Friday, May 19, 2017

Tekhikia – Molodezhi magazine


A Soviet vision of the future: the legacy and influence of Tekhikia – Molodezhi magazine

The history of the Soviet publication and science magazine Tekhnika – Molodezhi opens a window onto a wider story about the history and development of Soviet science fiction. From 1930-90, T-M magazine was the primary Soviet magazine to organise literary and art contests for science-fiction writers and artists; while also publishing interviews with, and works by, key Soviet and international authors. During this era it was often the first publisher of foreign science fiction authors in the USSR. Through examining the key artists and contributors it is possible to illuminate the ways in which science fiction functioned as powerful outlet for the socio-political anxieties and tensions of this period.
Throughout its publication history, the magazine’s aesthetics and content were designed to reflect the changes in socio-political, scientific and cultural life in the USSR; responding directly to the totalitarian regime of Josef Stalin, to the technological achievement of The Khrushchev Thaw, and then to the economic stagnation of the Brezhnev’s period. From space races, colonising missions and fantastical space adventures, towards a fascination with dystopian political climates and explorations of psychological depth and complexity; the development of T-M magazine tells a more general story about the scope, potential and function of science fiction. For this reason several early editions are going on display, for the first time in the UK, as part of the Barbican’s major summer exhibition: Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction. This is a genre-defining exhibition that examines the history and development of science fiction, through measuring and recording its growing impact on contemporary visual culture.
Left: Alexander Pobedinsky, entry illustration for Ivan Yefremov’s novel The Andromeda Nebula, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 1.1957, Moscow design museum
Right: Alexander Pobedinsky, How the Moon was discovered cover illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 1.1960, Moscow design museum
Magazines like T-M played a key role in the development of the wider genre of science fiction due to their ability to disseminate new ideas effectively among a large amount of people. In 1934, the first All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers was held. At this event, the genre of science fiction was exclusively defined as ‘literature for young people’. It described the genre as that which necessarily focused on the ‘scientific and technological education’ of mass readers ‘in the spirit of socialist realism’. This turn towards socialist realism marked the end of the avant-garde experiments of the 1910-20s; and thus evolved a more pragmatic genre of a science-fiction essay, as that which went without a literary plot. 

For the most-part, sci-fi illustrators of the period had an engendering background that helped them to develop detailed and captivating images of the socialist future. Their main concern was on futuristic technologies which would help the Soviet Union to take control of the Earth’s natural riches and resources and to build colonies on other planets. Extraterrestrial civilisations were often depicted as friendly to the Soviets while foreign spies, imperialists and capitalists were routinely depicted as threats and enemies.
Left: Konstantin Artseulov, cover illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 7-8.1944, Moscow design museum
Right: Konstantin Artseulov, Diving ‘Plate’ cover illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 5.1961, Moscow design museum
Konstantin Artseulov, cover illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 2.1949, Moscow design museum
One of the first illustrators of T-M magazine was Georgy Pokrovsky. He was Professor of the Air Force Engineering Academy and had a PhD in Engineering Science as well as a Major General of Engineering-Technical Services who specialised in directed explosions, supersonic aviation and creation of an amphibious ATV (all-terrain vehicle). Significantly, Pokrovsky considered sci-fi illustrations to be a direct continuation of his research as they enabled him overcome some of the limitations of technical drawings. 

Konstantin Artseulov was another artist, and also an aerobatics pilot and constructor of sailplanes. During WWI he was a military pilot and an instructor in a flight school where used a tailspin figure for the first time in Russian aviation. Artseulov was also a skillful artist and was trained from early childhood by his famous grandfather the marine painter Ivan Aivazovsky. Between 1932 and 1937, a false denunciation led him to several years of exile as a victim of the Great Purge. After his return in 1937, he gave up his pilot career, but continued to express his obsession with aviation and technology through art and sci-fi illustrations for T-M magazine, books, and other outlets. Among his most well-known works are the illustrations for a slide film: A Flight To the Moon (1955). These drawings were based on his previous works for the magazine Znaniye – Sila [Knowledge is a Power], a special issue (№11, 1954) of which titled ‘from the future’ was dedicated to an imaginary race of the first Soviet rocket to the Moon. According to the magazine’s experts, this lunar mission was supposed to happen in 1974. 

