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Critical Soviet Design: Senezh studio and the utopian imagination in late socialism

Författare Tom Cubbin
Datum för examination 2016-06-06
Opponent at public defense Victor Buchli
Publiceringsår 2016
Publicerad vid
Språk en
Länkar etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/15881/
Ämneskategorier Design, Konstvetenskap, Historia, Teknikhistoria, Teknik och kultur, Teknik- och industrihistoria, Kulturstudier


This is the first academic study of the socialist critical design practice known as artistic projecteering [khudozhestvennoe proektirovanie], developed at the Central Experimental Studio of the Soviet Union Artists between 1964 and 1991 (commonly referred to as Senezh studio). While some Soviet designers saw their practice as ‘applied science,’ Senezh studio was established to develop practical and theoretical tools for overcoming technocratic tendencies in Soviet design. The aim of the studio’s founders was to create a space for design that would not be subsumed by the constraints of technology or economics, or the bureaucracy of Soviet central planning. Senezh studio was tasked with creating new design methodologies that could be applied following the transition to communism to produce a material environment that would maximise the creative and collaborative potential of humankind. During the 1970s, however, the failures of the Soviet Thaw became apparent and designers at the studio worked on critical projects that highlighted how the government’s treatment of citizens, urban heritage and the environment were materially manifest in daily life. The projects produced at Senezh came to reflect the aspirations, hopes and anxieties of the Soviet cultural intelligentsia during and after the ‘Thaw’ of the 1960s. Based on archival research, extensive interviews and analysis of images in private collections – this dissertation engages Mannheim and Ricoeur’s theories of utopia to show how experimental design projects reflected changing relationships towards communism, ideology, history and the state.

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