The Editors of Blok’s “What Constructivism Is” (1924)
Translated from the Polish by John Bowlt. From Between
Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes,
1910-1930. (The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 2002).
• • •
Constructivism does not aspire toward the creation of style as an immutable stereotype relying on previously invented and established forms; but it accepts the problem of CONSTRUCTION — which can and must give way to continual changes and improvements under the impact of those newer and even more complex demands that the general development of life presents us with.
1. It is NOT a separate branch of art (e.g., a picture or a line of verse), but art as a whole.
2. It is NOT an expression of its own particular experiences and moods, but a search for the PRACTICAL application of creative impulse.
3. It proceeds from the primordial instinct of art that is manifested in every product of man’s labor.
The CONSTRUCTION of a thing with the aid of all available means should set as its aim first and foremost the practical efficacy of the thing.
4. It does not mean that the program of Constructivism would eliminate disinterested creative activity in art.
It is a SYSTEM of methodological collective work regulated by a conscious will; its aim is inventiveness and the perfection of the results of collective achievements in work.
5. The MECHANIZATION of the means of labor.
Forms made by hand present graphological deviations characteristic of individual artists — form is given absolute objectivism when made by machine. (Blok, no. 1)
6. The ECONOMIC use of material.
Only as much material is essentially needed.
7. DEPENDENCE of the character of the created object on the material used. Constructive values of material — character of the appearance of the material’s surface — color of material — differences in features of the material’s surface depending on the processing — peculiarities of the reaction of material to light.
In its application to construction T. van Doesburg says the following on color as a property of material:
The new architecture makes use of color land not painting), illuminates it, displays in it changes of form and space. Without color we would not be able to obtain the interplay of forms.
In the new architectonic style accurate optical balance and the equivalent integration of individual parts can be attained only with the help of color. The artist’s task is to coordinate color and wholeness (in the sense of space and time, not of two dimensions).
At a later stage of development color can be replaced by reprocessed material (the task of chemistry).
Color (and may architects, the enemies of color, understand this) is not a decoration or applied art — it is an element similar to glass or iron, an organic growth from architecture. (“The Renewal of Architecture,” Blok no. 5)
8. The CONSTRUCTION of an object according to its own principles.
Constructivism does not imitate the machine but finds its parallel in the simplicity and logic of the machine.
9. The DISCIPLINE of harmony and order.
10. The problem of CONSTRUCTION and not the problem of form.
Construction stipulates form.
Form proceeds from construction.
11. The use of technological achievements for expanding the area of potentiality.
12. The direction of creative effort is primarily toward the building — the cinema — printing, etc. the world of fashion.
Out of aesthetic considerations architects have very often ignored the problems of hygiene and comfort — the builders of constructivism accept them as problems of the first rank.
The introduction of art into life on the principles of participation in general development and dependence on the changes arising in other branches of human creation:
13. First and foremost in technology.
14. The INSEPARABILTY OF THE PROBLEMS OF ART AND THE PROBLEMS OF SOCIETY.
[Originally published as “Co to jest konstruktywizm,” in Blok no. 6-7 (1924)]