Serguei Oushakine: Communism’s Conscious Cogwheels: On Running Blankets, Jumping Pillows and Other Agentive Objects in Early Soviet Russia

1926 Агнивцев Твои машинные друзья.bmpThe essay will focus on various biographies of objects produced in the 1920s-1930s for the pre-school and elementary school children. Framed within different narrative genres – from animation and anthropomorphisation to studies of material culture – these books often approached things, objects, and material substances not only from the point of their use-value, but also as active agents of social change. Similar to contemporary scholars of new materialism, the authors of early Soviet books for children tried to envision modalities of relations with the world of material things that would be able to retain its autonomy.

By looking at such books as Nikolai Agnivtsev’s Винтик-Шпунтик (1925) and Твои машинные друзья (1926), Ilya Ionov’s Топотун и книжка (1926), and Lev Zilov’s multiple picture books about daily objects, I want to explore how these stories articulated and visualized a peculiar relationship between materiality and affect. 1925 Агнивцев Винтик-Шпунтик22.bmp

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