Aleksei Gan

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Gan at work on a magazine cover, 1924. Photographed by Alexander Rodchenko.
Born 1887
vicinity of Moscow, Russian Empire
Died September 8, 1942
Web Wikipedia-RU
Konstruktivizm, 1922, Log, PDF.
Da zdravstvuet demonstratsiia byta!, 1923, PDF, JPG.

Aleksei Gan (Алексей Михайлович Ган (Имберх); 1887[1]-1942) was a Russian designer and art theorist.

Life and work[edit]

In 1918 he wrote for the newspaper Anarkhiia.

In 1918–20 he was head of the section of mass performances and spectacles of the theatrical department of Narkompros, and he made a radical proposal for the entire population of Moscow to enact the May Day spectacle The Communist City of the Future (1920). This 'mass action' activity presaged the anti-aesthetic stance that was to characterize Gan’s approach. Late 1920 expelled from the state cultural bureaucracy on account of the excessive radicalism.

Through his co-founding with Stepanova and Rodchenko of the First Working Group of Constructivists (1921–4), and his publication of Constructivist principles in his book Konstruktivizm (1922), Gan played a leading role in the development of the Constructivist aesthetic. In his interpretation of Constructivism, which he saw as the creative counterpart to the socio-political tasks of the Revolution, Gan called for creative activity to be politicized to the maximum and for its artistic component to be minimized. His slogans included "we declare uncompromising war on art" and "death to art", which he attempted to encapsulate in his designs for portable book kiosks, folding street stalls, exhibition posters and clothing, where the objects were reduced to the most simple and functional forms.

It was this extreme approach that led to a split with fellow Constructivists Rodchenko and Stepanova in 1923 and his setting up of what he considered the true group of Constructivists, comprised of students at Vkhutemas. This group consisted of several production cells: the equipment for everyday life, children's books, specialized work clothes and typography, as well as cells concerned with material structures, mass action, and cinema and photography (Kino-fot). The group exhibited their work at the First Discussional Exhibition of the Union of Active Revolutionary Art (Moscow, May 1924).

Gan also published and edited the journal Kino-fot (1922–3), in which he advanced his idea of the replacement of painting by photography and promoted the cinema as a medium unconnected with tradition and capable of the objective recording of successful changes in Soviet life. He developed these theories in a book-long Constructivist film manifesto Da zdravstvuyet demonstratsiya byta! (Long Live the Demonstration of Daily Life!, 1923) and in his articles for Sovremennaya arkhitektura (1926–30), the journal of OSA, of which he was artistic editor and designer.

He was also a founding member of October (1928–32), a union of artists, designers and architects, which primarily advocated Constructivist ideals as the most suitable for the advancement of the material culture of Soviet society.

His first wife, Olga, died in 1920, and his only child, Katya, was raised from infancy by Olga's relatives in Ukraine. His partner during the twenties and early thirties was the filmmaker Esfir Shub.[2]

In November 1927, Gan entered the Donskaia Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in an effort to recover from a combination of nervous exhaustion and alcoholism, remaining under the care of Donskaia's doctors off and on until 1930.[3]

Gan was arrested in October 1941 for participating in counterrevolutionary propaganda and agitation, tried and found guilty in August 1942, and executed 8 September 1942. He was rehabilitated in 1989.[4]


  • The Island of the Young Pioneers, 1924. Documentary.



Books, brochures[edit]

