Hunter College Schools
Vadim Bass. "Designs of Soviet War Monuments (1941-1945): Transformation of the Memorial Genre, the Models, the Visual Language and Its Sources." March 5, Thursday. B16 (Chanin Language Center), 5:30 pm.
In the first half of the 1940s, Soviet architects produced numerous design drawings for war monuments. Some of these designs were strange and unorthodox. They differed dramatically from architectural mainstream of the 1930s, as well as from memorials of the postwar period. From the very beginning of the German-Soviet War, artists started experimenting, trying to invent a new and unconventional language for the expression of the enormous tragedy they witnessed, to stretch the limits of memorial genre and “speak out.” On the one hand, they employed the rhetorical tools dating back to the traditionalist poetics of the heroic monuments of the past. On the other hand, memorials were a unique part of Soviet architecture, demonstrating inheritance from the post-revolutionary modernism even during the period of anti-modernist reaction: it was modernists who instrumentalized psychology and psychophysiology, and in the memorial field, these techniques of provoking the viewer’s emotional response stayed legitimate. The shock of the war resulted in projects that demonstrated a paradoxical “liberation” of Soviet architects. The lecture examines the transformation of the memorial genre in the projects of the WWII period, the sources of the memorial language that was both innovative and traditional at the same time, and the mechanisms of psychological manipulation developed by the designers.
Vadim Bass is an historian of architecture and Associate Professor at the European University in St Petersburg, Department of Art History. He holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the State Russian Museum (2006) and is the author of St. Petersburg Neoclassical Architecture of the 1900s to 1910s, as Reflected in the Mirror of Architectural Competitions: Word and Form (St Petersburg, 2010, in Russian). He has also published over 20 academic articles and conference papers, as well as 30 historical and critical essays in various magazines, including The New Literary Observer, Hermitage Magazine, Fashion Theory, Sociology of Power, STEPS, Autoportret, among others. In 2013 and 2019, he was a visiting professor at the Venice International University. His special interests are memorial architecture and the commemoration of the Siege of Leningrad, and classical tradition in twentieth-century architecture.