The professional engineer and artist Nikolay Kolchitsky worked at the Central Institute for Aviation Motors. His illustrations were often called ‘the connecting link between modern science and fantasy’, as many of his ideas were derived directly from scientific literature. Kolchitsky was also notable for his masterful creation of cosmic and alien landscapes. Working across different painting techniques, he was able to combine acute details with soft gradients and expressive strokes, to depict diverse landscapes and atmospheric, imaginary planets. In addition to contributing to T-M magazine in the 1950s and 1960s, he illustrated some of the main popular science and science-fiction books about space exploration.
Left: Nikolay Kolchitsky, illustration for the article The way to the moon is open, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 5.1961, Moscow design museum
Right: Nikolay Kolchitsky, fragment of the cover illustration for the book The universe is full of mysteries by Felix Siegel, 1960, Moscow design museum
The next period to witness a blossoming of Soviet science fiction was largely due to the burgeoning success of the Soviet space program during the 1950-60’s. It was also related to the weakening of censorship and the bolstering of international relationships. During this period, ideas of a human spaceflight because a defining topic for Soviet sci-fi.
The artist Andrey Sokolov was a frequent contributor to T-M magazine. His aspiration – to depict the cosmos realistically – was based on the first photographs taken in space during this period; as well as his own interview with cosmonauts. From 1965 he often collaborated with the artist and cosmonaut Alexey Leonov – the first astronaut to perform a spacewalk. However, often their collective depictions of Soviet spaceships were intentionally inaccurate as the Soviet space program remained highly, and notoriously, confidential. 

For the 1967 illustrated book ‘Wait for Us, Stars!’ Sokolov and Leonov created a sci-fi visualisation of a “Space Elevator” that was based on the ideas of Tsiolkovsky (1895) and the technical calculations of Yuri Artsutanov (1960). The British writer Arthur C. Clarke acknowledged drawing inspiration from this illustration for his novel The Fountains of Paradise. Indeed, the first edition of this novel features the Sokolov and Leonov illustration on the front cover.
Importantly, this evolving genre of sci-fi illustration allowed artists to overcome the limitations of social realism. For instance, in the postcard series Sokolov and Leonov developed a frame-by-frame narrative structure; that started with real events and ended with pure fantasy. Another device they developed was to frequently divide a picture into two parts. One of which displayed real spaceships in full colour, and another which showed a black and white image of the distant future.
The designer and graphic artist Alexander Pobedinsky was both an illustrator and a member of editorial board of T-M magazine. His impact on the visual appearance of the magazine was highly significant. Pobedinsky was widely renowned not only for his advertising posters – which mimicked social realism- but also the complex psychological realism of his book characters. Among his most popular works are his illustrations for Ivan Yefremov’s socio-philosophical novel The Andromeda Nebula, first published in T-M magazine in 1957.  

Ivan Yefremov himself was one of the first Soviet writers who managed to create a highly detailed and elaborate world in the distant future. In The Andromeda Nebula and several subsequent novels he described, under the name of ‘Velikoye Kol’tso’ (the Great Circle), a cosmic community of civilisations that had reached a high level of technological, physical, and moral development. Pobedinsky’s illustrations helped readers to visualise these idealised future communities, scenarios and peoples. Yefremov presented this futuristic scenario as a polemic against the novel The Star Kings (1949) by the American writer Edmond Hamilton. Yefremov cultivated a strong conviction that a highly technological future would lead to a period of social equality and humanism; not one of wars and power struggles.
Left: Nikolay Nedbaylo Alive sails. At the intergalactic communication station of the future original illustration for the World of 2000 art contest, published in the Technology for the Youth magazine № 6.1972, (с) The Nikolay Nedbaylo family collection. Photo by Egor Nedbaylo for
Right: Nikolay Nedbaylo original illustration for the World of 2000 art contest, (с) The Nikolay Nedbaylo family collection. Photo by Egor Nedbaylo for