  • Konstruktivizm [Конструктивизм], Tver: Tverskoe izdatelstvo, Summer 1922[5], 70 pp (23.5 х 19.9 cm — edition of 2000). [1] (Russian)
    • "Constructivism" [Extracts], trans. John Bowlt, in The Tradition of Constructivism, ed. Stephen Bann, New York: Viking Press, 1974, pp 32-42; repr. in Russian Art of the Avant-Garde: Theory and Criticism, 1902-1934, ed. & trans. John E. Bowlt, New York: Viking Press, 1976, pp 214-225; repr. in Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Blackwell, 1992, pp 318-320. (English)
    • "Der Konstruktivismus", trans. Annelore Nitschke, in Am Nullpunkt. Positionen der russischen Avantgarde, eds. B. Groys and A. Hansen-Löve, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2005, pp 277-365. (German)
    • "Kōsei shugi geijutsuron", in Kōsei shugi to mavo [構成主義とマヴォ], ed. Kyōji Takizawa, Tokyo: Yumani Shobō, 2007. TOC. (Japanese)
    • Constructivism, trans. & intro. Christina Lodder, Barcelona: Tenov Books, 2014, xciii+77 pp. [2]. Reviews: Rees (RAC), Taplin (RBTH), Hatherley (Radical Phil), Rosenfeld (SEER), Milner (Slavic Rev). (English)
  • Da zdravstvuet demonstratsiia byta! [Да здравствует демонстрация быта!; Long Live the Demonstration of Everyday Life!], Moscow: Goskino, 1923, 16 pp (edition of 2000), JPG. An ideological pamphlet emphasizing the political significance of Vertov's Kino-Pravda series; includes a still of Trotsky on a tribune taken from Kino-Pravda 13 (1923).


  • as AG, "Chetyre serii (k izdaniiu Khudozhestvenno-Agitatsionnoi literatury)", Khudozhestvennaia zhizn' 4/5 (May-Oct 1920), pp 19-20.
  • "Massovoe deistvo. Sostiazanie i bor'ba", Vestnik teatra 66 (Aug 1920), p 3.
  • "Proletarskii teatr' Pishchevikov (k istorii samodeiaternykh stsenicheskikh kollektivov proletariate", Vestnik teatra 66 (Aug 1920), pp 13-14.
  • "Nasha bor'ba", Vestnik teatra 67 (Sep 1920), pp 1-2.
  • "O pozitsiiakh vnutrennego fronta RKT", Vestnik teatra 67 (Sep 1920), p 9.
  • "Massovoe deistvo", Vestnik teatra 67 (Sep 1920), p 12.
  • "Opytnyi plan dlia massogo stsenariia", Vestnik teatra 67 (Sep 1920), p 14.
  • as Alekso, "Obzor faktov", Vestnik teatra 67 (Sep 1920), pp 3-4.
  • "Bor'ba za 'massovoe deistvo'" [Борьба за «Массовое Действо»], in O teatre [О театре], Tver: Tverskoe izdatelstvo, 1922, pp 49-80. (Russian)
  • "O sovremennykh khudozhestvennykh gruppirovkakh", Teatral'naia Moskva 35 (Apr 1922), pp 6-7.
  • as AG, "Ditia", Teatral'naia Moskva 35 (Apr 1922), p 19.
  • "Kommunisticheskii gorod (V planovykh razrabotkakh konstruktivistov)", Teatral'naia Moskva 40 (May 1922), pp 5-6.
  • [Anonym], Statement in Ermitazh 3 (May-Jun 1922), p 3.
  • as AG, "Chto sleduet delat'", Teatral'naia Moskva 44 (Jun 1922), p 8.
  • "Otkrytoe pis'mo V. E. Meierkholdu", Ermitazh 8 (July 1922), p 11.
  • [Anonym], "'Massovoe Deistvo'", Ermitazh 12 (Aug 1922), pp 3-4.
  • [Anonym], "Konstruktivisty", Ermitazh 13 (Aug 1922), p 3.
  • "K nashei konferentsii", Ermitazh 15 (Aug 1922), p 3.
  • [Anonym], "Pechatnyi material dlia kritiki smontirovannyi konstruktivistom Rodchenko", Kino-Fot 1 (Aug 1922), p 13.
  • "Kino avangard", Kino-Fot 2 (Sep 1922), p 1.
  • "Pervoe", Kino-Fot 3 (Sep 1922), p 1.
  • "My voiuem", Kino-Fot 3 (Sep 1922), p 8.
  • "Beseda s V. F. Stepanovoi", Zrelishcha 16 (Dec 1922), pp 10-12.
  • "Nakanune kino sezona", Zrelishcha 54 (26 Sep 1923), p 12.
  • "Konstruktivizm. Otvet Lefu", Zrelishcha 55 (Sep-Oct 1923), pp 12-13.
  • "1 'demonstratsiia gluposti' v ustakh Liusena Uol'", Zrelishcha 60 (Oct-Nov 1923), p 19.
  • "Kino v shestom oktiabre", Zrelishcha 61 (Nov 1923), pp 20-22.
  • "Bor'ba zaul'timatum", Zrelishcha 68 (Dec 1923-Jan 1924), p 19.
  • "Konstruktivizm mogil'shchik iskusstva", Zrelishcha 78 (Mar 1924), pp 5-6.
  • "Kino", Tekhnika i zhizn' 4 (1925), p 16.
  • "Konstruktivizm v tipografskom proizvodstve", in Al'manakh proletkul'ta, Moscow: Vserossiskii Proletkul't, 1925.
  • "Chto takoe konstruktivizm?", Sovremennaya arkhitektura 3 (1928), p 79.
  • [Anonym], "Konstruktivizm v poligrafii", Sovremennaya arkhitektura 3 (1928), p 80.
  • as A G-n, "Stroiashchiisia Khabarovsk. Na stroike doma kommuny", Tikhookeanskaia zvezda (Oct 1931).
in English translation
  • with Kazimir Malevich and Aleksei Morgunov, "The Problems of Art and the Role of its Suppressors", trans. Xenia Glowacki-Prus and Arnold McMillin, in Malevich, Essays on Art, 1915-1933, ed. Troels Anderson, New York: George Wittenborn, 1968, p 49. (English)
  • "The Cinematograph and Cinema", trans. Richard Taylor, in The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896-1939, eds. Ian Christie and Richard Taylor, Routledge, 1994, pp 67-68.
  • "'The Left Front' and Cinema", trans. Richard Taylor, in The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896-1939, eds. Ian Christie and Richard Taylor, Routledge, 1994, pp 75-77. (English)
  • "Two Paths", trans. Richard Taylor, in The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896-1939, eds. Ian Christie and Richard Taylor, Routledge, 1994, p 83. (English)
  • "Recognition for the Kinoes", trans. Julian Graffy, in Lines of Resistance: Dziga Vertov and the Twenties, ed. Yuri Tsivian, Gemona/Udine: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, 2004, pp 64-65. (English)


