Post-Launch Party: The Exploding Appendix Dossier #1.0 REVOLUTION*ART*MANIFESTO (Interactive Group Video Session – 4th May 2021)
March 23, 2021
Podcast 23: The Politics of Free Speech and Civil Liberties with Christine Louis-Dit Sully
April 2, 2021

The Proletkult Movement and Amateur Theatre in Revolutionary Russia (A Live Conversation with Lynn Mally – Interactive Group Video Session 18th May 2021)

“…the  Proletkult engendered controversy because it embodied a politically charged vision of the newly empowered Soviet proletariat. The most committed members took the idea of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” quite literally and accorded all proletarian institutions a privileged position in the new society. They saw the working class as an autonomous, creative force that should be given free rein to express and develop its ideas.”
Lynn Mally, Culture of the Future: The Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia, p.xix
The Russian Revolution was not only a political revolution but a cultural one. The struggle for a new culture was one that directly animated the workers themselves. They saw “rapid and radical cultural transformation” as “crucial to the survival of the revolution”(Culture of the Future. p.xvii). Rather than simply reflecting the interests of the Communist Party, the Proletkult movement, for example demanded complete independence from both state institutions and the party. Lynn Mally notes that  “The Proletkult’s euphoric promise of a new culture captured this combative, optimistic spirit” (p.xxviii). This new cultural enthusiasm was not limited to the Proletkult movement, clubs and amateur theatre also blossomed during this period. Lynn Mally notes the difference between Russian and American attitudes to amateurism.
“Soviet amateurs were not separate from the world of work in the same way as their capitalist counterparts. Western amateurs often justified their activities as a way to maintain a spark of individual expression within an increasingly regimented capitalist economy. By contrast, Soviet advocates argued that their style of amateurism revealed the superiority of the socialist system. In their free time, Soviet citizens turned to edifying activities that raised the cultural level and facilitated collective interactions.” (Lynn Mally, Revolutionary Acts: Amateur Theatre and the Soviet State: 1917-1938) p.14-15
Where the workers in capitalist countries turned to amateurism to escape the world of work, the worker of the Russian Revolution turned to amateurism in a manner that politicised their role as worker, drew them into the revolutionary struggle, and drew them into controversies between advocates of realism and the theatrical avant-garde.
In this session we will be talking to Lynn Mally, a fascinating scholar of the Russian Revolutionary Period, whose books Culture of the Future: The Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia (1990) and Revolutionary Acts: Amateur Theatre and the Soviet State (2000) explored the Russian Revolution’s own radical culture.
This session will be run as part of the Exploding Appendix Avant-garde Art Practice and Research Group’s fortnightly meetup, which will be taking place online via Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7317698673?pwd=OTlBN3RzalBRMGh1TW9qSHNDWmptdz09). The meeting ID is 731 769 8673.  The passcode is “go“. This session will be run by Bradley Tuck and take place on the 18th May 2021 from 19:30 – 22:30 (BST UK time). If you would like to join us for the session, or have any questions please message me at explodingappendix@gmail.com