Lajos Kassák’s, Sándor Barta’s, János Mácza’s, Endre Gáspár’s, László Moholy-Nagy’s, Ernő Kállai’s, Jolán Simon’s, Lajos Kudlák’s, and Erzsébet Ujvári’s “The Stand Taken by the Vienna MA Group Toward the First Düsseldorf Congress of Progressive Artists” (1922)
Translated from the Hungarian by John Bátki.
From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes,
1910-1930. (The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 2002).
• • •
The article published in the fourth issue of De Stijl has made it clear to us that deep differences set apart our views and endeavors from those of the organizers of this Congress. The latter still voice the special interests of the “individual artist” while we view life from a social standpoint, aware that the human individual is a component atom of society as a whole. His creative work therefore is always the partisan manifestation of a man wearing the armor of communal forces. On the basis of the above it will be clear that, as always, it is in our primary capacity as human beings and not as artists — which is only a consequence of our being human — that we now take a stand regarding certain problems that have been exposed by the Congress.
Thus we reject the proposed alliance while willing to do our utmost to promote the active collaboration of all creative spirits who believe that the sole possible basis for the unfolding of our creative forces cannot be anything other than the collective society of the future. The first task of artistic work is to demonstrate that an art which only expresses subjective psychic experiences has lost all of its significance; art must fulfill the objective requirements of the times. Therefore it cannot avoid first of all dealing with the unsolved problems of contemporary life within the field of art, after which it must find the ways and means of solving these problems through the collaboration of new artists.
This is how we conceive of the structure of the international organization of revolutionary-minded artists:
1. Its central organ is the executive committee, which may also take the role of initiator.
In this committee there should be at least two representatives from each field of work, so that they have an overall view of their entire working community.
Their task will be the coordination of all material and intellectual resources and to ensure the greatest possible exchange of materials in the interests of the greatest possible collectivity and the most maximal results. Toward this end the committee will set itself tasks and will undertake tasks imposed upon it, such as the creation of workplaces, the exhibition and distribution of results by way of various congresses, organs, and exhibitions, etc.
2. The individual groups functioning in various fields of work will maintain constant contact with each other not only through the executive committee but directly as well. Their task within their own field is the same as that of the executive committee within the entire organization. Some preparatory projects aimed at the creation of such an organization:
a) The periodicals Veshch /Object), De Stijl, and Ma, in view of their past activities representing a largely similar standpoint that, in their view, has served progress without compromises — will without any further debate announce the formation of the international organization of revolutionary-minded creative artists.
b) Each of the three periodicals should send two members of their editorial boards as representatives in a temporary plenipotentiary executive committee. This temporary executive committee should be located in Berlin. The first duty of the committee will be the elaboration of the organization’s ground rules and the publication of these in the three periodicals mentioned above.
c) At the same time the executive committee must set forth the objectives of the organization and publish an appeal for support.
d) The temporary executive committee of the organization will attempt to organize the creative forces professing revolutionary worldviews within a framework that allows the artists not only to achieve the greatest possible results but also to turn these achievements toward the liberation of hitherto shackled social energies.
e) A practical solution must be found allowing the three periodicals named above to attain results as compatible as possible, without any danger of uniformity. In our opinion this can be attained if the three periodicals (and other, similarly oriented organs that may arise) establish mutual contact with each other in order to make possible an exchange of appropriate artwork. The respective administrative apparatuses of these periodicals should also be made available to each other under the appropriate circumstances.
f) The temporary executive committee must find the means to organize representative traveling exhibitions consisting of the work of artists within its sphere of influence. Multilingual catalogues must be published discussing the exhibited material, and a series of lectures organized in each country, in the respective languages. (The initiating role here, for political reasons, must be played by a completely neutral country such as Holland).
g) An anthology of writings by members of the international organization of revolutionary-minded creative artists should be published and translated into the major languages. The preparation of the anthology is the task of the temporary executive committee.
h) Until the relevant decision by the Congress, the temporary executive committee must determine the membership fees to cover the administrative and publishing expenses of the organization.
i) The temporary executive committee will be in existence until the convening of the first Congress.
k) The temporary executive committee is obliged to convene the first international Congress within the period of one year.
In the name of the artists of the Activist periodical Ma:
Lajos Kassák, Sándor Barta, János Mácza, Endre Gáspár, László Moholy-Nagy, Ernő Kállai, Jolán Simon, Lajos Kudlák, Erzsébet Ujvári
[Originally published as “A bésci MA-csoport állásfoglalása a haladó muveszek elsõ, Düsseldorfban tartott kongresszusához,” Ma vol. 8, no. 8 (August 30, 1922)]