  • "'...Болезнь моя иного порядка'. Письма Алексея Гана Эсфири Шуб" ['...My ilness is of another mode'. Letters from Alexei Gan to Esfir Shub], Kinovedcheskie zapiski 49 [Киноведческие записки] (2000), Moscow, pp 222-228. Gan’s letter to Esfir Shub, disclosing their differences concerning development of domestic cinema of the 1920s and presenting hard attempts at self identification of one of the founders of Constuctivism under post-revolutionary regime. [3](Russian)
  • "Письмо Эсфири Шуб Алексею Гану" [A letter from Esfir Shub to Alexei Gan], Kinovedcheskie zapiski 49 [Киноведческие записки] (2000), Moscow, pp 229-230. The last letter from Esfir Shub to Alexei Gan. [4] (Russian)


Books and theses
  • A.N. Lavrentiev (А. Н. Лаврентьев), Aleksei Gan [Алексей Ган], S.E. Gordeev, 2010, 192 pp. [5] (Russian)
  • Kristin Romberg, Aleksei Gan's Constructivism, 1917-1928, New York: Columbia University, 2010, 576 pp. Ph.D. Dissertation. (English)
  • Kristin Romberg, Gan's Constructivism: Aesthetic Theory for an Embedded Modernism, University of California Press, 2019, 312 pp. [6]. Review: Urchick (H-SHERA). (English)
  • Vitalii Zhemchuzhnyi, "Aleksei Gan: Konstruktivizm", Zrelishcha 9, 24-30 Oct 1922, p 8. Review of the book. (Russian)
  • Andrei Novikov (Андрей Новиков), "Deverenskii kiosk. Proyekt-maket. Konstruktivist Aleksei Gan" [Деревенский киоск. Проект-макет. Конструктивист Алексей Ган], Sovremennaya arkhitektura 1 (1926), p 35. (Russian)
  • "Pervaya vystavka SA. Montazh delal Aleksei Gan" [Первая выставка СА. Монтаж делал Алексей Ган], Sovremennaya arkhitektura 6 (1927), p 159. (Russian)


See also[edit]