The Chaplin Machine

The Chaplin Machine

According to Sergei Tretiakov, the revolutionary art of the Soviet Union stemmed from an unexpected place - the circus. Yet somehow, the revolutionary avant-garde have been imagined as a ponderous bunch, austere and theoretical rather than popular and comic. This book will attempt to restore comedy to its central position in the history. It discusses comedy and Americanism as expressed in the popular arts (largely, film, comic theatre and poster design) in the Soviet Union and to a lesser degree, Germany, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia in the interwar years. Interpretations of International Constructivism are by now familiar, either through their liberal or leftist interpretations, but in most cases the technophile avant-garde is represented as a severe, Leninist force, obsessed with Taylorism and Fordism, their innovations hence eventually serving a form of industrial domination - in this case, Stalinism.The book will provide a new reading of this stressing the centrality of physical comedy in the development of ideas about defamiliarisation, technical reproducibility and socialist art; this was an era when, to use Adorno's phrase, artists with communist sympathies tried to 'play a Chaplin trick' on the new processes of scientific management and the production line. We will follow the ways that ideas about comedy, specifically the highly athletic forms of slapstick comedy run through the ideas and projects of the 1920s and early 1930s. What did it mean for socialists to try to combine the ideas of Charlie Chaplin and Henry Ford, of Buster Keaton and F.W Taylor? To what extent did this bear any relation to actual industrial changes as they effected workers? Could it have meant a different conception of work and of leisure? And to what degree was this emphasis on comedy a later component of the often weirdly festive despotism of Stalinism?

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ISBN 9780745336114
Pages 200 pages
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