From the mid1960s onwards, the preoccupation with man’s conquest of space and different planets began to be perceived as trivial. Once a fantastic dream and land of opportunity, the cosmos instead became a backdrop for the adventures of heroes that were solving a variety of psychological, ethical, social and philosophical problems. Both in sci-fi novels and illustrations, the psychological realism and depth of the characters became more important than technical accuracy and scientific authenticity. This is reflected in the fact that Arthur C. Clarke claimed that over all the illustrations for his novel The Fountains of Paradise he preferred the works done for T-M magazine by the soviet artist Robert Avotin due to their more accurate visualisation of the main characters.
In the late 1960s and 80s, there was a marked shift towards a psychedelic graphic style and a more complex narrative that had affected Soviet visual culture more widely. The design of T-Mmagazine had also changed, due to the conceptual works of Robert Avotin, who was constantly experimenting with various graphic styles.
Left: Robert Avotin, Elin – illusion cinematograph of modern cities cover illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 9.1973, Moscow design museum
Centre: Robert Avotin, Space Regatta cover illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine №8.1969, Moscow design museum
Right: Robert Avotin, In the labyrinths of the giant molecule cover illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 12.1973, Moscow design museum
Throughout this period T-M magazine had been consistently organising multiple sci-fi art contests and exhibitions. Collectively, they worked to provide a space for greater experimentation; and helped readers to discover the works of talented nonconformist Soviet artists, such as Nikolay Nedbaylom, and many other amateur artists. For example, Gennady Golobkov – the winner of several contests- was known for his bright and vibrant images of humans in the distant future. However, only a handful of people were aware that the artist had been paralyzed since the age of 16, and died at the young age of 26 with a pencil in his hold.
During this period, the formal, generic, and stylistic diversity of Soviet science fiction largely increased. This reflected changes in a general cultural mood and social imaginary that had moved from romanticised visions of the future to images of a post-apocalyptic and dystopian world. These changes arose of out a period of economic stagnation and the tightening censorship of the Brezhnev’s era. Science fiction literature that reflected a critical and ironic view of society soon became a vital part of the Soviet underground subculture.

The 1968 issues of T-M magazine reveal the growing censorship during this period. These issues contained the novel Chas Byka (The Bull’s Hour) by Ivan Yefremov. The story, which depicted a totalitarian regime on a planet called Toramans, was officially banned in the state. As a result of this censorship, these issues of T-M have become rare. It has also been speculated that the illustrations for the novel by Alexandr Pobedensky were also the subject of censorship; as one of the four dictators depicted in the entry illustration resembled Nikita Khrushchev, the former head of the Soviet government. Nevertheless, many of the banned books and magazine publications, particularly the Strugatsky’s novels, continued to be secretly circulated among many semi-official clubs of science fiction fans.
The end of “the golden era” of T-M magazine as a leading edition of the Soviet sci-fi subculture can be marked by the dismissal of Valery Zakharchenko, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, in 1984. The dismissal was attributed to the publication of the first pages of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2010: Odyssey Two (1982), in which several characters had been named after Soviet dissidents.
Left: Gennady Golobkov, The Squirrel from the Earth illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 3.1974, Moscow design museum, Image provided by Yuri Zubakin
Right: Gennady Golobkov, The Sower illustration, the Technology for the Youth magazine № 3.1974, Moscow design museum, Image provided by Yuri Zubakin
Several examples of the T-M magazine covers and Soviet science fiction illustrations, from the collection of the Moscow Design Museum, will be showcased from June 1 to September 3, 2017 as part of the Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction, a the Barbican Centre, London. The exhibition is curated by Barbican International Enterprises with co-production partners Brandts- Museum of Art & Visual Culture, Denmark, and Onassis Cultural Centre – Athens, Greece.
Alyona Sokolnikova is one of the exhibition advisors, holds a PhD, and is Curator and Researcher at Moscow Design Museum. She also teaches critical and cultural studies at the British Higher School of Art and Design in Moscow, specializing in Russian design history.

