this Suprematist unity already contains the possibility of an unfolding multiplicity.  But this is not a multiplicity whose spread postulates a causal or deductive series, with a beginning and an end.  The constructive awareness of multiplicity and of self-identical unity, respectively, relate to each other as does an articulated logical judgment to its own perfectly indivisible meaning.

This quality is incompatible with the notions of predestined fulfillment and the dialectics of tragedy.  The mere notion of a constructive drama is an absurdity.

The systematic nature of constructive consciousness does not entail static immobility.  On the contrary, Constructivism possesses the most powerful concept and most real possibilities of motion known to art.  But the lines of oscillation of Constructivist motion do not scatter into anarchy, nor are they exhausted by a mere gesture, restricted to intimations of infinity.  They stretch taut around the center of constructive consciousness [436] like a network of interdependent lines that obtain the basis and rationale of their existence from that center.  Each and every peripheral function of constructive consciousness is set within an immanent gravitational system in which the centrifugal and centripetal forces are in perfect balance.

The central point of this gravitational field cannot be defined in psychological terms, but this center is indubitably the absolute factor in the Constructivist work of art.  Otherwise we could not speak of unity in such a work, which nonetheless exists, without having to rely on the centralized composition scheme of classical art.

Constructivism cannot tolerate the hierarchic subdivision of emphases, only their uniformity.  It does not entrench itself behind the frontality of representation.  The consciousness responsible for its existence prevails in the unconditional readiness for action and momentum in every conceivable direction of spatial, logical and ethical expansion.  Constructive consciousness is absolute expansiveness.

The will toward autonomous, total constructive development is diametrically opposed to any tendency toward a mystical consciousness.  The mystical absorbs the world into itself.  It soaks up multiplicity as sand soaks up water.  As opposed to this, constructive consciousness quintessentially posits the idea of multiplicity as a goal to be realized.  Constructivist multiplicity unfolds in such a manner that the unfolding takes place according to the laws of a system of immanent unity that is identical to itself.

The Constructivist unfolding of multiplicity avoids uncontrollably gliding transitions and fluid boundaries.  A geometric precision characterizes its articulations, dividing lines and points of contact.  It does not hide behind illusions.  This is why Constructivists build with homogeneously colored, pure planes and use realistic material forms in physical space.

The will toward geometric necessity and purity establishes an organic interrelation between Constructivist art and the objective working methods and technological systems of our age.  Constructivist art, even given the architectonic unity of the total vocabulary of its forms, affords opportunities for a pervasive division of labor.  It is a collective art.

Its collective nature is not an image of chaotic society living for the present, but is a striving toward absolute equilibrium and extreme purity.  It imposes laws that enter consciousness as the necessary, immanent principles of a transcendental vitality.  The realization of the psychological and historical sediments of these principles does not play the least role in their formal and conceptual exposition.  The totality of these principles is structured into a system by the ideal of the new human who is economically organized in both body and mind.

[Originally published as “Konstruktivizmus,” in Ma (May 1923)]

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~ by Ross Wolfe on October 22, 2010.

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