Alfréd Kemény’s “The Dynamic Principle of Cosmic Construction, as Related to the Functional Significance of Constructive Design” (1923)

Translated from the German by David Britt.  From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of

Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910-1930.  (The MIT Press.  Cambridge, MA: 2002).

• • •

Cosmic construction is the product of dynamic contrasts between centrifugal and centripetal forces.  The unity of the cosmos under law therefore rests on the strict coordination of the relations between the motions of bodies, wherein each component operates in relation to cosmic motion.  Constructivity of the ambient dynamic combines the body parts of the world into a dynamic cosmic construction.

Every microcosmic part of the macrocosm rests on the same constructive laws of dynamic oppositions as the macrocosm itself.  Man, who in his own organic structure functions in obedience to the laws of the dynamic-constructive cosmic system, is lerefore governed in the functioning of his organic apparatus by the functional principle of the cosmic mechanism: motion. That is to say, man is an apparatus that works in accordance with kinetic and mechanical laws.  The law of unity of the human organism — homologous to the unity of the cosmos — equally rests on strictly organized relationships between the motions of individual organs, whereby each organ functions in relation to the unity of motion of the organism as a whole.  The constructivity of the reciprocal dynamic combines the component parts of the human body into a dynamic human construction. Motion is the function of the cosmos as it is of man.

All human design and invention in the field of art, as in those of science, society, and technology, has meaning primarily in relation to the functionality of the human organism.  [478] Every piece of creative work actively observes new laws that expand the human organism’s functional scope.  Eliminating the force of inertia that causes the relevant organ of human perception to cling to old and outworn laws, it compels that organ to take an active grip on new and vital laws.  The connection between the specific organ and the functionality of the whole organism means that the functional scope of that organism is expanded.  For instance: new optical laws, manifested as color design, act primarily to expand the human organ of sight.  New acoustic laws, as sound design, act primarily on the acoustic apparatus of the ear.  Through the functional association between ear and eye — see Hausmann’s Optophonetics — these stimulate each other, and through the functional integration of all the organs they stimulate the human organism as a whole.  The aesthetic value of the work of creative design — and invention — is primarily that it relieves a sense of sensory inadequacy and thus enhances the possibilities of sensory function.

The need for metaphysics arises from the inadequacy of the human cognitive faculty, occasioned by the limited receptivity of the sensory apparatus.  Thus, specific situations and connections in the real world that are impossible to apprehend empirically require to be explained — falsified — irrationally.  The greater our empirical receptivity, the less need we have of metaphysics, and the closer we come to the condition in which the expansion of organic function will conduct human life to the point of supreme intensity.

Now to examine those new, active laws of constructive design in visual art that enrich the given functional conditions of the human organism.  What form can we expect such an enrichment to take?

As we have seen, the constructive principle is one of the prime laws of cosmic and human structure.  Constructivity, which rests on dynamic contrasts between contrary motions, is the composition — the reproduction of the construction — of Nature and man.  Construction itself has only a secondary application in classical art.  The destruction of classical art — of the classical reproductive construction — led to a neglect of the rigorous organizational principle of constructivity, derived from the functionality of the artwork.  Only Cubism drew attention to this in its final phase — two-dimensional design of the image through contrast in the subdivision of the surface — but retained too many naturalistic elements.  The artistic movements after Cubism — Suprematism and Constructivism — were the first in visual art to stress the rigorous organization of human design: construction in creative work as a primary means of production and not as a secondary means of reproduction.  All this in relation to the functionality of the artwork and the inner nature of the materials employed. In the major works of Constructivism, the exact, skeletal, hard structure of the design sprang from the elementary contrasts within the means employed: color, form, material, light, space, and motion.  In connection with the functionality — the constructive mobility — of the human organism, the functional significance of constructive design in art is that it gives structure to vitality. The rigorous assembly of powerful tensions generates the potential energy of the static artwork; within the psychophysical continuum of the viewer — despite the physical immobility of the work itself — this energy translates into an intense inner motion.  The translation of potential energy within the artwork into intense psychic motion generates — in contrast to the decadence of bourgeois culture, with its concentration on subtle nuances and distinctions — the primal consciousness of dynamic constructivity: the sense of the firm and solid structuring of the dynamic law of opposites.  This is the supreme human sensation of forces, whereby the world is experienced no longer in countless minuscule gradations but in the basic and most forceful antitheses of its dynamic dialectic.  It may well be that the future of visual art lies in the powerful, physical spatial tensions generated by kinetic force systems in physical motion in real space: motion, the prime function of the Cosmos and of man, as applied to human [479] formal design.  Hitherto primarily a receptive viewer of artworks, man must be raised to a higher power and become the active factor in the creation of form.  The static construction of art, stuck in a constructive aesthetic devoid of vitality, weakens man’s constructive aspiration to a new and vital construction of life.  When pursued into a dynamic-constructive system of forces, the constructivity of reciprocal physical motion assembles together the elements of mobile artistic design.  The potential energy of the hitherto physically immobile artwork, once transformed into kinetic energy, into real motion, will transmit that motion directly and compel man into the strongest deployment of his creative power.

[Originally published as “Das dynamische Prinzip in der Welt-konstruktion im Zusammenhang mit der functionellen Bedeutung des konstruktiven Gestaltung,” Der Sturm vol. 14, no. 4 (1923)]

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~ by Ross Wolfe on October 23, 2010.

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