Suffering for Your Art? Maybe You Need a Patron

Shefali Kumar Friesen, a digital artist, at home in San Francisco. “Investors take the mental anguish away from earning,” she said. CreditJason Henry for The New York Times
In 2013, the editors of The Toast, an online magazine of feminist humor and commentary, asked Alexis Coe to write a regular column. Ms. Coe, a historian, was eager to accept, but couldn’t. “It was early in my career,” she said. “I couldn’t do it for the nominal fee they were offering early writers.”
Then the editors called with some unexpected news. They had found a woman (a lawyer in her early 30s) who liked Ms. Coe’s work and had offered to subsidize the column, provided she could remain anonymous to the public. Suddenly, Ms. Coe had something she had never considered herself worthy of — something that she didn’t realize actually existed in the modern world.
She had a patron.
Ms. Coe wrote 15 columns, for which she received checks exceeding the standard pay rate. She said she and her patron did not meet and only briefly “exchanged pleasantries” over email. And yet the relationship, she said, “really did feel significant to me — not necessarily in monetary value, but in the knowledge that the work that I was doing wasn’t insular, and the people who were reading it weren’t just librarians in New England.”
It may seem incredible that a benefactor would simply drop from the sky like this. But Ms. Coe’s experience is emblematic of a shift in how some arts enthusiasts, from wealthy individuals to grant-making foundations, are relating to creators. They are moving away from merely collecting and consuming art and toward a model reminiscent of the Renaissance, when royal houses provided room, board, materials and important professional connections to talented artists of the day.
Patrons of the 21st century are far less politically motivated than the Medici family and their ilk, and they generally don’t house artists in their lavish estates or command them to paint frescoes. But just like the patrons of old, they are giving creators a pathway to success and economic stability, providing living expenses, supplies, pep talks and more.
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“For many years, patrons were supporting institutions or a product, underwriting this ballet or putting their name on a specific show at a museum,” said Carolina García Jayaram, 42, who has spent nearly two decades in arts philanthropy and advocacy and recently became president and chief executive of the National YoungArts Foundation. Today, she said, “donors understand how important it is to support artists — not just the art.”
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Alexis Coe, in her Manhattan apartment, was going to turn down a chance to write a column because of the low pay. Then a patron stepped in. The two never met. CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times
Artist advocates say this is partly a reaction to widespread budget cuts for public art education and, more recently, to concern about President Trump’s effort to eliminate the National Endowment of the Arts, whose grants fund artists and communities in every state. But a younger cohort of patrons, in their 30s through early 50s, has also begun thinking about artists like start-ups, for which “incubation” periods are common.
“Funding based on a collection model is backward,” said RoseLee Goldberg, an art historian at New York University and the founder of the performance art nonprofit Performa. “There isn’t this support for an artist if they don’t have big object to sell.” Ms. Goldberg believes today’s patrons are similar to the “angel investors” of tech. “You see that something has potential to grow and you want to support that incubation period,” she said.
Sarah Arison’s grandparents founded YoungArts 36 years ago, as a multidisciplinary national arts competition for teenagers. Today, Ms. Arison, 33, president of the Arison Arts Foundation and a member of the YoungArts board of trustees, is raising money to support artists as they mature.
“I’m now focusing on the next critical juncture: from B.F.A. and M.F.A. into really creating a career and profession,” Ms. Arison said. “If you are going to be a doctor, your career path is clear. That’s not the case for most artists.”
Ms. Goldberg said Renaissance-era patronage created just this kind of career structure. Young artists of great talent began as apprentices to master artists and were often hired by wealthy families or adopted by royal houses. “The great painters were court painters,” she said. “That changes after the Renaissance. There wasn’t a job you could have.”
YoungArts already provides apprenticeships, but the foundation is now trying different ways of introducing past winners of the teenage competition, many now adults, to potential funders, including an online portal.
The foundation is also undertaking renovation and expansion of its Miami campus to include performance sites, “maker” and wellness spaces, recording studios and dining facilities. Ms. García Jayaram and Ms. Arison hope it will revive something of a Renaissance court experience, which brought together artists and intellectuals across disciplines.
This being 2017, new websites are also helping artists identify potential patrons. As KickstarterGoFundMe and Indiegogo have helped individual projects (or predicaments), so has enabled people to fund their favorite artists with monthly contributions to aid the creative process, not just the product.
“As an artist, money comes in chunks,” said Jack Conte, 32, who founded Patreon in 2013, in part, to help his band, Pomplamoose, bring in revenue. “Some big thing happens, and you get a payday through licensing or a publication deal or a brand integration, and you have to hope it lasts.”
Mr. Conte said Patreon has one million “fans” who each contribute an average of $12 every month to their favorite artists on the site. An outfit called Kinda Funny, which makes videos and podcasts, has two Patreon pages, through which they’re making more than $41,000 every month. Last year, 35 creators each earned more than $150,000 through the site., which connects artists and entrepreneurs with backers, has now turned to mainstream consumer loans. But Shefali Kumar Friesen, a digital artist, still has patrons she met through the site who are helping her turn a tech-art project called Emotitones into a profitable business.
“Investors take the mental anguish away from earning,” Ms. Friesen, 35, said. “Not everybody can get a grant from the Knight Foundation.” Conversations about business strategy with one of her patrons, Brad Feld, she added, are inspiring, “just like having a new paintbrush or new set of paints.”
Lija Groenewoud van Vliet hopes her incubator and patronage platform, In4Art, will prompt this kind of inspiration among both artists and the patrons who fund them. “You need a whole new ecosystem,” said Ms. Groenewoud van Vliet, 32, who began the organization based in Rotterdam in the Netherlands with her husband in 2015 and recently left a job in business development to run it full time.
Matt Ross, the founder of the One River School of Art & Design, which provides gallery shows for artists in whom he has taken an active interest.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times
In addition to matching patrons and artists and underwriting materials and creative development, In4Art will teach business strategy and brand marketing this summer. It also hosts a membership program, somewhat like Rent the Runway for art (costing up to 60 euros, or about $67, a month), and regularly hosts artists and patrons for dinners, salons and studio visits. “We create an environment of trust,” Ms. Groenewoud van Vliet said.
Historically, many patron-artist relationships have been troubled, defined by an extreme imbalance of pecuniary power. White female patrons of Harlem Renaissance artists became collectively — and critically — known as “Miss Anne” for their imperiousness. The Gilded Age painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler felt so exploited by his patron, Frederick Richards Leyland, that he vandalized a wall in Leyland’s home. Samuel Johnson grew nearly as frustrated with his patron, the Earl of Chesterfield. In 1755, he wrote, “Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water and when he has reached ground encumbers him with help?”
More recently, a young patron-art dealer named Stefan Simchowitz has come under fire for flipping work repeatedly among a small circle of people to artificially inflate its price, and for underpaying artists who are financially strapped.
Anna Getty, 44, has used Mr. Simchowitz as a consultant. She began collecting art six years ago, after the death of her father, J. Paul Getty III. Her focus is on emerging artists, especially women, and her funding has helped to underwrite their supplies and living expenses. Patronage, she said, “isn’t a business.”
Nor is it to Matt Ross, 56, who started collecting about five years ago and focuses on young artists who are “way early in the game.” Like Ms. Groenewoud van Vliet, he emphasizes the importance of establishing trust between the artist and patron. “You’re supporting artists holistically,” he said. “You’re a card-carrying member of the artist’s support system. A quasi-mentor at times.”
In 2010, Mr. Ross left his position as chief executive of the music school company School of Rock and started the One River School of Art & Design, which provides gallery shows for artists in whom Mr. Ross has taken an active interest.
Daniel Rios Rodriguez, 38, a painter, is one. In 2012, Mr. Rodriguez was living in New York and poised to break through with a show, but it fell through. His marriage also ended. “It was dreadful,” he said. “It wasn’t feasible to continue to pay a ridiculous amount in rent for an apartment in Crown Heights and studio in Bushwick and child care expenses and the grocery bill and on and on and on.”
Mr. Rodriguez moved to San Antonio. “When you leave,” he said, “you get the sense that if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.”
But Mr. Ross, who had stumbled upon Mr. Rodriguez’s work at a fair, gave the painter a solo show at One River and introduced the painter’s work to a number of dealers, including the gallerist Nicelle Beauchene, now his official dealer.
At one point, when Mr. Rodriguez found himself in a financial bind, he said he did not hesitate to call Mr. Ross, who offered to buy a couple of paintings.
“It’s not his responsibility to make sure my bills are paid,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “But the fact that he said yes speaks to his investment in me as a person. He wants to see my work flourish but knows we have to put food on the table.”
Correction: May 17, 2017 
An earlier version of this article misstated in some instances the surname of a founder of In4Art. She is Ms. Groenewoud van Vliet, not Vilet or Vliet.
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